‘We won’t exist anymore’: Saskatoon SPCA says proposed funding increase is not enough

The Saskatoon SPCA is asking for more funding from the city to cover the costs of taking in and caring for animals.

“We’re at a point now where if we continue down this road with the existing funding model, we won’t exist anymore,” said executive director Graham Dickson.

Dickson says the number of animals inherited by the SPCA has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and the annual cost of making them adoptable can run as high as $1,161 million.

“It’s become such a tremendous financial burden that it’s actually jeopardizing our very existence where we’re going to go bankrupt holding this pound contract,” he said.

Dickson says the SPCA’s ability to care has been greatly reduced to the point where it routinely needs to turn away the public due to a lack of kennel space, staffing, and funding.

“We’re hoping to have a conversation and have a dialogue with the city about where the SPCA fits into the bigger systemic environment. We really want to increase animal welfare in Saskatoon.”

A recommendation to increase funding by 50 per cent to the SPCA, up to $698,000, will be presented to the Standing Policy Committee on Planning, Development & Community Services at its meeting on Tuesday.

“We went through and really tried to clearly articulate those costs that are directly associated to the delivery of the pound services, which is what we have a contract with SPCA for the delivery of,” said City of Saskatoon general manager of community services Lynne Lacroix .

“Us coming forward with a recommendation for an increase in and of itself really demonstrates how much the city does value the relationship with the SPCA and the work that they deliver.”

Dickson says he’s appreciative of the level of funding, but more is needed.

“As it stands right now that funding level just isn’t enough to cover the costs that we accrue operating the pound,” he said.

“The current funding model, it is flawed, and I think we’re only really working downstream right now. We’re just addressing the outcomes of these problems.”

Dickson says the SPCA is not able to address the roots of the problem due to the continuing financial strain.

“We’re not addressing the actual root of the problem, and that’s what our organization is really eager to do. We want to implement programs and services that will stop animals from becoming stray, abused or abandoned. We want to keep animals in homes where they belong, and provide programs and services for the community.”

Lacroix said the gap in funding exists because of what the city sees as directly attributable costs for the delivery of the pound services.

“Some of the expenses that are identified within that $1.1 million or $1.16 million that SPCA has identified are indeed a next level of service that we as the city have not typically provided funding for,” she said.

“If indeed the SPCA is looking for a change to the scope of the work in the delivery of pound services and the transition from pounds services to shelter services, that’s a whole other conversation that we will need to dig in further on.”

In a report given to city council by the SPCA, $273,450 was labeled for a “dispensation fee”.

“That’s one of the biggest areas that is over and above what would traditionally be covered within our services agreement,” said Lacroix.

The city says according to a report dating back to 2005, the SPCA took in 2,000 more animals in 2006 and 2007 than it did in 2020 and 2021.

“While the community has grown and there are more animals in general in all of Saskatoon, the number of animals they’re taking in tied to pound services has not grown exponentially,” said Lacroix.

Dickson says the level of service the SPCA is looking to provide will be financially viable.

“We can operate the pound at a substantial cost-savings to the city,” he said.

“I know that if the municipality operated the pound themselves, that the costs would go up tremendously, maybe double or triple.”

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