HUNTSVILLE – The Animal Shelter for Huntsville is closing after months of financial uncertainty.
Staff and volunteers at the Animal Shelter for Huntsville say the care of kittens, cats, puppies and dogs was their priority.
The shelter, which has taken in stray, abandoned and neglected dogs and cats for 35 years, announced on Thursday, July 19, that it plans to cease operation by the end of September.
Jane McPhee, shelter board chair, said the decision to close the shelter was a difficult one for the board.
“It’s been going on for quite a while,” said McPhee. “We’ve been dwindling and just hanging in there.”
The shelter is a non-profit charitable organization that does not receive government funding. It relies on community support and fundraising activities. It costs about $220,000 a year to operate the shelter.
The board announced last summer it was in dire need of financial support.
McPhee said each month was a roller coaster ride insofar as the shelter did not know how many donations would be made, how many animals would be dropped off or how many would be adopted.
The board started urging donors this year to commit $10 per month to the shelter. The initiative was part of a sustainability plan.
But despite fundraising campaigns by the board and by community supporters, the shelter did not get enough, said McPhee.
“That’s the bottom line,” she said. “We tried to create that sustainability. We needed an income coming in every month.”
She said the shelter does not have the money to relocate, nor does the board intend to create a new shelter in future.
“We do not have money to move, we do not have money to pay for anything,” she said. “It’s all we can do to keep the doors open and the animals fed.”
The property, which the board owns, will likely be sold, she said.
The shelter has a contract with the Township of Lake of Bays to house stray dogs found by the township’s bylaw department, which the shelter will continue to honour for the time being, said McPhee.
But it is no longer taking any surrendered animals.
“We just can’t do it,” she said. “I had to turn eight kittens away today.”
The shelter will remain open with the addition of evening hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays until the remaining dogs and cats are adopted or relocated to other no-kill animal shelters, she said.
There are five dogs and 77 cats still at the shelter.
The board has cut the cost of pet adoptions in half in an effort to find homes for the remaining cats and dogs.
Dogs can be adopted for $105 and cats can be adopted for $57.50. The animals have had vaccinations, deworming medications, flea and tick treatments and most are spayed or neutered.
Funding is still required as animals need to be fed and cared for during the closure process and short-term volunteers are needed to help care for the animals, stated the board in a media release.
The remaining services available to the area are the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Bracebridge and Muskoka and Parry Sound Independent Animal Rescue.
But McPhee said other shelters are facing the same high-volumes as the Huntsville shelter, which speaks not only to the importance of spaying and neutering pets, but also of the integral role the shelter played in the community.