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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to put pressure on the local SPCA.

There are currently 57 animals in the care of the North Peace SPCA with the number expected to grow, according to Branch Manager Candance Buchamer,

Most of the animals are cats: 21 litters have been discovered so far in 2021, increasing feral populations in the city, while many pet owners have also simply abandoned their pets due to the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic.

“It’s a difficult season for sure, vets shut down their services in 2020 due to COVID, as a result, we’ve seen a lot more litters this year,” said Buchamer. “Unfortunately we’re seeing a lot of abandonment. There are people losing their homes, people losing their jobs, or having to move, so we are seeing a lot of cats specifically being left behind, and, strangely, dogs.”

More than ever the branch is in need of financial support, says Buchamer – cash, gift cards for pet stores and hardware stores, kitten kibble, pate cat food, laundry detergent, office supplies, and more – the list goes on.

The SPCA is also on the hunt for active and willing fosters to take cats and kittens into their homes – all needed supplies are provided by the non-profit.

The recent heatwave also took its toll on animals in the region – five animals came into care over that period with heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

“A lot of people don’t have air conditioning or even basements in their homes,” said Buchamer. “Some of our fosters were finding that animals in their care were starting to show signs of heat exhaustion, so we had to move animals from foster back to the branch where we have air conditioning. It definitely contributed to an overstock.”

The branch has struggled during the pandemic with limited staffing. “We do our best to return phone calls and emails as soon as we can. But people banging at the door aren’t always our first concern, we’ve been focusing on the animals in our care,” said Buchamer.

Wildfires are also of concern for the branch to ensure there’s a place for animals to go if needed, Buchamer said.

“It’s something that’s at the top of our concern list, if we need to assist with evacuation processes for people, having space to be able to do that and give people a little bit of security,” Buchamer said.

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