North Peace SPCA stretched thin with influx of strays, COVID-19 protocols

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The staff at the North Peace SPCA have been working hard to care for a shelter that is c…

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The staff at the North Peace SPCA have been working hard to care for a shelter that is constantly overcapacity.

Branch manager, Candace Buchamer, says the shelter has had to limit the number of staff allowed to work and sees anywhere between 35 to 50 animals, most of which are cats.

“A lot of the animals coming in have behavioural needs and medical needs. It’s definitely putting a bigger toll on the team than what we’re used to. We’re used to having at least three people on in a day. Now, we’re down to one, sometimes two, if we’re lucky,’ said Buchamer.

These challenges have made the team have to focus their energy more on caring for the animals than communication with the public. The shelter wants to find each animal a home, but the shelter has been forced to focus on one priority at a time.

“If it means that it takes us all day to clean them, feed them and do their medical needs, then we don’t answer the phone, and we don’t return emails.”

From August to October,  the shelter has transferred out 81 cats to different locations for adoption. The shelter has seen anywhere from 10 to 20 cats a day, ranging from strays to surrenders, said Buchamer.

She says the influx of strays being brought to the shelter isn’t abnormal moving into the winter, but the amount of cats being surrendered is.

“We’re seeing a ton of people who, unfortunately, their lifestyle has to change, they’ve lost their jobs, and the place they’re moving to won’t allow them to take their pets. So, we’re seeing a lot of senior animals needing to be surrendered.”

Buchamer says, unfortunately, the shelter has also had to deny requests to pick up animals.

“It’s not because we don’t want to assist you. It’s just we can’t keep up with the demand that the community is suffering right now.”

To ease the pressure on staff, Buchamer says she needs to fill an available staffing position but has had no time to conduct interviews. A volunteer also goes through adoption applications in the evening to speed up the process for the staff.

The shelter is also encouraging those looking to adopt to do so online before phoning in to meet the potential next member of their family.

Buchamer says another big step is getting registered volunteers back to the shelter.

“It’s going to take some scheduling because, again, we have to work around the staff that need to be here as well as the adoption appointments.  We are trying to bring other entities into work with the animals while they’re in care and potentially move them out as fast as we can into proper loving homes. ”

Another need for the shelter is foster homes, which will help with the influx of animals. Buchamer says anyone interested in fostering or volunteering can sign up through the SPCA’s website.

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