Near broke, Edmonton-based rescue closes doors to new animals

·3 min read

An Edmonton-based animal rescue can no longer afford to take in new animals, as unprecedented demand for help has gutted the agency's finances.

Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) announced last week that it has been forced to close its intake operations indefinitely.

In an announcement on its Facebook page Friday, the rescue said it did "one last run" to "empty out" local pounds but additional animals will be turned away until the agency can secure some much needed funds.

Training co-ordinator Terra MacLean said the volunteer-run agency is strapped.

"We have no savings left," MacLean said. "We are living pay cheque to pay cheque, so to speak, and we're losing money every month.

"We are looking at being broke and closing our doors as soon as January or February."

The pandemic forced the cancellation of many of the agency's regular fundraising events and it has been operating on the financial brink for months.

Then, there was a surge in demand this fall. The agency took in hundreds of animals in need and spent its savings on the resulting veterinary bills.

"The requirements for dogs and cats to come into care has been extremely high," she said. "It's almost doubled in the last two months.

"I don't think we would have made it this long without the dedicated volunteers and the supporters that we've had. But basically we were looking at a closing, narrow tunnel of us being able to maintain what we were doing and look after the animals that were already in care."

In the past two months alone, the agency has taken in more than 500 animals. It normally takes between 80 and 100 animals each month.

MacLean said it's unclear what's causing the sudden increase. She suspects that with the financial strain of COVID-19, fewer people are getting their animals fixed. She said the agency recently responded to two animal hoarding situations, which also put an added strain on their intake operations.

"We haven't had time to investigate exactly what's to blame," she said. "We've just been reacting to it."

We're basically having a look at anything that we could do to pull ourselves a little bit out of the gutter. - Terra MacLean

Adoption fees only cover a portion of their operational costs and there isn't enough money to keep up with the ever growing need for rescue.

The situation has become unsustainable, MacLean said.

"We lose money on almost every adoption," she said. "We're basically having a look at anything that we could do to pull ourselves a little bit out of the gutter.

"We can beg for money, beg for money, beg for money, but the way this is going — in three months or four months or five months — we're going to be in the exact same boat again. We have to do something that's going to sustain us a little bit longer in the future."

SCARS is hoping to launch a more formal fundraising campaign in the new year but needs to raise $500,000 as soon as possible, MacLean said.

The funds raised immediately will be used toward building a small nest egg for future emergencies, and establishing an agency-specific veterinary clinic.

The clinic, which would be private and dedicated only to animals in the agency's care, would likely be established inside an existing clinic facility.

Having dedicated services and space to treat their animals would cut their vet bills in half, MacLean said.

"We've got a team of people scrambling to figure it out. We've really struggled to come up with a dollar amount that would sustain us, and the $500,000 will get us not only our own reduced vetting, but it'll open our doors and it will allow us to take a breath before we run into the next crisis."