Over the past 2 weeks we have been forced to re-evaluate our program and goals. This is, in large part, due to policy changes at the Winnipeg Humane Society. Aside from a press release written in response to those changes, and the resulting media blitz, we have been quiet on the subject, taking time to review our options and work out details of what needs to be done.
Before I detail the changes that are coming, I believe I should relate what has been happening over the past 2 weeks:
- March 1: Winnipeg Humane Society quietly revokes use of its “do not euthanize” form, which gave those who brought a stray animal into the WHS the opportunity to redeem it if the WHS decided to kill it.
- March 2: there is some chatter on facebook regarding the change
- March 2: CTV contacts me for our response to the change, and asks if I will be available for an interview the next day.
- March 2: I review the chatter on facebook, read the responses from WHS on their facebook page, and write a press release on the subject. The release is posted online and sent out over wire services.
- March 3: CTV and CBC TV news film interviews. CBC Radio calls regarding an interview for March 4.
- March 4: CJOB calls regarding the release, and sets up an interview time during afternoon rush hour (3:50pm)
During the CJOB interview, Mr McDonald, ceo of the Winnipeg Humane Society, was asked what people should do with cats, since the WHS doesn’t want them brought there. His response was to state that people bringing in cats are told up front that they should keep them, find them foster homes, or bring them to me. Please note that he did not say that they should take them to other rescues or shelters. He said, “They can take them to Lynne.”
I would like everyone to really consider the implications of that statement. The CEO of the largest animal welfare organization in Manitoba got on a hugely popular radio station, during rush hour traffic (any radio station’s peak volume time), and invited the entire city to bring all the cats they find to me, personally.
This is wrong on many different levels. First, it was a personal attack against me. If we give Mr. McDonald the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant to tell people to bring cats to CSC (not me personally), it is an attack on the organization, as Mr. McDonald is fully aware that CSC is a feral cat management program, and does not have the resources to provide intake for stray or injured cats. It is also an abdication of the Winnipeg Humane Society’s contractual obligation to accept ALL stray cats in the City of Winnipeg. Yes, the WHS has a contract with Winnipeg to provide pound services for cats. The WHS receives over $500,000 in tax payers’ money, every year, as payment for their services as pound keeper. That amount is inadequate for the work required, but that does not relieve them of the obligation to provide the service. If additional dollars are required in order to provide those services, it is the responsibility of the WHS to negotiate with the city for the money necessary to fulfill the contract. If the city is unwilling to pay a fair amount, the WHS is free to give up the contract.
Over the next few days some people, including some of our volunteers, got carried away with the emotional aspects of this issue, and resorted to personal attacks against Mr. McDonald. Those connected to Craig Street Cats were asked to remove offensive materials, and they complied.
That is the background as it relates to Craig Street Cats. There were other incidents and issues not related to us, but I won’t go into those here.
In the 2 weeks since all of this happened, Craig Street Cats has seen a 200% increase in the number of cat intake calls we receive. That is, we are getting 3 times as many calls from people looking to place cats as we would normally receive. Most of those people state that the reason they are calling us is that they know the cats will be killed if they are taken to the WHS.
In response to this increased volume, we have started implementing programs that should already be in place at the WHS, but evidently are not.
Pet Retention Program: in every case where someone wants to surrender a pet cat, we work with them to find solutions that will allow them to keep the cat. Sometimes this is as simple as providing a few weeks worth of cat food. Sometimes it means helping them find pet friendly accommodation. Sometimes it means enrolling the cat as a foster critter so that it can have access to necessary veterinary care, or providing access to programs like SNIP.
Expanded Foster Program: we are actively working to expand our foster program. To this end, we have an on site foster co-ordinator who is building the program we want from the ground up.
Expanded Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Program: we now have an on site volunteer co-ordinator who is working to make sure that all our volunteer slots are properly filled, and actively recruiting new volunteers.
We will also be implementing fee for service programs to help recover some of our costs for colony management. These will be announced later this year.
In order to support all of these new programs, Craig Street Cats must make some structural changes. To date, we have operated as a grassroots, unincorporated non-profit organization. We can no longer continue this way, and are in the process of incorporating as a provincial NPO. An outstanding board of directors has been assembled, and they will be introduced as soon as incorporation is finalized.
Once we are incorporated and all our ducks are in a row, we will be asking the Charities Office to review our eligibility for registered charity status. There is no guarantee that we will be approved, because TNR, our primary activity, is still, technically, illegal in Winnipeg. We will, nonetheless, make application.
And now, the kicker. All of these changes, brought about by changes at an outside organization, have added greatly to our operating expenses. Our projected budget for 2013 was $250,000. The additional programming and personnel requirements will probably add another $50,000 to that.