Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
Supporters of the Stratford-Perth Humane Society are working with the organization’s management to create what they hope will be a safer and more animal-friendly shelter.
Among the new initiatives announced by the shelter’s community council last week are an expanded foster home network, more adoptathons and an increase in public reporting on operating statistics as well as incidences of euthanasia.
Elspeth MacDonald, chair of the Douro Street facility’s community council, said the new vision will see the shelter become a “shining example in the care of homeless and abandoned animals.”
The shelter is committed to achieving a 90 per cent live-release rate, meaning nearly all animals that enter the shelter are either reunited with their original owners or adopted to a new home.
Given its current live-release rate is in the mid-30 per cent range, MacDonald conceded it won’t be easy and will take much commitment.
“But we also know that the Stratford-Perth community is very interested in making it happen,” she added.
Such a high live-release rate has been achieved by the Nova Scotia SPCA, which relies on a network of shelters not only in its vicinity but across the province.
Jack Kinch, executive director of the Kitchener-Waterloo and Stratford-Perth humane societies, suggested the shelter in Stratford must adopt a similar approach locally if it hopes to improve its numbers.
He said the biggest obstacle is finding foster homes for the shelter’s sick animals, noting, “the shelter is not an infirmary. We can treat animals but we can’t keep them there for long periods of time and put the rest of the population at risk.”
If more foster homes can be found in the community, Kinch said be believes the target set is achievable.
The community council also announced the shelter would be working with veterinary facilities that provide low cost spay/neuter services and continue its partnership with Stratford's Feline Friends Network and its Trap-Neuter-Return program for feral cats, as well as increase its involvement with animal rescue groups.
Additionally, the shelter promises more transparency of financial records and intake and adoption rates.
Macdonald said the entire organization “from top to bottom” is in agreement with the new direction, which comes less than one year after the shelter merged with the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society.
The new partnership appeared to be running smoothly until this past December when 21 cats infected with herpes were put down while shelter manager Sarah Tickner was away on training. She abruptly resigned over the incident, along with another staff member.
Kinch acknowledged the incident has frayed the organization's relationship with some in the community, but suggested everyone involved has the well-being of the animals at heart, and that through collaboration with the community that trust can be restored.
As for a new manager, Kinch said a replacement for Tickner was hoped to be hired this week. The hiring process was overseen by a team of four consisting of one individual from the community council, one from the city at large and two from the humane society.