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Sooke animal rescue advocate takes a different tack

SAFARS hopes District of Sooke will create its own animal rescue facility

Monday, July 15, 2019 ~ SOOKE

~ West Shore Voice News EDITORIAL

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A presentation about the need for a Sooke-styled animal rescue shelter was made to District of Sooke Council at their regular council meeting on July 8.

This was not the first time that Margarita Dominguez of the Pet Food Bank & Feral Cat Rehabilitation Center (aka SAFARS), has addressed council on this topic over the last eight years. The first approach that ultimately went nowhere contracted through the Capital Regional District) are not as suitable as they could be for local needs.

editorial, SAFARS, West Shore Voice News
Editorial on SAFARS presentation to Sooke Council, on page 2 of the July 12, 2019 weekend digest edition of West Shore Voice News.

Dominguez points out the impact of the high cost of living and the diminishing availability of rental housing that accepts pets. Under these conditions, more people are doing what is unthinkable to some — abandon their pets to the forest or the street in the hopes they will fend for themselves or be picked up by a loving family (or the CRD particularly in the case of dogs as the CRD does not pick up feral/stray cats).

A long-time resident of the Juan de Fuca and Sooke areas, Dominguez and her team of volunteers do the cat rescue work themselves, hands-on. They find foster homes for the stray/feral animals and with their group’s own funds (hard-won through a range of fundraising efforts) arrange and pay for veterinarian care for wounds and reversal of malnutrition as well as seeing to the spaying/neutering of these cats.

Sooke Council this week expressed their satisfaction (heard over the years from councils of the day) with the CRD Animal Control contract (approximately $82,000 per year for Sooke) that essentially takes all the worry and detail off the District of Sooke’s hands. And of course, that’s a service beyond cats, by experienced staff trained to look after all domestic animals. CRD says their mission is to provide services “with integrity, impartiality and efficiency with the goal of obtaining voluntary compliance” and that they aim to return lost pets to their owners (dogs have ID, cats not always). CRD Animal Control serves several other municipalities in the west shore as well, including Langford, Metchosin, Highlands, Colwood and View Royal.

The point from SAFARS is that Sooke taking a new tack would see Sooke better serving its residents by looking at operating their own in-house service or contracting out to SAFARS. Such a service would include the rescue of stray cats and sheltering them, as well as finding foster homes for cats instead of seeing the pets become feral or — if they do end up in the BC-SPCA shelter system — head down that slippery slope to possible or likely euthanization.

Sooke is a suitable municipality to try this sort of project. Incorporated only 20 years ago, it’s a seaside forest-interface community that recognizes its rural/urban distinctiveness which interfaces a financially-challenged demographic. Sooke already tries to express an awareness of the financially-challenged component of their communty in various ways with a strong volunteer force, a wide range of free or affordable community services, and a sometimes laborious council/municipal process of ‘getting it right’ to be a Sooke-brand solution in whatever situation it happens to be.

Somehow it feels like this time the cat rescue shelter issue has teeth and could gain traction with the public and attentive local politicians. Dominguez’s radio interview on C-FAX this week rambled a bit but ended up dropping a few salient points: economic times have changed for many in a way that is not reversing all too quickly which sadly produces the abandonment of pets; there is more than one way to skin a cat (pardon the expression); and that a local solution based on re-homing animals (as well as addressing population control with spaying/neutering done before re-release) is not only right up Sooke’s alley in terms of governance style and do-it-yourself temperament, it’s the way of an increasingly compassionate society.

Apparently some other municipalities (including North Vancouver) have done the work to find suitable and sustainable private and public grant funding to do their own animal rescue and control services…. not duplicating an existing service, but doing it in a way that respects the unique needs or desires of their residents.

~ Mary P Brooke, Editor