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Duo aims to resurrect Campbell River animal shelter

Carol Chapman is proposing a community-run animal shelter. - Mirror file
Carol Chapman is proposing a community-run animal shelter.
— image credit: Mirror file

A pair of community-minded volunteers are planning to open a community-owned, and community-operated animal shelter but some residents have their doubts and would prefer to have the SPCA back.

Campbell River’s Carol Chapman, an SPCA volunteer for more than 10 years, and Cyriel DeBruyne, manager of Quality Foods and who is deeply involved in the community, have met with the city and say they’ve been given the go ahead to resurrect the shelter.

“We asked if we could have the old shelter, so we’re going to re-open the shelter,” Chapman said. “It’s officially called Campbell River Paws. We’re so excited. At the end of the day, for me, it’s all about the animals.”

Chapman will be actively recruiting volunteers to fill the void left when the SPCA decided to pull the plug on its Campbell River operations at the end of March.

“I think it’s really positive for the community to operate its own shelter,” Chapman said.

The plan is to run the shelter with all volunteers, with the exception of one paid staff, possibly a former SPCA worker. The group, which will be dubbed Campbell River Paws, plans to share the existing shelter with Coastal Animal Control, which will be in charge of animal enforcement. Campbell River Paws would be tasked with animal welfare.

Chapman said the city has offered two parcels of land – one on Homewood and one at the bottom of Merecroft Road – for the group to build its own shelter once it can raise the money.

The plan is to operate the shelter on donations, including pet food, and fundraisers.

“The community always raised so much for the SPCA and I can’t see that falling off,” Chapman said. “We want anybody who wants to help. The community is going to take ownership – it’s the only option we have. We have to be able to accept orphaned animals.”

But veterinarian Helen Kwong is skeptical that a community-run shelter can work. First the local group would have to apply for non-profit status which could take up to 40 days.

Incorporation of the society would take another 40 days, and receiving charitable status for the society would take another six to 18 months, according to Kwong. Then there’s the issue of insurance.

“Shelter insurance is very expensive because of the very real potential of serious injury,” Kwong said. “If they want to run it properly with stainless steel cages, for cleanliness and sterility, budget another $4,000. Also, add staffing costs because as lovely as volunteers are, they must be supervised by trained staff. If this is a no kill shelter, as lovely as it sounds, who will make the decisions? If you have $1,000 in your budget for a month to spend on veterinary bills, who do you decide to treat?”

Campbell River resident and SPCA supporter Karen Holden said she believes the community would best be served by the SPCA.

“I believe that Ms.Chapman is trying her best to avoid animals being abandoned but this proposed shelter is only a quick fix and a temporary solution,” Holden said. “The fact of the matter is we need to have the SPCA back.

“The population of Campbell River and the surrounding area is increasing and it is imperative that we have an organization that is qualified to take care of the animals.”

Holden is also concerned a community-run shelter will take much more time and money than anticipated and questions how the group will be able to find enough qualified volunteers to operate such a facility.

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