Original Published 02:41 Mar 25, 2022

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Happy Cat Sanctuary is discussing terms with the Town of Strathmore regarding a potential Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for $50,000 towards operational expenses. 

A delegation from the non-profit came before Strathmore Town Council during the Mar. 16 regular council meeting to discuss their budget and how the funding would be utilized. 

“It is vital for Happy Cat Sanctuary that we continue to receive funding from the Town of Strathmore for us to continue operating and continue doing the great job that we are doing,” said Barb Stefanich, cofounder of Happy Cat Sanctuary. “It would be devastating for us, all of our volunteers, the residents of Strathmore and of course, the Town of Strathmore if we had to close.”

In 2021, the sanctuary rescued 236 cats, with 117 of them coming into the sanctuary directly from within Strathmore. The remainder were rescued from around Wheatland County and the Calgary area.

Through the Trap, Neuter, Spay and Release (TNR) program, 39 cats were captured through the TNR program and the society reported having adopted out 116 cats over the course of the year. 

Should Happy Cat Sanctuary be approved for the $50,000 in funding from the Town, their operating budget for 2022 would be $126,000. 

As a reference, the sanctuary reported approximately $70,000 a year in veterinary expenses and roughly $17,500 annually to maintain their storefront location.

Other expenses included $26,000 in administration expenses and $15,000 in other assorted operational costs.

Inversely, the sanctuary averages around $40,000 a year in received donations and $16,000 annually in adoption fees.

Stefanich said the majority of the food and litter used by the sanctuary is donated and deals have been established with local vets to reduce expenses, which greatly impacts operational costs.

“When we first started Happy Cat Sanctuary in 2003, there were cats and kittens roaming the streets in large numbers. The work that we have done in the last 17 years has made the town almost free of feral and stray cats,” said Stefanich. “When we got the original funding from the town at $33,000 a year, we were ecstatic. Strathmore is one of the few towns that has actually taken the initiative to help a cat rescue take care of a cat problem within their town.”

Since their inception, over 2,000 cats and kittens have been rescued by the sanctuary. In 2018 and 2019, 100 cats were taken in from the town and found them new homes. In 2021, 236 cats in total were rescued, with 50 per cent coming directly from the town.

The fear is that if the sanctuary was no longer able to sustainably operate, local vet clinics and bylaw services would be overrun and bogged down with calls about stray cats.

Councilor Brent Wiley said although he went into the meeting skeptical of the sanctuary’s request, his mind was swayed towards supporting the idea.

“I went into this wanting to be a grumpy old man, wanting to cut money, and your data has completely shown me – I don’t think there is possibly a cheaper alternative to this,” said Wiley. “There are probably people in the community who think, why don’t we euthanize them all – that’s not cheaper. It actually would not be cheaper, even if you were heartless and said to just kill them all.”

Administration will provide a report for council on April 6 for further discussion and will work with Happy Cat Sanctuary as to whether or not the requested MoU would be a multi-year agreement.

This item reprinted with permission from the Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta