City council on Monday, June 21, voted not to extend the lease on the Boundary’s only dedicated cat shelter.
It now falls on Kimberly Feeny, President of Boundary Helping Hands Feline Rescue Society (Helping Hands), either to find a new location for the shelter or to find homes for Helping Hands’ 38 furry charges, 17 of which are kittens.
“We’re upset and frustrated that the city doesn’t seem to see the value and the impact of our work,” Feeny told The Gazette. Among their more significant rescues, the shelter has taken in 52 cats from a feral colony in Christina Lake, over 20 cats from one on Grand Forks’ Como Road and 17 cats from another colony in Midway, she said. All rescues were spayed or neutered, with many given pre-veterinary care for eye and lung infections.
The city in March leased the shelter a flood-damaged home purchased through its North Ruckle buyout program. The home at 6392 2nd St, slated for demolition leading up to the city’s massive dike work project, was rented at a nominal fee of $1 per month. The lease was due to end on June 30 when it was signed, according to city staff.
Feeny said she’d been actively looking for a permanent location elsewhere in the city and Christina Lake, but to no avail. Helping Hands is still in discussions with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary about possibly moving in to Grand Forks’ dog pound on Donaldson Drive, she added.
The shelter was meanwhile inundated with lost, abandoned and feral cats, with peak numbers reaching into the 60s this Spring. Helping Hands didn’t have a plan for their remaining cats as of Monday evening.
“How do you ready yourself for this?” Feeny asked, pleading that the cats “literally have nowhere to go.”
Other renters in North Ruckle had meanwhile petitioned the city for their own lease extensions, council heard Monday. Staff suggested that any extensions would disrupt preparations for the construction of the dike.
“There’s a lot of time and resources that have to go into removing water, gas and electrical utilities” before neighbourhood homes can be demolished ahead of the dike work, staff told council.
“It’s a really, really tight timeline to move everybody out of Ruckle in order to start building so that the dike infrastructure is in place by freshet 2022,” they added.
Coun. Neil Krog later introduced a motion “to allow the cat rescue to stay a little while longer while they look for a permanent home.” Krog later told The Gazette he’d hoped Helping Hands could stay until the city was ready to demolish the shelter.
Speaking against the motion, Mayor Brian Taylor said extending the shelter’s lease would put the city on a “slippery slope.”
“It would be setting a precedent,” he continued, adding, “At this point, I think we have our credibility at stake.”
Krog’s motion was defeated by a vote of 5 – 2, with Mayor Brian Taylor and Couns. Everett Baker, Cathy Korolek, Christine Thompson and Chris Moslin voting against Couns. Krog and Zak Eburn-Stoodley.
Helping Hands has been a “valuable work experience placement for (our) clients,” Work BC said Tuesday, June 22.
The shelter is working on its application for charity status with the Canada Revenue Agency, Feeny said.