The Animal Rescue Network (ARN), a non-profit shelter for displaced and abused cats, is being forced to vacate their current location due to a rent increase and failure to meet building standards.
The ARN was founded in 1994 by Barbara Lisbona, describing itself as “Montreal’s largest no-kill shelter dedicated to the welfare of abused and abandoned animals.”
Currently, the shelter is operated by approximately 150 volunteers and is home to more than 300 cats. If the shelter is unable to relocate to a financially feasible and physically acceptable location, the cats will have to be euthanized.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will take the animals and euthanize them if the shelter cannot find a new site.
Suzy Slavin, a McGill librarian and longtime volunteer at the ARN, spoke to The Daily about the shelter’s future.
“We have no Plan B,” she said.
Lisbona’s public relations liaison, Cynthia Marajda, explained that, after the change in ownership of the shelter’s building in December 2010, renting conditions changed, and the ARN was presented with a substantial rent increase.
There are no legal restrictions on rent increases for commercial properties. Marajda explained that, though the ARN pays the monthly rent in their Rosemont location, the shelter is not protected by a lease.
“It was evident that we would need to move rather than sign the lease as it was presented,” she said.
Marajda added that ARN will be “under strict pressure to leave” once the building finds a new tenant.
“The first and largest obstacle is the city’s zoning restrictions,” she said. “Each municipal district is operated under its own regulations and each municipality must be contacted to determine legal zones for animal shelters.”
Since the shelter is entirely run on volunteer support, accessibility and safety for volunteers are important criteria for the shelter’s new location. In addition to finding a new location, budgetary setbacks are presenting a large challenge for the shelter.
“The money doesn’t come from any larger funder,” explained Slavin. “All of our donations come from people we’ve made contact with…you know, people who read about us and have given some thought to the shelter.”
Slavin said donations ranged from $10 to $100.
“And I can tell you, I open all the envelopes. There are not a lot of $100 donations, and we are nowhere near the amount that we need,” said Slavin.
ARN is a no-kill shelter, which means that all cats taken in by the ARN are tested for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, vaccinated, and cared for.
“For us, they all stay – the ones that come in,” she said. “This means sometimes we have to say no at the door, sometimes when we don’t have rooms. And, right now, we don’t have enough space for all the cats that need our help.”
City policies have not responded to the circumstances facing the ARN and other non-profit animal shelters such as the Rosie Animal Adoption (RAA).
Anne Dube from the RAA, a non-profit adoption program for homeless dogs, said that, “In Quebec, there is still the farmer’s mentality… I spoke with a member of Parliament [about the issue] – they did not seem interested.”
Dube added that, “High volume, low-cost spay and neuter clinics must open…if we want to see changes in Quebec. Laws must be changed and make fines a lot heftier.”
Currently, there is no government funding reserved for animal shelters, with the exception of the SPCA, and the city has not revised their zoning regulations.
“This has to change,” said Marajda. “Education and effective legislation are needed now.”