Skip to content

Burrowing owl and parrot attract much attention during budget meeting

The Moose Jaw Humane Society and Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre spoke to council on Nov. 24 during a 2022 budget meeting

The appearance of an orange-wing Amazon parrot and a burrowing owl during city council’s first 2022 budget meeting will likely help the two organizations that brought the feathered critters receive grant funding next year.

The Moose Jaw Humane Society and Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre spoke to council on Nov. 24 during a 2022 budget meeting focused on third-party groups. Peeko the parrot and Cricket the burrowing owl accompanied their respective handlers and caused a happy buzz at the council table. 

The humane society wants $233,610 in operating funding for next year — an increase of $4,581 over this year — and $15,000 to subsidize a cat spay and neuter program.

The burrowing owl centre — located on the Moose Jaw Exhibition Centre grounds — wants $6,557 in funding for 2022, an increase over this year of $129.

Humane Society

Melissa Livingston, shelter manager, and Whitney Meacher, board president, spoke about the shelter’s activities and services.

Since appearing before council during the 2021 budget discussions, the humane society has taken in 252 stray dogs and 432 stray cats, with 226 dogs and 79 cats reunited with their owners, Livingston said. Only 18 percent of cats returned home, which explains why the shelter is often at capacity with felines. However, the shelter is seeing fewer animals every year.

“We are proud of the fact that every adult (animal) leaves the shelter spayed or neutered, most often at our expense. We believe this money is well spent to see those numbers reduce year after year,” she continued. 

In 2006 the shelter took in 469 dogs and euthanized 74 of them, while in 2010, it took in 614 dogs and put down 12. Meanwhile, the shelter took in 881 cats in 2006 and euthanized 583, while it took in 828 cats in 2010 and put down 108. 

The number of euthanized animals has decreased over the years while charging fees to pet owners has reduced the number of stray animals, especially dogs, Livingston said. However, the cat adoption program will not solve the overpopulation crisis, while there are numerous costs with this issue, including policing and animal control and pound services.

She noted that vet bills are the shelter’s biggest expense, with August’s bills over $7,000 and October’s bills at $6,400.

Non-lethal options

The Canadian Humane Society says spaying or neutering is the best non-lethal solution to reducing the cat population and unwanted cats, Livingston added. That is why the shelter needs $15,000 for a subsidized spay/neuter program — about 50 cats per year will be helped — since many low-income families will struggle to afford such costs.

The agency will charge people a $25 non-refundable fee through the program. 

Livingston added that the shelter is close to constructing a new building but needs more funding before shovels hit the ground.

“I’m happy to see that (spay/neuter program) coming here because I was on the board … and that has been a discussion for many, many years,” said Coun. Dawn Luhning. “I support it because I think it’s needed and valued in the community.” 

Burrowing owls

Funding is incredibly important in 2022 for the burrowing owl centre, as it seeks to promote conservation of the birds and give its 13 owls and two gophers the best care possible, said bird handler Lori Johnson. 

Normally the centre sees about 5,000 people in-house and conducts outreach initiatives to 80 to 100 groups with 8,000 to 10,000 people, but this year — and most of 2020 — was tough, and visitor numbers and donations were down, she added. The centre’s goal is to add displays in the building and expand its touring program so its ambassador owls can visit more places in Saskatchewan. 

“The work you do can’t be underrated when talking about an endangered species like the burrowing owl,” said Coun. Crystal Froese. “I remember as a kid riding up around the exhibition grounds and seeing them.”

The next budget meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 8.