There may not have been a cute burrowing owl to admire during city council’s first 2023 budget meeting, but there was a rambunctious shelter dog that wanted to meet everyone.
The Moose Jaw Humane Society and Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre (SBOIC) spoke on Nov. 22 during a 2023 budget meeting focused on third-party groups.
Tankie, a Pyrenees cross, accompanied his handler and continually thumped his tail against the podium as he excitedly viewed all the humans.
The SBOIC normally brings Peanut to these meetings, but the avian died a few weeks ago and the organization didn’t want to risk the remaining ambassador owl, Cricket. It is also considering reducing its winter activities to protect the bird.
The humane society wants $253,282 in operating funding next year, an increase of $4,672 from this year.
The burrowing owl centre — located on the Moose Jaw Exhibition Grounds — wants $6,754 next year, an increase of $197 from this year.
Dana Haukaas, executive director of the Moose Jaw Humane Society, spoke about the shelter’s activities and services.
The organization took in 244 stray dogs and 477 stray cats this year, with dog numbers similar to 2021 and cat numbers about 44 higher. Those numbers do not include pets whose owners surrendered them because of financial or health issues, nor for people hospitalized, in domestic shelters or in police custody.
The humane society successfully reunited 208 dogs and 86 cats with owners, while 15 per cent of canines and 82 per cent of felines needed new homes.
“It is a sad state for the cats. People don’t value them as much as the dogs … ,” Haukaas said, although a microchipping program should help reunite cats and owners in the future.
The humane society works closely with Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS), especially during investigations when animals are surrendered or seized, she continued.
If APSS seizes animals in Moose Jaw, it takes them to a shelter outside the community to protect them, while it brings seized animals from rural areas to Moose Jaw.
“Our staff work tirelessly every day to come up with creative ways to find animals like Tankie a home. Clearly, we’re failing him a little bit at 175 days (with the shelter), but he’s big and hairy and not everybody wants that,” she said.
Haukaas admitted that she has “pretty high standards” for who can adopt Tankie. This is because many people who adopted pets during the pandemic are giving them up because they have returned to the office.
The shelter’s ability to adopt animals successfully caught the attention of its insurer, Trupanion. The insurer made the agency the first Canadian SPCA to be part of a pilot project that encourages people to register for adoptions quickly. In turn, the humane society received more equipment and support.
Haukaas added that the organization expects to start a capital campaign for a new building next year.
This year the burrowing owl centre faced restrictions with avian influenza and lingering pandemic issues, which forced it to operate five days a week instead of seven, explained bird handler Lori Johnson. Those restrictions also led to 1,800 in-house visitors — compared to normally 3,000 — and lower revenue.
Furthermore, the centre held 15 outreach initiatives, which is higher than in 2020 and 2021 but still lower than the usual 60 events that reach over 1,000 people.
“We may have to reduce some of our outreach programs until we’re able to hand-raise another ambassador owl, just so we can Cricket doing as well as he can for a senior owl,” Johnson said.
Positive news, though, is the centre added five youngsters to its flock.
Johnson added that the centre would use the extra funding to install a new boundary fence to protect the owls from the increased area traffic.
The next regular council meeting is Monday, Nov. 28, while the next budget meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 30.