Robin A. Grant  

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SPCA: More than a Century of Service
Current Magazine

In late May, a full-grown ginger tomcat was found by Parks and Recreational Services in a dumpster on Killaview Avenue, Conception Bay South, barely breathing. It had a plastic garbage tie wrapped round its neck.

"We went public with the story in the hopes that we might locate the cat's owner," says Debbie Powers, Volunteer Coordinator of the SPCA. Powers was at the Shelter when the call came in and with the vet when the cat was euthanized for humane reasons.

Powers, who has been the Volunteer Coordinator of the SPCA for the past 18 years, says animal abuse is more common than the public realizes. And she says the abuse is a direct reflection of our social and economic problems.

"Take the cod closure, for example," says Powers. "People will lose their jobs. Some families will have to move, and a lot of them will leave behind the family pet. Any stress that's felt in the home will also be felt by the pet."

Meanwhile, Powers says she's seen many positive changes in society's attitudes towards animals over the years. She credits the City of St. John's, in particular. Powers says Mayor Andy Wells has been instrumental in providing major improvements to the Humane Services Division of the city, as well as allocating municipal funds to the organization itself. Powers says she's also noticed a positive change in the attitudes of the police, and in particular, school-aged children.

"A lot of schools are showing interest in the SPCA nowadays," says Powers. "They'll call up if they're looking for a fun day or whatever, and we get a very good response."

Nevertheless, with no provincial funding, the organization is forced to rely heavily on volunteers, fundraising initiatives and private donations. And Powers says less people are able to volunteer these days.

"People's lifestyles have changed so much in recent years that they just don't have time for volunteering," says Powers. "So we're really grateful for the volunteers we do have. Some of them end up coming in to the shelter as much as seven days a week."

Meanwhile, Powers says the SPCA needs government to make a financial commitment to the services the SPCA provides. As well, she says the SPCA needs access too a low cost spading and neutering facility, and an informed public.

"We have to educate people that animals aren't property, but living, breathing members of our community," says Powers. "Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment to a long term relationship--a fifteen year relationship."

All the same, Powers says, the love for animals endures and prevails. Powers says she is most inspired by the level of compassion and understanding in young people today. The next issue of "News Paws", the SPCA newsletter, will feature an article written by an eleven-year-old.

Meanwhile, the next fundraiser for the SPCA takes place June 18th at 7 pm. The annual "Walk for the Animals" will begin at Confederation Building, and sponsor sheets can be picked up before hand at the SPCA. Those walkers who raise more than two hundred dollars will receive the latest in SPCA t-shirt design.