The local animal shelter that tries to find cats a good home is now searching for a home itself after last week's blaze caused too much damage for it to return to the Oro-Medonte location, just outside the Barrie city limits.
Officials at Street Cats Animal Rescue have announced they will not be able to get back into the Shanty Bay Road location after it was gutted by fire May 26.
Carol Snow, who is the facility's executive director, told BarrieToday that as busy as they are and as hard as this ordeal has been, they need to get the world out fast for a new home.
“We were holding out hope that we could back in sooner than later, but it just isn’t going to happen,” she said. “Now we need the community to come through for us as they always do.”
Snow said in a previous interview that she was waiting to hear back from the landlord about the extent of the damage and once she did, she and her team needed to act.
“The landlord said it is going to be probably longer than expected due to some structural damage and a lot of cleanup needed,” said Snow. “We just don’t have that kind of time. A lot of the cats who were displaced are in temporary locations.
"We need to have a resolution quicker than we maybe were going to get it, and the right way to go is to look for something new.”
Oro-Medonte Township firefighters were called to a blaze at Street Cats Animal Rescue near Colborne Street last Friday at about 11:20 a.m.
A garbage truck caught fire close to a building, which operates as a cat shelter and had 56 cats inside. All of the animals removed from the building by township firefighters were put in the care of shelter staff.
Four people, who suffered smoke inhalation while removing the cats from the building, were taken to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie as a precaution.
The garbage truck was a write-off and the building sustained damage estimated at $80,000 to $100,000, according to township officials.
There are several other businesses in the building, including the cat shelter.
What caused the initial fire is undetermined.
The rescue centre had been at the Shanty Bay Road location for approximately 15 years and it had become home to the animals and volunteers.
Street Cats Rescue is hoping to be placed into a new location with approximately 2,000 square feet of space with an overhead door, a bathroom, a small kitchen (or at least a spot to put one in), and be located anywhere in the Barrie area.
Not only has the recent fire caused the rescue facility to scatter cats to different temporary locations, forcing staff and volunteers to work that much harder to take care of them, but it is their busiest time of year.
“This has held us up to do any further rescue work and this is our busy time of year," Snow said. "We had to make the call to be on the lookout and that's obviously another stress.
“It's not just finding a place, but we had also really customized the location to work well as a cat shelter," she added. "We know there may be some time to get a new location up to how we need it, but at least we can start getting cats in.”
Snow said she has been in touch with some real estate agents and private citizens and at this point it's a matter of whether it fits the needs of the shelter.
Of course, a new place won’t be cheap, she added.
“Obviously, the big challenge is if we can afford it,” Snow said. “That's the unknown right now. We have to look at how much rent is and what's included in that. We rely solely on the community to support us and without them, we couldn't do what we do. We don’t recover enough in adoption fees to keep it up and running.”
Snow said one cat may cost the rescue $2,000, and that’s without dentistry or other emergency issues.
“All our cats get fixed, micro-chipped, vaccinated and things like that,” she said. “The other thing is that being an organization with a no-kill policy, we have cats with behavioural issues, advanced age and we currently have two with epilepsy. They are difficult to re-home and there is a cost to keeping them.”
With the stress that often comes with finding the solutions to the rescue’s issues and the stress of the recent fire, Snow was asked why she still does what she does.
“When my husband and I started this years ago, we certainly didn't expect it to grow like it did," she said. "But there is a commitment to the cats and also to the people who are involved. The cats in our care become like our own pets, and you couldn't just walk away from your own pet.
"I have always felt empathy for animals and I can't just leave. Maybe I’m just crazy and it's all of those things combined," Snow added.
If anyone who may be able to help with a new location or donations can contact [email protected].