Most people in Saint John have probably heard about the hardships that the Saint John Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Animal Rescue has recently been facing. Fortunately, with the out pouring of support from the Saint John and surrounding communities, the future is already looking brighter.
The Animal Rescue League, formerly located on Taylor Avenue, and the Saint John SPCA merged in September 2010 to become the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue. Following the merge, the SPCA governing board’s inspection of the Taylor Avenue location came up short and the organization was given 30 days to find a new location. The group had, years prior, purchased a lot on Sandy Point Road in hopes of building a brand new shelter, a dream that would cost the organization about $4 million. With this sudden eviction in the dead of winter, the organization decided it was not feasible to fundraise and to try to build on their land. The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue started to look for a new place to call home for the many dogs and cats in their care.
The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue finally found their new home at 265 Bayside Dr., a building formerly owned by Hickey Bros. Ltd, who offered the shelter a private mortgage. The new location set the shelter back $750,000 and with limited interest in the Taylor Avenue location, the organization was struggling financially.
Melody McElman, the shelter’s manager, decided to announce their struggles to the public and turn to the community for support. “We had to move forward, we had to be truthful and tell them what’s happening because no one knew,” she says “they were driving by this big new shiny building and they were thinking ‘oh, it’s great, everything is wonderful!-it was everything but.”
With the threat of having to close their doors for good, the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue pleaded for the help of the community. With a short term goal of $200,000 and a long term goal of $1 million, volunteers took to the streets to raise much needed funds.
Harbour Con-Fusion, a local non-profit group of comic book fans, dressed up as superheroes and raised money with donation bins and a bottle drive. Other volunteers took to the streets of uptown Saint John with donation bins during the busy Labour Day flea market, and donations from individuals as well as small and medium businesses poured in. In the past four weeks $100,000 has been raised. “It’s unbelievable and it’s a clear message that the community truly supports us,” says McElman, “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
The shelter has some future events planned to continue to help them reach their fundraising goals. Bif Naked, who will be performing in Saint John on Oct. 20, is endorsing the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue, allowing them to set up in the lobby to fundraise. Club Tonic is holding “Party 4 Pets” on Oct. 12. The five dollar cover charge and one dollar from every drink sold will benefit the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue. “People understand, they know. And people get very emotional when it comes to animals in need,” says McElman, “We’re pleased, we’re a lot better [off] than we were but the real work is just beginning.”