LAPS seeks funding to help ill cats

Langley Township councillors will weigh the need for a new medical isolation facility for stray cats when they debate this year’s budget.

At Monday night’s council meeting, the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) unveiled its plans for what it calls an ISOasis facility.

At the Patti Dale Animal Shelter in Aldergrove, LAPS and animal control staff not only work with stray and lost dogs, they shelter a significant number of cats.

Dr. Kathryn Welsman told council that there are about 33,000 owned cats in the Langleys, plus around 22,000 feral and abandoned cats.

Almost none of the feral cats are spayed or neutered, and about 20 per cent of the owned cats are not fixed.

She brought up some of the recent incidents of unwanted kittens abandoned and left to die, including a box of kittens found near a church dumpster last summer. Several kittens escaped when they were found and another died even after being taken to LAPS.

Many feral cats and abandoned kittens have diseases, including ringworm, when they come to the animal shelter, which requires keeping them in isolation.

“It was never designed to support the number of sick cats that we’re now being asked to support,” said Welsman.

A few years ago there was a ringworm outbreak that spread to staff members, animals, and volunteers. The shelter had to shut itself to new animal intakes while it decontaminated.

To keep sick cats isolated, and give back space to displaced adoptable dogs and cats, LAPS wants to build a Cat Intake and Isolation Ward, or ISOasis.

It will increase capacity for cats by 50 per cent, allow faster treatment and faster adoptions, and will make LAPS eligible for new sources of grant funding, Welsman said.

LAPS director and volunteer Darrell Dean said the cost is $500,000, but LAPS will provide much of the cash through fundraising.

“This is our highest priority,” Dean said.

LAPS is asking for 40 per cent of the cost, or $225,000, to allow the project to get off the ground quickly. The rest of the money is either in hand already or can be secured through donor pledges, he said.

Councillor Blair Whitmarsh asked about the total capacity for the new building, and how long it will take to reach full capacity.

LAPS manager Sean Baker said he often jokes that you could build a shelter the size of B.C. Place to help all the cats that need it.

“It’s as big as we can reasonably build it,” he said of the planned facility.

LAPS will be assuming the extra operating costs of the facility, he noted, so the Township won’t be asked for extra long-term funding.

The building will include a small area where volunteers can drop off captured feral cats even after working hours, and will be able to provide on-site spaying and neutering a few times a year during special clinics.

The Township council will deliberate LAPS’ request during their budget process.

Mayor Jack Froese noted that he’s been hearing from a lot of LAPS supporters asking council to move forward with the ISOasis.

“I got an email from Minnesota today, supporting this project,” Froese said.

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