Funds diminish at Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary

S-E Staff Reporter

CVAS seeks support

Built on generosity, the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary (CVAS) has continuously served Stevens County and surrounding areas since its inception in 2002.

Annually for the last five years, the Sanctuary has housed 500-700 animals. At the same time, they’ve provided services, like vaccinations and deworming, at a reduced cost for low-income families.

In the past year the sanctuary has made seven large cat rescues. While population varies, as of Nov. 4, the Sanctuary was housing approximately 130 felines.

Several months ago CVAS trapped 70 feral cats in the country.

“There were so many we didn’t have enough barn homes to send them to,” explained Pam Smith, a regular CVAS volunteer for the last eight years.

With constant attention and care from volunteers, the cats have calmed considerably, but they will probably never be fully domesticated.

The Humane Society of the United States reports that kittens of stray or feral cats need human contact or else they become feral, too fearful to be handled or adopted. On top of that, female cats can become pregnant as early as five-months-old, meaning the number of feral cats in a neighborhood can rapidly increase if cats aren't spayed or neutered.

CVAS is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, spaying/neutering and adoption of homeless and neglected companion animals. Their work helps keep the feral cat population down in Stevens County, and provides shelter for many of the animals that are abandoned every year by their owners.

CVAS is primarily an all volunteer program, with volunteers doing much of the rescue work, cleaning pens and feeding the 100-plus animals on site every day. However, paid staff are needed to manage the facilities and supplies, coordinate volunteers, give medications and fill any gaps in volunteer hours.

Diminishing funds threaten the Sanctuary.

New expenses

Shelter Manager Nancy Rose, having dedicated the last 10 years to being the unpaid shelter manager for CVAS, finally retired to Florida.

To help fill the gap left by Rose’s departure, CVAS hired a part-time assistant for Becca Shaw, is now the only full-time staffer. Despite what her paycheck says, Shaw works over 40 hours each week tending to all of the animals and coordination operations.

“CVAS has been lucky over the last several years to get some fairly large bequests, which is basically what’s kept us here this long,” Sanctuary volunteer and Interim Board Member Mary Ikagawa explained. “But there have not been such large contributions recently, and the money is drying up.”

There is no one available to provide the 60 hours of free service Rose gave each week.

Rose was integral to the Sanctuary’s operations. On top of her volunteer hours, she was also in charge of taking care of the dogs taken in, and she was an expert animal trapper whose skills will be missed, according to Smith.

Before Rose’s retirement, CVAS’s budget was already strained due to the large number of animals and pet owners needing humane society services in Stevens County. Now, on top of that, CVAS is paying for a part-time position, which replaces only some of the weekly hours donated by Rose.

Without consistent income, these changes are beyond their financial means.

Ikagawa, who joined the Sanctuary board in March, said CVAS’s expected expenses for 2017 are approximately $100,000. At the Sanctuary’s current expense rate, in-hand and expected funds will not support operations past next June. Ikagawa says CVAS’s 2015 operating expenses totaled $99,400.

If CVAS does not receive a significant infusion of funds, it will have to dramatically slash its services.

The Sanctuary may even have to close its doors.

Ikagawa said every effort is being made to seek funding from multiple sources to prevent this from happening.

CVAS board members would like to see Stevens County and the City of Colville take leadership and help support this service, since the area has an obvious need for a regional humane society, but attempts at securing financial support from these governing bodies over the years have been unsuccessful.

CVAS board members also write grants, but grants are highly competitive and an inconsistent source of funds.

Smaller donations from individuals and businesses have kept CVAS going so far, which Smith said they are “so blessed to have.”

But these donations are not enough to support the entire operation.

CVAS’s board has no idea the extent of ramifications for the county and surrounding cities if their services stop, but believes the loss of an organization that assists to re-home hundreds of cats and dogs every year would have a negative impact on the area.

They also know that if the Sanctuary has to shut down, there would be a scramble to find homes for its current residents. But not all of the animals are ideal for adoption. Some are older, blind, feral and others have complicated health problems.

“We can’t give up,” said Ikagawa. “We have to keep making noise.”

The need

Volunteers are the glue that keeps CVAS operating, and they could always use more.

“We have a few amazing volunteers that have been very supportive,” said Shaw.

Lorraine Schanzenbach, who has volunteered with Smith for eight years, said she wants to see CVAS continue because not only do they do so much for the animals, but they’re like a big family.

Eleven of CVAS’s volunteers regularly donate their time, and 45 volunteers provide work as offsite foster care for some of the animals.

It can be a harrowing job.

Ikagwa said because people get worn out facing a heavy volunteer work load day after day, it can’t be the same volunteers forever.

“Imagine cleaning 130 cat boxes every day,” said Ikagawa. “It’s a huge job.”

According to Shaw, 100 cats is the ideal maximum feline occupancy. But CVAS gets 40 calls on average each week concerning cats that need to be rescued. The number is even high during kitten season.

There are a few programs in the area that help dogs, but there are no other shelters in Stevens County that take in cats. CVAS’s low-cost vaccination clinics for cats and dogs, and assistance with feral cat trapping and spay/neuter are also unique.

Not many programs work to rehabilitate feral cats like CVAS. But as Smith points out, “there are so many in this community that we can’t find barns fast enough.”
Shaw says people don’t realized how big the problem is because CVAS’s efforts are often passed around through word of mouth.

Spaying or neutering free-roaming cats in a community helps reduce their numbers, according to the Humane Society. Spaying or neutering pet cats before they reproduce will also help stop companion pet overpopulation.

To prevent a continued birthing cycle, and to stop cats from becoming feral, it’s best for them to be spayed/neutered before that first pregnancy, instead of after the fact. But Ikagawa said in order for CVAS to have designated safe locations to drop off animals, more funding and volunteers would be required.

The Sanctuary’s board would like to see greater support for outreach and educational programs on preventive measures, like the importance of spaying and neutering and the humane treatment of animals.

“Education is a long-term process, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” Ikagawa noted.

Stevens County Cat Care, another nonprofit organization, provides monthly low-cost spay/neuter clinics for cats of low income residents of Stevens County. To learn more about their clinics, people can reach them at (509) 935-6369.

According to Ikagawa, Sanctuary volunteers go where the need is, but the community’s needs cannot be sufficiently served on a volunteer nonprofit model.

To volunteer, from helping host a fundraiser to taking care of the animals, call the Sanctuary at (509) 684-1475. To learn about more about CVAS and ways to help, visit their website or follow their Facebook page

People who care about having humane society services continue in the area are encouraged by CVAS board members to advocate spaying/neutering and to speak up to their elected officials about financially supporting the Sanctuary and city Animal Control services.

Every voice helps.

“We do what we can,” said Ikagawa. “The question is for how long.”