Education takes centre stage for BC SPCA in Cloverdale

Sonny enjoys an gentle scratch behind the ear, courtesy of Rodney Weleschuk, branch manager of the BC SPCA Surrey Education and Adoption Centre. - Jennifer Lang photo
Sonny enjoys an gentle scratch behind the ear, courtesy of Rodney Weleschuk, branch manager of the BC SPCA Surrey Education and Adoption Centre.
— image credit: Jennifer Lang photo

The BC SPCA’s new Surrey Education and Adoption Centre in Cloverdale opened its doors March 1 and already a dozen cats have found new homes, along with two puppies, a couple of hamsters and one guinea pig.

Guinea pigs make great pets for newbie pet owners and families with young kids, according to branch manager Rodney Weleschuk, because they’re active during the day (unlike hamsters), and relatively straight-forward to care for.

Rabbits, on the other hand, may require more patience. He should know – he has four rabbits of his own at home.

To Weleschuk, the adoptions are a welcome sign that the new centre is already having an impact when it comes to reducing the number of unwanted and overpopulated Surrey pets winding up at a shelter – or roaming at large.

Surrey is home to thousands of feral cats – domestic cats that have been abandoned and are able to breed unchecked.

People abandoning their cats in rental accommodations is also a major problem.

“All these poor landlords get stuck with these cats,” he said, explaining a lack of adequate financial resources makes it impossible for people to afford to spay or neuter their pets – or pay a vet’s bill when their pets become unwell.

The BC SPCA’s Surrey branch no longer takes in strays or abandoned pets. After the City of Surrey ended its kenneling contract with the BC SPCA last year, the shelter on 152 Street near 67 Avenue closed down.

The new education and adoption centre is located on 5.5 acres the society purchased at 16748 50 Avenue in Cloverdale. And fortunately for Cloverdale residents, the Surrey Animal Resource Centre at 17944 Colebrook Road, which quietly opened last August, is nearby, making referrals for strays a snap.

Weleschuk said the BC SPCA’s education and adoption centre complements what the city shelter does by fast-tracking the adoption process for overpopulated pets, like cats, rabbits and other small animals.

“The Surrey Resource Centre is our friend,” Weleschuk said. “We’re even going to transfer animals from there to here.” Cloverdale, the BC SPCA will be working on solutions that prevent animals from winding up in shelters in the first place – spearheading public education programs, liaising with animal rescue groups, and launching a spay/neuter sponsorship program for animals waiting to find new homes, bringing the cost of adoptions down.

[Meet Buns - Jennifer Lang photo]

The storefront and adoption centre is already up and running, and the property is home to the society’s cruelty investigations staff.

Future plans include adding a chicken coop, bunny patch and veggie garden, along with paddocks for housing cattle seized during investigations.

This summer, the rural Cloverdale property will host the BC SPCA’s children’s day camps – an important outreach tool for education.

On a recent tour of the education and adoption centre, a bunch of cuddly critters awaited forever homes.

Patches is a mature male tabby who needed oral surgery – an expensive, but compassionate move, paid for through the generosity of a local donor.

Then there’s Sonny, a kitty who is fond of a gentle scratch behind the ears.

Weleschuk said the number of cats will be capped at eight – making the field of feline adoption candidates less daunting to a potential pet owner.

“When you have 40 cats, it’s like going into a superstore,” he said.

Buns is a silky black rabbit who is a bit of an escape artist. And Sam is a friendly, cream-coloured rat who loves to hang out with people. Twinkle and Star are a pair of baby mice looking for new homes, and there are several budgies chirping happily by the front window who are available for adoption.

[Sam likes to hang out with people]

The centre sells everything a new pet-owner will need, from stainless steel food bowls and chew toys to hamster habitats and bedding. “Exhibit A” is a fully-equipped hamster kit, complete with exercise wheel and food pellets.

“The whole idea is to make this a one-stop adoption centre,” Weleschuk said. One less stop on the drive home puts less stress on the animal.

Proceeds from retail sales will go towards helping more animals, he added, explaining the B.C. SPCA receives no significant funding from government.

A team of volunteers will be recruited to help run the centre. Applications are available online. Interested applicants will then be invited to an information session and undergo a criminal record check.

The BC SPCA Surrey Education and Adoption Centre is open noon to 5:30 p.m. daily, and from 2 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

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