NORTH KINGSTOWN — Operators of a no-kill cat shelter say it’s in danger of closing due to financial trouble.
Fundraising efforts for the Pet Refuge were essentially shut down for two years because of COVID restrictions, and now the shelter is having trouble paying the cost of caring for its more than 100 cats, shelter operators say.
“Everything we do is fundraising and donations. We weren’t able to do any fundraising. We lost a lot of money,” said Kim Filburn, secretary for the North Kingstown-Exeter Animal Protection League, which runs the shelter.
“We are in dire financial trouble,” she said. “We might have to close down.”
The organization was started in 1968, and it has been running a shelter from the Stony Lane location since 2004, according to Linda Stevens, president of the nonprofit organization.
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One of the largest shelters for cats in Rhode Island, the Pet Refuge accepts cats from all over the state. It doesn’t euthanize animals because of lack of space or medical conditions, but rather only if the cat has a fatal disease or severe pain.
As a result, the facility has about 30 resident cats or “lifers,” which haven’t been adopted because of temperament, age or medical condition, Stevens said.
“We have cats that have lived at the shelter for their entire lives,” Filburn said.
The North Kingstown-Exeter Animal Protection League doesn’t receive any municipal funding and generates all of its own financing, much of it through in-person efforts such as dinners or campaigns in front of stores. All of that was curtailed during the height of the pandemic and is only now starting up again.
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It costs about $180,000 annually to run the shelter, the women said. Expenses include food and medical care for the cats. Spaying and neutering alone costs $15,000 to $20,000 annually, according to Stevens. Other costs include paying for one full- and four part-time staffers, as well as heat and electricity for the building, which is likely to need a new roof and HVAC system within a couple of years, Stevens said.
The shelter has started a GoFundMe appeal with a goal of $50,000.
“We have done many gofundme appeals over the years to help individual cats, and now we have to do one to save our beloved shelter,” the appeal says. “Without a significant infusion of money and fast, the doors to the Pet Refuge may close forever.”
Stevens believes Rhode Island’s housing crunch also put an extra strain on the shelter. It’s not uncommon for an owner to surrender a pet because they’ve lost housing or must move where they can’t have a pet.
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“We get calls nearly every day from people who have to surrender their beloved animals due to their own displacement in their circumstances,” the GoFundMe appeal says. “We want to keep our doors open to continue to take in these cats and kittens, often the ones that other shelters will not or can not take.”
“We truly are a refuge and are often the place of last resort,” the appeal says. “And we want to make sure that every cat at Pet Refuge has a home with us until they get a forever home, or for their entire lives if they don’t.
What happens if the shelter has to close?
“I can’t even think about it,” Filburn said. “We’d have to see if we could get somebody else to take the cats.”
Stevens said, “We just want to keep saving cats.”
On Twitter: @jgregoryperry
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