TORONTO - On April 11, animal lovers across the nation celebrated National Pet Day. But, there was not much to celebrate for Donna Cox, founder of North Toronto Cat Rescue (NTCR). Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much love for cats, at least in the city of Vaughan.
For more than 33 years, NTCR is committed to the rescue, care, rehabilitation and rehoming of feral and abandoned cats in communities throughout Markham and the GTA. For the last 2.5 years, the NTCR has been operating out of a location in Vaughan near Dufferin and Centre streets.
But last month, they were forced to move the rescued cats from the facility due to zoning and licencing issues with the city. “The City wants us out”, Cox told the Corriere Canadese.
NTCR is a no-kill, non-profit registered Canadian charity that receives no government funding. It is volunteer-run and relies on donations. Cox said that Vaughan Animal Services (VAS) will not grant NTCR the necessary licence(s) to continue operations as a cat rescue.
When asked why the City would not allow NTCR to continue operating as a rescue at the Vaughan location, a spokesperson from the City said the facility is “not a shelter”. In an email response, the city stated: “The activity of housing large numbers of stray animals of any type/breed is not permitted to operate from this location”. Also adding, “it is not in compliance with the business licensing or animal control by-laws”.
The area is zoned for commercial use. Previous attempts by Cox to get a minor variance to allow the rescue to continue operations at the facility until its scheduled demolition in two years time have failed. She had hoped the city would allow her to remain at the location for at least another 2-3 years until the building is torn down for redevelopment.
For now, Cox continues to pay the $4000 monthly rent on a building that stands virtually empty. The City will only permit 3 licenced cats at the facility. A petition with close to 77,000 supporters pleading with Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua was not enough to save the cat rescue operation in the city of Vaughan. The city spokesperson further added, “as a registered municipal pound, the VAS shelter is the only place where found stray cats can be turned over”.
The situation is extremely heartbreaking for Cox and the team of sixty volunteers at NTCR. The team has devoted their time, service, care and have rescued some 4,000 stray and abandoned cats in its years of service. “We offer an amazing facility and have spent a lot of our own money to create an environment that is clean, safe and comfortable as we work to find the cats in our care forever homes”.
For now, Cox is struggling to find a new location for the rescue in a “red hot” real estate market. The city of Vaughan at least, has made it clear to her, “move on!”