At the first ever Annual General Meeting for Steinbach and Area Animal Rescue (SAAR), the board shared big numbers, high hopes, along with contagious enthusiasm.
President Michelle Neufeld opened the meeting by pointing out this organization was not her intention when she first started rescuing animals 10 years ago. Using her own money to feed and vet the animals, and then find a suitable home if owners could not be found.
The rescue has gone from small, unofficial beginnings to an organization with charitable status, a board of directors, and plans for a building that will soon become headquarters for the busiest rural animal rescue in the province.
“With our intakes, we’re the busiest rural rescue in the province of Manitoba,” says Vice President Graham Pollock. “Obviously, the Humane Society, the Winnipeg based shelters are a little busier with numbers.”
SAAR reports a significant intake increase during 2021 with 298 animals coming into care. That number was slightly lower for 2022 with 291 animals taken in. Those numbers would have been higher if the rescue had not resorted to intake freezes that were implemented for financial reasons.
Rescue volunteers fielded over 700 calls for service last year and they report the vast majority of animals taken in were listed as strays.
Where did the 291 animals come from? SAAR provided the following breakdown:
City of Steinbach: 80
RM of La Broquerie: 59
RM of Hanover: 52
RM of Ste. Anne: 32
RM of Emerson/Franklin: 14
RM of Piney: 10
RM of Reynolds: 9
RM of De Salaberry: 6
RM of Ritchot: 6
RM of Springfield: 3
In 2019, there were 175 animals who were adopted through SAAR. That number increased to 271 for last year.
Pollock credits their volunteers in the foster program for playing a key role in helping socialize animals and getting them ready to fit into their new home.
“We wouldn’t operate without our fosters,” he says. “So, we're always looking for more. It's easy to sign up, just go on our website and look at the foster page, and you'll see the link to it.
“It's busy, but it's a good busy, too, because you know that the more you're taking in, the more you're helping. And that's what we're all about, making sure we can get them into safe warm places where they're going to thrive.”
As the rescue grows and helps more animals, there is an increase in the amount of money required to cover medical bills and pay for food. Fosters are not required to pay for any costs related to the animals they take into their homes.
Brent Bekiaris, Public Relations for SAAR, says the growing support from people in Steinbach and the surrounding municipalities is what really helps them continue to help injured and unwanted pets.
There are some larger fundraisers planned for this year, many of them are repeats from the past, brought back due to their success in bringing in much-needed donations.
Bekiaris notes every donation is significant regardless of size. From the children holding lemonade stand fundraisers to the corporate sponsors, he says they all make a big difference to the animals who are given a chance at a better life.
Efforts are ramping up to get a building for the rescue, which currently operates in private homes.
SAAR now has land that is ready for them, the focus has turned to the building.
At the AGM, Neufeld was all smiles when she stated with enthusiasm that she was cautiously optimistic they would have that structure this year. The plan has changed a few times as they seek to accommodate the needs of the rescue with the money available to work with, and the requirements of the local by-laws.
Neufeld says the current plan is for a 1,600 sq. ft building that will also have a basement. It will be located on property along Keating Road, north of Highway 52.
The board reported that their foster program is key to successfully getting animals adopted and that program will continue, even with a building.
What will the new building be used for?
While details continue to be worked out, the expectation is that the new facility will be used for emergency intakes, it will house animals that need to be in quarantine, it will serve as a meeting place for potential adopters to get to know the pets they are considering, it will also be a place where educational events can happen.
Neufeld says there is a lot that needs to be lined up in order for this to be built by the end of the year.
Vet bills for 2022 totalled over $100,000. Donations are always being accepted to help cover medical costs for the many animals that come with injuries and illnesses.