This isn’t easy to write and I don’t know how to start. So I guess this is how I start:
No Surrender Ottawa is closing our foster intake, and we don’t know when we’ll be able to reopen it.
We don’t have enough open foster spaces, for any species. We had a cat in my husband’s bedroom for four days last week, for want of any better options, and that worked out through, basically, a miracle.
We also don’t have enough people to keep on top of things for any more animals.
We need to focus on the roughly 20 animals we have in care now.
When we started No Surrender we knew there was a demand for an organization like this, and we wanted to meet it. We were right about the first part, and … I don’t think we’ve done a bad job with the second part, but we underestimated how much need was out there. Or we overestimated our own ability to say no. Or both.
We told ourselves we could grow to meet demand as word got out. And we sort of did, but mostly what that means is that we’ve just kept on being desperately overstretched and just barely hanging on waiting for something to break.
Something broke, and … it was us.
Rescues and other animal welfare organisations tend to fail in one of three ways:
They run out of money, and have to stop. We’ve been so fortunate in our donors, but … an awful lot of No Surrender Ottawa expenses have ended up going on our personal credit cards to be paid back out of donations later. And then later, there’s always something else going on and the money goes to that. You can only do that for so long.
They burn out their people, and have to stop. We’re either there or dangerously close to there. We love this work. We love every pet we’ve worked with and feel privileged to have been trusted by every client who’s called or emailed us.
There’s a thing I always tell clients who apologize for being stressed and emotional.
I say it to potential fosters, because I want them to understand what the “emergency” part of emergency fostering can involve, so they know what they’re getting into:
“Nobody ever calls me to tell me they’re having a good week.”
Pets come into foster with us and they’re stressed. They often have something medical going on that hasn’t been caught because their owner can’t afford regular checkups. Our fosters are amazing. They’re not all experienced fosters when they start with us, but they learn, they step up, they cope with all sorts of unpredictable stuff. They make room in their lives and hearts.
(PSA: If you have a social worker, for disability or any other reason, have them refer you to vetoutreach.org. They’re amazing, and they cover preventative care like neutering and physicals, but they only take referrals through workers.)
We have an amazing, brilliant team of volunteers and fosters, but we’re burning through ourselves at an unsustainable rate.
And then there’s the last way an animal welfare organisation can fail:
They run out of money or burn out their people, or both, and they don’t stop, and stuff stops getting done, and important things get missed, and the animals pay the price.
We’re not going to be that organisation. We can’t betray our clients and the animals they trust us with like that.
So this is where we are:
Nobody’s getting kicked out. All of the animals currently in foster will be cared for and loved until their owners can reclaim them. We made commitments and we’re going to keep them.
This means that we will still be raising money, for specific big vet bills (Shep’s leg, Baster’s teeth, and one of our foster cats had a urinary obstruction this week; he’s doing well now but ouch!) and for general running costs (food, litter, treats, toys, preventative vetting, transportation, Haltis and zip lines and other quality-of-life stuff for pets in our care).
We will continue to be transparent about where the money goes.
We will still be doing our non-foster work: dogwalking, training advice and referrals, referrals to other organisations like Vet Outreach and Pet Resource Bank, reunification help for clients whose pets have ended up at OHS and who can’t afford the impound fees or can’t get transport there, and we’ll keep responding to calls from hospitals and social workers for pets who’ve been left alone due to sudden illness or injury or other emergencies.
And, we’ll be regrouping and trying to work out what we need in order to do this work, and whether or not we can get what we need, whether that’s a steady flow of income from a grant, more partnerships with other organizations, recruiting more people who can help us with organization