An area pet rescue association has been selected to pilot Strathcona County's first cat shelter.  

The county has chosen the Greater Edmonton Animal Rescue Society (GEARS) as the successful applicant to run the 12-month cat shelter pilot project. 

GEARS is a foster home-based animal rescue that was formed in 2013. It works with rural areas and rescues cats and dogs from around the Edmonton area. They take in rescue animals, address any medical concerns, and work on any required training or behavioural modifications before placing them up for adoption.

President of GEARS, Liz Pankhurst, said they were lucky to be chosen after applying to be part of the project earlier this year. 

“Our goal has always been to one day have a facility, and this is kind of a stepping stone,” said Pankhurst.

Once the pilot shelter is operational, Strathcona County will gather data to help decide whether to build a long-term cat shelter. The county will also gain knowledge from the project that it may use to encourage responsible cat ownership in the future. 

“So, we will take in cats that are found in distress within Strathcona County. So, anything that shows up on a rural property, or lost in the neighbourhood and citizens are unable to find the owners on their own; we would take that cat into care.” 

GEARS has been approved for a $100,000 grant to support the first year of operations of the pilot, beginning later this fall. The County will work with the non-profit to promote responsible pet ownership and offer animal care, identification, and reunification services.  

Pankhurst said they hope to quickly identify owners of shelter cats by posting photos online. In addition to promoting microchipping and spaying/neutering your cat, safe outdoor activities will also be encouraged. 

“Promoting things like catios, or taking your cat out on a leash and harness when you know you’re able to supervise them can help them not go missing while still giving that little bit of freedom that some cats like.”

Although domestic cat licensing is not currently required in Strathcona County, Tom Sutton, the county's director of RCMP and enforcement, said in a prior interview with MIX 107 that the idea of introducing a cat shelter to Strathcona County has been in the public discourse since the late 1980s. Unlike dogs, roaming cats are not subject to any specific bylaws, and no licensing is required. 

"It is an issue where cats are identified as either roaming in someone else's yard and causing a disturbance, or there are cats that are found in the more rural parts of the county without an appropriate owner," he explained.  

Once the shelter has been operational for a year, a report will be given to Strathcona County council for assessment. 

The shelter, to be named "Sheltered Paws", will host an information session Thursday, Sept. 29, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., location TBD. It hopes to open up on Oct. 1, and an open house will take place on Oct. 15.

GEARS is currently accepting donations for the cat shelter; items such as food, cat toys, and kitty litter are needed. Details can be found here.