For 16 years, a Mission farm has been a safe haven for unadoptables. The Senior Animals in Need Today Society (SAINTS) provides a home for animals either too old, too big, or too demanding to adopt.
“We’re an end of life animal sanctuary,” SAINTS operations manager Kate Lennan said. “The primary animals we take in are special needs, senior, or palliative care animals. This is really their last home and that is why we put so much effort into ensuring that they have not just their medical needs met, but their emotional and mental needs met.”
SAINTS partners with other shelters and organizations like the SPCA to take in animals deemed unadoptable in order to prevent euthanasia and live out the rest of their lives. The animals are usually unfit for adoption because of their age, medical background, housing requirements or behavioural needs.
Under the care of SAINTS, the animals receive appropriate medical attention and live in a safe and open environment. The staff is always assessing quality of life for the animals and each animal is provided with a comfortable space. However, the difficult side of animal care sometimes comes to the fore, especially because the staff becomes attached to the animals.
“It’s no different than losing a pet of your own — these animals become part of our families. So when we have to make that end of life decision for them, of course, it’s emotional. But the the reward that you get from having them in your lives for however long that is — whether that be a couple of weeks, month a year — it just balances it out.”
The organization has 13 staff on site providing 24 hour services with roughly 30 volunteers as well. Some volunteers have been working with SAINTS for upwards of 15 years.
“Without the volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to exist because our staff is quite small for the amount of animals that we have to care for. And all of them are have very high needs. It’s around the clock.”
In their first 15 years of operation, SAINTS provided $1.2 million in veterinarian care and has helped upwards of 950 animals. Per year, they receive 9360 volunteer hours and 11,444 paid staff hours. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had 388 monthly donors.
As a nonprofit organization, SAINTS relies exclusively on donations in order to function. Medication for the animals is a significant cost, Lennan says. Approximately 90 per cent of the on-site animals require medication one to four times daily, which increases the need for overnight staff.
“Every organization has highs and lows throughout the year. We’re going into the Christmas season, which thankfully is a bit higher. But like every organization, the more support and the more donations you receive, the more you can do, the more animals we could save and take in.”
Some animals find foster homes to adopt them after joining SAINTS, but more can’t be fostered because their needs can’t be managed in foster care. Other shelters and organizations don’t have the space, funding or resources to maintain the animals either.
SAINTS was founded in 2004 by Carol Hine, an animal shelter volunteer discouraged by the number of animals who missed out on adoption because of their age. They started with 16 cats, 12 dogs and two rabbits. In 2006, the organization found their home in Mission. It was three acres of land that included a pond and four areas with space for the animals to roam. Hine retired last year and Lennan has since taken over administration of the nonprofit.
“It started as one woman’s dream to take in senior animals because they weren’t being adopted from the shelter system. Now it just snowballed into this huge organization. One of our goals here is to ensure that it’s a home environment, because this is unlike any other shelter — it’s a sanctuary. These guys are living their rest of their lives here. So we try to make this comfortable as possible.”
SAINTS currently has 127 animals in their care with 86 on-site and the rest in foster homes. Their roster of animals includes 27 cats, 13 rabbits, 10 dogs, 10 birds, nine pigs, five sheep, five horses, three goats, two donkeys, one llama and one turtle.
“All of the animals come from different backgrounds,” Lennan said. “We’re huge on bonding animals. Unless they want and need to live independently, we bond them up.”
The organization is located on Dlugosh Avenue and offers tours of the property.