The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue League is warning that it can no longer afford to perform animal control duties for the city unless it receives a better contract.

The non-profit group, which handles dog and cat catching responsibilities in Saint John, told city councillors on Monday that it cannot continue to do so for much longer.

The organization is asking city hall for a new contract worth $200,000 up from its previous contract of $161,000.

Jacqui Whiting Ledezma, a representative with the animal rescue league, said the non-profit group will stop collecting and sheltering stray animals unless the city comes up with more money.

"We can't keep losing money on a contract. We're not looking at making millions of dollars. We just don't want to lose money," Whiting Ledezma said.

The group's animal control contract expired at the end of January.

Whiting Ledezma said the organization lost money on the deal last year. And if the group continues with a contract at that rate, she said it will lose more than $50,000 this year.

Whiting Ledezma said it is imperative that the city and the group hammer out a new contract.

"It is critical because we can't expect a charity to fund a city contract," she said.

"We can't expect the donations that come from our good, generous people to be paying for city services. The foot's down, we have to make a decision."

Kari Poore, the group’s executive director, said the budget shortfall has meant the shelter has had to make internal cuts.

"We've had to cut back on staff. We've lost two office staff. We've lost a number of staff in the shelter," she said.

The group also wants the city to extend the holding period for stray animals to three days.

Currently, Saint John only pays for 24 hours for cats and 48 hours for dogs. If the pet is not claimed during that period, which is often the case, the animal’s stay at the shelter must be covered by the non-profit group.

The group's request comes as the city is struggling to cover its other financial commitments.

Saint John's pension deficit has been recently measured at $129 million and city workers have been asked to take wage freezes. There has even been talk among some city politicians that the property tax rate may need to be increased.