The city has suggested scaling back services and not providing any cat control or bylaw enforcement. (CBC)

Saint John may soon have to find an alternate plan for animal control, says the head of the current service provider.

Earlier this week, Saint John council passed the 2012 city budget, which cuts $9 million in programs and services across the board.

The animal control service, which was already struggling financially, had its budget cut in half to $80,000.

"It's really shocking to us," said Kari Poore, executive director of the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue League, which runs the service for the city.

"It means that we're having to really look at what our role is going to be, if any, moving forward with the city with animal control," she said.

The non-profit group, which provides animal bylaw enforcement, responds to animal nuisance calls and picks up strays, is already running at a $50,000 deficit, said Poore.

She went to council just a couple of months ago looking for more money, not less, she said.

'Right now, we pick up hundreds of animals a month…Think about how many animals will be on the street, possibly injured, sick, being hit by vehicles.' —Kari Poore, SPCAAR

At that time, the group had already cut staffing to deal with the funding shortfall and warned it would no longer be able to perform animal control duties for the city unless it got a better deal.

It had asked for a new contract worth $200,000, up from its previous $161,000.

Meanwhile, the group is getting ready to move into a new, bigger, more modern location on Bayside Drive, on the city's east side.

The shelter has been at its current location on Taylor Avenue in the north end since 1963 and has had numerous problems, including mould, water damage and ventilation issues.

Talks ongoing

Talks with the city are ongoing, but as it stands, Poore said she can't see any way around the funding cut other than to end the animal control service.

"It’s a really scary thought," she said. "Right now, we have a huge issue with stray animals in the city. So if we stop doing this and if they don’t fill that void, you’re looking at an increase in that."

"Right now, we pick up hundreds of animals a month …Think about how many animals will be on the street, possibly injured, sick, being hit by vehicles."

Poore said she has suggested other ways the city could help, such as providing a city vehicle for the group, and providing services, such as plowing the driveway, but those ideas have been rejected.

Instead, the city has proposed scaling back services and only responding to dogs running at large, she said. She also said  that she has not heard of any contingency plans for dealing with strays.

"There’s a huge safety concern associated with that," said Poore

"It’s a very scary thing to think that there could possibly be nothing moving forward."