Galt animal shelter seeks help paying debts to avoid eviction

07/26/2012 12:00 AM

07/25/2012 10:47 PM

A Galt animal shelter that is struggling to stay afloat may close soon if it does not secure new funding.

"The economy really killed us," said R.J. Verni, founder and executive director of the Elk Grove-based Animal Rescue League, which operates the shelter in Galt.

Verni said the organization has fallen behind on its rent payments for 17 months and is expecting eviction "at any moment."

The 7-year-old shelter relies largely on public donations and private grants. Those all dried up in 2009 as the economic downturn continued.

The organization spends about $3,000 a month – including a $900 rent payment – taking care of the animals.

The group's landlord, Gyan Kalwani of Sheldon Business Park, said Animal Rescue League owes about $30,000 in back rent, which comes to about 33 months. He said he has tried working with the group and lowered the rent payment from $1,200 to $900.

Kalwani said he would move to evict the shelter if it does not come up with a $5,000 payment in 30 to 60 days.

The nonprofit is a "no-kill shelter," which means it does not euthanize its animals. This has been problematic, because donations have slowed and adoptions are down. As a result, the number of animals the shelter has to care for has grown. Today, the shelter houses about 60 cats and a couple of dogs. Another 40 animals live in temporary foster homes.

"We got two to three adoptions a week when the economy was good," Verni said. "Now, it's one a month if we're lucky."

Meanwhile, the service calls haven't stopped. Verni said she gets more than 50 calls a day from people reporting abandoned animals, but she hasn't been able to take them in.

"Our phones are ringing off the hooks," Verni said. "We fulfill a niche."

Verni founded the shelter when she noticed a kitten that was abandoned in a Dumpster.

While dogs and cats are welcome, Verni has concentrated her efforts on feral cats.

The group is seeking donations from the public, so it can continue to operate. Verni said the shelter goes through a 15-pound bag of food each day.

"Any day now, the owner may be coming to evict us. We just need help."

To donate or volunteer, visit: www.savethecathouse.org

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