FORT ST. JOHN, BC -- It has been seven months since the North Peace SPCA closed its shelter, and many locals are concerned about the coming winter.

The BC SPCA closed the shelter in Fort St. John back in March, saying structural issues with the building made it unsafe for both humans and animals. Since then, the animals have been taken in by the Dawson Creek SPCA, as well as foster homes, vet clinics, and other charities.

The organization is trying to find a location for a new shelter. Adrienne McBride, the senior director of community animal centres, says, “We have been working closely with local real estate experts to identify a site where we can relocate SPCA services, exploring both lease and lease-to-own options as we assess how we can best serve North Peace animals and pet guardians, now and in the future.”

McBride says the BC SPCA has explored seven different sites so far as well as other temporary short term solutions.

“There are specific requirements outlined under the Canadian Standards of Care for animal sheltering to ensure the health and safety of animals, including biosecurity standards, optimum ventilation and ensuring adequate space requirements per animal to prevent infectious disease outbreaks,” she says. “We are all anxious to get something in place as soon as possible, but we don’t want to go for a ‘quick fix’ that won’t be in the best interests of the community animals we serve.”

No timeline has been given for when a temporary or permanent shelter might open.

In the meantime, local donors and pet owners are worried about what will happen to stray or abandoned animals over the winter, with no shelter to take them in.

The matter also came up at the City Council meeting on Monday. If the closure continues, the city may need to find new pound services.

Longtime SPCA donor Stephen Wile is concerned Fort St. John is not a priority for the organization. He also believes the foster model is not sustainable for such a long period of time.

“They are very gracious to donate their time and their properties. Most of them also have pets and jobs that they have to attend to,” says Wile. “And to keep that strain on them for an extended period of time will drive some of them away eventually.”

The SPCA says foster volunteers are needed more than ever during the shelter’s closure. Anyone interested in helping out can visit the SPCA website