A supporter of a community cat rescue shelter is encouraging people to turn their online activism into cash donations to erase thousands of dollars of debt.
Charise Falk, a volunteer for Craig Street Cats said the non-profit organization needs donations to help pay off its $10,000 veterinary bill and $5,000 projected debt for January.
While the non-profit has hundreds of online supporters, Falk said the need for financial donations is evident.
"Over 1,000 people 'like' Craig Street Cat's Facebook page, and if every person donated just $10, (our) vet bill would be paid off," said Falk, who issued the challenge.
The shelter's tab with Fort Garry Veterinary Hospital and sister clinic, Southglen Veterinary Hospital, reached its limit in November because of unexpected costs.
"The last couple of months we have had some exceptional expenses. We had a few cats with very serious illnesses and injuries that required expensive care and our bills added up quickly," said Lynne Scott, founder of Craig Street Cats.
Scott said the shelter has had an account with the two clinics for more than two years, and this is the first time they have not managed to stay on top of their vet bills.
One cat needing immediate attention was six-week-old Spike.
After being attacked by a dog, Spike arrived at the shelter with his right back foot missing and his leg wrenched out of the socket and turned. His right eye was punctured and swollen shut.
Because of the severity of his injuries, he had to have his leg amputated and eye removed -- an operation that cost more than $1,300. There was also the cost of treating several abused kittens.
In December, Craig Street Cats rescued two kittens from a sealed diaper box found on the side of Highway 59 and two other kittens were discovered freezing in a bag in a North End garbage bin.
"Unfortunately, Lynne has had to bring in a lot of kittens that have been left in ditches and are suffering from frostbite, or abandoned and then hit by cars and found with their pelvises and tails fractured," said Kayla Dupuis, a registered animal health technologist at Fort Garry Veterinary Hospital. Until the outstanding bill is paid, cats from Craig Street Cats won't receive medical attention unless veterinary services are paid for up front.
Dupuis said during the last few years she has seen an increase in the number of kittens and cats brought into the clinic for medical attention because they have been mistreated.
She cited Winnipeg's large stray cat population as one of the reasons cats are especially vulnerable to being abused.
"Craig Street Cats is helping to eliminate the number of stray cats by bringing in stray cats to be spayed and neutered," said Dupuis. Scott said there are 70 kittens waiting for such a procedure.
"What we do is provide care so cats are not suffering and not reproducing," said Scott.
For Falk, the challenge is all about making animal-lovers aware of Craig Street Cats' situation and getting them to do more than join the group on its Facebook page.
"A lot of people hit the 'like' button and even share the link, but that's where it ends," said Falk. "I know there are thousands of people in Winnipeg who care about animals, and if we all donated a little bit, we could make a big difference."
As of Tuesday, 79 people had donated $3,157 to Falk's challenge.
To donate to Falk's challenge, visit Craig Street Cats on Facebook, click on her challenge and follow the link to the PayPal website, or send a cheque to 489 Madison St., Winnipeg, MB R3J 1J2.