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No sanctuary here: Animal rescue operation faces threat of closure after permit denied

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A Wheatland County sanctuary that cares for abandoned and surrendered farm animals faces an uncertain future after having a permit application to keep operating denied.

"It is very disheartening. It's very discouraging," said Jeannette Madill, Alice Sanctuary founder.

"That's actually quite destructive. And it's something that I think will determine what it feels like, living out here."

A recent string of complaints about parking and traffic caused by volunteers and the occasional tour group sparked the need for a business permit application.

Madill was originally told by the county to apply for a rezoning, but was later advised by county officials to simply apply for a home-based business (type 3) permit.

She requested the permit, asking for 14 summer tours and two events annually over a two-year period.

On March 14, the county's development board denied the application, and added a clause preventing her from having volunteers on site as well.

"It was very discouraging to see that, you know, we do things in such an incredible, caring way, you know, providing that type of care for our residents out here and the farmland, the infrastructure … all of that is being taken care of," Madill said.

"To say to us that we no longer can do that, (that) nobody's allowed to be out here to help us do that, to maintain the site, that's actually quite destructive."

Scott Klassen is the area councillor, and sits on the development board. He would not consent to an interview but did send CTV the written decision of the board, which reads:

 

Your application for a Home Based business Type 3 (HBB 3) for a Sanctuary for the Care of Rescued, Surrendered, Injured and Abandoned Farm Animals was REFUSED by the Municipal Planning Commission on March 14, 2023 for the following reasons:

  • The operation does not fall into the category of a business.
  • The Sanctuary has been operating for many years without approval of the Development Authority and was continuing to grow.
  • The development permit application had been made due to complaints received and it is likely there will be more issues if the permit is approved.
  • The increase in traffic to the site has a negative impact on adjacent landowners.
  • Tours and volunteers visiting the site adversely affect the neighbors.
  • Tour groups and volunteers are not compatible with adjacent land uses.

 

The sanctuary's plight has drawn some high-profile support.

Singer and animal-rights advocate Jann Arden is a friend of Madill, and has volunteered at the sanctuary.

"I love animals and have made many visits out to the Alice Sanctuary and taken people out there just to hang out with the residents and spend some very fun afternoons with the animals," Arden said.

"It's an absolute shame that they haven't granted all of us at the sanctuary the two years to show the community that we are going to do things and continue to do things in a way that makes everybody happy."

Calgary chef Julie van Rosendal was at the sanctuary Monday.

Van Rosendal has volunteered at Alice Sanctuary in the past.

She is disappointed the county chose to deny Madill's permit without seeking any public input.

"Two-thirds of the animals here come from farmers. She and her volunteers will drive for hours to go pick up animals who are in distress, who are, you know, a lot of them are missing limbs, and at no cost to the farmers. She works with the SPCA, the Humane Society in Calgary, the Siksika Humane Society," van Rosendal said.

"It would be a huge loss to the community and to the province to have it not be able to operate the way it has been."

Alice Sanctuary cares for approximately 200 animals ranging from horses, pigs, cattle and sheep to chickens and ducks.

It has been operating at its present location in Wheatland county for close to seven years.

Madill vows to fight the permit denial through the county's development appeal board.

No date has been set for that hearing. 

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