Many businesses have felt the financial impact of COVID-19, and animal care centres that rely on visitors are suffering as well.
Costs to care for animals are so high, one rescue centre in the Ottawa-area is appealing to the public to help cover costs while the doors remain closed during the pandemic.
It's lunchtime at Little Ray's Nature Centre and all the animals have to eat. There are nearly 400 of them. Reptiles like alligators, crocodiles and snakes. There are turtles, bats, ducks, sloths, and lemurs. The cost to feed them all is hundreds of dollars a day.
Centre director Lee Parker stocked up the fridge with fresh produce, fruits and meats this morning. A three day supply that cost $350.
"it's a huge expense," Parker says. "We are now in a time where we don't have anybody in and we still have to maintain top quality care for these animals, which we do on a daily basis."
The nature centre, which takes in rescued and abandon animals, is feeling the pinch of having their doors closed. In October, the centre expanded and moved to a 14,000 square foot facility in Sarsfield. COVID-19 then stalled the construction of the exhibits, a major revenue generator, along with programs parties and camps.
Owner Paul 'Little Ray' Goulet says March and summer are the most important times of the year. He already missed out on visitors during March Break, which is a third of his total revenue. The concern now is the mountain of costs and it's not just the food.
"Our hydro bill is almost half of our mortgage," says Goulet. "Especially when the summer comes we will have our air conditioning cooling the space while our habitats are heating it up ... it's very expensive. It's a labour of love, it's very hard and our margins are very low."
Like many companies, Goulet has had to scale back on operation costs and employees, but the animals are still top priority. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover some of the expenses.
"It's going to help every dollar," Goulet says. "Sometimes the smallest gestures are going to make the biggest difference and we're going to get through this we're going to make it. Most of us are a little scared and we don't know exactly how but I know our organization has unbelievably dedicated people and we committed to the care and long-term success of our rescue operation."