By Chadd Cawson

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

More hands are needed for the paws on deck; The Invermere Companion Animal Network (ICAN), who gratefully depend on a long-standing volunteer network, is sending out a call for volunteers. Currently, they have 59 active volunteers: 22 active supporters and 20 active fosters (with two additional fosters for unusual animals like reptiles, and other small rodents). 

“We need reliable volunteers skilled in the areas of animal health and welfare, and those who can foster,” says ICAN President Darla Spiry. “People who could vaccinate and/or assess the health of animals who come into our care and custody.” Volunteers are crucial for ICAN, says Spiry, adding that, “Our current fundraising plans are for sustainable self-sufficiency, as we are a non-profit organization relying on donation dollars.”

If you cannot volunteer directly with the furry friends, there are other ways to lend a helping paw. You can simply drop off recyclable bottles and cans in the designated area just outside the office. “Our local bottle depot is under new ownership and management and has recently reopened,” says Spiry. Prior to this transition, ICAN Volunteers were driving to Golden and Cranbrook bottle depots to cash in donations. The contributions are crucial as Spiry says that, “Around $500 per month or $6000 per year is generated in these returnable efforts. The money is used for utility costs including the internet to view the feline shenanigans in the off hours. The bottle money is also placed into general funds which goes toward supplies and medical care when needed.” 

“We must be resourceful and support one another; Little Mittens Rescue in Golden B.C. does not have a veterinary clinic or animal hospital. They rely on Invermere veterinarians to assist and book appointments. If we could coordinate and arrange to assist this agency in getting their felines, canines, and other companion animals to surgery in Invermere, this would be a great support,” says Spiry. “ICAN can also always benefit from new board members who show a keen interest in animal welfare and getting involved on committees to write policy and contingency planning.”

The non-profit is also always looking for assistance with their Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) program to return feral animals back to their natural habitat. “We are always in need of skilled people from Brisco to Skookumchuk and all communities in between,” says Spiry. “Assisting in our local shelter is always necessary and appreciated in all areas of volunteering particularly daily a.m. cleaning and feeding is a necessity.” With Invermere being the hub, a lot of the surrounding areas must take their furry companions to the Invermere Veterinary Hospital, so lending time to transport in certain cases is always appreciated. 

In 2021, ICAN partnered with Akisqnuk (Ktunaxa) First Nation and applied for a funding grant through BCSPCA Cats on First Nation homelands, which run adjacent to the Columbia River. ICAN inquired about other grants with shelters and First Nation Communities and was provided information and additional donations from an organization on the coast of B.C. These donations continue to be available to the Akisqnuk community, in their efforts to manage the feline population problem. ICAN has also recently reached out to the Shuswap Band council to inquire if they could use assistance or support with their companion animals in any way. Last month alone, 14 cats were picked up by ICAN Office Manager Kari Woods. “They all came from the same owner who surrendered them,” says Woods. “There was one mother cat with seven new kittens only four days old, and six two-year-old cats from the mother’s first litter.”

ICAN also provides a huge service to this community in managing and controlling the pet overpopulation problem. They provide resource support to farms and ranches in need of food for their outdoor felines, along with supporting families wishing to spaying or neutering. 

“Animals in our shelter receive additional love and attention of daily grooming, petting, and socializing, while our animals in foster care receive individual attention, medical care, and devotion to prepare them both for their fur-ever homes,” says Spiry. “Baby kittens are placed with mother cats within skilled foster homes to meet the needs of the entire animal families. Presently, ICAN is partnering with other companion fosters who take on a variety of animals to suit their specialized needs and tendencies.”

For more information ICAN and who they are and how to dig your claws in for a good cause. Visit