EDMONTON -- An Edmonton-area animal rescue is appealing an order to stop operations after it was found to be operating without proper zoning in July.

The Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation – WHARF – operates a location on 124 Street.

Those at the helm of the organization say they didn't realize the property's zoning didn't allow didn't allow for animal hospitals and shelters.

At the beginning, they had been selling food and other items to help subsidize the rent.

"So when we moved into just the rescue part of it, and removed the retail, we weren't aware," WHARF representative Tessa Lee told CTV News Edmonton.

"That's our fault, that we were zoned improperly."

They were ordered to cease work as a shelter and remove all animals by Oct. 31.

It's not the only penalty WHARF has been handed: the organization faces about $5,000 in tickets related to capacity breaches and improper animal licensing.

"As a public space you’re allowed to have six cats and we sometimes fluctuate from 10 to 25," Lee said, explaining the location in Edmonton serves as an opportunity for the animals to be socialized and adopted.

She estimated it would cost WHARF nearly $20,000 each year to licence the animals.

"We bring in a cat that’s ready for adoption say on a Friday, we register it with the city and it gets adopted on Sunday – that money is gone for us. We can’t transfer it to the new owners, we can’t transfer it to another cat."

She said routine checks stopped after the Edmonton Humane Society stopped handling enforcement.

Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen told CTV News Edmonton he has heard from WHARF's supporters and critics – but said to comment on the matter while it is before the appeal board would be inappropriate.

A date has to be set for the hearing. Lee's worry is that if WHARF loses, the animals will be most affected.

"I think if we had to move we wouldn’t be able to intake and spay, neuter as many cats as we have been."

The shelter estimates it will facilitate between 700 and 800 donations this year.

With a report from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson