Yellowknife

NWT accused of ‘finding a way to say no’ to SPCA


The territorial government has been urged to find funding for Yellowknife’s NWT SPCA, despite one minister admitting he can think of no programs for which the animal shelter qualifies.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne said the territory’s support for the shelter – which he characterized as a single “small, one-time grant” to date – was “not good enough.”

“Without them, problems of canine overpopulation, strays, neglect, and inhumane conditions would become much worse, but [the shelter’s] essential work is just not sustainable with current funding,” Vanthuyne told the legislature on Wednesday.

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“The SPCA has achieved a lot, and we need its services, but it is warning us that it can’t continue. Our government needs to step up and help relieve the burden.”

In response, Alfred Moses – the minister for municipal and community affairs – suggested funding for the SPCA should come from local governments, not his department.

“Right now, we don’t see any type of funding programs that would offer any type of core funding to the organization in question,” said Moses.

“I really appreciate the work that the SPCA does throughout the Northwest Territories as well as our local SPCA groups in the communities,” the minister continued.

“This is also the responsibility of our community governments, our municipal governments. We will be working with them.”

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Moses said he would raise the issue of SPCA funding at the territorial government’s next meeting with the NWT Association of Communities.

‘Relying on the public’

Securing financial support from the territorial government is a key component of the shelter’s latest strategic plan.

“It is essential to look at all levels of government for support considering we work with and service all communities in the NWT,” the plan states.

Nicole Spencer, the SPCA’s president, again urged the government to commit funding to the organization in a preface to its 2018 annual report.

“It is my hope that government funding will become available for our important and necessary service,” Spencer wrote. “Until then we will rely on the generous and amazing support of our public.”

In the legislature, Vanthuyne said a lack of government investment in the shelter was also preventing the SPCA from accessing a separate government fund devoted to stabilizing the finances of NWT non-profits.

“It concerns me greatly that the NWT SPCA, an agency dedicated to the humane treatment of animals, has to regularly plead for financial support,” he said. “It employs nine to 12 people. It spends $30,000 a year providing dog food and straw to NWT communities. It spends $50,000 a year on medical supplies.

“It fundraised to buy its own piece of land and build its own new facility. It relies heavily on volunteers, including its board members, people who volunteer their time because they care about the welfare of animals.

“With respect, it just continues to sound like this government is finding a way to say no again to this organization,” said Vanthuyne.

Cash reserve

For the past two years, the SPCA in Yellowknife has taken in more than 700 dogs per year from across the NWT and Nunavut.

According to the NWT SPCA’s 2016-17 financial statements, expenditures stood at more than $560,000, including $170,000 on wages and $150,000 on animal care.

The shelter relies heavily on, and continually solicits, donations to meet those costs.

In the same fiscal year, the SPCA’s revenues amounted to a little over $630,000 – roughly half of which came in the form of donations. Raffles and adoption fees accounted for just under a further $100,000, while auctions and other events were also significant contributors.

As of March 31, 2017, the society had a cash reserve of around $225,000. That is a significant sum, though it means the charity’s reserve could handle less than a half a year’s expenses if funding sources like donations dried up.

The society had a $130,000 long-term debt to the City of Yellowknife at the time, for the land on which its shelter is built.

More recent financial statements were not immediately available.

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