The NWT's largest animal shelter says WestJet is no longer waiving fees for rescue animals to be sent south in search of new homes.
On Tuesday, the Yellowknife-based NWT SPCA said on Facebook staff understood the decision had come from WestJet's head office.
“We are working on another program through Westjet Cargo but that will not take effect for several weeks and it will likely be different than what we currently know,” shelter staff wrote, adding the SPCA remained grateful for the airline's support.
Volunteers are being asked to help in the interim by sponsoring the cost of animals’ flights – $50 for carry-on or $100 if sent in the hold – whether or not they are accompanying a pet on a flight.
The SPCA said it would, if necessary, reimburse the fee volunteers must now pay when they accompany a dog.
“If we cannot get dogs out of our shelter then we have to say no to the many dogs waiting to come in. And that is not a good option for those dogs,” the shelter wrote.
Nicole Spencer, the NWT SPCA's president and logistics director, said the previous arrangement with WestJet was informal.
“It was a local agreement with the past manager that carried on over the years with every new manager that took the position. We were fortunate to have that relationship for so long,” Spencer wrote to Cabin Radio.
“It is definitely not about the money on their end. It is about having a formalized program that works safely and responsibly for all involved including the company, the NWT SPCA, and the animal.
“The airline has, over the years, waived the fees for hundreds of dogs and we are very grateful for that. They were definitely a significant part of our success.”
Dana Martin, the SPCA’s vice-president, called the change “just a little hiccup.”
“I do have to say that we handle hurdles and challenges like this all the time,” she wrote.
“My hope is that there will be a comprehensive and more stable way to fly our dogs out to their new homes in the future that will be a good foundation to build and grow a great relationship with WestJet. Maybe it will start a trend with other companies or even – big hope here – reach beyond Yellowknife.”
WestJet said by email it remained committed to supporting the NWT SCPA's work.
“We are animal lovers here at WestJet,” said spokesperson Lauren Stewart by email.
“We will continue to work with them towards supporting their cause in helping animals while also ensuring the safety and highest quality of service possible for this important cargo.”