NWT SPCA lays off staff, including vet, as a result of pandemic

A cat at the NWT SPCA in Yellowknife
A cat at the NWT SPCA in Yellowknife.

Yellowknife’s NWT SPCA confirmed on Saturday it will lay off a number of staff amid “financial difficulties” brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cabin Radio understands some staff were told by email earlier this week that their jobs will go. The shelter’s veterinarian, Dr Michelle Tuma, is among “several employees” being laid off.

“We are giving our staff two full weeks’ notice, allowing them as much time as possible to adjust to this new, unfortunate reality,” read a statement issued by the NWT SPCA board. The board encouraged those workers to apply for federal financial supports.

Last month, the SPCA cancelled its annual fundraising gala as the territorial government urged organizations to halt their events. (Gatherings of any size indoors were banned in the NWT as of noon on Saturday.)



“It is no surprise that in the current economic state of the country, our donations have been negatively impacted by the pandemic,” read the board’s statement.

“Our major fundraiser had to be cancelled and the future of other planned fundraisers is uncertain.

“After careful consideration and assessment, we have determined that we must not only reduce our shelter hours and employee time in the shelter, we must also cut our work force significantly.”

The shelter’s board said it hoped to save enough money to keep the SPCA open. Whether the shelter can claim the federal pandemic wage subsidy was unclear, the board said.



“We regret the necessity of this decision,” the statement added.

‘There is no other way’

Forty-five of the SPCA’s animals are currently being fostered, reducing the number of pets actually housed at the shelter to what Dr Tuma said last month was an all-time low in her experience.

“As a result, the number of staff and volunteers required is reduced – allowing us to practise important physical distancing guidelines,” the board said.

Foster and adoption applications are still being taken, as are donations.

How surgeries will be affected by the absence of an in-house veterinarian is not yet clear. The shelter has in the past relied on other local veterinarians to help.

“It continues to be our goal that we will be able to resume normal shelter operations in the not-too-distant future. This has been a difficult time for us all, and this decision has not been an easy one to make,” the board concluded.

“Staff lay-offs are the last thing we wanted. However, in the current circumstances, we have had to face the facts that there is no other way.

“Again, we hope that this situation is temporary, and that we will be able to re-employ in the future.”