Hay River residents are outraged after more than $30,000 raised by the Hay River SPCA has been donated to the NWT SPCA, a separate organization based in Yellowknife.
"I am flabbergasted," said Kate Latour, a former member of the Hay River SPCA. "I think the NWT SPCA needs to return that money to the town of Hay River however it can.
"It's just not right. That money was raised in Hay River for animals in Hay River."
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The Hay River SPCA lost its contract to manage the animal shelter in August of 2016, following a bitter dispute between the town and the organization over how aggressively negligent dog owners should be dealt with. Since then, former members and residents have questioned where the money — including funds earmarked to help spay and neuter pets — had gone.
In November, president Heather Clarke Foubert hinted that she may be planning to open an additional animal shelter, separate from the existing shelter now operated by the town.
Instead, she and the board closed the SPCA and donated its accounts, as well as supplies such as kennels, to the NWT SPCA.
Foubert later confirmed in a letter quoted in the Hay River Hub, a community newspaper, that the Hay River SPCA would be dissolving.
Money won't be returned
Some in the community were hoping the NWT SPCA would hold the funds in trust until a new Hay River organization could be formed. Latour is currently filing papers to incorporate such a group, "Friends of the Hay River Animal Shelter."
But the NWT SPCA does not plan to return the money. President Nicole Spencer said the Hay River organization acted within its rights.
"I hope nobody is disappointed with us getting any funding," Spencer said. "We always do the best we can for all communities in the NWT."
Spencer added that the organization will continue to provide its spay and neuter program to anyone who needs it, including Hay River residents.
But for some in the community, that is not enough. A Facebook thread has been active since late April, demanding answers from Foubert, who quickly stopped replying.
Back at square one
The transfer of the money to Yellowknife without a public meeting puts volunteers hoping to support Hay River's shelter back at square one.
"If they had only held an AGM [annual general meeting] then a new board could have been put in place to carry on, but now any new volunteer group has to start with nothing," said Scott Clouthier.
Clouthier, along with former members of the Hay River SPCA, had expressed an interest in taking over the organization — which he describes as having once been "one of the best-run organizations in town" — and keeping the funds in the community.
"We worked so hard to get that shelter, and then it was just gone," says Sandy Whitteker, who worked for the SPCA for 11 years.
"So to have this happen was just crushing, because we thought we could take it back."
Foubert declined repeated requests for comment from the CBC, though she confirmed she was leaving Hay River. She did not make the organization's financial records available to the CBC or to the NWT SPCA.