Nfld. & Labrador

Labrador's only SPCA pleads for funding to avoid shutdown

An SPCA board member says fundraising for the shelter has been on a steady decline for nearly two years. To avoid closure, the organization is calling on the public for aid.

Board member says donations have screeched to a halt since pandemic set in

SPCA vice-president Bonnie Learning says the Happy Valley-Goose Bay shelter is in desperate need of donations. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

A board member of the SPCA in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is concerned a lack of funds may force the shelter to close in the next few months.

Bonnie Learning, vice-president of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA, says a consistent drop in donations since the onset of the pandemic is pushing the operation to the brink.

"It's just getting more and more difficult as time goes on to keep money in our account and to keep our shelter operational," Learning said. "We can't sustain our operation much longer unless we have a constant source of revenue."

Learning says the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA — the only SPCA serving the Labrador region — needs up to $400,000 per year to cover operating costs, which include everything from staff salaries to snow clearing to vet bills, the latter of which Learning said can run up to $7,000 per month. 

A last-ditch effort

In an average year, donations and fundraising, along with a small provincial government grant, manage to cover those costs. But the past couple of years have been anything but average: COVID-19 restrictions and restrained spending habits mean fewer donations are flowing in. That's why Learning is calling on the public, as well as government agencies, to help keep the shelter from having to shut its doors.

"We are trying the best we can with the resources we have," she said. "But we have just reached a point now where we can't sustain this long term."

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA has more than two dozen dogs in its shelter, and more are on the way. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Learning said the shelter has put out public calls for donations multiple times already this year.

"We've had several wonderful supporters of ours from across the province actually taking up little fundraisers on their own to help us out, which is always fantastic," she said.

But while the response has been favourable, Learning said, funds are still falling short. 

On Friday, the shelter sent a letter to the leaders of Indigenous organizations in Labrador that it hopes will result in some financial support.

"The reason we did that is because a large majority of the animals come from these communities," she said. 

'We don't want to turn anyone away'

While funding may be slowing down, Learning said the number of animals coming to the shelter is not.

"I think if anything, they've actually increased," she said, "so the need is still there."

Currently, there are 27 dogs and puppies at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA and four cats. That's not including those animals waiting to come in.

The shelter has another 10 or so pets in foster care. 

But those numbers change by the minute, Learning said; a mom and her six pups arrived unexpectedly on Sunday from Sheshatshiu, and the shelter is also awaiting a litter of newborn puppies that was discarded on the side of the road in Nain.

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA is looking for financial help. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"So, you know, things get thrown at us all the time and we certainly do what we can," she said. "We don't want to turn anyone away."

Until future funding is secured, Learning said, the shelter will continue to ask the public for donations. If those fall short and the shelter is forced to close, the fate of the animals will no longer be in the hands of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA.

"It's a pan-Labrador issue," she said. "We really hope we get a favourable response from these leaders. Because if we don't, [the animals will] have nowhere to go. And God only knows what's going to happen to them, right?"

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Kyle Mooney is a journalist and musician living in St. John's.