NWT SPCA halts dog intake, makes plea for cash

‘We are overwhelmed, short-staffed and running low on funds,’ president Nicole Spencer wrote in a public post on Facebook Sunday. 

‘Overwhelmed, short-staffed and running low on funds,’ says president Nicole Spencer

Since the pandemic hit, the NWT SPCA has had to cancel two major fundraisers and lay off some staff. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

The Northwest Territories Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Yellowknife is temporarily closing its doors to new animals.

"We are overwhelmed, short-staffed and running low on funds," president Nicole Spencer wrote in a public post on Facebook Sunday. "Unfortunately the dogs never stop arriving and our staff and few volunteers are burnt out." 

By Monday afternoon, Spencer reported that she'd collected $17,000 in donations since making the post. 

"We're fortunate we have a fantastic community," she told CBC. 

However, she said the closure will last "a couple of weeks" while the organization focuses on caring for the animals it currently shelters. 

The NWT SPCA took in 559 dogs last year from across the N.W.T. and western Nunavut. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

When the pandemic hit, the NWT SPCA was forced to cancel its eighth annual gala in May, a fundraiser that brought in $65,000 in 2019. This summer, it moved a fun run fundraiser online, raising far less than the usual $10,000 to $12,000. 

The SPCA laid off staff and cut services in April and Spencer fears they may have to do so again. 

"The overwhelming stress of it all is finances," said Spencer, who has been with the organization since it opened in 2012. 

Dogs keep coming

Spencer's public plea for help came after a busy few days. 

Nicole Spencer is president of the Northwest Territories Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NWT SPCA). (Submitted by Nicole Spencer/Vincent Ret Studios)

On Thursday and Friday last week, seven dogs arrived at the shelter, some of them unannounced. At the same time, the shelter was caring for three nursing dogs and dealing with a case of parvovirus. The sick dog was quickly taken to Great Slave Animal Hospital, but shelter protocols meant everything had to be washed with bleach to prevent the contagious disease from spreading. 

"There's a lot of things going on," said Spencer. 

Last year, the shelter took in 559 dogs, with the vast majority coming from outside of Yellowknife (88 from Nunavut, for example; 89 from Behchokǫ̀; and 43 from the Sahtu region). On top of that, 68 pups were born in the shelter. 

The shelter also subsidized spay/neuter treatments for about 80 dogs from around the territory, flying the dogs in and out of Yellowknife for the treatment. 

All this with a staff of six plus a manager, and a rotating cast of volunteer dog walkers. 

No national support

The SPCA adopted out 434 dogs last year, sending about half to families in the N.W.T. and half outside of the territory. 

While local adoptions are still going strong, getting dogs out of the territory (to families or other shelters) during a pandemic is more challenging. Usually, the SPCA asks travellers to add dogs to their tickets to get them to Alberta. With fewer people flying, fewer dogs are joining them. 

"Nil, basically," said Spencer. 

Last year the NWT SPCA facilitated over 400 dog adoptions. Successful adoptees go on this wall of fame. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Adoption fees, at $450 per animal, made up close to 20 per cent of revenues last year. 

The NWT SPCA is not affiliated with any larger organization, which it could turn to for emergency funds. 

"There is no national SPCA," said Spencer. "They're all individual."

Spencer fears what will happen if the SPCA is forced to shut its doors. 

"The bottom line is that dogs will be suffering," she said.