NWT SPCA petitions gov't for funding, says current model unsustainable

The not-for-profit hopes to get consistent funding from the territorial government.

Petition had almost reached its goal of 1,000 signatures as of 5 p.m. Wednesday

"Any non-profit would be lucky to get that [money]," says the president of the NWT SPCA, Nicole Spencer. (CBC)

The NWT SPCA is petitioning the government of the Northwest Territories to give it consistent, dedicated funding. Right now the not-for-profit relies on volunteers, a few paid staff and fundraising.

But SPCA president Nicole Spencer says that isn't sustainable.

"We've finally come to the point now where we really need the help," she said. "We need committed funding every year from government to be able to do the best job that we can."

The SPCA sees over 800 animals a year, some of which need to be spayed or neutered. The society has a part-time veterinarian on staff, as well as about 14 other employees.

But Spencer runs the SPCA as a volunteer. "I have two jobs; one I get paid for and one I don't."

She said funding from the territorial government would take pressure off her because it would lighten the fundraising requirements, and allow her to focus on other programs, such as education. Spencer said she would like to bring education campaigns to the communities.

She said when the SPCA does spaying and neutering clinics in the communities, it lets the kids watch as a learning opportunity. "Some of them are like, 'Oh, I would love to do something like this.'"

The cost of running the SPCA last year was about $600,000, and the SPCA raised $700,000.   

Shelter staff prep a dog named Fritz for surgery. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

'We need core funding'

Spencer said many businesses in town also give donations or help to cover or lower the cost of flying animals across the territory. But it's still "stressful" to keep coming up with funding, she said, and the society is always asking the same people for money.

Spencer said 95 per cent of the animals come from outside of Yellowknife. "All of our resources basically go to caring for all of the animals that are coming from throughout the entire N.W.T. So we need core funding," she said.

"We see a lot of bad things and that, with the stress of dealing with money issues … it's just very emotional- Nicole Spencer, NWT SPCA president

Sometimes, said Spencer, the job becomes so difficult and stressful that she considers quitting. "We see a lot of bad things and that, with the stress of dealing with money issues … it's just very emotional."

She said the SPCA needs "help... and we feel that the government needs to step up and do its part."

The NWT SPCA received $25,000 from the territorial government four months after Spencer wrote the premier asking for assistance because the SPCA had fallen on hard times.

But Spencer said when she asked if she could expect consistent funding, she was told the check was a one time donation.

1,000 signatures

The petition had almost hit its goal of 1,000 signatures as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

MLA for Yellowknife North Cory Vanthuyne brought up the issue of the SPCA's funding during the legislative assembly earlier this month.

"It concerns me greatly that the NWT SPCA, an agency dedicated to the humane treatment of animals, has to regularly plead for financial support," he said.

The NWT SPCA won't have to do surgeries in a kitchen anymore, thanks to a recent $15,000 grant. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Vanthuyne said one of the reasons the SPCA hasn't been given consistent funding is because it doesn't fit within the parameters of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs' programs.

"The SPCA has achieved a lot, and we need its services, but it is warning us that it can't continue. Our government needs to step up and help relieve the burden."

The territorial government's Department of Municipal and Community Affairs said it "has not contemplated" giving core funding to the SPCA, and it has "limited ability" to offer core funding in the upcoming year. The department says over 80 per cent of its budget goes directly to community governments in the form of grants and contributions. 

The department's representative Jay Boast said in an email that they understand the value of the SPCA and the challenge it's facing. He said the department plans to reach out to the N.W.T. Association of Communities to talk about options for sustaining the SPCA.