Labrador rescue operation regularly overrun with animals
Stories of a FedEx flight of 60 puppies from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Halifax resulted in plenty of attention for the volunteer-run Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) shelter in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in July.
Unfortunately, volunteers and supporters tell The Telegram, the attention did not translate into donations for a much-needed shelter building.
At 980 square feet, the current home of the SPCA is in dire straits and regularly pressed beyond capacity with animals.
“It’s falling down. It was built with second-hand materials,” said Monica Surina, a resident of Happy Valley-Goose Bay who volunteers her home to the organization — housing rescued animals as an overflow to the shelter.
“I am currently fostering five puppies,” she said, not complaining, but trying to explain the demands being placed on the service.
“They need $200,000 to build a new building,” she said. “They’ve got just over $50,000.”
A corporate sponsorship campaign launched in May by the SPCA has received little response. A fundraising thermometer, tracking contributions to the new building, can be seen online (hvgbspca.com).
The only SPCA in Labrador, the Happy Valley-Goose Bay operation responds to rescue calls anywhere from L’Anse au Clair to Nain.
“We get calls on strays. We get dogs who are just found. We get people who have to surrender their animals for whatever reason — whether they’re moving to a new community and they can’t find a place that’s pet friendly, or someone develops allergies. It’s any mixture of things,” said Bonnie Learning, a Happy Valley-Goose Bay resident and volunteer for the SPCA.
As for fundraising, a yearly Walk For The Animals will bring in about $10,000 for the group, she said, with fundraisers drawing a few thousand dollars more in donations from the community. The operation also receives a $10,000 operating grant from the provincial government.
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However, food for a single year will run $20,000, and is stored in a trailer beside the shelter building. Then comes the veterinarian bill, the light bill, the cost of animal transport to the shelter in the case of far-flung rescues and upkeep on the run-down building.
Learning said total annual expenses come in around $50,000. It means little left over for outreach, educational programming and, most importantly, the new building.
“We just really need a corporation or a couple of corporate sponsors to come on board and say, hey, here’s $50,000 or here’s $100,000, let’s get the building started,” she said.
With the current building regularly overrun, and fewer than a dozen local animal foster families tapped, the low-kill SPCA has been sending regular shipments of animals to the Halifax-based group Litters and Critters (littersncritters.com).
“They’ve been a godsend,” Learning said. “They’ve literally saved, in the last four years, well over 1,000 animals, between adult dogs and puppies.”
Litters and Critters president Shelley Cunningham said the group already has people ready to adopt when pets start arriving from the next set of shipments in September.
In addition to lining up potential pet parents, her volunteer organization has been campaigning for contributions for the Labrador SPCA building.
“We have a number of in-kind donations already, like we have lumber and windows and doors and other things,” she told The Telegram, adding the basic financing is still $150,000 short. “You know it would be really nice if the government would actually step up and do something to help us with this.”
She said the SPCA also has yet to reach a deal for land in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the new shelter building.
Cunningham’s group does not operate out of a shelter, but is instead a network of individuals who foster pets until they can be adopted.
She said her support for the SPCA in Happy Valley-Goose Bay came following her adoption of a dog from central Newfoundland, a subsequent introduction to the president of the Labrador SPCA, Lee Hill and a friendship emerging between the two volunteers.
Hill was busy responding to rescue calls when The Telegram dropped by the Happy Valley-Goose Bay operation.
Litters and Critters will continue to seek donations for the SPCA building, Cunningham said, despite the generally poor response to date.
Meanwhile, she said, the root of the shelter’s issues lies in the number of dogs not neutered running free in Labrador communities.
“We actually, Litters and Critters, have a number of vets down here that are willing to go up there next year on their own dime and on their own time and do a spay and neuter program in some of the communities,” she said.
Litters and Critters is in the process of making contact with Labrador community councils to discuss the potential for the mass-neuter program.
This is a corrected version