Animal welfare issues are set to take a front seat in Whistler, as the sharing of operations by WAG and the municipality allows for greater flexibility and expansion of programs.
In the pipeline are plans to extend animal control services to Pemberton, establish a "franchise" of WAG-type animal shelters and train more local people in animal first aid and welfare.
Up until August this year, the animal shelter, near day-skier Lot 2, was largely run by RWOW animal control officer, Kimberly Lord. However, since joining forces with WAG (formerly Whistler Animals Galore), the largely volunteer-run group has taken up the bulk of the shelter work in exchange for free space in the building. Its an arrangement that suits both parties.
Lord says she now has the freedom to increase her fieldwork within Whistler and starting in January, into the Pemberton area also.
"WAG is doing an awesome job of adopting, vaccinating, feeding and exercising the animals as well as running the meet-and-greet program and keeping the shelter clean," Lord said.
Expansion of the kennel facilities has also occurred since WAG moved in, largely due to volunteer workers and donations from local businesses.
WAGs two paid staff executive director and co-ordinator Jody Stockfish and shelter manager Lauren Fraser say having a central facility, rather than the traditional fostering system, will make a huge difference to what WAG can achieve. It also gives WAGs core of 15 to 20 regular volunteers easy access for cleaning and walking duties, Stockfish added.
The highly organized WAG of today is a far cry from the original ad hoc organization founded in 1982. While the purpose of the organization hasnt changed i.e. protecting and enhancing the lives of lost, unwanted and homeless animals its efficiency levels and screening processes have. For instance, just because you want a pet, it does not mean you will get one from WAG. And if you do adopt an animal, expect to pay $125 to partially cover vaccination and neutering costs, and to receive follow-up visits just as with any human adoption agency.
Stockfish says it is all about educating people about the responsibilities of owning a pet.
"Everybody that knocks on the door thinks they will be a great pet owner," she explained. "But if I detect any doubt I hone in on that and ask questions such as, where will the animal go when you go on vacation and how many hours do you work, until they start to get an idea of what a big commitment it is."
However, she says few failed adopters leave feeling bad because they gain a better idea of when having a pet would suit their lifestyle and how to look after an animal. Even those deemed suitable owners must make several visits and become acquainted first.