After 19 years in operation and almost two years of legal wrangling, Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) has at last been granted official charitable status by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
"Its a big deal for us, because its been such a long haul," says WAG manager Jody Stockfish. "We started the process when I first came on board in October of 99, and its taken that long to get it. Our lawyer has gone back and forth, back and forth, and we even had John Reynolds, our MP, write a letter for us and try to speed up the process."
Since animal lovers Dorothy Sabey and Debbie Chow started WAG in 1982, the shelter has housed and found homes for hundreds of lost or unwanted animals, mainly dogs and cats.
As recently as three years ago the zero kill shelter was on the brink of closing down due to a lack of funding, but new energy and fundraising turned things around. In August of 2000, WAG formed a partnership with the municipality to operate the pound and moved into the space available by Lot 2, and expanded its focus to include the Sea to Sky area.
With a central location, the volunteer program grew. Now WAG has upwards of 50 volunteers who stop by to walk the dogs and spend time with the animals.
WAG has also made the jump to television with WAG-TV, on five times a day on Whistler Cable, and to the Internet with www.wag.whistlerweb.com .
Their work was recently recognized by the municipality, who awarded WAG a $10,000 grant-in-aid.
Now, with charitable status behind the organization, Stockfish says WAGs current financial situation the best it has ever been can only improve. Although WAGs financial situation has improved significantly in the past year and a half, none of WAGs funding is guaranteed on an annual basis and the organization is still looking for corporate sponsorship and long-term commitments.
"This will mean that we will be able to expand and greater develop the current programs we now have, and eventually down the road we would like a new shelter to house new animals," she says. "It just makes fundraising so much easier. Weve been running day to day with less than $5,000 in the bank since I started, so there wont be that stress involved with not knowing where the money is going to come from the next day.
"People will be much happier to make a larger donation because they can now get a tax receipt, and it can be a write-off for people and corporations."
Another avenue for funding that has opened up as a result of earning charitable status is the ability to apply for grants from private foundations for many animal welfare foundations, you have to be a registered charitable organization before you can even apply.
"Ive started to research all of the different grants that are available in Canada, and even in the U.S. and theres quite a bit of money out there for animal lover organizations," says Stockfish. "Now that we have our number we can hopefully tap into that."
There are currently 15 cats and dogs at the shelter, down from a shelter high of close to 40 animals last February, including 23 puppies. "We just had a whole slew of adoptions over the last few months. Its definitely working," says Stockfish.
WAG is a registered Charitable Organization, which is effective retroactively as of April 25, 2001 under business number 87919-8729-RR0001. Tax receipts are available.
Attention volunteers: The Municipal Bylaw Department is hosting a WAG volunteer appreciation barbecue this Saturday (June 16) from noon to 2 p.m. at the shelter.