Even on a relatively slow day in June, the WAG shelter on Nesters Road is caring for 21 animals — six dogs and 15 cats. With litters of puppies, up to 20 dogs were at the shelter at one point over the past winter; most of them have since been adopted. In total, about 150 animals arrived at the shelter in 2007, and this year numbers are similar.
WAG — once known as Whistler Animals Galore — held its annual general meeting early in June.
WAG’s municipal grant has been cut in recent years — from nearly $85,000 in 2005 to $60,000 in 2006 and $50,000 last year. This year’s grant was the same as last year’s, and led to identification of two ongoing priorities: stable revenue and continuing a spay and neuter program in Mount Currie.
“We’re very busy, our numbers have not come down,” said Carol Coffey, executive director of WAG.
The RMOW grant used to make up 50 per cent of WAG’s annual revenue, but made up 30 per cent of revenue in 2007. WAG’s budget was just over $163,000 in 2007, down from $180,000 in 2005. Other sources of revenue include donations, dog licence sales and impound fees, and fundraising.
Coffey said the majority of rescued dogs continue to come to WAG despite the creation of Pemberton’s PAWS shelter last year.
“The Pemberton Animal Welfare Society is still very limited in the number of animals they can take because they’re volunteer only and are dependent on finding foster homes for their animals. They’re still brand new, don’t have a staff, they’re working on their facility, they don’t have stable funding, and they’re not really equipped yet to address the needs up there. It’s going to take some time before they can play a larger role.”
WAG is planning to reintroduce a spay and neuter program for Mount Currie this year. The program started a few years ago, and so far has spayed or neutered more than 140 dogs. There is still a lot more work to do to get numbers under control, says Coffey.
Improving the quality of life for dogs is also an issue.
“Another program we’d like to get going up there is to start a wellness clinic once a month where people can get health care, advice, treatments for parasites and things like that, and generally increasing access for people in Mount Currie that don’t have access to a veterinarian,” said Coffey.
“There are so many dogs, and so many from Mount Currie that the best approach is to try and control the animal population and ease some of the suffering.”
According to Coffey, several local vets and a vet who lives in Vancouver and has a second home in Pemberton, have expressed interest in the wellness program, which should get underway this summer.
To fund the shelter and new programs, WAG’s regular fundraisers will take place this summer. The annual doggy wash is on July 19 at the fire hall in Whistler Village, and the K9 Wine and Dine is on Saturday, Aug. 23.
This year WAG is also planning to start a membership program to boost volunteer numbers and increase fundraising. Memberships will be $25 for individuals and $30 for families, although a $10 discount is available if you purchase your 2008 dog licence from WAG.
Members of WAG can get free bath kits from the Mountain Hound Lounge, as well as discounts from Bark Busters, Java, Nesters, Behind the Grind and The Oracle. The goal is to have 100 members by the end of the season. The funds raised by the membership drive will benefit the shelter and WAG programs.
One possible benefit of membership is adding more volunteer dog walkers to the program. To keep up its numbers, WAG has to recruit new walkers year-round.
“We get a lot of people that sign up when they first arrive in Whistler, but then they find out they need to work three jobs to survive and don’t come out as much,” said Coffey. “We always see a lot of new recruits at the start of summer, and in the fall when the new people arrive, but we’d like to have a more stable group of walkers to help out.”
The WAG shelter is located beside the waste transfer station at Nesters. More information is available at www.thewagway.com.