Land policy leaves puppies out in the cold 

Permanent building for PAWS unlikely on crown land

click to flip through (2) PHOTO SUBMITTED - Outdoor Living PAWS director Rachael Goodyear said that the organization's efforts to build permanent structures have not been supported by the Village of Pemberton (VOP)—but the VOP said it doesn't have the right to OK them.
  • photo submitted
  • Outdoor Living PAWS director Rachael Goodyear said that the organization's efforts to build permanent structures have not been supported by the Village of Pemberton (VOP)—but the VOP said it doesn't have the right to OK them.
 

The Pemberton Animal Wellbeing Society (PAWS) can't keep up with demand and needs to expand.

But issues around the organization being based on Crown land are stalling its efforts.

"Currently, we have no space for dogs or puppies inside," explained PAWS director, Rachael Goodyear.

That means that the shelter's dogs are forced to live outside—year round.

"There is always concern that you are going to go out there, and there will be a little puppy who didn't make it through the night," said Goodyear. "Fortunately, that hasn't happened, but it's definitely a real concern for us."

While it maintains a relatively low profile, PAWS has become a busy little shelter, having adopted out 67 dogs and cats and spayed and neutered a dozen others in 2018 alone. The organization serves Pemberton, as well as Mount Currie and Lillooet, and operates on property located beside the Pemberton Regional Airport.

The land and a trailer the organization operates out of are leased to it by the Village of Pemberton (VOP) free of charge, and the VOP also covers the cost of its hydro bills. That said, Goodyear said that the conversations she has had with VOP staff regarding what can and can't be built have left her confused—the organization feels that any efforts to expand and construct needed buildings won't be supported.

"I feel that every time I speak with them ... I have more questions than when I started," said Goodyear. "I don't get a straight answer on what I can and can't do."

Previous plans for the space were perhaps overly "grand," but at this stage PAWS is looking at low-key options, said Goodyear, suggesting that an additional trailer would be "totally fine."

The current trailer is divided into two rooms, with one housing Goodyear's office, laundry and a washroom, and the other dedicated to cats, explained Goodyear. "We do fit puppies in there if they are really, really young—but it doesn't really work," she said, stressing that she and the organization are extremely grateful for the support the VOP does provide.

Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman said the VOP recognizes the importance of PAWS to the region and the Village has been increasing its support in coordination with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Area C.

Traditionally, the VOP has donated $5,000 to Whistler's animal shelter—Whistler Animals Galore (WAG)—and supported PAWS through its current agreement. That has changed this year, with the VOP choosing to spilt its funding between the two organizations in its 2019 budget, with $3,000 for WAG and $2,000 for PAWS, said Richman.

The VOP, in coordination with the SLRD, is also currently establishing an administrative body—known as a "local service area"—that will allow for more long-term support of PAWS, he added.

"We'd like to give PAWS the security and knowledge that they will be funded on an ongoing basis, that it's not just a one-off situation," he said.

That said, Richman added that the VOP is unable to support the construction of a permanent building at the current location.

"We totally support (PAWS') activity and want to find any way to support them, but right now putting a permanent building in this location is not an option," he said.

According to Richman, PAWS operates on Crown-granted land, which means that the VOP is limited in terms of what can be developed.

Goodyear said that the situation has left PAWS in a difficult place, and that it is looking at other options. In June, it will hold a fundraiser for fencing, insulated dog kennels, and heat lamps—all non-permanent options.

"We are getting busier and busier every year and we need more (help)," she said.

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