WAG asks regional district for its fair share 

Nearly 45 per cent of animals come from outside Whistler, but SLRD doesn’t contribute funding

Whistler Animals Galore has asked the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District to pitch in for a share of the operational costs of Whistler’s new animal shelter.

The request comes just months before WAG moves into a new and improved, and most likely more expensive and busier, shelter in Whistler.

SLRD Board Directors at Monday’s regular regional district meeting heard that the Resort Municipality of Whistler is paying a disproportionate share of WAG’s operational costs even though most of the animals that come to the shelter are from various parts of the regional district.

"Only about a quarter of our animals are coming from Whistler," said WAG’s Shelter Director Carol Coffey, who presented at the SLRD meeting along with WAG Board member Jenny Angus.

The 2004 statistics show 27 per cent of the animals come from Mount Currie, 17 per cent from Pemberton, 13 per cent from Lillooet, and 14 per cent from D’Arcy. And yet, Whistler funds the lion’s share of the shelter’s costs. Almost 50 per cent of its operating costs in 2003 came from a municipal grant-in-aid. The shelter also makes up the shortfall through the coin boxes scattered around resort shops as well as fundraising activities and selling dog licenses in Whistler.

Currently, the SLRD does not contribute funding to WAG.

Coffey said WAG is planning to work on an education campaign in Mount Currie as a way to reduce the number of animals coming to the shelter from that area. Ideally she said a spay and neuter program is what the community needs, but that would be both expensive and time consuming. Coffey said it would be most effective to start off with an education program in the school.

The new WAG shelter, which is being built at the entrance to the recycling depot on Nesters Road, has been funded entirely by the municipality at a cost of $580,000. It will be a 2,500 square foot building.

The shelter will be much larger than WAG’s current rundown digs at Lot 4, which have blankets stapled to the walls to stop the wind blowing through the shelter.

But with the increase in capacity, Coffey said there could be an increase in the number of animals WAG deals with on an annual basis. That means there could be a corresponding increase in operating costs.

This year WAG’s operating costs were more than $130,000. They are expected to increase to $146,000 next year in the new shelter.

"This is an expensive operation," said Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, who is also one of the nine SRLD board members.

Angus and Coffey said they were before the regional district to open the doors and begin discussions about how the SLRD can contribute.

"Ideally their share of the animals that are coming from their region would be the appropriate way to handle what they could contribute," said Angus, after the meeting. That share, she added, is about 45 per cent.

WAG representatives have also recently made a presentation to Pemberton council on the same issue. Pemberton council resolved to review their request in their upcoming budget discussions.

SLRD Board Chair Susan Gimse said the board members have a couple of issues to consider before committing funding to WAG. The issue is animal control she said and "the lack of animal control in the regional district."

Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland, who is also one of the nine regional district board members, said the animal shelter in Squamish is facing similar problems.

WAG is hoping to be in their new shelter by the spring.

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