“Now that I’m older I just play a small part,” she said. “I look after donation cans for the SPCA but since I started volunteering with them in 1973, I’ve done just about everything a volunteer can do from raising funds, to co-ordinating volunteers and organizing third party fundraiser events (such as Top Dog Agility.)”
Allison has her own view of what led to the shelter’s current problems – two back to back resignations in March by key staff members. General manager Angela McLaren and contract fundraiser Andrea Sowers both gave their notices to end employment and as well, the SPCA’s community council folded.
“It makes me feel very sad,” Allison said Wednesday. “But management had to step away from the situation and that’s left a huge gap. However the animals are still being well cared for by shelter workers and nothing has changed in that regard.”
Allison said McLaren’s leaving is a big loss to the community and she praised the former manager’s many contributions.
“I have a lot of respect for Angela. She raised the profile of the SPCA, she made contacts in the community which – sad as it is she’s gone – will be useful for the future. Angela has a good personality and was always welcoming when visitors came into the shelter. She improved the living conditions for the animals – and I would say that she improved the life and working conditions of the staff too.”
Allison said McLaren brought in new policies and changes that encouraged pet owners to be more responsible and she saw to it that needed renovations got done.
“She got the foyer and other areas freshly painted so visitors saw a nice bright space when they walked in and so that staff had a more pleasing environment to work in.”
Some things at the work place McLaren couldn’t change – that’s why she left, agreed Allison, but McLaren’s efforts and expertise while she was with the SPCA were appreciated, she added.
Allison has been a familiar face around the SPCA since the 1970s when the local animal shelter was first set up, in a small building, on a street that no longer exists, close to the soccer fields.
“At that time Prince George had about 50,000 people. In those days we had established a board and I was on the board. In the 1980s and 90s it changed over to the community council they have [had] now. We followed the policies of SPCA’s main branch in Vancouver and, once a year, our board chair attended the AGM and we kept in touch that way.”
Animals found hungry, hurt, wandering the city streets or left abandoned, were brought to the shelter through an agreement with the city’s animal bylaw officers, she said. Other animals were surrendered by their owners or else turned over by people who told various accounts of how they had come across the animals.
That hasn’t changed.
“I have to credit the intake workers over the years who’ve heard just about every story there is – some of them were pretty wild. Yet they still managed to be polite and kind – and they kept a straight face,” said Allison with a good-natured laugh.
The need for putting down animals was significantly lowered during McLaren’s tenure, Alles said.
“Euthanasia has never been a thing we took lightly. Even when an animal was brought in sick or in need of medical attention – sometimes people surrendered their pets because they could not afford veterinarian bills – we’d take it to our own veterinarian and try to get the animals well, so they could be adopted.”
Animals with behavioural problems that make them unsuitable for adoption, the SPCA would place in foster homes to see if the problems improved or they sent them to the Lower Mainland where there are animal behavioural specialists.
No one liked to give up on the animals.
Least of all McLaren, who Allison said made it her mission to try to bring about successful adoptions.
“Angela was very good at determining which animal would be suitable for which family or foster family. The number of adoptions went up. People ask why the cost of adopting cats and dogs from the SPCA is so high but they don’t factor in that the price (over $100) includes the animal’s neutering or spaying, their inoculations, and means of identification.”
The biggest hurdle facing the SPCA then, and perhaps now, is a financial one: Where will the funds come from to keep it going?
“There is no government money for animal shelters,” said Allison.
“The money all comes from donations and fundraising. The biggest problem for us when we started was that some shelters in the province were rich and some were poor – and the rich shelters would not share with the have-nots like us. So we had to do the best we could with what we had.”
Allison says the SPCA will carry on, as it always has, through trying and turbulent times and she prefers to stay optimistic that this (current situation) too shall pass.
“At least the [workplace] problems have come to light now and we have to hope that something good will come out of all this.”