WAG at capacity with sick and injured dogs

The shelter's critical care fund is quickly running out with a recent influx of abused and neglected animals

Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) is desperate to find homes for the dogs in its shelter after reaching capacity this month.

Over the last several weeks, the organization has taken in six severely injured and sick dogs. Typically, it receives that many special cases in a year. "I don't know what to say other than thank goodness we're here," said Shannon Broderick, executive director of WAG. "But we can't sustain this. Either the animals have to stop coming in or we're going to need a bit of help. I want to get the word out about what we're dealing with here."

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It's not just the number of dogs and puppies that have shelter staff and volunteers working long days, but the severity of their injuries and illnesses. Last week, for example, a puppy that had been run over by a car was brought in with a broken pelvis. A few days later, another arrived with a deep gash on its head from a fight with stray dogs. One of the most heart-wrenching cases was admitted on the same day. "That puppy - our 10th - had a broken leg that the vet assumed was caused by someone kicking it," Broderick said. "It's a clean break. He had his surgery yesterday."

On top of that, a mother and her eight puppies were dropped off at the shelter recently. "She was extremely anemic and the puppies had the most extreme case of lice we've ever seen," Broderick said. "Their kennel looked like someone dumped a bag of rice in it. Volunteers spent hours picking lice off of them."

The shelter has been a hub of activity for around 13 hours a day, she added. Volunteers are helping to give medicine, make sure the animals are eating and going outside. Then they'll have to rehabilitate some of the pups in order to adopt them out. "The nerve-racking part of it is that we're at capacity," Broderick said. "I don't want to say we'd ever turn animals away, but the high standard of care we pride ourselves on is going to start to get compromised if more cases come in."

Part of the reason for the influx is because WAG's longtime education initiatives are starting to pay off. Owner surrenders are on the rise while, at the same time, people who encounter abused dogs around Pemberton are now aware that they can drop off the suffering animals at the Pemberton vet clinic where they will be cared for and transferred to WAG.

"For the dog with the broken leg, I have no answer because someone kicked that puppy," Broderick said. "Sadly, it's not the first time we've had animals come in like that. It's a game teenagers play called "kick the puppy" and it's been going on for a long time. People will catch the kids doing it and bring the dog to the vet. Before they would just kill them."

To that end, WAG hopes to eventually expand education efforts to teenagers to teach them about animal care and advocacy. "Financially, we can't offer that to more than five kids a year," Broderick said. "If we can get kids from Mount Currie and Pemberton into our youth programs, it's a small bit, but it's a start to have them say to their peers, 'Woah guys, that's not cool.'"

Charging abusers with animal cruelty is tricky, as the SPCA needs explicit evidence -including people reporting the abuse - to pursue an investigation, she added.

In the meantime, WAG hopes the community will reach out with donations to help them care for the current batch of injured dogs. "Something small, even sharing our Facebook posts to help get these animals adopted would help," Broderick said. "Reaching out to friends and family in the Lower Mainland or donating online is a big one. As soon as these dogs move out, there's room for other animals to take their place."

To donate to a critical care fund, or to view WAG's "wish list" of items needed - like flea treatment or enrichment toys - visit whistlerwag.com.

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