Since 2007, the Fort St. James Humane Society has been working to make Fort St. James a better place, for animals.
Established in 2007 by Angela McLaren and her partner Tracey Lotze, the group began as a way to address concerns over dog populations on Nak’zadli.
The District of Fort St. James had their animal control officer system in place with Nahounli Kennels managing any issues within the district itself, however, there was no way to address population control problems which were also going on.
Instead of turning a blind eye, McLaren and Lotze took action and decided to tackle the problem.
While McLaren and Lotze have since moved to Prince George, where McLaren is now the head of the Prince George Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the local Humane Society remains strong.
While not an animal control operation geared to deal with problem animals, the humane society helps with many other animal-related issues and has been very proactive in getting dogs and cats spayed and neutered to keep populations from increasing too rapidly.
Much of the group’s funding comes from a contract they have with Nak’azdli Band, the rest from other fundraising and the generosity of local businesses and community members.
The group has two catteries and the shell of a shelter located on the Fall Fairgrounds property, which they rent for a nominal fee from the Snowmobile and ATV Club. The group hopes to complete the shelter to make it usable year-round.
The shelter needs to have the finishing work done and heat installed in order for it to operate year-round. Fundraising to complete the shelter is close to achieving their goal.
They also have two dog kennels set up outside in the shelter grounds, which allow them to keep some surrendered adult dogs or strays during the summer.
The group is hoping for donations of more of the portable kennels so they could have one or two more, to enable them to take more dogs when needed and to have one at a foster home so dogs could be cared for more easily.
While the organization started out small, it has become more organized and better known in the community, therefore getting more and more people coming to them for help when they find injured, sick or abandoned animals.
The group also attempts to maintain a “no-kill” policy, only euthanizing animals when absolutely necessary. In the last two years, Gina Work, president of the society, said there has only been one cat which was euthanized, due to the fact it was impossible to handle.
The program has been seeing their hard work and dedication pay off over the years.
“We’ve seen a decrease in the number of calls for puppies,” said Monica Sillje, treasurer and secretary for the organization.
Population-wise, she said Nak’azdli is doing quite well and an inventory of pets the society has been working on recently and is nearing completion has tagged a large number of the dogs.
“It has come in handy,” Sillje said about the tags, which have already aided with the return of wandering dogs.
Especially in summer, she said it is important for people to remember to water their pets, as some will wander a long distance to get to the lake or other water sources and in the heat, they can dehydrate quickly.
The group also does work with Tache, Binche and Takla, but does not have funding for any work they do further out, so it relies on volunteer time and more fundraising. Tache recently held a bingo to raise money to address the problem and was successful in raising the funds to have six female dogs fixed.
The focus initially needs to be on the females so they don’t keep having litters.
In January to March of this year, the organization took in over 30 puppies from Binche and Tache.
“It’s sad because if we had more volunteers, we’d be able to help more at Tache and Takla,” said Work.
But the organization has done a lot, and an agreement with Petland in Prince George to take the puppies and kittens, for which Petland then pays the society some of their costs, has helped immensely.
“We’re not in it to make money,” said Work. “We just want to find the animals homes – good homes.”
Petland in just over a year in working with the society here and another in Burns Lake, has successfully adopted out 100 animals.
The organization is looking for volunteers to help drive pets to or from vet appointments, to foster animals, to stop in and visit the shelters to tend animals or just spend time and play with them.
Saturdays volunteers are needed to check the shelter animals and feed and water them.
“We’re really thankful for the people who volunteer,” said Sillje. She also emphasized those who do take in animals to foster them are never stuck, if they can’t keep them or it doesn’t work out, the organization will always take them back and help them out.
People can contact the Fort St. James Humane Society cell phone if they are interested in helping out or for more information at 250-996-3370 or Sillje at home at 250-996-5044.