Yukon animal welfare group packs it in, citing pandemic woes

·3 min read
Yukon animal welfare group packs it in, citing pandemic woes
'We just felt that we would not be able to sort of move forward,' said Jordi Mikeli-Jones, seen here in 2016, the year she was named the City of Whitehorse's Volunteer of the Year for her work with Kona's Coalition.  (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
'We just felt that we would not be able to sort of move forward,' said Jordi Mikeli-Jones, seen here in 2016, the year she was named the City of Whitehorse's Volunteer of the Year for her work with Kona's Coalition. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

Jordi Mikeli-Jones says it just became too difficult to keep things going at Kona's Coalition, especially once the pandemic hit. This month, she announced that the animal advocacy non-profit she helped start eight years ago was shutting down.

"I think ultimately it boils down to our inability to fundraise meaningfully," she said.

Mikeli-Jones, president of the society, said the organization just hasn't been able to hold the sort of fundraising events it used to — such as dances, concerts, golf tournaments and fashion shows — because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Kona's Coalition board is also down to just two members now, including Mikeli-Jones.

"Ultimately, you know, in our last meeting, we looked at some of the ways that we could pivot, and we just felt that we would not be able to sort of move forward."

Mikeli-Jones says she started Kona's Coalition — named for her late, beloved dog — in 2013 because she saw a need for greater animal advocacy in Yukon. She had served as president of the local Humane Society, but wanted to do something a little different.

"You know, we wanted to stay small and we thought we could sort of keep all of the scandal and ego and politics out of our way so that we were able to sort of solely focus on the animals," she said.

"We were very active, I would say, in the first five or six years of our existence."

Watch a CBC report on Kona's Coalition from 2014:

The organization took on a bunch of initiatives, including a program that found foster homes for pets whose owners were in crisis. The group also provided emergency grants to low-income people for veterinary bills.

In 2016, Mikeli-Jones was named the City of Whitehorse's Volunteer of the Year for her work with Kona's Coalition.

Vet bills and 'tough cases'

In the end, though, it became too difficult to keep things going.

"We spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 a month on vet bills. And that's for low-income families or vulnerable people who need emergency vet services, or are looking for spay and neuter or vaccination subsidies," Mikeli-Jones said.

"We were doing a lot with fostering and adoptions and dealing with the tough cases, you know, the severely neglected, abandoned, abused, injured animals."

Sometimes animals were being abandoned with the organization, and it wasn't always easy to find homes for them.

"Fundamentally, it boiled down to losing our resources, which were people. And having confidential foster care available at any time of day was difficult," said Mikeli-Jones.

She says some of the programs started by Kona's Coalition will likely be offered by other organizations now — including the Humane Society, and Whitehorse Connects. That's another reason why it seemed like a good time to fold, she said.

"I have confidence and optimism and absolutely will work with both of those organizations to ensure, you know, Yukoners and more importantly, our animal community aren't left sort of in the lurch."

Mikeli-Jones thinks Kona's Coalition has definitely made a difference over the last eight years.

"I know that we've helped thousands of animals and families. I have lots of really amazing stories," she said.

"I think there has been some improvement — but there's still a long way to go."