Animal advocates are urging Aurora to rethink its relationship with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Councillors have heard this month from two animal rights organizations encouraging the town to evaluate all of its options before awarding another animal control contract to the OSPCA. Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada leader Liz White was critical of the OSPCA’s track record and objected to the high rates of euthanasia among cats and wild animals at the shelter. Of all of the cats put down last year, 22 per cent were killed due to time and space reasons, she alleged. “With regard to dogs, cats and small domestics, my purpose in presenting this report to the committee is not to lay blame, but to seek a resolution to the euthanasia problem,” Ms White said. “Most residents of Aurora would consider killing as an unacceptable way of dealing with lost, abandoned and unwanted pets.”
Council members also heard from Nathalie Karvonen, the Toronto Wildlife Centre’s executive director. Ms Karvonen also took issue with the fact the OSPCA, while contracted for animal control services, isn’t in the business of rehabilitating wild animals. The organization does have a single wildlife facility in Midland, she continued, but it’s only open a few months of the year. Only 10 per cent of wild animals picked up by the OSPCA are transferred to appropriate facilities and nearly all others are euthanized, Ms Karvonen said. What’s more, a large volume of calls about sick, injured and orphaned wild animals are being referred to the Toronto Wildlife Centre by the OSPCA, even though the centre doesn’t receive financial compensation as a result, she said. The town should examine the OSPCA’s suitability to handle wildlife issues, she added. “Aurora has beautiful green spaces and diverse wildlife species, which are highly valued by its residents,” she said. “When wild animals are in need of help or when a resident has questions or concerns about wildlife, the town needs a specialized response in place to provide the best service possible.”
The town extended its animal control services contract with the OSPCA for one year back in December. Under the terms of the $191,000 agreement, the OSPCA continues to provide daily patrols to pick up stray dogs and cats and responds to animal-related complaints from residents. The deal also includes bylaw enforcement on weekends and evenings and monthly reports on animal control activities and shelter services.
The contract extension came despite the closure of the shelter at the OSPCA’s York Region branch due to an outbreak of ringworm last year, which resulted in 102 euthanizations. According to a staff report, the town investigated other potential service providers, but found the OSPCA was the only one in close proximity capable of meeting its needs.
A subsequent memo from building and bylaw services director Techa van Leeuwen acknowledged the report in question contained inaccurate information, as it did not identify Aurora’s Kennel Inn as a possibility. Despite the accidental omission, it wouldn’t have changed the recommendation in the report, she said, as shelter managers indicated they put the facility up for sale.
Town staff has been directed to explore other possible options for animal control services, Ms van Leeuwen said, adding the hope is to have a report in front of council by June. That way, politicians can consider its options well in advance of the OSPCA contract’s December expiration date. Whether or not the town partners with other municipalities on animal control, puts out a request for proposals or develops another in-house option will be up to council, Ms Van Leeuwen said. For now, however, the town has full confidence in the OSPCA’s abilities to fulfill its contractual obligations, she said, adding the shelter should be re-opening soon with a new set of policies and protocols after the ringworm outbreak. “They had a difficult year, but they have responded responsibly and accordingly to the issue.” There’s no firm date as to when the shelter will re-open, OSPCA spokesperson Alison Cross said, but added it should be a matter of weeks.
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