Friday, May 6, 2011

Montreal's Animal Welfare In Shambles

MONTREAL - Montreal’s opposition parties are calling for the creation of a municipally overseen animal control policy that will end the city’s reliance on Berger Blanc, a controversial for-profit pound that has been accused of inhumanely euthanizing the animals in its charge.

But Mayor Gérald Tremblay was decidedly lukewarm on Friday to the idea of the city taking over from Berger Blanc, saying such a move would cost $5 million annually – money the city doesn’t have.

“Yes, a lot of owners abandon their pets on July 1,” Tremblay told reporters. “(But) do we have to go public or can we maintain the private sector with the necessary measures to make sure that whatever we saw on television will never happen again? This is our challenge.”

He added: “We have concerns about homelessness and poverty, as well. There are human beings whose needs have to be considered. … Every day I run into people who are excluded from society, who have financial needs. They concern me, too.”

Tremblay’s comments follow the airing two weeks ago of an investigative report on Radio-Canada. A hidden camera captured images of animals apparently being euthanized inhumanely at Berger Blanc, a Rivière des Prairies based pound that provides animal control services for 10 of the city’s 19 boroughs.

In the firestorm of controversy that followed, Richard Deschamps, executive committee member responsible for services to citizens, said city inspectors had never reported any abuse at Berger Blanc but added spot checks would be stepped up.

However Projet Montreal – which will not renew its contract with Berger Blanc in the borough of Plateau Mont Royal — has called for the creation of a committee at city hall to examine how animal policies can be improved. And on Friday, Vision Montreal, the official opposition at city hall, called upon Tremblay to consider following the lead of Toronto and Calgary and have the city create its own animal control agency.

Flanked by Vision Montreal’s five borough mayors, party leader Louise Harel said she had written to Tremblay asking the city to establish a “responsible” animal control service.

She said also that something had to be done to curb Montrealers’ willingness to abandon their pets at a rate she estimated to be two and a half times that of Toronto.

“We are the champions of pet abandonment,” she said, comparing this city’s annual rate of 25,000 abandoned pets to Toronto’s 10,000. “Montrealers ... have a very bad record and it has to stop.”

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