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Encouraging signs from animal welfare conference

As the official liaison city council to the Côte Saint-Luc Cat Committee (CSLCC), I have had the opportunity in the past year to work and communicate with animal rights activists from across the province. This includes the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec (caacQ).

On October 28 I represented Côte Saint-Luc at a one day conference at the Novotel Dorval presented by the CaacQ  and attended by some 100 people from more than 60 municipalities in the province. The focus was on improving the state of animal welfare in our communities and very much in line with the CaacQ’s mission of reducing the number of companion pets killed in the province of Québec.

Here is the CTV Montreal report:


A year and a half ago, when cat lovers began lobbying Côte Saint-Luc to adopt a Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program, I decided to step forward.  I did so with the support of the mayor and council and after the first public meeting I called attracted an overwhelming crowd and significant media attention, I knew we were on to something.

City council agreed to provide some financial support for the program and the CSLCC was born.   While TNR, which humanely traps, sterilizes and then releases feral cats back into their original territory, has been the main focus of the CSLCC, efforts have also been made to educate the public about the importance of this exercise. In the coming months we hope to   arrange visits to local schools, set up information booths within the community and continue, via  our Facebook page and a new hotline (514-485-6800 ext. CATS), to provide the tools  for people to report feral cats in their neighbourhood.

We have a small group of volunteers, including expert Shelley Schecter who had lobbied us for so long to get on board. Both the  SPCA and the Côte Saint-Luc Hospital for Animals have been solid partners. We have trapped close to 40 cats.  A female cat can reproduce four times a year, beginning from six months old, and can give birth to from one to eight kittens each time. By sterilizing the cats, their numbers are brought down through attrition. 

The CaacQ Conference

At the CaacQ conference it was encouraging to see 10 representatives from the City of Montreal in attendance. The borough of Verdun, which has taken a leadership role on the island for its aggressive TNR program. It is one I can proudly say Côte Saint-Luc has tried to emulate in our CSLCC’s first year in operation.

Greg McBain was there from the City of Westmount. As the assistant director of Public Security, he is aware of issues that come about related to companion pets. I am anxious to see other members of the Association of Suburban Municipalities move into the TNR business. Westmount Mayor Peter Trent heads that body and I am confident Greg will give him a good report. Carl Mainville, head of Public Works in Dorval, sat next to me and took studious notes.

I take my hat off to Johanne Tassé and her team from the CaacQ for taking such an important leadership role in this area. This was a marvelous conference, with a number of outstanding guest speakers. Last spring Johanne had invited me to a much smaller gathering  at St. Laurent Borough Hall to meet Bill Bruce, the director of Animal Services for the City of Calgary. Thanks to Bill, Calgary is on the cutting edge when it comes to animal welfare and on this day we not only had the occasion to hear three presentations from him, but he was also available in between talks to chat with us personally.  Jane Hoffman, the founder of the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, was another keynote speaker and shared with us some inspiring words.

The Quebec government takes notice

Perhaps most encouraging was the partial sponsorship of the Quebec Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Products  (Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation) and of Municipal Affairs, Regions and Territories (Ministère des Affairs municipals, des Régions et de l’Occupation du territoire). Guy Auclair (pictured with me below), a representative of Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Products Pierre Corbeil told me that the present-day government is very much committed to adhering to the laws governing animal welfare. Last summer his Ministry accepted submissions from the public in regard to proposed animal welfare regulations. 


The creation of regulations, which establish standards for the keeping of dogs and cats under The Animal Health Protection Act Division IV.1., (R.S.Q. P-42),  is an opportunity for the province   to become a leader in animal welfare in Canada.  One of the many recommendations that came their way was to enforce a requirement for mandatory the spaying or neutering for animals adopted from shelters, pounds or purchased at pet stores. Penalties must include jail time and increased fines in order to have a deterrent effect. Mr. Auclair told the conference that more than 1,900 submissions were received. “This is being taken very seriously,” he told me later. “We are going through each submission one-by-one and this takes time. Every single recommendation will be looked at. I  can assure you that Minister Corbeil, Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard and Premier Jean Charest are very committed to the issue of animal welfare.”

Calgary program is the ultimate model for animal welfare 

For animal lovers, Bill Bruce is the ultimate hero. If only we could clone him in Quebec. I am glad that Mr. Auclair was on hand to take in his wonderful presentations.

In Calgary, Animal & Bylaw Services provides important animal-related services, such as licensing cats and dogs, sheltering cats and dogs impounded under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw and adoptions to find new homes for impounded cats and dogs that have not been claimed by their owners. All animal-related services result from the mandate provided by the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, which allows Animal & Bylaw Services to work with Calgarians to ensure that cats, dogs, their owners and neighbours live together in safety and harmony. Under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, at three months of age all cats and dogs residing in the City of Calgary must have a City of Calgary licence. Licensing fees, not tax dollars, fund the following programs and services: reuniting lost cats and dogs with their owners;  licensing cats and dogs residing in Calgary; enforcing the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw (23M2006); investigating  citizen complaints regarding animals including cats, dogs, coyotes and other wildlife; helping neighbours resolve animal-related issues; sheltering and caring for cats and dogs impounded under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw in their vet-operated facility; providing adoption services to find new homes for cats and dogs impounded under the bylaw that have not been claimed by their owners;  and providing funding to veterinary clinics to cover emergency medical care for injured stray cats and dogs.

Bruce’s service provides school and public education programs to teach children and adults about responsible pet ownership and responsible citizenship. They coordinate a volunteer animal socialization program – PAWS Pal – to help socialize the cats and dogs awaiting adoption at the Animal Services Centre and they operate a No Cost Spay/Neuter program for the cats and dogs of financially eligible Calgarians. The “I Heart My Pet”  rewards program offers pet owners discounts from various partnering vendors.

As Bruce explained, Animal & Bylaw Services does not advocate breed specific legislation, nor limiting the number of pets in one household. This is because they believe that poor animal behaviour results from a failed relationship between pet and owner. Therefore, Animal & Bylaw Services advocates responsible pet ownership for cats and dogs based on the following four principles:  license and provide permanent identification for  cats and dogs; spay or neuter pets; provide training, physical care, socialization and medical attention for pets; and do not allow pets to become a threat or nuisance in the community.

In Calgary, the census even provides statistics on how many dogs and cats exist. The most recent figures list 123,000 dogs and 91,000 cats.

Permanent identification of your pet

The importance and value of microchipping your pet dog or cat was underlined by Dany Ménard and Isabelle Robitaille, owners of a black Labrador-cross named Pollux. If the name sounds familiar, this is the dog that went missing from Ménard and Robitaille in June 2010 and miraculously surfaced 4,500 km away in Kamloops, BC a year later. Because of the chip, Pollux was returned home. We all got to meet Pollux. My cat had a chip implanted when we adopted her. She is a house cat and we never ever let her outside. Heaven forbid though if she did escape and someone found her, such a chip would be essential. Representatives from a company called M4S ID (www.microchipsolutions.com) took us through and exercise and gave people at each table scanners to try them out.

Sterilization of Dogs and Cats

Veterinarian Dr. Joel Bergeron took us through the process of sterilization, emphasizing the importance of spaying or neutering dogs and cats (specifically the latter).

From the standpoint of effectively controlling pet populations, the best time for sterilizing dogs and cats is prior to puberty, which eliminates any possibility of the animal producing offspring. Animal shelters and humane organizations which adopt young animals have long had policies that call for the adopting owners agree to have the animal neutered as soon as possible, but rates of compliance are typically low and, though a majority of such animals eventually are sterilized, many first have the opportunity to reproduce. Acceptances of early spay-neuter programs allow such organizations to effectively implement "neuter at adoption" programs.  The traditional approach to surgical sterilization of dogs and cats is to wait until the animal is at least six months of age before castration of spaying, but problems such as those described above have led many to advocate performing these procedures at a much earlier age.

The Verdun Model

Pascale Tremblay from the Borough of Verdun was joined by urbanist Dany Tremblay to showcase a program that really works. Verdun, Pascale told us, allocates $40,000 a year to animal welfare.   

Verdun has become proactive and progressive in the way that they look at animal services.  They became the first borough in Montreal to truly take all the necessary steps to reduce overpopulation, encourage responsible pet ownership and proactively work with citizens to better the community for people and animals. Verdun revised their animal services contract and now works in partnership with the SPCA. They have a bylaw that requires citizens to be responsible about their animals and includes mandatory sterilization for all animals sold, adopted or given, limitation on the number of unsterilized animals per household; differential licensing for unsterilized animals; and the prohibition of  owners to permit unsterilized/non-vaccinated cats to roam outside and a charter of good behavior for pet owners.

Verdun has spay/neuter initiatives to counter overpopulation including a borough funded Trap-Neuter-Release-Maintain program for feral cats. The borough partakes in citizen education by having public information sessions, door-to-door handouts with flyers including information about the by-law project and responsible pet ownership. 

New York City’s Story

Mike BillJane Hoffman460Jane Hoffman (pictured with Bill Bruce and I) told us all about another great program which I would love to see our Montreal Agglomeration Council emulate:  The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, Inc. Founded in 2002 and powered by Maddie's Fund, The Pet Rescue Foundation, with support from the ASPCA, this is a coalition of more than 150 animal rescue groups and shelters working with Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C) to end the killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs at AC&C shelters. To achieve that goal, the Alliance, a not-for-profit corporation, helps its Alliance Participating Organizations (APOs) work to their highest potential to increase pet adoptions and spay/neuter rates, with the goal of transforming New York City into a no-kill community by 2015.

Take the New York City Feral Cat Initiative. This is a joint program of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals and Neighborhood Cats. Its mission is to solve the feral cat overpopulation crisis in New York City through the humane, non-lethal method of Trap-Neuter-Return . Tens of thousands of street cats live in the alleyways, backyards, and outdoor spaces of New York City. They are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats and, unneutered, they go on to spawn new generations. The cats group themselves together in packs called colonies. Many of their nuisance behaviors can be attributed to mating behaviors that would likely cease if they were sterilized. These behaviors include noise from fighting and mating, and the smell from the spraying of pheromone-laced urine.

Because these cats are not socialized to humans, they are not candidates for adoption. The breeding of these street cats results in more kittens entering the shelters — taking away homes that would otherwise go to the adult cats already there. Most adult feral cats taken in at city shelters are euthanized (killed) because they are not adoptable as house pets. As a result, the city must shoulder higher costs for municipal animal control. The New York City Feral Cat Database shows that in neighborhoods throughout New York City, TNR is proving effective in humanely managing feral cat colonies and reducing their numbers over time.  

Hoffman told us that a staggering 2.7 million cats roam free in New York City and 87 million in the USA.

This conference was an unqualified success and I believe it is a major step in the right direction to ensure that our province, cities and towns take the matter of animal welfare very seriously!












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