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A small step in the right direction
Article mis en ligne le mercredi 25 juillet 2012

Photo: Marie Cicchini

Action pour un service animalier public (ASAP) members (left to right) Ruth Pike, Isabelle Sawyer, Karen Urtnowski, Andrea Levy, Dr. Ingrid Hings, Anjali Chokis (Le Plateau), Lorraine Lang. Dogs Maggie (black) and Betsy were adopted from a shelter.

Last month the Quebec government adopted Bill 51, an act amending animal safety and welfare laws, giving itself new powers to euthanize and sterilize cats and dogs.

So is the situation about to change for for-profit puppy mills that break the law?

A NDG watch group for animal welfare and safety was formed after the Berger Blanc scandal made national headlines last year. The Action pour un service animalier public (ASAP) was interviewed to comment on the law introduced by Agriculture Minister Pierre Corbeil.

ASAP members pointed out that the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a San Francisco-based organization, released a report July 9 with its 2012 Canadian animal protection laws rankings. Quebec is in the doghouse when it comes to getting tough on animal abusers.

Alanna Devine, director of animal welfare at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Montreal, noted that in spite of the additional education that was done, animal abandonment was up 15% this year.

“What would have really made a difference for us, the SPCA and the animal protection groups is that all breeders who sell animals for profit have a permit. The change is cosmetic,” said ASAP member Andrea Levy.

According to another ASAP member, Dr. Ingrid Hings, certain custodians of cats or dogs, like the SPCA and shelters, will also be required to have permits, but the different categories and fees are not clear. The question is, will the fees be punitive for non-profit organizations?

Hings feels that it’s a small step in the right direction, but the cycle of overpopulation and euthanasia will continue as long as animals are considered to be commodities under the law.

“Please don’t quote me as saying that the law is bad, but it needs to be completed or complemented by appropriate regulations and enforcement tools,” she said.

ASAP has been reflecting on the financing of the system, for example. “It’s good to have stricter laws, but you also need to have the capacity for enforcement. In the last two years we went from 5 to 40 inspectors, but Ontario has 200,” she explained.

ASAP members would like to see revenues from fines, which have been increased, either going back to education or sterilization programs or somehow contributing to improving the situation of the animals. “When an animal is seized at a puppy mill, the government contributes $5.25. The per diem care of an animal is $15. The SPCA is not getting enough,” Hings explained.

They would also like to see a user-pay system for people who are selling animals for profit. The budget of Anima Quebec in the years 2007-2008-2009 was $400,000. “That’s not nearly enough. There are hundreds of thousands of animals abandoned and euthanized at cost to the shelters and taxpayers.”

“Sterilization has finally been included in the powers conferred to the government. The wording is exactly what we had proposed,” says Andrea Levy.

But animal suffering and cruelty is still a big problem. The government is empowered to set standards for dog and cat euthanasia and for prescribing certain methods, but the bill says nothing specific about that.

Levy will continue to push to make sure the least painful and humane method of intravenous injection will be the only one allowed, which is a sodium pentobarbital injection administered by a trained professional. “The absolute minimum we can do is to not allow animals to suffer a painful death in the end,” she says.

About animal control

- Pet owners are asked to help reduce the abandoned animal population that ends up in animal shelters and euthanized by attending spay and neuter clinics supported by the City or by considering simple options available when adopting or disposing of an animal.
- The City of Montreal will be introducing a new bylaw to centralize and harmonize animal management services in the fall in order to better control the population and safety of animals on its territory.
- There will be a municipally-run animal control service in Montreal by 2014.

[ Marie Cicchini ]


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