Concerns over changes to animal control services

FVRD system investigated for Mission, online petition started.

  • Fri Jul 17th, 2015 8:00pm
  • News

Alex Butler

Abbotsford News

As Mission mulls whether to move its animal control services over to Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) control, nearly 500 people have signed a petition against the change.

With its current animal control contract up in 2016, the District has decided to consider implementing the FVRD’s program, which in addition to pound services, includes licensing and bylaw enforcement, such as barking complaints, off-leash infractions and aggressive dog investigations.

It’s a move that was made by Abbotsford earlier this year. While Abbotsford had previously used the pound in Chilliwack, as of January 1, the city’s animal control program is fully managed by the FVRD.

Stacey Barker, manager of environmental services at the FVRD, made a presentation to Mission council last week outlining their services. However, some members of the public were not happy about the potential change.

Barker told The Record that the changeover in Abbotsford has gone well and the City is happy with their service.

She said Mission asked for a proposal regarding their animal control program.

But the petition, created by Susan Moore on Change.org, says she is satisfied with the existing service and wants to keep the shelter local.

“I have a hard time believing that anyone will care for the dogs the way the current pound keeper and her staff have,” it says.

It states that licensing fees will drop – from $60 to $56 for dogs, $36.25 to $28 for neutered dogs – but it will also introduce fees of $100 for a nuisance dog and $200 for an aggressive dog.

Barker said the FVRD runs an excellent program through the Community Animal Response and Education (CARE) program, which temporarily houses lost, stray dogs or impounded dogs. She said they provide quality medical care, nutritional, socialization and exercise for the animals.

They are also a pro-adoption agency for dogs in a need of a home and work hard to match the available dogs and families, she said. There is also a volunteer program that is always looking for dog walkers and foster families for dogs, she said.

Though the pound would be in Chilliwack instead of Mission, Barker said that nine times out of 10, people call quickly looking for their dogs. They offer a free-ride home program and when they find licensed dogs they are usually returned within a couple of hours, she said.

Commenters on the petition feared it would be difficult for some owners to retrieve dogs in Chilliwack.

For dogs that are taken overnight, Barker said she understands that people may not be able to travel to Chilliwack. Since staff will return to Mission anyway, they can bring the pet along and “we’d be glad to deliver it to your doorstep,” where residents can pay the pound fee.

Gail Radtke, of Cedar Valley K9, said she is concerned about the changes and worries about dogs being left in vehicles all day while animal control workers are on the job.

But Barker said dogs may have to spend some time in air-conditioned vehicles, but as there are multiple officers working each day, animals can be transferred back to the Chilliwack facility in good time.

“The welfare and safety of dogs in our care is top priority.”

But Radtke doubts whether staff would head back to Chilliwack to drop off a dog, or leave a vehicle idling for eight hours a day to provide an adequate temperature for the animals. Placing dogs together, when some may be aggressive, or where the animals can relieve themselves, are also of concern for Radtke.

Barker added that even while a dog is with an officer on duty, they aren’t just sitting in a vehicle. She said staff will get them out and walking.

“Our animal control officers are amazing individuals who love dogs.”

She added for the program would be a “benefit to Mission in terms of added staff,” including three full-time representatives at the call centre answering phones and a dedicated aggressive dog investigator.

Some commenters worried about the lack of space if Chilliwack’s pound is housing dogs from that community, Abbotsford and Mission.

The Chilliwack facility has 24 kennels and they are only at about two-thirds capacity with Chilliwack and Abbotsford, said Barker. She added that they are also looking to expand their facilities in the future.

But Radtke said she is unhappy about the lack of consultation with the public about the proposed changes. She added that while Abbotsford has the service, they also have the local SPCA building to fall back on for animal services.

“It wasn’t put to the public properly,” she said.

Council has yet to make a decision, and a full report from the FVRD is forthcoming.