Petition asks council to keep animal shelter open

A petition featuring the names of 889 people was presented to council Tuesday.

By Frank Bucholtz

Jennifer McNichol presented an 889-name petition to Mission council on Aug. 4, asking that the Mission Animal Shelter remain open.

Council is considering having the Fraser Valley Regional District take over the animal welfare functions that are now operated by Mission Animal Shelter, under the management of Sherry Taylor. If that plan went ahead, stray dogs would be taken and housed in Chilliwack and the current shelter building would likely be sold.

McNichol said she has concerns about dogs being transported to Chilliwack and potentially spending up to eight hours in a vehicle. She said B.C. SPCA has told her that “it is not OK to drive dogs around all day or hold them beside each other in a vehicle. This will definitely be poor welfare for the dogs.”

She also said that seven people would lose their jobs, one full-time and six part-time. All but one are Mission residents.

McNichol said that the shelter partners with both the RCMP and Canada Post to deal with aggressive dogs, and does so in a compassionate way.

There are many volunteers at the shelter, including children, seniors, people with special needs and people who no longer own dogs. These opportunities would be lost to them, she said.

People who have been sentenced often work off community service hours there as well. McNichol, who works in the federal corrections system, said people who have been convicted of crimes often learn compassion and empathy by spending time with animals.

“Working with animals can make a phenomenal difference in people’s choices.”

McNichol said closure of the shelter would also have an impact on Mission businesses, and changes to the fee structure would harm existing hobby kennels in Mission.

She pointed out that family incomes in Mission are among the lowest for larger urban areas in Canada (taken together with Abbotsford).

“Mission Animal Control gets that,” she said. “They are compassionate and want to keep people with their dogs. The Commissionaires, who operate the FVRD service, look at bylaw enforcement as a revenue generating centre.”

She said that five per cent of Mission residents cannot afford dog licences, and the shelter works with them so that they can pay for them over time. Many cannot afford impound fees and many do not have computers, and would not be able to track down if their dog had been impounded. She said they will not be able to pay the nuisance dog charge of $100 and aggressive dog fee of $200.

“What will happen to their dogs?” she asked.

Mayor Randy Hawes said that council has not yet made a decision, and is still gathering information. He thanked McNichol for her presentation.