-Terry Chapman Hutchison
The Facebook Group, Cause and Petition drew attention to the plight of thousands of animals at the Hamilton Animal Control, shedding light upon the unending dilemma that pound staff and rescue groups continue to face each and every week. Rally organizers hope to bring concerned citizens, groups and local residents together to share ideas and voice our demands for long-term, life-saving change as a united collective. Here are the facts.
TIMELINE: JOURNEY TO THE RALLY
- On January 1 (http://bit.ly/jlZzf4), the former municipalities of the Town of Ancaster, the Town of Dundas, the Town of Flamborough, the Township of Glanbrook, the City of Hamilton and the City of Stoney Creek are amalgamated and the "New” City of Hamilton comes into being, leaving in its wake, in accordance with the City of Hamilton Act, 1999, eight different by-laws to regulate matters respecting the keeping and control of animals.
- On January 1 (http://bit.ly/jlZzf4), the City of Hamilton assumes responsibility for the enforcement of said by-laws from the Hamilton-Burlington Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), as part of a realignment of responsibilities for animal related matters, and the City continues to engage the services of private sector contractors for the provision of animal control services in the geographic areas formerly known as Flamborough and Glanbrook.
- Pet license fees support the return of lost pets to their homes and generate additional income that can be used towards the investigation of animal neglect or cruelty, spay and neuter programs to reduce pet over-population, and community education services. The city studies a bylaw that would have mandated cat licensing, albeit at a lower cost than dog licensing, i.e. cat owners can voluntarily register their cats for $12. (Howard Elliott. “Cat crisis calls for licensing.” The Hamilton Spectator, Jul 23, 2010.)
- In early 2007, Performance Concepts Consulting Limited is brought in by the Planning and Economic Development Department to undertake an operational review of the Animal Control Section of what is now the Parking and By-law Services Division, as part of an overall operational review and reorganization initiative in 2006. The Consultant conducts numerous staff and management interviews, evaluates internal performance data, researches the practices of other animal control organizations and develops qualitative and quantitative industry benchmarks. The Consultant’s report is completed and submitted to the Department in September of 2007 and is ultimately included as a part of staff Report PED08147. (http://bit.ly/l93ozN)
- Ken Wood creates the “Hamilton Animal Control - Stop the Killings” group on Facebook, and brings in Terry Chapman Hutchison, a Hamilton resident and animal advocate, to co-Admin the page. (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_94769408781)
- On July 3, the Building and Licensing Division Operational Review Sub-Committee receives and approves a staff report which includes a proposed detailed work plan to address a number of operational deficiencies identified in the review. Among the items listed in the report is a request for additional funding in the amount of $75,751 to hire an Animal Control Community Relations Officer during the 2009 budget process. The mayor wishes to be recorded as being opposed to a recommendation respecting higher household animal limits. (http://bit.ly/l93ozN)
- On September 3, recommendations previously made by Performance Concepts Consulting Limited (http://bit.ly/l7hC1a) a year before are brought to the table again for discussion and review re: reducing HAC’s high euthanasia rate: 1. the licensing of cats, 2. stop the picking up of stray cats, 3. increasing or removing the two pet per household limit, and 4. shifting the emphasis from low priority calls such as wildlife complaints and road kill, to enforcement and education. Hamilton city councillors defer a debate about changes to animal control. (http://bit.ly/kYpbPg)
- Report 08-002 (http://bit.ly/l7hC1a) from July 3 is submitted to the Committee of the Whole for consideration on October 13 as an agenda item and subsequently forwarded to Council on October 15. Points for consideration in this report include: (i) that the Animal Control Section discontinue pick-up calls for non-ferals, and that uninjured stray cats be accepted only by drop-off at the Animal Control Facility; (ii) that the freed-up Animal Control Officer front-line staff capacity be redeployed and budgeted on a service-hour basis to high value-added licensing base maintenance, proactive park patrol, and the execution of public education programming; (iii) that staff be directed to report back to the 2009 budget process respecting the redeployment of service hours for licensing, park patrol and public education re: accountable and measurable service delivery targets.
- On February 25, a petition is begun by Avril Casper asking for the following changes to be made at the HAC: that the HAC be opened up to the public for adoption, that they give individuals and rescue groups more time to find homes for the cats to prevent more cats from being euthanized, and that euthanization be used only as a very last resort. (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/cats-in-urgent-need-of-saving.html)
- On March 21, the same petition is forced to be shut down for fear that city animal control management might prevent the few designated rescues from having access to the animals on death row. (http://bit.ly/mROzPt)
- On July 23, the Hamilton Spectator publishes an editorial by Margaret Strecker, a Hamilton resident and volunteer for The Pride Cat Rescue and HB-SPCA, on “How to Handle Hamilton's Feral Cats.” Margaret suggests a comprehensive co-operative approach to the problem of overpopulation, including a low-cost spay and neuter program, an expanded trap, neuter/spay and release program, and a high-profile and effective education program emphasizing the necessity of spaying and neutering.
- On October 26, the staff recommends that public consultation be undertaken with a view to the eventual implementation of a single, harmonized Animal Control By-law that would repeal and replace the existing by-laws regulating the keeping and control of animals. (http://bit.ly/isCfX6)
- On November 17, local citizens address the City of Hamilton’s Economic Development and Planning Committee with their written submissions, concerns and extensive recommendations re: animal control bylaw reforms. (http://bit.ly/iqayP2)
- In 2009, out of 1570 dogs picked up by the HAC, 167 were put down, 2135 of 5501 cats were adopted through a rescue facility, and 3098 cats were put down. (“Cat crisis calls for licensing.” Howard Elliott. The Hamilton Spectator, Jul 23, 2010.)
- On January 5, Ken Wood posts the following on the HAC-STK group: New Animal Control Bylaw includes cats found trespassing can be picked up, held only 72 hours, then killed. Additional public input is requested to be sent to Karen Edwards, Program Development Officer, Animal Control before January 8. (http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/AnimalControl/ProposedNewAnimalControlBy-lawforHamilton.htm)
- On January 18, Ken Wood shares the following news with the HAC-STK group: Ward 1 Councillor McHattie chairs a Community Meeting to provide input on draft. Animal Control By-Law Speakers includes: Paul Buckle, Manager of Hamilton Animal Control, the City of Hamilton’s Liz White, Leader of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, and Dr. Liz O’Brien, DVM and owner of the Cat Clinic.
- On February 10, Ken Wood shares the following news with the HAC-STK group: The HB-SPCA which shares space with the city's animal control is now not only $400,000 in debt, but has also been paying the salaries for The Equestrian Association for the Disabled (TEAD), an organization it has been trying to amalgamate with for more than a year, with board members not being told. (http://www.thespec.com/print/article/31965)
- On March 18, SPCA members vote to stop TEAD amalgamation. (http://www.dundasstarnews.com/news/article/205444) Ken Wood shares the following news with the HAC-STK group: The board’s chair John Janisse, treasurer Sheila Erickson and councillor Robert Pasuta have resigned from the board. Meanwhile, 61 of the animal-shelter charity’s 110 members have signed a requisition request for a new special meeting. In the requisition delivered to the board Monday, the 61 members call for the whole board’s removal, stopping the merger with TEAD and calling for a forensic audit of SPCA finances.
- On March 18, Ancaster news reports that the “City of Hamilton’s animal control bylaw is in hibernation until 2011.” (http://bit.ly/l89uoS)
- On March 23, municipal staff review over 140 written submissions and petitions respecting the draft bylaw. A recommendation to withhold the introduction of a comprehensive harmonized animal control by-law until further public consultation has been undertaken is made, with an alternative recommendation for the Committee to potentially choose to limit public consultation and advance the progress of a harmonized Animal Control By-law. (http://bit.ly/jlZzf4)
- The city proposes labelling feral cats as urban wildlife so that animal control workers would not have to bring them in or euthanize them, but the idea is dismissed by advocates who point out that classifying former pets as wildlife would only serve to propagate the myth that they are somehow disposable. (“Cat crisis calls for licensing.” Howard Elliott. The Hamilton Spectator, Jul 23, 2010.)
- Online animal advocate, Lillian Szilagy, begins drawing web-wide attention to the twice to thrice weekly HAC killings on Facebook and Kijiji.ca while posting HAC’s marked pound cats for Nancy Martin.
- Sue O’Dwyer assumes the HAC management role formerly held by acting manager, Paul Buckle. (http://bit.ly/9Cl1Fj)
- Members of the HAC-STK lead protests in front of the HAC/HB-SPCA on October 30 (http://bit.ly/9Cl1Fj) and November 13. Terry Chapman Hutchison tells the Hamilton Spectator that the SPCA is being complicit in the [HAC] killings because of a verbal agreement that Animal Control’s former manager, Paul Buckle, told her gives adoption exclusivity rights to the SPCA so that the two organizations don’t duplicate services. Leanne Tucker is also interviewed as saying that she doesn’t want to see the SPCA run to the ground - she wants to see them do a better job. She adds that there are animal control centres in the U.S. that are saving in excess of 90 per cent of the dogs and cats they take in, and that she would like people to know it can be done. (http://bit.ly/9Cl1Fj)
- Pictured above. Six protestors outside the joint Hamilton/Burlington SPCA and Animal Control building during the SPCA adopt-a-thon hope to raise enough awareness to stop the massive euthanizing of 3,000 cats a year. (“Save the kittens.” Carla Fragomeni. Hamilton Spectator. Nov 1, 2010.)
- On December 2, an insider editorial for the Hamilton Spectator commends the HAC staff for their ongoing coordination efforts with rescue groups, and denounces the HB-SPCA for taking in surrenders and euthanizing for profit. (http://bit.ly/mlVccq)
- In 2010, 2979 animals were put down (as of December 1 - http://bit.ly/h0lmmb). The city’s animal control department responds to growing community concerns in December by implementing a low-cost speuter (http://bit.ly/e2yeCS) at the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA for qualifying low income earners, and by considering an adoption service for the HAC in addition to the limited program currently being offered by the HB-SPCA. Problems finding or making space for the second service, as well as the budget for it, presently prevent the department from moving past the consideration stage. The animals that end up at the HAC, therefore, are still only adoptable exclusively through the HB-SPCA or via the HAC’s four selected rescue groups. (http://bit.ly/h0lmmb)
- On March 10, PetHealth Inc. circulates press releases announcing the move of the HB-SPCA to PetPoint’s animal inventory management database. (http://yhoo.it/gD93KX)
- On April 29, an online vigil is held by Claudia Vecchio and ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals for Treena and Britain: two cats, among nameless others, who were put down the same morning before rescue groups could be notified in time to try and save them. (http://on.fb.me/iXw2p0)
- On May 3, ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals (http://orarescue.org/) begins running a Facebook Cause (http://bit.ly/lijwa5) to help build further awareness about the weekly killings happening at the HAC.
- On May 13, Claudia Vecchio starts a petition (http://bit.ly/mDYhSJ) on Care 2 - The Petition Site to make the following requests of the City of Hamilton and the Animal Control Department: (i.) That the decision of euthanization be taken collectively by senior staff at the Hamilton City pound and not left in the hands of one person; (ii.) for a change in bylaw, allowing for more than two pets per household; for a change in the bylaws so that the picking up and killing of pets found roaming outside be stopped as well; (iii.) that a cost effective trap, neuter and return (TNR) program be implemented in place of scheduled killing for the ferals; (iv.) that a low cost spay and neuter be made available to the general public to help contain the pet population; (v.) that the opening hours of the pound be extended past working hours to encourage a higher percentage of owner retrievals; (vi.) that pet retrieval fees (http://bit.ly/jdmFbH) be reduced; and (vi.) that the pound be opened up to the public and to all rescue groups for adoptions.
- On May 13, Lillian Szilagy follows suit with a second petition adding a request for investigations into the treatment of the animals at the HAC (http://bit.ly/m0JAgl), along with a detailed exposé entitled, "Cruelty in Hamilton-OSPCA aware and doing nothing." (http://on.fb.me/lVl2Bd)
- In mid-May, ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals volunteers connect with the admins and members of the “Hamilton Animal Control - Stop the Killings” group. (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_94769408781)
- On May 18, Janice Boast begins contacting media representatives for the HAC-STK.
- On May 22, an anonymous team led by “Fallen Pixels” post their Recommendations to ask for at Rally on the HAC-STK group page. (http://on.fb.me/jh9Atv)
- On May 30, HAC-STK admins, Eva McDowell and Terry Chapman Hutchison, begin running an ongoing email and letter writing campaign to the Hamilton mayor and councillors.
- On June 25, a peaceful rally is scheduled to take place in front of the HAC/HB-SPCA at 245 Dartnall Road between 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Everyone is welcome to attend and represent. (http://on.fb.me/lQZ8rN and http://on.fb.me/m3rtqk)
- On September 20, city staff are due to report back on the many recommendations to change Animal Control. Written submissions, a speaker delegation and a second peaceful rally at Hamilton City Hall on 71 Main St W are tentatively being planned.
10 years and counting.
On behalf of thousands of animals without voices.
Join the movement today.
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals