Friday, August 26, 2011

No More Homeless Pets and Calgary is Leading the Way, Part 2 of 4

Bill Bruce, Director of Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services: having at heart the well being of animals.

Key to the Calgary model is the partnerships. It took Bill a number of years to get everyone on board, but he was consistent in inviting all stakeholders to provide input on the ideas he wanted to incorporate into his shelter. Open, transparent communication with all partners remains the foundation for the decisions made in the best interest of the animals who spend time at the shelter and live in the community.

This model, with no tax dollars spent to pay for it, has resulted in an exceptionally high ratio of pets being returned to their owners, many without ever arriving at the shelter. Success rates are high for finding new homes for those that either have no owner or need to be re-homed. Public accountability for the care of the animals while at the shelter is expected, and is available on the web site. Transparency and accountability are of utmost importance to Calgarians; Bill not only recognizes this but makes sure these are clear and direct for everyone who wants this information.

Calgary’s model begins with the concept that “virtually every animal who winds up in a shelter or on the street is there because a human relationship failed them.” Determined not to punish the animals because of the mistakes of people, Bill’s philosophy is to “encourage responsible pet ownership through licensing, public education, and limited enforcement.” The goal of Bill’s Animal Control is to shift from traditional animal control to responsible pet ownership, and this is reflected in the mission statement of Animal and Bylaw Services: “Encouraging a safe, healthy, vibrant community for people and pets through the development, education and compliance of bylaws that reflect community values.”

Mission Statements are great, but how does Calgary put the words into action? By identifying and stating clearly six primary goals:

1. Identify the issue
2. Engage the stakeholders
3. Build a process that works
4. Educate people to use it (92-95% voluntary compliance)
5. Back it up (5% enforcement)
6. Measure it (how do you know you are improving)

It has been demonstrated all over the world that traditional methods used by Animal Control agencies do not work in saving lives, are costly and ineffective in solving the perceived overpopulation, particularly of cats, and cause tremendous disagreements between residents. Bill introduced a system in Calgary to place the emphasis on responsible pet ownership and away from antiquated methods of animal control. Again, Bill states clearly that “in North America, we do not have a problem with pet overpopulation, stray animals, nuisance or vicious animals – we have a problem with responsible pet ownership!”

So, how would Bill Bruce define responsible pet ownership? He starts with what he calls the “Four Principles of Responsible Pet Ownership.”

1. License and provide permanent identification for pets
2. Spay/neuter pets
3. Provide training, physical care, socialization and medical attention for companion pets
4. Do not allow pets to become a threat or nuisance in the community

Many people view licensing pets as no more than a ‘money grab’ by municipalities. In some North American cities, this is exactly what licensing is. It is no wonder many are upset at the idea of putting more money into the pockets of the local Animal Control.

So why are folks lining up to pay their annual fees in Calgary? And why do some even go the extra mile and pay an additional license fee? It is not simply that Bill Bruce makes paying the annual fee as easy as possible, although that is certainly true: pet owners receive an automatic renewal notice; there is a 24-hour pet license hotline; owners can complete an online form; pay at the bank; make a night deposit; or pay an officer directly. In Calgary, officers are certified mediators whose driving force is to resolve conflicts and help the people who need it the most. Bill Bruce would not tolerate negative relationships between the people who work for and with him and the citizens of Calgary.

The license fee for an altered cat is $10.00 and a dog is $31.00, while an intact dog license is $52.00. Compliance for dog licensing is 92 %. There are hefty penalties for non-compliance – owners of unlicensed dogs can be charged $250.00. Having said this, Bill is more than fair to non-compliant owners. He has been known to waive the yearly fee completely when a person is experiencing difficult times. Cat licensing infractions are the same, but mandatory cat licensing only became law in January 2007, so there is more leniency for cat owners. Compliance for cats was 45% in 2008 but is steadily increasing. Cats with permanent identification by tattoo or microchip are not required to have a tag.

And if kitty does go missing and ends up at this shelter, the cat’s photgraph is put on a postcard which is then sent to all homeowners within a three to four block radius of where kitty was found. This greatly improves the chances for a happy ending. If the family does not want the cat back, then a new and permanent home is found by Animal Services.

To be continued in Part 3.


Calgary’s Bill Bruce brings his shelter expertise to
the Intercontinental Toronto-Yorkville Hotel at
220 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1T8 CANADA
on Friday, SEPTEMBER 30, 2011, at 7:00 PM.

Tickets are $11.30 (tax included)
Advance Ticket Sales Only—Call 416-726-5762
or visit for more information.

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