The Winnipeg Humane Society has made a change to its policy for surrendering pets.
The former "euthanasia agreement" – which meant a person who surrendered an animal would be contacted if the animal was to be euthanized - is no longer part of the WHS’s surrender conditions as of March 1.
WHS executive director Bill McDonald said the change was made to clear up confusion within the former agreement relating to stray animals, not owned animals, being surrendered.
"We have discovered in the recent past that there was this misconception that if I sign this (euthanasia agreement), they’ll call me and then the animal won’t be euthanized," said McDonald.
Animals could be selected for euthanasia due to medical complications, aggressive behaviour or, in the case of cats, shelter limitations. He said the extreme cat over-population brought the issue to the forefront.
"What many people didn’t realize was that the obligation was that you take the animal (if it has selected for euthanisia). You now become responsible for that animal. We’re going to tell you what medical concerns we have, behaviour concerns, and we’re going to tell you we have no space," he said. "The new document, which is called Surrender Conditions, we’re putting this right up front. It’s not after the assessement. If you can’t live with euthanasia, don’t leave the animal here."
McDonald said the Surrender Conditions document states "The WHS makes no guarantee that the animal or animals you have surrendered today will be adopted or that it/they will not be euthanized."
Lynne Scott of Craig Street Cats, a non-profit, no-kill organization, said the policy change will allow the WHS to "kill more animals without having to explain why."
"They (people) already don’t want to send animals there, it was already a place of last resort because most of the cats who go there never come out. This just removes one lifeline that cats had," Scott said. "Mr. McDonald has said that most of the people who signed that form never came and got the cats. Well, if only two or three in a year actually come and get the cats, that’s two or three cats that they don’t kill."
McDonald said the WHS took in 5,805 cats in 2012 of which 2,437 were adopted. However, when a cat was to be euthanized and the individual who surrendered it was called, the cat was picked up fewer than "one every two weeks."
He said when people were called about cats they had signed over, they often stated they couldn’t take the cat which was why they brought it to WHS in the first place, and then felt responsible for the cat’s death when their original intention was to help a cat.
In her press release, Scott said the "policy change places the Winnipeg Humane Society in the same category as the worst high-kill shelters in North America."
"The truly sad thing is that hundreds of animals that would otherwise have been saved will now be killed, because, apparently, the WHS staff is too busy to make a phone call to save a life," she stated.
McDonald said 4,000 stray cats were among the 5,805 cats brought to WHS last year. Less than 9 per cent were claimed by owners.
The WHS also operates a Lost Pet Registry so people who find pets can register them but foster them in their own homes.