Government intervention needed, animal rescue advocates say

Some organizations want sterilization to be mandatory for pets

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Shelters are full, animals are dying and government intervention is needed, animal rescue advocates say.

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Shelters are full, animals are dying and government intervention is needed, animal rescue advocates say.

“It’s time for our leaders to start stepping up and start doing their jobs,” Kathlene Kuzak said Wednesday. “It’s more than the rescues can bear.”

Kuzak and fellow volunteers at K9 Advocates Manitoba are calling on the province to introduce legislation making sterilization mandatory for pets.

K9 Advocates Kathleen Kuzak (from left), Liz Rowe and Cristen Cournoyer are calling on the province to introduce legislation making sterilization mandatory for pets. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

Several other local rescues, including D’Arcy’s ARC, Winnipeg Pet Rescue and Manitoba Mutts, are voicing support for the idea, saying a COVID-19 pandemic-induced influx of uncared for pets has left them overwhelmed.

“We government funding, and we need government regulation… it needs to be sweeping,” said Liz Rowe, K9’s financial co-ordinator.

“Why are we the ones doing animal control?”

Since January, K9 staff have taken in nearly 2,000 dogs and cats and incurred $160,000 in vet bills. Last year, its operating costs totalled more than $430,000.

As a non-profit that receives no government support, the expense is nearly unbearable, Rowe said.

“We are bailing a sinking ship with our bare hands as the never-ending cycle of dog and cat overpopulation continues to persist. That’s part of the frustration. We are normal everyday people and we feel like we are tasked with solving this huge issue,” she said.

Jessica Miller, chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Humane Society, agreed spaying and neutering is the most effective way to reduce overpopulation, but said mandatory sterilization would be difficult to implement because of the prohibitive cost.

“Some people will not have the funds to do so. Unless the government was supplementing the cost to make that happen, I can’t see how individuals would be able to take that on,” she said.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

K9 Advocates volunteer Kathleen Kuzak cleans animal crates at the rescue’s warehouse. Local animal rescue agencies can barely keep with with the amount of animals they are taking in.

Instead, Miller suggests municipalities should update their rules surrounding pet control. She pointed to the City of Winnipeg’s recently updated responsible pet ownership bylaw as an example to follow.

In early July, Winnipeg amended the bylaw to address breeding.

Now, pet owners must obtain a permit from the city before their animals reproduce, with each dog and cat limited to one litter per year and no more than four litters in their lifetime. Additionally, shelter and rescue services now have the right to sterilize unlicensed animals at the owner’s expense.

The new system reserves the right for people to keep their animals intact, while cracking down on irresponsible owners who allow their animals to roam and breed freely, said Leland Gordon, general manager for Winnipeg Animal Services.

“It is definitely a role model bylaw in regard to animal control and welfare,” Gordon said, adding if the government stepped in and standardized similar legislation across the province, it might help address overpopulation.

“It really needs to be a collaborative approach regarding legislation because, in lots of communities, they have no animal bylaws… let alone a bylaw that says you have to spay and neuter. This all ends up on the shoulders of these animal advocates that are in animal shelters and rescues, and it’s really hard and saddening work, at times.”

Manitoba’s Animal Care Act does not address spaying and neutering.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The K9 Advocates animal rescue warehouse. Since January, K9 staff have taken in nearly 2,000 dogs and cats and incurred $160,000 in vet bills.

The department of agriculture (which oversees animal welfare) has started discussions with stakeholders, according to chief veterinary officer Scott Zaari.

“Concerns regarding animal breeding are generally addressed by local animal control bylaws. Individual municipalities and communities decide whether or not an animal control bylaw is required in their community, and whether they have adequate resources to enforce them,” Zaari said in an email statement Wednesday.

“Regarding the situation with companion animal over-population, the conditions in communities across Manitoba are not homogeneous and do not lend themselves to a single approach to address all issues.”

tyler.searle@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, July 28, 2022 12:09 PM CDT: Clarifies for whom sterilization would be mandatory

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