Mayor says new SPCA deal will save money, but not all of council convinced

The Prince Albert SPCA

Couns. Lennox-Zepp and Miller block third reading, send proposed bylaw back for future consideration

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

City council delayed approval for a new bylaw amendment on Monday that would allow the Prince Albert SPCA to take over municipal animal control services.

Ward 1 councillor Charlene Miller and ward 2 councillor Terra Lennox-Zepp blocked the third reading of the bylaw. In order to do all three readings of the proposed bylaw in one meeting, unanimous support is needed.

Since Lennox-Zepp and Miller voted against moving to third reading, the proposed bylaw will be brought back to council and debated at the next meeting.

In May, the police board commission and the SPCA came up with an agreement that would transfer animal control powers over to the SPCA until Dec. 31, 2019, after which, they can decide if they will extend the contract.

Under the agreement, the SPCA would receive $75,000 a year from the police services budget but prorated for 2018.

During the council meeting, Mayor Greg Dionne said this move would save the city money and provide better service for the community.

“We’re not going to need as many bylaw officers as we had because that was an expensive weight. You think of it… a bylaw officer (costs) $80,000 so just by getting rid of one of them, we’re already a winner.”

The Board of Police Commissioners also donated a police car with low mileage to the SPCA and the society would retrofit it for animal control services.

The SPCA would be responsible for seizing stray dogs and cats, issuing cat traps and provide general patrols, among other duties.

They would also have to ensure the new animal control office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and that people can call in to report cases from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. during the week.

Miller is not happy with the new agreement.

“My beef about (SPCA) doing it, is that they’re keeping the animals and in turn, every year they come to council for an additional ask of money. They’re not doing as a pound should do.”

Miller said she understands her views are harsh, but the city ought to operate a pound that euthanizes unwanted animals — healthy or not.

“Clearly if somebody doesn’t come and pick up their animals in five days from the SPCA, they no longer want it, right? It is harsh, I agree, but let’s stop and think for a minute. That’s what we did before. It’s nothing new.”

SPCA operates a no-kill animal shelter and often runs at capacity.

As the Herald reported on Tuesday, from the time the average dog enters the shelter until it leaves, it costs approximately $1,000 to take care of it. When the animal has special needs, if it’s been injured or needs to be spayed or neutered, costs are higher, according to SPCA vice-president Kathleen Howell.

Miller said when the SPCA started taking over some bylaw duties, the shelter would ask for more money. “It could easily grow to $500,000 because they come and ask every year for an increase…. I’m not in favour of giving them $500,000 to be a pound.”

At budget meetings last fall, the SPCA received an operating budget grant of $229,000. The agency had requested $426,500.