(Letter to Rob Ford and city councillors from Joanne Singer.)
August 31, 2011
To: Mayor Rob Ford and all Councilors for the City of Toronto
Dear Mayor and Councillors:
Re: Proposed Privatization of Toronto Animal Services ("TAS")
I am a private citizen gravely concerned about the proposed service reductions through for-profit privatization relating to TAS and felt compelled to write this letter. I fervently hope that every one of you will take the time to read it. I know that this letter is lengthy but the for-profit privatization of animal care and control is not a decision to be made lightly and not without pertinent information and in-depth analysis. I have compiled some research that I think will be of interest to you. Toronto needs to get ahead of the curve with respect to animal care and control, not fall backwards.
I would like to begin by saying that I have adopted two wonderful animals from TAS that perhaps would not have had the opportunity to find a loving, permanent home had TAS not been actively involved in adoptions. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that adoptions will continue under a privatized for-profit organization. As a matter of fact, there is no guarantee that anything beneficial to animals will continue under for-profit privatization. Logic dictates that it simply cannot when the bottom line is the dollar. It is far cheaper to kill an animal than invest time, money and resources in feeding, housing, vetting and adopting out that animal.
The KPMG Core Services Review ("CSR") sets out savings contemplated by privatization as Low (up to 5%) for both Cat and Dog Licensing and Enforcement and Animal By-Law Enforcement and Mobile Response and Medium (up to 20%) for Animal Sheltering and Adoption and Animal Care and Enforcement. Those are anticipated or potential amounts only and there is no conclusive proof that those will be actual savings.
One of the best approaches to cost savings and self-sustaining revenue generation with respect to animal care and control in Toronto is to study, liaise with and implement some of the proven strategies of Calgary Animal and By-Law Services under the direction of Bill Bruce.
The City of Calgary has approached the animal care and control situation by promoting responsible pet ownership and responsive animal services – not animal control and not building more shelters to fill. The Calgary model focuses on a positive change in human behaviour through education and compliance which leads to a positive outcome for animals. Bill Bruce has focused on the following in his model:
• Licensing and permanent identification promoting the idea that your pet's identification is its ticket home and which quickly reunites lost pets with their families. About 90% of the dogs and about 50,000 cats in Calgary now have licences; the majority of lost pets do not even enter the shelter, but are scanned by mobile humane officers and driven home. This is a great perquisite for animal owners and eliminates the cost of housing and feeding a lost pet. If an animal does enter the shelter, it is up on the shelter's lost and found webpage within 15 minutes of admission.
• Spay and neuter initiatives that reduce unwanted litters humanely. Every single cat and every neglected dog left to die on the streets is the sad result of an irresponsible owner with an unspayed animal.
• Providing information on proper medical care, socialization, training, diet and exercise which produces safe, healthy animals, prevents pets from becoming a nuisance and reduces community complaints and the attendant drain on resources in responding.
• This also includes implementing responsible pet ownership educational programs for school-age children. Also, animal abuse in early childhood is routinely the precursor of sexual, physical and domestic abuse in adulthood. These early education programs go a long way in teaching respect and compassion for animals which translates into caring, compassionate, empathetic adults. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted its own study in which 85.4 percent of women and 63 percent of children reported incidents of pet abuse after arriving at domestic violence shelters.
Calgary implemented mandatory cat licensing on January 1, 2007 with a grace period on fines to encourage owners to register their cats. Billboards announcing that there would be a zero tolerance for unlicensed dogs and cats with an accompanying fine in the range of $250 have resulted in a doubled return to owner rate and a huge reduction in their kill rate. All of Calgary's by-law fees and fines go directly toward helping animals with city-run programs such as adoption and emergency medical care for injured animals. Calgary Animal Services is also in the process of building its own spay/neuter clinic to provide free spay-neuters for low-income pet owners.
All of Calgary's animal services' funding is derived from licensing, independent fund-raising and fines: NOT TAX DOLLARS. Bill Bruce set out with the plan in mind to free animal services from dependence on an unpredictable and ever-changing tax base and is now in charge of the most successful animal services funding model in North America. Calgary Animal Services has an operating budget of about $5.4 million, of which 80 to 85 percent comes from licensing and the rest from adoption fees, impound fees, fines, and fund-raising. Heavy-handed enforcement for fines is a last resort and Calgarians have proudly bought into the collaborative model of responsible pet ownership and 85 percent now support this program.
Calgary has also made it easy for pet owners to obtain their licences by telephone, online, by mail, through a night depository box or flagging down a mobile humane officer. Reminder notices are sent out annually and follow up calls are made. The licensing fees are kept affordable by considering the consumer price index and the cost of living to determine an affordable rate so each year the fees are increasing, not decreasing.
Calgary is so progressive that they are in the process of setting up a pet morgue where dogs and cats killed on the city streets can be identified through their website in order to provide closure for distraught owners who can then decide either to have animal services cremate the remains at no cost or arrange for a private cremation.
And best of all, Bill Bruce is willing to share his knowledge and expertise. By sheer serendipity, I have been notified that on Friday, September 30th, ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals will be hosting a special event featuring an exciting lecture by Bill Bruce, at 7:00 p.m. in the Intercontinental Hotel’s Portman Room at 220 Bloor Street West. Mr. Bruce will happily provide a wealth of proven examples and information to local animal-caring politicians, pound managers, advocates, veterinarians and anyone willing to participate in actively helping to stop the complacent killing of animals in shelters. Tickets are $11.30 (tax included). Advance sale only. Call 416-726-5762 to purchase. This is an event that the Mayor and all Councillors should try to attend and understand the importance of maintaining TAS with the goal in mind of emulating the Calgary example and turning TAS into a model of animal care and control and a self-funding service.
The City of Montreal tried the implementation of for-profit privatization of animal services at Berger Blanc, with disastrous results.
The City of Montreal has been shocked, internationally shamed and embarrassed by the unmitigated cruelty exposed at Berger Blanc, the rectification of which will surely cost Montreal taxpayers dearly. If you are truly interested, there are videos online of what transpired at Berger Blanc. A warning though, you best have a strong stomach and some kleenex handy.
The Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states on its website that "the for-profit model of animal control is a model that has failed everywhere it has been tried in North America. This is because for-profit pounds benefit from overpopulation as it serves the profit model of their business (ensuring a constant supply of animals entering the facility ensures a constant source of income). A vital part of any properly-run animal control program is an effort to reduce over population, which the pound for-profit model does not."
For-profit pounds have no animal welfare mission, no mandate for the protection of animals and few, if any, adoption programs, spay/neuter programs, etc. as they do not add to the bottom line. It is simply cheaper and more economical to kill an animal rather than feed, house, spay/neuter and try to adopt it out. Surely we owe a homeless animal a greater debt and a better future than to be killed simply because at one point in its life, it is unwanted. As Gandhi once famously said "I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man".
Someone, somewhere, will want to give that dog, cat, rabbit, bird, hamster or gerbil, a loving and compassionate home. This is a moral and ethical obligation on our part to the animal. I would not want the responsibility for the deaths of countless animals resting on my shoulders simply because of a bad decision made without sufficient information; I ask how morally comfortable each of you would be with that.
I would also urge the City to give serious consideration to repealing the by-law limiting the number of pets an owner is allowed to have, provided that they are responsible pet owners and provide adequate care. Having more pets than permitted by the current by-law inhibits owners from licensing their animals. Removing the restriction on numbers should generate more revenue for the City and move more animals out of the shelter through adoption.
What sense does it make that the one person with four perfectly behaved toy dogs weighing 6 lbs each is a lawbreaker while the person down the street with the three 80 lb. marauding dogs is in compliance? Common sense and rationale must be in play when by-laws are implemented or they shouldn't exist at all.
I have some easily-implemented suggestions to assist in making TAS self sustaining and self-funded and they are as follows:
• Engage citizens to ask for suggestions to make TAS self-funding. The public is an invaluable source of creative and innovative ideas and, best of all, it is free. No consultant's fee here.
• Both Craigslist and Kijiji advertise hundreds, if not thousands, of backyard and hobby breeders who are selling puppies and kittens on these internet sites.
Companion animals are also sold in flea markets and sometimes even along roadsides. These people, along with puppy/kitten mills and people who refuse to spay or neuter their animals, are major contributors to animal overpopulation and the thousands of animals turned into shelters each year. They breed indiscriminately with no regard to the health or socialization of the animals they are selling. I have seen puppies offered for sale that have not even had their first vaccinations. My suggestion is to make it mandatory to have a breeder's licence issued by the City at a cost of perhaps $500 per year with a much more weighty fine if you are in contravention of this requirement. It is also my suspicion that these people are committing income tax fraud by not declaring the income from the sale of these animals. A mandatory breeder's licence and the requirement to report any income might put an end to some of this type of breeding and the misery it causes. If these irresponsible breeders can be stopped by legislation and strict enforcement, the millions of animals put to death in shelters every year will drop dramatically and we can become a part of the burgeoning "no-kill" revolution.
• Strict enforcement of on-leash by-laws for dogs with stiff penalties for non-compliance.
• Stop City enforcement of breed specific legislation ("BSL") which has been proven to be completely ineffective and has resulted in many innocent dogs being sacrificed without proper evidence supporting the ban. Many more-enlightened jurisdictions are repealing BSL. Calgary has never implemented BSL but has strict enforcement of by-laws with respect to owners of dangerous dogs. The City of Ottawa is not enforcing the provincial BSL and has had no more problems than cities which are enforcing the legislation. Enforcing BSL is fiscally irresponsible and ineffective. This is squandering of resources that could more effectively be directed towards the well-being of animals. It is interesting to note that in Calgary aggressive animal issues are now almost non-existent.
KPMG makes reference to several jurisdictional examples of privatized animal care and control in American cities. These comparisons are irrelevant in that some of these facilities are allowed to implement the use of a mobile spay/neuter facility which is not allowed by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association in Ontario.
KPMG's mandate did not include the impact of for-profit privatization on the quality of the lives of the animals in shelters nor were they aware of the horrors that have arisen by for-profit privatization of animal care and control in some cities such as Berger Blanc in Montreal.
Rather than risk the same consequences as resulted from the implementation of for-profit animal control services at Berger Blanc, I think an in-depth investigation should precede any decision and the decision making should not rest solely on the suggestions of KPMG. Their mandate did not take into account the results of their suggestions, other than some minimal, possible but unconfirmed savings. I wonder how they, or you, would feel if their or your family pet were picked up by for-profit animal control and killed before there was an opportunity to claim it, as is the sad and sorry practice in many such facilities.
Please note that I do not use the label euthanasia here, as euthanasia is from the Greek for "good death". It is meant to be used by licensed professionals when an animal is suffering greatly from sickness or injury with no hope of recovery. Putting a perfectly healthy, adoptable animal to death because of the bottom line is not euthanasia. "Euthanasia" or "putting an animal to sleep" when used in connection with a viable, adoptable, healthy animal are just convenient euphemisms used to avoid the truth of the situation, which is that it is simply killing.
Dogs have a sense of smell approximately 1,000 times greater than humans and sense impending death in a shelter. Imagine for a moment that someone has a catch pole around your neck from which there is no escape, unmercifully drags you down a hallway to a room where, without any compassion, kindness or sedation they end your life, by a process known as the heart stick. The intracardial/heart stick used on an unsedated animal is considered in the veterinary and euthanasia community to be a deplorable "technique", entirely unacceptable and inhumane which delivers a brutal and excruciatingly painful death to an animal. This is the practice of many for-profit shelters simply because it is cost-effective. Animals in shelters are living, breathing beings that are deserving of protection and compassion.
When using a for-profit organization to provide animal control services, these are some of the points that must be considered:
1. How much liability insurance will you require the contractor to carry? Most act as an “agent” for the government entity, and thus the City is still legally responsible for actions of the contractor.
2. What enforcement powers would the City grant to the contractor? Will the contractor be aggressive at enforcing your laws?
3. What type of audit procedures is the City allowed to place upon the contractor to keep track of the taxpayers' money?
4. Will this contractor offer minimum and continuing training standards for its entire staff? Will it conduct a criminal check with respect to prospective employees?
5. Will the contractor have a veterinarian on staff?
6. Will the contractor provide adequate sheltering facilities for the care and housing of impounded or surrendered animals?
7. Will the City rent its current shelter facilities to a contractor or would a contractor be required to provide its own facilities? If the latter, what would happen to the current shelter facilities and staff?
8. Will the City's contractor be required to provide and maintain proper equipment and vehicles to ensure animal and human safety?
9. Will the contractor be required promote a positive image within the community?
10. Now ask yourself one very important question: Will the contractor meet or exceed the same level of services you would expect from the City's operations?
Any private contractor must at least maintain the same standards of animal care that are currently in place and must be held to the same, and possibly higher, standards of openness and accountability to the City Council and the public. This accountability and transparency should be mandatory for any private operator.
The University of Tennessee produced a report dated March 7, 2011 outlining some of the pitfalls of privatization stating that it is not a cure for every municipal ailment, that it has it own unique problems, some of which can be quite serious.
The problems, briefly summarized, are: (i) the incentive to cut corners; (ii) failure to consider the attendant costs of privatization which always exceeds the amount specified in the city's contract with the private provider and which may exceed the cost of the existing service despite the contractor's fee being less; (iii) corruption; (iv) employee resistance; (v) loss of interdepartmental cooperation; (vi) interference in the development of the contract; (vii) failure to manage the contract; (viii) dependence and contract renewal and, most importantly, (ix) surprises – in an effort to submit the lowest bid, contractors may lowball and once the contract has been awarded to them, may seek amendments that result in higher-than-expected costs to the city.
Toronto can either be on the leading edge of animal care and control or not. It will not promote the image of Toronto as a world-class city if the dirty little secret comes to light that animals are being tortured and killed in the most inhumane manner all due to a lack of foresight and investigation by the City prior to implementing the suggestions contained in the CSR.
Pets of any kind bring unmeasured enrichment and companionship to peoples' lives, especially the elderly and bedridden as evidenced by the positive impact on the lives of patients by the placement of resident cats in long-term care facilities.
A study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that the benefits of having a canine or feline companion are real and broad and after having conducted extensive research, the Journal concluded that pet owners are less likely to die within one year of having a heart attack than those that did not own an animal. The study showed that pet owners tended to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem, get more exercise, be more extroverted and were less fearful about getting close to other people. It has long been recognized by both educational and medical communities that pairing dogs with people for therapeutic reasons has positive benefits.
Add to this the benefits derived from rescued shelter dogs which are now working as police enforcement, drug, explosives and banned cell phone detection officers; therapy dogs calming autistic children or those with Asperger's Syndrome; sight, hearing and seizure alert dogs; search and rescue and cadaver detection; those providing a non-judgmental audience for children with shyness or developmental issues to read to; cancer detection; companionship for Alzheimer's patients and those suffering from dementia; lowering blood pressure; comforting the ailing and helping special witnesses testify in court.
This study also establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets. As society's understanding of the psychological processes underlying perceptions of pets grows, the present work provides valuable insights for the meaningful social support that pets provide for their owners and the attendant benefits these ubiquitous and consequential relationships generate. What we get in return for our alliance with animals is perhaps much greater than what we put in. We should be vigorously promoting adoption and pet ownership, not contemplating implementing for-profit privatization which will undoubtedly result in the deaths of many, many animals that could have brought much needed joy and assistance into the lives of needy people.
Recent research reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs—with surprising implications for the evolution of human culture.
Further research is proving dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. Humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies.
Interestingly, Cesar Milan, the well-renowned dog behaviourist, states that, "researchers are just starting to discover what dogs are capable of - an expansive vocabulary, social intelligence not found in other animals, and abstract thinking at the level of a two-year-old human child. Some dogs are proving to be more intelligent than anyone ever thought possible."
We have an intricate, extraordinary and interactive relationship with dogs. For decades science has dismissed dogs as being unworthy of legitimate study. It is now a school of thought that without the domestication of dogs, civilization would not have been possible as they were pivotal in the change from hunter/gatherers to agriculturists and that they may in fact be more intelligent than even our closest relatives, the great apes.
University of Lincoln Professor Daniel Mills, using state-of-the-art technology, is investigating just how close our relationship with dogs is and looks into the scientific basis for dogs to read our emotions. According to his studies, the right side of our face more clearly represents our emotional state and that is why, when presented with a human face, we tend to look at the left side of the face of the person we are facing (i.e. their right side). This is known as a "right side bias". Through tracking software, Professor Mills made the remarkable discovery that dogs show the same preference when shown a human face. No other animal has this relationship with the human face and dogs don't do it with each other.
Additionally, Dr. Adam Miklosi had conducted studies at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary demonstrating that dog barks are indeed a language and that humans do have the ability to understand that language. Also, Dr. Juliane Kaminski, a cognitive psychologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, is conducting studies that compare the abilities of chimpanzees versus dogs to follow human direction (such as pointing) with the dogs clearly the winners. This is perhaps what makes them invaluable as law enforcement, service and therapy animals.
But dogs' greatest gift is yet to come. Dr. Elinor Karlsson, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, is conducting studies on dog DNA through simple blood collection to discover gene mutations that could lead to cures for some of the most dangerous diseases of our time which are shared by dogs and humans such as diabetes, cardiac diseases, epilepsy and bone/breast/brain cancers. Dr. Karlsson was part of the team that in 2005 mapped all 2.4 billion letters of the dog genome sequence. Identifying a gene in dogs that causes disease allows researchers to locate the corresponding gene in humans and find a cure. What more can we possibly ask from them?
I included the above information on research into the intelligence of dogs as I want to emphasize that shelters are dealing with sentient beings with a range of emotions and able to tune into our emotions as no other animal can or has.
Perhaps for these ongoing contributions over the last 12 or 13 thousand years and future contributions, we owe them a greater debt and respect than our current treatment of them.
If you are still reading, I congratulate you on your stamina and thank you for your indulgence, patience and interest. This is an extremely important topic for me as the animals are voiceless and powerless with respect to their fates and futures and we must speak out on their behalf. Privatization is not the answer to every municipality's budget problems and I understand full well that the City is attempting to make an effort to introduce market economics into the provision of programs and services that have traditionally been provided by the government. We need to bear in mind however, that while some services lend themselves to privatization, that is not the case with animal care and control.
If there is any further information I can provide or should you wish to contact me to discuss any issues or suggestions in this letter, my contact information is set out above and I would be more than pleased to do anything in my power to assist.
(Letter to Rob Ford and city councillors from Joanne Singer.)
The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.
Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.
So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.
2012 Pound Dog Calendars
- ► 2015 (40)
- ► 2014 (65)
- ► 2013 (166)
- ► 2012 (276)
- Unnamed - Shih Tzu puppy mill pup
- Shanda - Border Collie mix
- Hank - German Shepherd mix
- Unnamed - Jack Russell Terrier
- Zorro - Labrador Retriever mix
- Unnamed - Yellow Labrador Retriever
- Unnamed - Golden Retriever mix puppy
- "A Victory for All Animals"
- Fanny - Siberian Husky mix pup
- Update on Shamus
- Jenny - Beagle
- Toronto pet stores now required to be puppy mill f...
- Paws R Us updates continued
- Chanel - Shetland Sheepdog mix puppy
- Nice job
- A note to commercial dog breeders
- Paws R Us raided, all dogs seized
- The Good Samaritan
- Upcoming events
- Maybe they were looking for a new dog anyway
- Shamus - Boxer Pointer mix
- Harley - Labrador Staffordshire Terrier mix
- Update on Griffin
- Update on Oscar
- Update on Francis
- The Days of a Wounded Man
- Profile: B
- Update on Crumpet
- Dear Toronto Councillors
- Cherry Beach dogs
- Peggy Nash and Cheri DiNovo and Animal Laws
- ▼ September (34)