by Isabel Mosseler
The town’s animal control contract with the North Bay & District Humane Society (SPCA) came under scrutiny last week as West Nipissing Council discussed an incident that was brought to its attention. Town CAO Jay Barbeau explained that an animal was left at a local pet store on a recent weekend and the store owner contacted the SPCA. She was told it was not an emergency, that she could either drop off the animal herself or hold the animal until the Monday.
According to Barbeau, the contract stipulates that emergencies constitute injured cats or dogs where the owner cannot be found, assistance requested by police, and animals in distress, and unless these conditions are met “they are not going to come out”. He said that he spoke to the executive director of the North Bay facility and was advised that a call not qualifying as an “emergency” is an extra $110 plus .55/km for travel.
Mayor Joanne Savage insisted that if a person drops off a dog and walks away, that animal is in distress and this constitutes an emergency. “It just happened to be a pet store …The owner of the business did not have the capacity to lodge the dog …didn’t know the character of the dog.” She added that the response of the SPCA, in her opinion, was lacking. “The response was that it’s not deemed to be an emergency… It would be the same if someone opened my door and left a dog and ran away. What if I opened the doors and let the dog go at large? Then it becomes an emergency. …The way the message was articulated, the response the caller received – ‘We are short staffed, we don’t have the manpower, we don’t have the resources’.”
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She added that when the contract with the SPCA was renewed, the focus was on dollar value. “If there is an emergency we have to have a plan …so if they are not being serviced by the Humane Society, who do we call?”
Coun. Guilles Tessier noted that at the time of contract negotiations, he clearly asked if the SPCA provided a 24-hour service. “The answer was an outright “no.””
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Councillor Yvon Duhaime agreed with the mayor’s analysis and suggested, “Maybe in the interim we should provide a little space if these situations happen.” Coun. Norm Roberge was opposed. “No, we won’t build a holding pen,” he said, noting this was a major undertaking with many laws the municipality would have to comply with. “That person could have called the police and then the police call the Humane Society – that’s all the person had to do, was call the police.”