SPCA eager for details about city-wide shelter
Volunteers bring rescues puppies into the Montreal SPCA emergency shelter.
Photograph by: Peter Mccabe , THE GAZETTE

MONTREAL - The Montreal SPCA is eager for details about the city of Montreal’s planned new $23-million city-wide animal shelter so it can decide whether it wants to partner with the city and help run it.

The facility, which the city says could be managed by a non-profit group, won’t open until 2014 and it’s not known yet whether a new building will be built or if an existing facility — like the SPCA’s Jean Talon St. shelter — could be adapted.

Nicholas Gilman, executive director of the SPCA in Montreal, said the group is thrilled about the prospect of a city-run facility, whether or not the SPCA is chosen to run it, because pet overpopulation is still an urgent, growing problem.

An estimated 25,000 cats and dogs are abandoned or lost annually in the Montreal region and they generally end up at either the non-profit SPCA or the privately held Berger Blanc in east-end Montreal. Thousands of these pets are euthanized because not enough people want to adopt them. The two reasons often cited as the main causes of pet overpopulation are the lack of low-cost sterilizations and fines for irresponsible pet owners.

The SPCA and Berger Blanc have lucrative contracts with municipalities on Montreal Island and Laval to pick up dead and stray animals and provide adoption services. But the city of Montreal says it wants its one facility to provide shelter and pound services for all 19 boroughs and possibly the 15 other cities on Montreal Island. The city stated last week it prefers that a non-profit be in control, meaning that Berger Blanc — the focus of a highly publicized TV investigation in 2011 showing botched euthanizations there — could see its business nosedive.

Pierre Couture, president of Berger Blanc, did not return phone calls from The Gazette on Monday.

Gilman said the SPCA needs more information before it can say it wants in. He noted there could still be enough work for the SPCA in Montreal even if it does not play a major role in the new facility. It all depends on the division of responsibilities.

“For example, the city might take in all of the animals and the SPCA could commit to taking those animals that the city cannot adopt” out, Gilman said. “We could take animals that need a home but need more time to allow the public to shop for them. There are lots of ways we could work together.”

Eva Demianowicz, of the Humane Society International Canada, said her group would not be interested in ongoing daily operations of an animal shelter but could offer the city advice.

Martine Painchaud, a spokeswoman for Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, said the city will soon put out a detailed request for bids from non-profit groups to run the new facility. Each of the borough councils should also soon vote on new animal control policies covering things like the maximum number of animals permitted per household (the city says it should be four with no more than two dogs).

This way there will be a “harmonized” set of policies throughout the city, she said. The boroughs will have the choice to send their stray animals to the new facility or not, she said.

Plateau Mont-Royal Borough spokeswoman Catherine Piazzon said the borough’s participation “will come down to the details of what is being offered and how much it costs.” The borough currently pays the SPCA $65,000 a year for animal control in the borough.

Sud-Ouest Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais said “there needs to be a mechanism of accountability” for boroughs to feel comfortable participating in the new citywide facility. Sud-Ouest Borough had to renew its $120,000 annual contract with Berger Blanc in 2010 because the pound was the sole bidder, he noted. The borough “is definitely interested” in a new facilityl but it will depend on the details, Dorais said.

Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau added that his city would also probably be interested. “We all have stray dog and, especially, cat problems,” Rouleau said. “We need to make improvements.”