Vancouver Sun, January 22, 2004: SPCA urges an end to backbiting among animal activists
by (BC SPCA CEO) Craig Daniell
"The BC SPCA has been the target of much snapping and snarling in the media this past year by a small, but vocal group of animal rights critics. While some of their criticisms have been valid, it is time to set the record straight on some important issues.
The SPCA is not a government-funded agency and relies almost entirely on donations to carry out its extensive mission work in cruelty investigations, sheltering and adoption, emergency rescue and treatment, humane education, advocacy, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and farm animal welfare initiatives such as the innovative "SPCA-Certified" food-labelling program.
While the SPCA has made major strides towards spaying and neutering all of the animals leaving its shelters, improving the quality of life for shelter animals and increasing adoption rates, the sheer volume of animals falling into the SPCA's safety net - more than 60,000 every year - means that the cost of caring for the animals will always exceed the resources available.
Only when people take responsibility for the life-long care of their pets, including spaying and neutering, will we successfully stem the tragic flow of animals being dumped at shelters or seized from neglectful and cruel situations.
Despite the challenges, the SPCA has been one of the main forces behind dramatic improvements for animals in our province.
In the mid-1970s, the SPCA in the Greater Vancouver region had no choice but to euthanize more than 70,000 unwanted and abandoned dogs and cats each year because no homes could be found for them. Today, the BC SPCA has achieved one of the lowest euthanasia rates anywhere in North America, with virtually no adoptable animals euthanized in urban centres.
The SPCA has spent millions of dollars on spay-and-neuter programs and decades of hard-hitting humane education messages have paid off with more informed and responsible pet guardians. In addition to its cruelty prevention programs, the BC SPCA set a new record for cruelty investigation cases submitted to Crown counsel in 2003. The Society seized more than 1,300 animals from dangerous situations, including hundreds of dogs rescued during a province-wide crackdown on puppy mills.
No organization is perfect, particularly in the not-for-profit sector where charities struggle to address overwhelming social problems with limited resources. But those who throw stones at the SPCA should give the organization credit for the massive internal reforms that have taken place during the past year to move from a $4.5-million deficit to a balanced budget for 2004 and to reduce total administration costs to less than 11 per cent of the operating budget. Few charities can boast such a streamlined, efficient structure and the SPCA did not achieve this without enormous effort and determination.
These same critics should also consider what life would be like for animals in British Columbia without the SPCA.
Last year alone, 30,000 homeless and abandoned animals would not have received emergency medical treatment and shelter until a new loving family could be found for them. Thousands of lost pets would not have been reunited with their anxious families. Millions of farm animals subjected to inhumane conditions would have lost an advocate fighting for better farm welfare practices. Nearly 2,000 deer, birds, river otters and other wildlife would have died of injuries instead of being rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Thousands of school children would not have been taught the importance of respecting and caring for animals and for all living things.
Most importantly, those who inflict horrific cruelty on animals - those who find it acceptable to hang a cat with barbed wire, to set fire to a dog doused with lighter fluid or to let an animal die a slow and excruciating death from starvation - would not have been brought to justice for their crimes.
It is easy to take shots at the SPCA, but for the 60,000 animals rescued by the society last year, it provided an escape and a haven from suffering.
It is my sincere hope that those who love animals will put aside their differences and conflicts so that we can work together to address the serious animal welfare problems that are still a sad reality in our province.
Craig Daniell is chief executive officer of the BC SPCA "