Animal Advocates Watchdog

BC SPCA Negative Press: Donna Liberson, ARC: Vancouver Sun: January 30, 2004

The Vancouver Sun January 30, 2004: Euthanizing the SPCA is compassionate thing to do: Former volunteer details her disillusionment about the treatment of animals

Donna Liberson ARC, Special to the Sun

"All my life I had been a strong supporter of the B.C. SPCA -- until I became a volunteer. That put me in a position to get a close-up view of its practices and procedures. I was appalled.

The society has now embarked on a reorganization effort, but I believe that the animals will be best served by euthanizing the society. Its problems are so ingrained and widespread that it's beyond repair.

The SPCA recently ran advertisements focusing public attention on the need to spay and neuter pets. But the society itself doesn't spay or neuter most pets it adopts out. It claims it cannot afford to. So, how did it find the funds two years ago to send management staff to Europe and San Francisco to study animal welfare practices?

The results of their foreign studies: B.C. SPCA shelters are overflowing with healthy cats and dogs that are killed to make way for more adoptable kittens and puppies. But even these are not spayed or neutered. So the cycle repeats itself.

The society recognizes volunteer contributions, but continues to drive them away. Volunteers expect that animals in the SPCA's care will be treated humanely. But many injured animals are killed when the owners can't afford exorbitant medical bills. It's cheaper to kill the animals than provide veterinary care for which donation dollars have been collected.

Every time there is a public outcry, the society reacts by reorganizing. After every reorganization, the problems persist. The cost of severance packages and reorganization is draining donation dollars meant for animal care, and spaying and neutering.

Instead of using its exclusive power under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to investigate and prosecute animal abuse, the society uses the power to intimidate animal welfare groups through raids on privately run shelters. The animal welfare groups, of course, are considered competition for public donations.

The irony is, the SPCA is above scrutiny. No one finds out how animals in its care are treated. In fact, the society investigates itself with no appeal process or requirement to disclose findings.

The society does not receive tax dollars to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Investigation and enforcement are costly. Therefore, any cruelty investigations are funded by donations. The SPCA chooses to proceed with only the cases that will pay their own way -- those that help it attract donations.

I am aware of one case in the Lower Mainland in which 19 cats were seized last spring for being "in distress." The cats were destroyed when the owner could not pay for their release. The SPCA veterinarian report recommended that the 40 cats left behind be spayed and neutered because overcrowding caused the distress. The report, which I have a copy of, warned of dire consequences if this was not done. It also recommended the animals left behind be treated for parasites as a preventive measure against stunted growth and ill health. Six months later, after the SPCA had been monitoring the exploding population and still not spaying or neutering or treating the remaining cats, it seized an additional 52 cats. Yet again, 25 unspayed and unneutered cats were left behind.

Luckily for them, homes have been found by the Animal Rights Coalition and all the cats have been treated and spayed or neutered thanks to funding from Aid To Animals in Distress. Both of these groups are private charities.

It is wrong for the SCPA, a charitable organization, to have absolute power, flexing it against animals and independent animal welfare groups.

Investigative and enforcement powers need to rest with government agencies. Investigators should be under control of the government. If this happens, activities could be monitored and this new organization would be accountable under the Freedom of Information Act. At present, no one is able to find out what the B.C. SPCA is or is not doing.

Enough time and animals' lives have been wasted as the SPCA tried again and again to figure out a way to help animals. It hasn't figured out, even after 103 years, that spaying and neutering is the key. Maybe executives are worried that if there aren't stray animals around, they'll be out of jobs.

Let's euthanize the BCSPCA. It's the only compassionate thing to do.

Donna Liberson is with the Animal Rights Coalition in Vancouver. "

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