By Matthew Hoekstra
Dec 14 2006
Every dog has its day—and so does the Richmond Animal Protection Society.
After spending two years preparing to get its paws on the contract to operate the local animal shelter, council is now set to sign with the volunteer group and send the longtime operator to the doghouse.
The community safety committee is recommending council ink a two-year deal with the Richmond Animal Protection Society, formerly known as Richmond Homeless Cats, citing cost and service issues.
The city-owned shelter, at 12071 No. 5 Rd., has long been operated by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But instead of renewing its deal this year, city staff put the contract out for competition.
“We just weren’t satisfied with the level of service the SPCA was now able to offer us under their restructuring of several years ago,” said committee chair Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt.
In 2004, the SPCA said it could no longer provide all animal control services without more cash. Since then, the city’s bylaws department has been taking care of education, dog licensing and stray dogs.
In its new proposal, the SPCA said it could no longer offer any animal control services. With extra city expenses factored in, the contract would cost $579,884.
The society’s proposal offered to maintain animal control services handled by the shelter operator and do it at a lower cost: $340,000.
According to a staff report, the SPCA is not living up to its existing agreement around animal control services, forcing bylaws officers to respond to calls “on numerous occasions.”
The competition was intense. Council had three volumes of correspondence to read, including a stack of form letters submitted by supporters of each bidder.
The Richmond Animal Protection Society is a 17-year-old non-profit group providing rescue, rehabilitation and shelter services for animals.
According to the staff report, the group houses 700 cats at their rented facility on No. 6 Road and also arranges for foster care and adoption of stray, abandoned or otherwise homeless dogs. The Richmond Animal Protection Society also has experience with wild and farm animals.
Halsey-Brandt said having a non-profit group with no experience in municipal operations is not enough of a concern.
“Having a fear of transition is not a good enough reason not to go ahead with something. If you’re not satisfied with the service you’re getting and you’re going to a new provider and they have a track record of able to provide a service, the fact that they haven’t provided it to you directly should not be an impediment...”
While city staff noted the significant difference in cost between the contracts, salaries historically offered by the two societies is also substantial.
According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the Richmond Animal Protection Society’s highest paid full-time employees earn much less than $39,999 (considering their total salary bill was just $32,018 last year), while the five highest paid SPCA staff in B.C. earned between $80,000 and $119,999 in 2005.
Reached yesterday society president Carol Reichert said she would wait until council’s final decision to comment.
SPCA spokesperson Lorie Chortyk didn’t return a call by press time. But in an earlier interview, Chortyk said the SPCA can provide services others can’t, particularly around cruelty investigations, night emergencies and with its assessment program for animal temperament.
If the Richmond Animal Protection Society is awarded the contract, however, the SPCA will still be required under provincial mandate to enforce the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Halsey-Brandt said all responses to cruelty concerns will continue to be made from the SPCA’s Vancouver office, and the new Richmond shelter operator would transfer cruelty calls to that office.
Several Lower Mainland communities have already moved away from the SPCA for shelter services, including the District of North Vancouver, the City of Coquitlam, Delta and Langley.
Council is expected to formally vote on the contract at a council meeting scheduled for Dec. 19, following a planning committee meeting at 4 p.m.