SPCA poised to lose contract
By Nelson Bennett
Six workers with the SPCA in Richmond will be out of a job at the end of January, if council ratifies a recommendation to award the contract for animal control to a local volunteer shelter.
The city's community safety committee Tuesday voted to award a two-year contract for animal control services to the Richmond Animal Protection Society (RAPS).
The decision means six full-time SPCA staff would lose their jobs.
"It's very discouraging, this time of year, to have to give that news to people," said Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
Paying full-time staff was one of the reasons the SPCA's contract bid was much higher than the bid submitted by RAPS, which relies heavily on volunteers.
Chortyk wonders if the volunteer society will be able to provide the level of service the city and the public will expect.
"I really hope the level of service is maintained," she said.
The SPCA's bid would have cost the city $579,884. The SPCA would have run the city animal shelter only, at a cost of $396,000. The city would have to provide city bylaw enforcement officers to pick up stray dogs and cats, at an added cost of $143,884.
RAPS' bid, by contrast, will cost the city only $340,000. Included in that bid is the cost of providing animal control services.
Coun. Bill McNulty said it wasn't just costs that swayed him to vote in favour of awarding the contract to RAPS. He said there had been complaints from the public about the SPCA.
"Too often people were not getting the correct response from the SPCA when they had issues," McNulty said.
The city itself was not always happy with the SPCA's service. Under the existing agreement with the SPCA, the agency was supposed to provide 56 hours of animal control services per week - something a city staff report says it didn't always provide.
According to the report, "internal issues with the SPCA-BC has on numerous occasions forced our city staff to respond to calls."
While RAPS would be responsible for running the city's animal shelter at the south end of No. 5 Road, the SPCA will continue to be the only legally recognized body allowed to investigate animal cruelty complaints.
One thing the new operator may have a hard time dealing with is pit bulls. A city bylaw prevents the adoption of pit bulls, Chortyk said.
With dozens of offices throughout B.C., the SPCA was able to transfer pit bulls - among other animals - out of Richmond to other shelters, where they could then be adopted out.
"With us, we can move them to be adopted elsewhere, so RAPS won't be able to do that," Chortyk said.
But that movement works both ways, McNulty said. Under the agreement with RAPS, he said animals will not be brought to Richmond from other shelters.
"It's local," he said. "Animals will not be brought in from other parts of the province."
published on 12/15/2006