Meeting Tuesday night, city councillors heard that at least some of the changes would lead to higher costs. But staff said they will research “best practices” in other communities to get a better idea of what changes would mean here.
The reforms are a result of public consultations held last December, which elicited a strong response from the public. Guido Mazza, the city's director of building services, told councillors there are a number of improvements that can be made without increasing costs.
For example, whoever wins the city's animal control contract will be required to report such things as complaints they receive and how they were dealt with. The city will also take over communications, meaning they will have to get permission before talking to the media.
They will also have to have photo ID, uniforms and vehicles identifying themselves as city contractors. The report also recommends setting up a system in which anyone who wants to contact them will be able to call the main 311 number.
The costlier items include requiring the use of a veterinarian when animals are euthanized. The public consultation also found a strong demand for longer operating hours for the shelter, with a seven-day-a-week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. being the preferred schedule.
Also on the list is a longer redemption period, which currently is three days. The redemption period is the time pet owners have to claim their missing pets before they are killed.
“The proposed amendments in this report will increase cost recovery of service, efficiency of staff resources and safety to the community,” Mazza said. “As part of the report to council prior to contract award, staff will also detail the estimate of increase in cost recovery due to the increase in fees and fines.”
Changes in current limits on pet ownership is also being considered. Currently, you can own a maximum of two dogs and four pets in total. They will research what the rules are in other cities, but Mazza said relaxing the limits could have a benefit.
“Increasing the limits on pet ownership and ensuring responsible pet ownership by enforcing the regulations may result in fewer animals in pound facilities and fewer subject to eventual destruction.”
Offering free adoptions also may be a way to reduce the pet population in the shelter, he said. The new rules will also include a banned pet list, as opposed to the current system which only says which pets you can legally have. Only poisonous snakes are banned outright.
Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said she opposes the free adoption idea because it may lead to more unwanted pets.
“The animals coming out of the pound should all be spayed and neutered,” Landry-Altmann said.
When told that animals that have been killed are dumped in the city's landfill, Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau asked for a review of that policy, suggesting a crematorium might be more appropriate. It would likely cost more, but would be safer.
“I would have concerns about animals with rabies going into the landfill,” he said.
“If this council wishes to raise the bar, so to speak, we'd be happy to look at that,” Mazza replied.
He also suggested linking where you live to how many pets you can have. Rural residents could likely raise more than two dogs, but apartment dwellers might not be able to handle four pets.
“The one-size fits all approach isn't a great idea,” he said.
A report on new policies and what they would cost will come back to councillors in the spring. Since 2004, the animal control contract has been held by Wenrick Kennels in Azilda.