Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making It Up as We Go Along

Imagine how it must feel to work at the SPCA - you spend a great deal of time working with Bylaw Enforcement and the city, having input into a new animal licensing bylaw which should both increase revenues to the SPCA, and include measures to reduce the source of their biggest problem, the uncontrolled reproduction of kittens and puppies, which usually results in unwanted animals being dumped at their doorstep to deal with. Progress has been good, and the bylaw has had its first two readings.

And then, the mayor makes a unilateral decision to remove the differentiation in licensing costs between neutered and unneutered animals (a differentiation that was in the current dog licensing bylaw), removing any financial incentive for pet owners to do the right and responsible thing. Taking a step backwards, making us the only major city in Saskatchewan to not recognize the importance of spaying and neutering. And he chooses to bring this forward, not at Executive Committee the week before, when we could have discussed the pros and cons of doing this, and other options for finding solutions, but when the bylaw is introduced for its third reading. One has to assume that this brilliant thought occurred to him on the spot, because he didn't even have his proposed changes in writing.

Some SPCA representatives were in the audience at the council meeting last Monday evening, and I saw the disappointment and disillusionment in their faces when the changes were proposed, and then passed. Their advice and input, not to mention the time and expense of the report prepared by Bylaw Enforcement, had been cast aside without so much as an apology.

The mayor's changes were apparently made because he heard that some people, who already own unneutered animals, feel that neutering their animal is an expense they can't afford. I would be one of the heartless individuals who suggest that if you can't afford to be a responsible pet owner, then you shouldn't have a pet. If you can't afford the surgery, how can you afford the other basic costs of pet ownership, including regular vet check-ups and vaccinations? And presumably, since the current dog licensing requirements had a cost reduction if your dog was neutered, you haven't been licensing your animal anyway.

Concern for those who feel that they can't afford the extra cost of neutering, was why part of the SPCA proposal was to set up a subsidized neutering program. For the SPCA, the biggest problem isn't funding, it's getting control of the animal population, which in turn would reduce both their costs, and the inevitable stresses that they have to deal with when they have to turn away strays because they're full, and the even worse stress of having to euthanize perfectly healthy animals.

I'm a realist, and I know that for someone who already has an animal, they may have a problem. But that doesn't mean making changes on the fly to a bylaw that had been prepared with considerable thought and consultation. A more sensible approach would have been to request that third reading be delayed until we had a chance to consult with the SPCA and Bylaw Enforcement, and perhaps develop some alternative solutions for those who already have an animal, but are worried that they won't qualify for any subsidized program.

Another alternative would have been to defeat the proposed amendments to the bylaw. Council always has that option, in fact, that's why the third reading process is in place, to allow for changing your vote should circumstances or information change. But this is a council where most members, for reasons that remain beyond me, fear that standing in opposition will result in some horrific punishment from above. And that's sad, because we all were elected to voice our own opinion, not just vote in concert.

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else." - Judy Garland

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