Sep 20, 2012 / 5:00 am
A group of residents concerned with the practices inside the Animal Control Department at the Regional District Central Okanagan (RDCO) sat in on the district's meeting Monday night.
Julia Trops accuses the RDCO of euthanizing 1,576 dogs over the past nine years, saying the information and background is all available in the district's annual reports online.
Trops says she tried to put in a delegation for the Monday meeting after hearing that a consultant would present a report on the Animal Control Department within the RDCO in October, as this would be the last time the district would address the issue.
"I was refused a delegation both for the RDCO and for the meeting in West Kelowna because I was told they were not accepting anymore animal control delegations from the public until after the review is done, and only if there is context for discussion."
However, Trops and a few dog lovers attended the meeting anyway. They did not address the board, but instead let giant posters speak for them.
"One sign said exactly what I had written, '1,576 dogs killed by RDCO, that's a dog every two days for the past nine years', and that information is accurate," says Trops.
But Bruce Smith, communications officer for the RDCO, tells a different story. He says although that number is accurate, the situations regarding the euthanizations cannot be generalized.
Using the months from January to August of this year as an example, Bruce Smith says 67 dogs have been euthanized, and 57 of those were voluntarily surrendered by the owners.
"So that means their dog either bit someone or was aggressive, or dog control staff talked to them and they decided their dog should be euthanized. "
Of the remaining 10 dogs euthanized this year, Smith says each one was evaluated and deemed unadoptable either because of health concerns or signs of aggression.
The 67 dogs euthanized by the RDCO represent just one sixth of the total dogs that were kenneled in the district's care since January.
Since 2003, the percentage of dogs euthanized has decreased by 11 per cent. Down to or 213 dogs in 2012.
In all cases, the dogs are kept for 72 hours minimum in order to give enough time for animal control officers to track down the owner.
According to Smith, if no owner is found, an assessment is conducted by the animal control officers, and if the dog is adoptable, the SPCA is called in to give their own assessment.
"The SPCA determines if they can take the dog or give it to another shelter, which sometimes happens. Quite often, the Kelowna shelter is full, so we approach the Penticton shelter."
Never, under any circumstances, is a dog euthanized immediately based on breed, says Smith.
The RDCO policy states that the only time a dog is put down without an assessment or investigation is if the owner of the dog asks for their pet to be euthanized.
"That recent case involving the young boy who was bit by the pit bull, the owner voluntarily surrendered the dog to us without reporting the attack to us. But the owner voluntarily gave us the dog to put down knowing it was aggressive because it bit a boy," says Smith.
Smith confirmed that the Animal Control Service Review is taking place. The Regional Board was concerned with the cost of dog control after the budget reached one million dollars for this year.
"(The Board) asked for an overall service review to find out how we can improve the service and how we can make it more effective for rate payers, as well as come up with recommendations and suggestions with how we can improve service."
Currently, Animal Control is one of the largest sectors within the Regional District, with nine employees, the same as the finance department.
Another issue that was attempted to be brought up at the Regional District meeting on Monday night was that of Diesel the dog, a German shepherd mix, whose been on "death row" for the past year and a half.
The case is currently being appealed before a court and would not be discussed by any board members.
However, Diesel's owner, Dave Smith, says he attended the meeting, as he is concerned that the Animal Control officers do not have adequate training and that there are not proper procedures in place, which worries Smith about his dog's welfare.
"They didn't respond to my counter offer (on Diesel), and even the judge said they are not equipped to be doing what they are doing in the pound, and it's cruel."
Both Smith and Trops say they hope the Animal Control Service Review will bring about accountability and improvements when the presentation is given in October.
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