With reports showing municipal bylaw officers spend 40 per cent of thier time chasing cats and dogs around the city, Prince Albert's Board of Police Commissioners recommended shifting animal control duties into the hands of the local SPCA.
A request to forward a the new Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw to an upcoming council meeting for three readings was discussed at length by city council’s executive committee Monday night. The new bylaw would repeal the current law and implement the new agreement. The Board of Police Commissioners has desired for some time to contract animal control services out to a third party, largely to save costs. With the SPCA already taking the animals and possessing all the necessary equipment, an Animal Control Service Agreement was penned between the agencies to test the new service until Dec. 31, 2019. The police service would pay the SPCA $75,000 per year, including that amount as a startup fee, adjusted for the remaining time in the year. After 2019, the fee structure would be renegotiated. The SPCA would hire new employees to fill the roles.
Though most councillors agreed this was a great way to save costs and refocus the efforts of bylaw officers to enforce more prudent laws, some were uneasy over a possible drop in service levels.
Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha agreed the move was “long overdue,” but took issue with the proposed hours of operation and available personnel. He cited part of the agreement which said the SPCA Animal Control Office shall ensure the telephone service is available to the public from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. but would include a messaging system after hours. Botha worried residents would have to wait too long for service if someone was not readily available to check the calls.
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp grilled city staff and City Manager Jim Toye on a long list of concerns, from carryover of prior offences and how the new ACOs would be identified, to what training they would undergo and what degree savings would be possible.
It was noted that all prior offences would be dropped, as the regulation would now be enforced under the new bylaw. City staff noted any training or outfits for ACOs with the SPCA fall outside of their jurisdiction. Bylaw officers will still be able to assist the SPCA should they need backup for any reason.
"It is a trial period,” Bylaw Enforcement Manager Suzie Stubbs said. “There are going to be kinks going through the process.”
On cutting costs, Toye said it was a police commission decision and referenced reports outlining the large chunk of time bylaw officers were wasting chasing animals at large.
“Dogs and cats were taking 40 per cent of their time. If we free them from that time, we believe that the SPCA, paying them is cheaper,” he said. “This will be a wiser use of dollars, rather than chasing dogs and cats.”
Toye was not alone in his belief, as Mayor Greg Dionne said the driving force behind the change was “100 per cent cost.” The mayor said city council has decried the expense wasted on chasing animals around for years. He also said there were few other agencies who could actually do the work.
“It was just a natural fit. They have the facility, they have the medical staff, they have the people to take care of them … I don’t know who else we could go too. This is going to save big money,” he said. “I have no issue with bylaw keeping them if we want to keep spending a couple hundred thousand we don’t have too. The best fit when it comes to cats and dogs is the SPCA.”
Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards agreed, believing it will allow bylaw officers to enforce more prudent bylaws.
“This is a win-win situation for the city. There are lots of bylaws … that we can refocus on and clean up the city a little bit,” he said.
Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky said animal control boiled down to educating the public on responsible pet ownership to help lower costs for everyone.
The Animal Control Service Agreement and the new Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw passed, with councillors Charlene Miller and Lennox-Zepp opposed. The documents will be forwarded to an upcoming city council meeting for formal approval.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 8:22 a.m. on Thursday, June 28, 2018 to clarify details of the proposed payments between the police service and SPCA.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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