Wednesday, 24 January 2018

What happened to Montreal's animal shelter?

Delays, cost overruns dog Montreal's animal shelter
In 2011, the city announced it would build a centre to reduce the number of abandoned or stray dogs and cats destroyed. So what happened?
Published on: January 24, 2018 | Last Updated: January 24, 2018 4:30 PM EST
Of the more than 26,000 lost, abandoned or stray dogs and cats that end up in shelters every year in Montreal, an estimated 50 to 60 per cent are put down for want of a home, according to city figures.
That works out to slightly more than 1,000 dogs and cats killed each month.
In Calgary, where the dog population is of similar size, the euthanization rate for dogs is about five per cent.
There is no simple explanation for the glaring discrepancy, but what Calgary has and Montreal lacks is an animal-services centre that has helped position the city among the leaders in animal control in North America.
In 2011, the city of Montreal announced it would build such a centre to drastically reduce the number of animals needlessly destroyed, but that was four mayors ago. The centre was supposed to open in 2016.

Not only has the project been delayed, but the estimated cost has skyrocketed from $23 million to $46 million — roughly $41 million more than what Calgary paid for its bare-bones but vaunted facility in 2000.
The price has surged because the proposed site is a former municipal dump heavily contaminated with hydrocarbons and other toxins. Decontamination costs could amount to as much as the cost of the centre itself.
Last week, the new administration of Mayor Valérie Plante told the Montreal Gazette that if the centre is built, it might not be until 2022. More than $1 million has already been spent on studies and plans.
Meanwhile, construction is underway on a similar animal-services centre in Laval — for $15.3 million. It’s scheduled to open in 2019.
Requests for interviews with Montreal civil servants working on the dossier have been refused. A new call for tenders is in the works, explained city spokesperson Gonzalo Nunez, and those with knowledge of the file “don’t have all the elements needed for answers in hand.”
Last week, during a meeting of the city’s finance committee to study the 2018 municipal budget, the latest estimated price of $46 million came to light, thanks to questions posed by opposition councillor and committee president Richard Deschamps.
“Is there no one at the city who thinks this doesn’t make sense?” said Deschamps, quoted in Le Devoir. “It’s troubling.”
Seven years after the facility was first promised, costs are spiralling and its future remains in doubt, along with the fate of tens of thousands of animals it was designed to save.

It was under the administration of then-mayor Gérald Tremblay that Montreal first proposed to build a Calgary-style centre to better protect its animals.
The decision was spurred by citizen outrage over news reports depicting cruelty at shelters run by Berger Blanc, and statistics showing Montreal has some of the highest animal-abandonment and euthanization rates in North America.
Then and now, most boroughs signed contracts with either the for-profit Berger Blanc or non-profit Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to handle lost or abandoned pets or wild animals in distress.
The city envisioned operating its own animal-services centre, including a veterinary clinic, rather than sub-contracting to outside shelters. This approach would help harmonize services, improve return and adoption rates and allow the city to promote responsible pet ownership.
Acknowledging their lack of expertise, city officials consulted with a committee of experts and hired veterinarian Suzanne Lecompte in 2012 at a cost of $76,000 to develop a new animal-services model.
In 2014, new mayor Denis Coderre announced the centre would be built in the Villeray—St-Michel—Parc-Extension borough, on Pie-IX Blvd. between 42nd and 47th Sts., at a cost of $23 million for the building, equipment and professional services.
The Tremblay administration had initially chosen a site at Angrignon Park in LaSalle, but Coderre said the new location would put the facility in an area with the highest pet concentration in the city, which would increase rates of return and decrease operating costs.
The centre would be able to handle 14,000 animals a year. It would employ 90 people and be managed by a non-profit organization, with annual operating costs of $7 million, while existing shelters like Berger Blanc and the Montreal SPCA would continue to offer services as well.
The SPCA, which provides services to nine boroughs and three demerged cities, remains a vocal promoter of the new animal shelter. It handles about 16,000 animals a year, 2,000 of them wild, spokesperson Anita Kapuscinska said. 
Berger Blanc, which the city says handles about 12,000 pets a year in contracts with seven boroughs, did not respond to requests for interviews or statistics.
With the change of venue, the scheduled opening of the new centre moved from 2016 to 2018, as it requires relocating the city-owned municipal yards to make way for the shelter and outdoor dog runs.
In 2015, city council approved a $3.2-million contract for architectural, engineering and landscaping services, executive summaries issued by the city show. 
Craig Sauvé, the Projet Montréal councillor responsible for animal services under the new administration at city hall, said to date, more than $1 million has been spent on plans and analyses.
Also in February 2015, city council approved a contract for $84,733.99 to hire consulting firm Legico-CHP to monitor the project and ensure against cost overruns.
In 2016, the city’s 2017-2020 capital works budget revealed the price estimate for the facility had jumped from $23 million to $34 million. The city said the sudden rise was because of studies showing the proposed location had been used as a dump site and would require decontamination.
Because of the hike in costs, city council approved, in May 2017, an increase in fees to be paid to Legico-CHP for its consulting work, to $111,288.09.
During the last two years, the city issued four calls for tenders to move the municipal yards to make room for the animal centre. The first was cancelled because the city was unable to purchase the adjoining piece of land to which it was planning to move its municipal yard. The second call for tenders, to move the yard to another location, was cancelled because no one bid, city spokesperson Nunez said. The third call, again to move the yards, failed because the bid that came in was two times higher than city estimates. Other entrepreneurs contacted by the city said they were too busy to take on the project.
A fourth call for tenders, to move the municipal yards and decontaminate the site, was issued in October. The deadline for bids was last week. They are currently being studied by the city.
“The administration of Denis Coderre did not factor the costs of decontamination into its estimate,” Sauvé said, calling the omission “irresponsible.”
The city also is faced with the problem of finding a new site for the municipal yards to be displaced. All options are open, Sauvé said, including keeping the yards where they are and finding a new place for the animal-services centre. 
“Right now we’re still doing the cost analysis,” he said. “We want to make sure that wherever we go, we’re getting the best bang for our buck, that we’re responsible with taxpayers’ money — and that it’s going to serve the purposes that it needs.”

How Calgary solved its euthanization problem
It took Calgary about 15 years to create its “responsible pet owner” model that resulted in one of the lowest animal abandonment and euthanization rates in North America.
It hadn’t been done before, “so we had to learn from scratch, and try things, and fail, and try them again,” Bill Bruce, the city’s former head of animal services, told the Montreal Gazette.
Now that the template has been created, he believes Montreal could adopt a similar model within three to four years.
“It’s a lot of work, but it pays huge dividends,” Bruce said. “In North America, we don’t have a problem with overpopulation and stray animals — we have a problem with responsible pet ownership.”
Calgary started with a long public-awareness campaign. The message to residents: paying for an annual dog or cat licence (now $39 and $18, respectively) is not just a tax, but helps attain a much higher rate of return of lost pets to their owners.
The licence fees also go toward paying for inspectors and the city’s animal-services centre, which allows the city to put abandoned animals up for adoption instead of euthanizing them.
Overall, the Calgary approach has led to fewer animal issues and a safer community for everyone, Bruce said.
Pet owners are asked to perform four tasks: license your pets and equip them with an identification tag or microchip; sterilize them; ensure their physical and psychological health through exercise and diet; and don’t let them become a nuisance.
“If you can do those four things, you can have any animal you want, and as many of them as you want,” Bruce said.
Calgary dismissed the idea of banning certain breeds of dogs, as Montreal tried to do, saying research has shown breed-specific legislation does not result in fewer attacks.
Instead, the city follows up on reports of aggressive behaviour, and advises owners of training that is necessary if they want to keep their animals. In 98 per cent of cases, owners comply, Bruce said.
Calgary built its latest animal services centre in 2000 for $3.5 million. An extension for veterinary services quarters was added later a cost of $1.5 million.
At 21,000 square feet, it’s half the size of Montreal’s proposed shelter, despite the fact Calgary has a similar number of dogs as Montreal — roughly 120,000, but less than half the estimated number of cats (90,000).
Calgary decided it would not need a large centre because it did not plan on holding the animals for long. The shelter has spaces for 84 cats and 80 dogs, and cages tend to be mostly empty.
During his time there, from 2000 to 2012, Bruce said 95 per cent of the roughly 5,000 dogs that came in each year were either returned to their owner or put up for adoption.
Only 4.5 per cent had to be euthanized, because of extreme health or behavioural problems. Current figures are roughly the same, he said.
“The whole key to Calgary’s model for animal services was not housing them,” Bruce said. “We just want to get them back home as soon as possible.”
Revenue generated by licence fees covers the $6-million annual cost of operating the shelter and paying its two dozen animal inspectors and other employees.
In Montreal, thanks to a concerted push under the last administration, the number of dogs that are licensed jumped from about 15 per cent in 2016 to 41 per cent today, the city says.
“Changing the model from euthanization to responsible pet ownership is a complicated process, but there are a lot of people in Montreal that want it, so hopefully they can pull it off,” Bruce said.
“I’m excited to see what Montreal is doing.”

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

A story in La Presse Newspaper: The Overpopulation of cats in Canada



Une nouvelle étude concernant la surpopulation de chats au Canada révèle que davantage de félins sont maintenant stérilisés afin de limiter le nombre de portées non désirées, mais qu’il y a toujours plus de chats que de personnes prêtes à les accueillir sous leur toit.
Le rapport récemment publié par la Fédération des sociétés canadiennes d’assistance aux animaux (FSCAA) recommande d’en faire plus pour encourager les propriétaires de chats à faire stériliser leurs animaux, même lorsqu’il s’agit de chatons âgés de six semaines.
« La surpopulation de chats demeure un défi pour les collectivités partout au Canada », dit l’étude.
« Les refuges accueillent toujours deux fois plus de chats que de chiens, et le nombre de jeunes chats est aussi deux fois plus élevé que le nombre de jeunes chiens, ce qui signifie que les portées non désirées sont toujours un problème. »
Le rapport fait suite à une étude similaire effectuée il y a cinq ans. Il comprend les résultats d’un sondage mené par Ipsos en mai dernier.
Les nouvelles données indiquent que plus de chats sont adoptés et moins sont euthanasiés, et que plus de félins perdus sont rendus à leur maître.
Moins de Canadiens laissent leurs chats se promener à l’extérieur où ils courent le risque d’être blessés par des véhicules ou de se battre avec d’autres félins ou d’autres animaux.
Le nombre de chats déjà stérilisés qui arrivent dans les refuges est en hausse, et plus de chats sont stérilisés par les organismes pour les animaux.
Mais l’étude souligne qu’il y a encore trop de chats et que la situation ne changera pas tant que les taux de stérilisation n’auront pas augmenté.
Le rapport note qu’il y a environ 9,3 millions de chats au Canada.
— La Presse canadienne

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

2017 Cats Concert is August 22: Tickets are Now on Sale

The Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee (CSLCC) will hold its annual benefit concert on Tuesday, August 22 (7:30 p.m.) at the Syd Wise Auditorium (5785 Parkhaven) of the Wagar Adult Education Centre.  Featured performers will be the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Milo. Some members of his orchestra  will  also present solo performances. The selection of music will be light classical pieces around the theme of Dance.  Soprano Fairouz Oujida will be a special guest. If you want to see how outstanding she is, click here or on the video below.

Funds raised will go towards the CSLCC’s Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt Program. There are many feral cats in the community. The CSLCC’s team of volunteers sets out to trap as many as possible, have them sterilized and then adopted or returned to the spot where they were originally found.  In the latter case, efforts are made to assist the feeders in the community. The committee has also rescued a number of  kittens and found homes for them. 
Fairouz Oujida

Councillor Mike Cohen, responsible for Animal Protection in the city, notes that the concert will be an opportunity for people who love animals to enjoy an evening of fine music while contributing to a good cause.   He also wishes to announce that  Expedia Cruise Ship Centres, with franchisee Sean Flynn; Little Bear Pet Supplies on St. Catherine Street in Westmount and D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum,  will be the evening’s official sponsors.

The Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra (MWSO) was founded in 2006 by conductor  Milo and his wife Lucy Ravinsky. This one of a kind orchestra is composed of 55 musicians: about 80 percent of its members are from 15 countries around the world, while the remaining 20 percent are natives of Montreal who successfully facilitated the integration of the newcomers. They have been rehearsing at Côte Saint-Luc City Hall for many years and as part of the arrangement, they agree to perform a benefit concert once a year. The CSL Cats Committee  and Educhat are  the 2016 beneficiaries.

Tickets are only $12 each (tax included) and can be purchased now at the following locations: the main desk at the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library (5851 Cavendish Boulevard); the Côte Saint-Luc Aquatic and Community Centre (5794 Parkhaven Avenue); and the Côte Saint-Luc Hospital for Animals (7930 Baily Road). Tickets can be purchased at the first two locations by credit and debit card or cash and cash only at the Animal Hospital.

Councillors Cohen and Sam Goldbloom note that information will be available that night for people interested in possibly joining the committee or adopting a cat.  The committee will hold a bake sale before the concert and at intermission, with proceeds going to the outdoor cat feeding program.

The committee wishes to thank Jacques Monfette, Michel Leblanc, Hipolito Corral and the staff at the Wagar Adult Education Centre for their cooperation, as well as key event coordinators Alvin Fishman, Harold Cammy, Maurizio Giobbi,  Regine Banon and Lisa Milner for their assistance.

For more information call 514-485-6806, ext. 2200 or log on to

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ritchie has been adopted

Here is Ritchie.  He was born in CSL Cats Committee Chairman Diane Liebling's  garage nine weeks ago.  He was an only child, so he got all of his mom's attention and he thrived.  He has been adopted by Brian and Ashley.  "I'll miss the little guy!" says Diane.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

May 2017 update on Cats Committee Activities

 Here is an update for the year so far from our committee, along with the usual plea for fosters and adopters.

It has been  busy year thus far.  We have trapped nine cats on one street alone. Unfortunately, a mother cat and her four  offspring remain “at large” on that same street, but one way or another, we will trap them.

We produced information flyers and committee members have been delivering them door to door. This is spreading awareness and we hope bringing us a few new volunteers.   For the people who are calling to complain about the cats they see (with requests to take them away, no less)…. we can only assume they are not reading the flyer correctly. We try to be patient and educate them,  but we understand their frustration.

For those of you who have not been on Facebook lately, please check out our new public page. There we are now holding a contest to give away a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day, courtesy of Alex at Westminster Florist.  

We will be doing one of these contests every  twomonths or so in order to get our name out there; the more people who know about us, the better.  There is no downside to this.  Our next gift is a “cat basket” of goodies and a $50  gift certificate, courtesy of Little Bear in Westmount. We will be holding this just prior to moving day, July 1, so look for it on Facebook.

If anyone knows of vendors in the Montreal area who would like to donate a gift, please let us know.   After July, the next draw will be in September/October.

The CSL Mega Garage Sale is May 28.  We will be promoting our booth on Facebook so watch out for it.

 While Trap Neuter Release Maintain is our mandate, the plight of abandoned, yet sociable, cats remains a huge problem for us.  We cannot simply release cats that should, and must be fostered or adopted.

We implore everyone to “think outside the box” to get these cats a home.  Currently we have five on our roster but, as we work in conjunction with Educhat, there are many more.

Here are descriptions of some of our cats needing homes.

Darwin.  He is an older (around 10 year old) cat that must be re-homed due to severe allergies.  He is great with people, but not so much with other cats. The prospect of finding someone without any cats is dim, so we believe the right person with patience and knowledge, and just one other cat, will be able to integrate him.  There is no fee for Darwin,  but a donation would be  graciously accepted.

 Ginger. She is  around  eight and a half and lives with Darwin.  She needs to be re-homed for the same reason.  Ginger is very shy at first,  but will become a lap cat in no time,  No fee for her either.

Jack and Jill are under a year old. They were  found half frozen a couple of months ago behind the CSL Shopping Centre.  They are doing very well in foster care. They have been spayed and neutered and received their first vaccination.  While we would like them adopted together, we have to be realistic and realize we may have to separate them if necessary. We ask $150 for each of our CSL cats,  but if you adopt them together, we will do better.  

 Addie was part of a small feral colony.  She was too social to let back outside and now we want to find her an indoor home. She may or may not have been owned before and then abandoned.  She can be very sweet and will let you pet and stroke her,  but will let you know the exact moment you have gone too far. We are not asking an adoption fee for Addie,  but a donation would be grand!

Little Ritchie is four weeks old.  He was born in the  garage of  our chairman, Diane Liebling from a  community cat that we did not know was pregnant.  She only had this one itty bitty kitty and while mom is none too crazy about people, she's been a great and patient mom to Ritchie.  He has more than tripled his birth weight and is very healthy.  He will be ready for adoption in in a few weeks.  We ask $150 for him, which includes his first vaccination, deworming and neutering (at a later date).

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Two beautiful sister tabbies available for adoption

Maggie (on the left) and Lulu (on the right) are two adorable sister tabbies! Sixteen months old, they have been neutered and vaccinated, and are in perfect health. They are playful and affectionate, the perfect combination! They are both looking for loving homes, and someone will be so lucky to get either or both of these sweeties! For more information, please contact or 514-485-6945.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

2016 Cats Meow Concert was a big success

By Mike Cohen

How proud am I of the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee (CSLCC), a group I helped established six years ago? Very much so.

We are a small group of volunteers, dedicated to Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt. Few communities on the island of Montreal have such an entity. While the city provides us with an annual grant of $5,000, we need more to fulfil our mission. There are veterinarian bills to pay and supplies to purchase. So a year into our existence we decided to start doing some fundraising. Our biggest event is a concert we present featuring the extraordinary Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Milo.

For a summary of the event click here.

Here is a video of the entire concert