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Capri calls for new animal shelter
NPA accused of putting dogs before people
Sandra Thomas
Vancouver Courier

An East Side woman wants to know why city council is considering spending millions of dollars on a new animal shelter when so many homeless people need shelter of their own.

"Especially when only 15 per cent of Vancouverites own dogs," said Elizabeth Wilkinson, a former member of the now defunct parks board-driven dog strategy task force. "Council wants to spend tax dollars on pets rather than on amenities for basic human needs. Other cities have self-funding models where dog licences pay for the services those animals require in the city."

NPA Coun. Kim Capri brought a motion to council yesterday requesting the city develop and pursue a self-sustaining funding model for dog licensing, urban animal education, bylaw enforcement and related programs, similar to the successful efforts by the City of Calgary. Capri's motion included a request that funding for a new animal services facility be included in the 2009-2011 capital plan and that community partnerships be considered as a way to help pay for programs and to deal with problems involving dogs in the city. Because several members of the public requested to speak on the motion, it was expected to be deferred until tomorrow's (Jan. 17) planning and environment committee meeting.

"In 2005 the City of Vancouver did a count of its homeless, which was 2,000, including 75 children," said Wilkinson, who in 2006 helped form an ad hoc group called the Vancouver Children's Safety Association. "Looking at the streets it has only gotten worse. So why are we spending money ensuring every dog has deluxe accommodation while we ignore the humans living on the street?"

Wilkinson agreed the Calgary model of dog management is highly successful, but noted its new animal shelter wasn't built until that city reached 80 per cent compliance for dog licensing. The new building was paid for from money raised from licensing and animal-related fines. Wilkinson believes Vancouver needs to get its dog-licensing act together before it starts committing huge amounts of money to a new animal shelter.

"It makes sense that dog owners pay user fees towards the services dogs need in the city in which they live," said Wilkinson.

While Calgary now boasts more than 90 per cent compliance for licensing, fewer than 30 per cent of Vancouver's approximately 60,000 dogs are licensed--in 2007 only 17,300 dogs were licensed.

Capri, a dog owner, noted a slightly higher number of dogs were licensed in 2006 and suggested last year's lengthy civic strike was likely responsible for the drop.

Capri argued offering proper animal services is part of a complete community and healthy city and denied the NPA was putting pets before people.

"Housing is a big priority for us, in fact it's our top priority," said Capri. "But in addition to providing housing, we must provide support amenities like recreation centres and libraries. And Vancouverites love their dogs and we need to support that."

Capri said supportive programs, such as a new animal shelter, should pay for themselves so dog owners realize the value in licensing pets. Capri noted if the city were to partner with a group, such as the B.C. SPCA, the money to pay for a new shelter could be raised sooner rather than later.

"A lot of folks complain about off-leash dogs or dogs pooping etc.," said Capri. "But I came at it from a humane animal perspective. We need to care for dogs in shelters and support responsible dog ownership in order to have a healthy pet population."

© Vancouver Courier 2008


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