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New animal law misses key issue, humane society says

Agatha is one of many cats who need homes. Contact the SPCA Montérégie: 450-460-3075, spcamonteregie.com.

BY KRISTINE BEREY

As July 1 approaches, shelters across the island are bracing themselves for the wave of discarded animals that will be left at their door. As a prelude to moving day, last May the SPCA took in 1,060 former pets, 703 of which were cats.

“There are thousands in shelters around this time of year,” says Sayara Thurston of the Humane Society International/Canada.

“They are just inundated, specifically with cats. They have to euthanize hundreds, if not thousands, of perfectly healthy, socialized, well-behaved animals because of the staggering numbers people bring, thinking they are giving them a second chance.”

In a brief presented last month to the Commission de l’agriculture, des pêcheries, de l’énergie et des resources naturelles, HSI/Canada said it finds it deplorable that the issue of sterilization is absent from a new animal protection law, Bill 51, that Quebec is about to pass.

“The law does not mention sterilization, which, if incorporated, would allow the government to regulate the issue,” Thurston said. “There is no penalty at all for letting a non-sterilized cat outside. Regulating the problem by sterilizing animals at point of sale would be a huge step.”

Quebec is rated by the Animal Defense Fund as one of the worst in the country in terms of its animal protection legislation. In the brief, HSI/Canada also decried the fact that the thousands of animals euthanized each year die in gas chambers, an outdated method and less humane, they say, than an injection of sodium pentobarbital.

They would like to see more control over an animals’ psychological welfare, which they say is part of protecting the animal.

“Sometimes strays are most at ease, they have seen it all. But an animal from a home becomes depressed and stops eating. It is very sad for us to see,” said Dana Girard, a seven-year volunteer at the SPCA Montérégie.

Because it is a no-kill shelter subsisting on private donations, some animals live there for years.

Like many other smaller shelters around the city, they are straining at the seams.

But no real change will happen until the public redefines the meaning of what animals are, Zoi Kilakos said. With two friends, she runs on a completely voluntary basis a trap, neuter and spay program. The last time their name appeared in the media, instead of receiving calls from potential volunteers, they were swamped with requests to accept unwanted cats.

“The laws are quite ancient regarding animals. There needs to be a major revision in terms of what animals actually are, living breathing feeling entities and not commodities,” she says.

Kilakos and her friends are working in partnership with a veterinarian on a colony of 10 cats in the Jean Talon area.

“There is nowhere to put animals right now. There was a series of poisonings. A cat can breed at 6 months, with three or four kittens who then have babies, of two or more litters a year. The only end is for people to realize they need to spay and neuter their animals, and not let them out.”

Kilakos says the lifespan of a cat on the street is an average of three years.

“Winters are very harsh, they are attacked by other cats. I’ve done rescues where the cats have no ears, they have been frostbitten.”

Thurston urges people to avoid purchasing pets online or from pet stores.

“People who buy puppies get them from puppy mills, unwittingly, thinking they are buying from a family breeder, not being able to see the conditions where the puppy has come from or in which its mother may still be living in.”

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