Pound receives backlash for changes
Municipal Animal Services is located on Theatre Road in Hamilton Township. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today
There is a lot of public dissatisfaction being expressed, especially through social media, about changes taking place at the former Shelter of Hope, including its new name – Municipal Animal Services.
It is run by a board with representation from the participating municipalities including Port Hope, Cobourg, Alnwick/Haldimand Township and Hamilton Township.
“I don’t think it’s right (to change the name),” says Jan Johnston, a Port Hope resident who was the winner of a contest in 2002 to name the municipal pound facility located on Theatre Road in Hamilton Township.
The name reflected that it was a place stray animals could be taken if they needed a home, she said in an interview.
The new name is “kind of cold,” Johnston said.
Others, like Margaret Sagebiel, stated in a letter to the editor, that the original name is an “ironic misnomer knowing what happened in the shelter” and that it reflects the continuation of “gruesome practices” related to the when and how of euthanizing stray cats and dogs.
Sagebiel describes herself as an opinionated pet lover but understands that the board of the municipal pound has a difficult task.
“There (has) got to be a way to fulfill the political mandate of a pound with humane principles,” she writes, “with good will (and) respect for the animals and each other.”
There are several petitions circulating asking the board to move away from its 30-day kill policy, a position held by the former volunteer group, the Friends of the Shelter of Hope.
This group is not circulating any petitions, says Christine Collie Rowland of Port Hope, former head of the now defunct Friends of the Shelter of Hope. Its four members resigned en masse last November. New chair of the Joint Animal Control Municipal Services Board for the pound, Robert Polutnik, has scheduled a media conference for Wednesday. The advisory for the media conference states it is for “members of the press only.”
Board member Bill Cane said information to counteract misinformation that is circulating on social media will be addressed at that time. He also clarified that the 30-day kill policy is not hard and fast and that only one cat and no dogs have been killed since last November.
Collie Rowland says contrary to Cane’s assertion in a recently published story in this newspaper that Friends of the Shelter of Hope Advisory Committee resigned over a proposed neuter and release program for feral cats, this is not the case.
She said she was the one who brought the program idea to the board and provided three reports on it, beginning as early as last July. The board had all of the information it needed to make a decision, including how volunteers, she suggested, could operate the program at a cost of no more than $7,500 (and far less if fewer cats were part of it) and which could be operated within provincial rules.
As early as last fall, Collie Rowland said that the new board chair said he “wanted to get rid of the Friends committee” and replace it with a new volunteer committee with a new mandate.
Cane has been quoted as saying the mandate of the former Friends committee overlapped with the work of the board in setting policy and with the work of the staff, and indeed, the mandate for the Friends’ committee put in place in 2015 by the previous shelter board, as stated online under PortHopeCommunityGroups.org, indicates it was far reaching.
Among its duties was to “advise on issues and concerns faced by animals under the care of the Shelter of Hope.”
In her November 2016 letter of resignation found on that same website, Collie Rowland outlines the accomplishments of the Friends’ committee (including the successful barn cat program which had a waiting list to take cats and which Cane also describes as a success) but also her concern about the “new rigid 30-day limit for animals entering that facility that was passed at the Sept. 21, 2016 board meeting.”
She also stated her objection to the Friends’ committee moving from an advisory role to a services role as the new chair suggested at last September’s meeting. His ideas ranged from them taking on dog walking and pet boarding to feral kitten socializing, Collie Rowland said in an interview and stated in her resignation letter.
A request to interview the board chair was not responded to by press time.
Collie Rowland said she felt she can better advocate for the “welfare of animals” from outside the organization.
Some of the postings on social media can’t be reported due to their content, but criticism has been far ranging.
“Changing the name won’t change the bad reputation the shelter has,” one tamer comment reads. “Need to clean house and have all new employees and new people in charge. Also needs a board that has authority that they have to answer to.”