Animal lovers swarm Campbell River city council meeting

More than a hundred animal lovers flooded city hall for Tuesday night’s council meeting to show their support for the SPCA

Hundreds of animal lovers flooded city hall for Tuesday night’s council meeting to show their support for the SPCA.

Although the council chambers quickly reached its 90-person capacity, that didn’t stop at least 50 more from standing outside in the lobby to listen in on the proceedings.

One woman, Sharon Dean, along with her daughter Heidi Dean, circulated T-shirts with an ironed on graphic that bore a bright red X through the words City of Campbell River Pound – a swipe at Coastal Animal Control’s facility in the former SPCA shelter.

Local veterinarian Helen Kwong, at the request of Coun. Larry Samson, was permitted to speak to council as a late addition to the list of delegations.

Kwong came down to the speaker’s table to a round of applause from the gallery.

She stressed the importance of the SPCA to the community.

“I think Coastal Animal Services offers a valuable service to Campbell River in the role of animal control but in an animal welfare role, there’s no comparison to the SPCA which has been an integral part of our community for 30 years,” Kwong began. “They provide sheltering services, and adopt out homeless and abandoned animals, have a low cost spay and neutering program, after hours rescue, summer camps, school programs. It’s not uncommon for the majority of our community’s children to donate their birthday funds to the BC SPCA and often a child’s first volunteer experience is with the SPCA.”

Kwong also noted that Coastal Animal Control is mainly charged with dealing solely with dogs, notably nuisance dogs or lost dogs, but will not deal with animal cruelty complaints or abandoned animals as the SPCA does.

“What will happen to the 800 cats processed by the SPCA yearly?” Kwong questioned. “The SPCA is asking for $95,000 to operate their shelter and it costs $400,000 to operate the shelter annually – that seems like a pretty good investment to me.”

Kwong finished her presentation to another round of applause and a standing ovation from SPCA supporters. Coun. Samson asked Kwong for suggestions on how to engage the community to raise the necessary funds that the SPCA needs. BC SPCA Chief Executive Officer Craig Daniell said the Campbell River branch loses $10,000 each year in operating costs.

Kwong said there needs to be more transparency.

“My answer is communication,” she said. “If the community had known the SPCA was in such dire circumstances and had known council hadn’t budgeted enough, the community would have come up with the money. All you had to do was tell us.”

That prompted people in the gallery to get up on their feet once more as Kwong walked back to her seat.

Council chose to defer awarding the animal shelter contract to Coastal Animal Control and will meet with Daniell this Tuesday morning to discuss potentially bringing the SPCA back to Campbell River. Kwong and SPCA supporter Cyriel DeBruyne were also selected by council to sit in on the meeting as public representatives.