SPCA rejects offer and will leave Campbell River

After nearly three decades of service, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced Wednesday it was leaving

The city’s bold move to save money has cost the community the SPCA.

After nearly three decades of service, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) announced Wednesday it was leaving Campbell River for good.

“Council’s decision to award its new pound contract to the lowest bidder raises a number of very serious concerns about the future safety and welfare of animals in Campbell River,” wrote SCPA Chief Executive Officer Craig Daniell in a letter to city council. “Council’s decision will, unfortunately, result in the SPCA having to leave Campbell River.”

In January, in a move to lower costs, council bypassed the SPCA and awarded the animal control contract to a private firm, Coastal Animal Control Services, which has similar contracts in several other Vancouver Island municipalities.

Council, acting on the recommendation of city clerk Peter Wipper, was hoping the SPCA would accept far less money to continue operating the shelter as well as offering its other programs.

When the decision was made to not offer the SPCA the same contract, Mayor Walter Jakeway assured residents the animal care society would remain in Campbell River.

“This is not knocking the SPCA out of the picture, it’s just changing the business and what they’re working on. The public doesn’t need to be worried, the SPCA will probably still be there when this is all finished,” he told council in January.

But that blew up Wednesday when the SPCA said no thanks to the city’s offer.

“The proposal submitted by the BC SPCA for the contract…was the lowest figure we could possibly provide without severely compromising the health and welfare of the animals,” wrote Daniell.

“We believe a dramatically lower bid is unrealistic and could only be offered by reducing the standard of care for animals to an unacceptable level. We have seen this happen in other communities, with very serious consequences for animals and residents.”

Mayor Jakeway refused to speak with the Mirror and referred all questions to the city clerk who, along with city manager Andy Laidlaw, had earlier sent out a press release defending council’s decision.

“We are disappointed the SPCA has made this decision…but we respect their decision and thank them for their many years of dedicated service,” said Laidlaw in the news release.

“Council had hoped the combination of continued access to the building and the grant-in-aid offer would have allowed the SPCA to continue to operate in Campbell River, especially because the grant funding appears to be more generous than what is typically offered to local SPCA branches by other communities.”

Council awarded the animal control contract to Coastal Animal Patrol for $105,000 per year, which includes evening and weekend patrols and an option to extend the service to First Nations lands, while the SPCA came back with a cost of $218,578 per year.

In a phone interview Wipper said the offer to the SPCA was fair based on comparisons with several other B.C. communities. Some provide land, buildings or grants-in-aid to the SPCA, and others provide no cash or assistance.

In Campbell River, according to Wipper, the SPCA turned down $58,000 to continue pound services in the same building off Merecroft Road and also refused a $34,000 grant-in-aid to assist with animal welfare services.

But the SPCA said it wasn’t enough.

“(We) already lose $10,000 a year at our Campbell River Branch,” wrote Daniell. “It is very difficult for us to have to leave Campbell River, but as a charity, this is not a loss we can sustain.”

Wipper said council was well-aware the city would lose certain animal care services if the SPCA left, but the new contractor is offering similar services at half the cost, guaranteed for five years.

He also pointed out that Coastal will not be receiving any money through ticketing for animal control violations.

“We would never make up a contract like that,” Wipper said. “Ticketing is the last resort…you want enforcement through education.”

He added the next step for council is to look at creating more leash-free zones in city parks.

The SPCA will be moving out of its longtime home this weekend. Coastal Animal Control Services takes over on Monday. To report any issues, call them at 1-888-754-1397.

Animals currently up for adoption at the SPCA will be re-located to other branches this weekend. Impounded animals will be turned over to Coastal Animal Control on Sunday.

People looking for animal welfare services are advised to contact the Comox Valley SPCA at 250-339-7722.

 

– with files from Kristen Douglas/The Mirror