The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) has launched a new five-year plan to combat animal cruelty and suffering in BC. While the society’s Strategic Plan for 2014-2018 targets a range of new initiatives to improve the lives of domestic, farm and wild animals, BC SPCA chief executive officer Craig Daniell says a primary focus of the new plan is to help B.C. address its overwhelming cat overpopulation crisis.
“We have made significant progress in many areas of animal welfare in this province, but one issue that remains a serious concern in every community across B.C. is the staggering, and unacceptable, number of homeless cats who suffer and die tragic deaths because of human neglect.”
Daniell says there are currently tens of thousands of homeless kittens and cats in B.C. “These abandoned and free-roaming cats are forced to fend for themselves outdoors, suffering from starvation, illness and injury, freezing temperature and predator attacks.” He notes that 75 per cent of kittens born outdoors die before the age of six months. Those who survive live approximately two years, and during their short lives they produce litters of kittens who will face the same tragic fate.
The BC SPCA and other animal welfare groups have taken major steps to help communities reduce the number of surplus cats, explains Daniell, but much more needs to be done.
“The BC SPCA has invested millions of dollars in low-cost spay/neuter programs, the creation of spay/neuter clinics and a wide range of other programs and services to significantly reduce the number of feral and abandoned cats in B.C.” In addition, every cat, kitten, dog, puppy and rabbit adopted from any SPCA shelter across the province is sterilized prior to adoption. “We have certainly seen the significant impact of these programs, as the numbers of homeless animals decrease, and in our new Strategic Plan we are ramping up our efforts and proposing creative ways to partner with local governments, veterinarians, businesses, rescue groups and members of the public to save more animal lives,” he says. “Pet overpopulation is a completely preventable problem and we are challenging every community in B.C. to work with us over the next five years to be part of the solution.
Daniell says the key steps communities can take to reduce the number of homeless cats include providing low-cost spay/neuter funds, introducing mandatory pet identification so that stray cats can be returned to their guardians if lost and bylaws that would require spaying and neutering of cats with outdoor access. “Promoting pet-friendly housing can also be a major factor in ensuring that more homeless cats can be adopted into loving families.”
A key objective in the BC SPCA’s new Strategic Plan, adds Daniell, is to help create humane communities by offering greater support in areas such as education, cruelty prevention and advocacy. “The SPCA will always be a safety net for our province’s most vulnerable animals, providing sheltering, cruelty investigations and emergency treatment for injured, abused and homeless animals. But we are also deeply committed to helping communities address the root causes of cruelty and neglect so that animals don’t suffer in the first place.”
In the past few decades, Daniell says, the province successfully addressed the issue of canine overpopulation, which once caused the needless death of thousands of innocent dogs and puppies. “I am confident that, working together, we can achieve this same success for cats. Our goal is that every animal born in B.C. will experience the Five Freedoms, an international animal welfare standard that includes freedom from hunger and thirst, distress, pain, injury and disease and the freedom to exhibit behaviours that promote their well-being. Animals are interwoven into the fabric of our society and we have a responsibility to provide them with protection and the best welfare possible.”
Highlights of the society new Strategic Plan include:
- Increased investment in low-cost spay/neuter programs;
- Pet identification initiatives to increase the percentage of stray animals returned to their guardians;
- Exploration of additional opportunities for spay/neuter clinics and mobile spay/neuter services;
- Expanded humane education programs for youth, teens and adults through schools, in-shelter programs, public events and workshops;
- Exploration of a province-wide breeder assurance program;
- Increased focus on protecting animals used in research;
- Continued advocacy to raise farm animal welfare standards in Canada;
- Recruitment of new constables to respond to animal cruelty complaints in under-serviced areas of the province;
- Enhanced cruelty investigations training for shelter-based staff;
- Initiatives to educate the law enforcement community and Crown counsel about animal cruelty legislation; and
- Initial implementation of a comprehensive Facilities Development and Services Plan to construct new SPCA facilities in key B.C. centres.
More details about the BC SPCA’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan are available on the society’s website at spca.bc.ca.