Thursday, November 27, 2008


In 2007, 837 dogs were euthanized by TAS - at least this is what the front page of the Toronto Humane Society website tells me, calling it "Toronto City Hall Council's Shame" under their "Breaking News!" banner. 837 dogs killed is 837 dogs killed and there's no justice in that no matter how you look at it but let's see how it compares with another city.

Calgary Animal Services is supposed to be one of the best in North America. It's garnered accolades from all corners of the animal welfare community (see here and here and here). Not that there isn't always room for improvement, but many people say that Calgary Animal Services is a model for how things should be done.

For starters, they've got an excellent website. It's well layed out, with lots of information concerning pet care, volunteering, the importance of licensing, adoption programs and of course a list of available dogs and cats. They do a great job of promoting senior dog adoptions and have success stories posted (though these need some serious updating as the last time was apparently 2005).

One big reason Calgary Animal Services is so successful is that the city has a very high pet licensing rate. In fact, all the funding for CAS comes from pet licensing. Their pet licensing program is so successful that they are able to fully fund a new 2500 square foot vet clinic where they will be able to spay and neuter dogs and cats on site. I suspect one of the reasons for the recent push in Toronto to get our pet owners to license their pets may have had something to do with the success of the Calgary model.

According to their website: "The City of Calgary enforces a zero tolerance policy on all unlicensed dogs. The fine for having an unlicensed dog is $250."

Calgary seems to have stricter enforcement of their animal control policies than Toronto does. When a licensed dog is picked up by CAS, for example, it is immediately returned to the owner for a fee. An unlicenced dog is taken to the shelter and before the owner can take it home, the owner is charged $250 for a first offence. Subsequent offences mean an increment in the fine of $250 per offence. So, CAS picks up someone's unlicensed dog a third time and that's a $750 fine. I've got no problems with that but I'm beginning to see how they get the funds to build an on-site vet clinic. It's license or else and most Calgarian dog owners (90% I believe) are deciding to go for the license.

Calgary Animal Services also has a very active outreach program, with staff going out to kindergarten classes to teach kids about responsible pet ownership. They're very visible in the local media, using newspapers, billboards, bus shelters and community events to get their message across.

It would be interesting to find out how much of the upswing in licensing was due to the enforcement of fines and how much was due to other methods of public education. Either way, it's working for them.

So, given all this worthy effort on the part of CAS to move their city to a more humane animal welfare model, let's look at their hard euth numbers vs Toronto's "shameful" numbers. Calgary has a dog population of 110,242 in 2008 . In 2007, CAS euthanized 314 dogs. The years are off by one but still, the approximate percentage of CAS euthanized dogs vs. general dog population is 0.285%. That's a pretty low number and it looks like CAS is doing a not bad job.

Now for Toronto. The estimated dog population in Toronto is 250,000. This number is found at the bottom of p.3 of this report which deals with Toronto's licensing strategy. The number of dog euthanizations, as stated earlier, is 837. This makes the percentage of TAS euthanized dogs vs. general dog population to be 0.335%.

So, 0.285% vs 0.335%, which is a difference of only 17.4%. If Calgary is the gold standard for urban animal control, I think Toronto's doing not bad. But now the trick with using statistics is all in the details and do these numbers really tell us how the inner workings of CAS compare to TAS? Well, no, not at all. I'm sure there are policy differences and operating differences (for example, Calgary Animal Services does not accept surrendered animals and that's a biggie for Toronto Animal Services). I know there are things TAS could learn from CAS, especially with regards to public awareness, and maybe there are even things CAS could learn from TAS. But the one thing these percentages do tell us is that when someone trumpets 837 dog euthanasias in one year, that alone is a meaningless number when taken out of context.

Of course this whole analysis only has bearing in our dysfunctional political world. To the dead dogs represented by even these ultra low percentages, there's nothing good at all about any of this and this is the infuriating part. Instead of concentrating energies on forming alliances to do the best for the animals who's lives are on the line, some organizations still insist on denigrating others as part of their routine P.R. philosophy. It's ridiculous and utterly human.


Ian said...

[quote]some organizations still insist on denigrating others as part of their routine P.R. philosophy. It's ridiculous and utterly human. [/quote]

This is so sad to me.
I grew up at a time when there were 2 camps.
People who liked and cared for dogs(cats) and those who didn`t.

That 1st camp seems so divided now.
When did it stop being about the animals?
Maybe I`m just too old to understand all of this.
The animals seem to be the same as when I was a child.
Something`s gone terribly wrong.

House of the Discarded said...

Something *IS* terribly wrong with the last two sentences. When did it stop being about the animals? I've been asking myself that for the past 30 days. It's never become more apparent than now.

I've experienced this first hand as I sadly left my own rescue as Executive Director due to political problems with the volunteers. (Hell, I just wanted to rescue some cats!)

When did the organizations and services become so competitive and undermine each other? "TAS vs.THS" and crap like that.

Shit. Wish I could say what was really on my mind.

CalgaryHumaneSociety said...

Calgary Animal Services and the Calgary Humane Society have been working together side-by-side in a collaboration effort that seems to be unique to Calgary. This partnership was recognized at the Banff Summit of Urban Animal Strategies as a model for other cities, and both organizations were given an award for their efforts.

The Calgary Humane Society also works closely with other animal organizations in Alberta and across Canada. CHS is a part of the Responsible Pet Ownership Group along with City Animal Services, ARF and MEOW. There are also many other partnerships with other humane organizations across Southern Alberta, Inuvik and Eastern Canada.

It is only through strong collaboration we will be able to succeed in our mission - to help as many animals as possible.

Fred said...

If the collaboration between Calgary Humane and Calgary Animal Services is unique to Calgary then kudos to Calgary. The spirit of cooperation is definitely something you could export.

Caveat said...

First of all, Calgary does not have a 'breed' ban in place. It is impossible to be successful under the current law in Ontario for obvious reasons:

1. AC is seen as the enemy, rather than an ally to responsible dog owners.
2. People are reluctant to license many dogs, not just currently banned types, when it could mean death or a restricted life for their pets with the stroke of a pen at City Hall.
3. Responsible owners of banned types and shapes tend to not be as visible in public due to fear of persecution. So, you've lost your most competent, experienced dog owners who can set an example for others.

There is no mandatory neutering requirement, there are no dog limits in Calgary. They decided, correctly, that if a person is responsible it's really none of their business how many dogs they have, whether they are neutered or not or what kind they may be. Since the vast majority of complaints are about single dog owners, pet limits are counter-productive.

They are not afraid to write tickets but fines only contribute 10% to their overall budget. The rest comes from licensing.

Their staff are highly educated and well paid, with continuing education on new development in animal services.

Since CAS is viewed very favourably by dog owners, people line up to license their dogs because they get something for it.

When Bill started cat licensing, he expected a huge outcry because cat owners don't like to license. Guess what? Because of the tremendous respect people have for CAS, 25,000 people applied for licences before the program was even up and running.

That's PR you can't buy.

Yes they do outreach education for children and utility workers on how to avoid being bitten, how to care for dogs, etc.

Bill sat down with the HS and they divvied up their jobs. As he likes to say, his job is to protect people from animals, theirs is to protect animals from people. They work together and he is able to give a substantial donation to CHS each year.

He is a very logical and kind person who truly loves animals and it shows in his program.