Friday, June 10, 2011

Animal Issues Hot Topics at City Council

It seems like this month is animal issues month at city hall.

* UPDATE: The animal hoarding issue did not make it to the floor of city council; The Pet Sale Ban apparently has last minute "legal issues: and will be heard at NEXT month's city council meeting. (Strange that it's only been studied for almost a year now, and legal becomes an issue? #TOCouncil moves at a snails/ pace sometimes)

Next Tuesday June 14, amidst a very long and ambitious agenda,  they will discuss and decide on:

LS 4.3    Banning the Sale of Cats and Dogs in Pet Shops
MM9.5  Motion to deal with Animal Hoarding - Josh Matlow
MM9.3  A By-law to Ban the possession, sale and consumption of Shark Fin and Derivative Products in Toronto - by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, seconded by Councillor Krystyn Wong-Tam

The Cat/Dog Sales Ban had a signficant public consultation and has been around almost a year (Aug 13, 2010), but the animal hoarding motion came up just last night as an initiative by 2 councillors (Josh Matlow and Michelle Berardinetti)

Here is an email I just sent all city councillors and the Mayor .....
Dear Councillor Matlow,         Re: Member Motion MM9.5 Animal Hoarding

I commend you for bringing up the complicated and contentious issue of animal hoarding. Although I was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Toronto Humane Society and intend to bring this up for discussion at our board level, I must make it clear that at the moment, I speak as a private citizen only, and not for the organization.

This issue is a complex one and I encourage city council not to rush to judgement without significant consultation with other animal welfare organizations. The pet licence bylaws were an example of how the city can waste money, time and lose goodwill. (Example only 11% of cats are expected to be licenced over the next 3 years, this after tremendous city resources used to try to increase compliance). Threats don't work well in our city it seems.

Yes, animal hoarding can be a sign of a mental illness, although not always. There are numerous websites, mostly American, that talk about the issue. (I l ist them for your reference at the end of this communication.). Many eventual 'hoarders' often become so precisely because of the threat that authorities will sweep in and take away beloved pets. Your motion may simply serve to force hoarders deeper into hiding, helping no one. They will not speak out and ask for help in such a case. Thus, the stigma of mental illness is reinforced in the broader society as well.

One dynamic is that lonely people, often those on low income who have not sufficient social interaction due to extremely limited finances, find a starving stray cat wandering into their life. They take it in, but then there is another, and another, and so on. This is the pet overpopulation issue that is directly caused by bad pet owners who see animals as temporary toys then throw them away if their 'lifestyle' or whim changes. Other irresponsible pet owners are the direct cause of a lot of hoarding, and they are never held to account. In essence, attacking hoarders does nothing to resolve the overall pet overpopulation problem.

At what magic number do you declare a hoarder? Toronto has a pet limit of 6, Hamilton 2, other jurisdictions vary. In the 'gold standard' Calgary model, Bill Bruce, Director of Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services has no pet limits, and sees early education and putting the onus on making sure pet owners are responsible. He has had tremendous success (Weblink: ), but jurisdictions like Toronto have in the past cherry-picked a few ideas here and there. Some pet owners/caretakers have large premises with secure fenced in yards, while others have tiny rooms. How can you say to this person 6 is okay and to another 7 is wrong and I will confiscate your family friend? What of rescues that have people fostering larger numbers of animals? They are helping the city, using charitable donations, with the pet overpopulation problem.

Responding to animal hoarding requires a well-informed, well-researched approach. Although I am sure that city staff will do their usual reporting, there are so many other experienced and useful sources out in our community. I urge you to table this motion and refer it to the Licensing and Standards Committee pending further analysis and to give the public and animal welfare organizations a chance to have input.

Thank you
Animal Hoarding website links:

Other News Stories:

... says: "the difference between animal hoarder and animal lover is simply one of animal care."
Should anyone want to speak to their city councillor about this or any other issue, here is the weblink to contact:

- OR - Here is the full city council email contact list: ; Councillor Matlow ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Councillor Crawford ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Councillor Stintz ; ; ;