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April 9th, 2005, 07:49 PM
Just got this in my mail this am:



for immediate release

April 9, 2005. The Vancouver Animal Shelter, formerly know as the Vancouver Pound, is a city-run and taxpayer funded facility which bills itself as "Canada's 1st No-Kill Shelter" on its website. The staff and volunteers who work and volunteer their time there do so in large part because of the shelter's commitment to a no-kill policy. Fundraising letters and appeals always mention the "no-kill" status of the shelter.

Imagine the shock of horrified no-kill activists when they discovered city
employees quietly bringing drugged animals into an after-hours veterinary clinic in Vancouver to have them killed. When the activists started asking questions about the animals, the city staff refused to answer, calling on a supervisor and quickly removing the dogs from sight. The activists, one a former politician who had voted for increased funding for the shelter based on the no-kill policy, the other a prominent campaigner for no-kill shelters and humane bylaws in the lower mainland, were then ejected from the clinic at 41st and Fraser by the owner of the clinic who tried to make arrangements to have the dogs killed at another time and place. Both activists waited on the sidewalk for the city employee in charge to exit, Ms. Katy Earnst, who spoke briefly with them but refused to answer most of their questions pertaining to the dogs. She did say that the dogs were not ordered destroyed by a court, and that one of the dogs was alleged to have bitten the former owner, although this was not corroborated by physical or medical evidence. Nor was Earnst able to confirm whether or not the dogs had been properly evaluated by an animal behaviourist for treatment of behavioural problems caused by abuse and trauma.

Both activists offered to locate qualified dog trainers (in secure facilities if need be) and pay for the treatment of any behavioural problems the Vancouver Animal Shelter staff were unequipped or unwilling to deal with. This offer was refused at the time by Ms. Earnst, but remains open. Earnst also refused to reveal who order the dogs killed, and the shelter manager Nancy Clay, who is also a dog breeder, was unavailable at the time. Bob Christoffelson, her assistant, was not at work that day either. Attempts to contact shelter staff and managerial staff at the shelter to discover the current status of the dogs and investigate how such an incident should come to pass have been unsuccessful at this point.

City Councilor Tim Louis expressed outrage at the situation and plans to
investigate the matter. Said Louis "I am strongly opposed to euthanasia of
animals" and called placement of special needs dogs needing rehabilitation in the community with qualified volunteers "a practical solution" to the problem. Louis is on the Finance Committee, which oversees funding to the shelter.

Financial and managerial oversight of the facility clearly needs to be
reviewed, as Freedom of Information requests by Coalition for No-Kill
Shelter's organizer Donna Liberson reveal that city staff have been
systematically destroying legal and medical records, including bills,
pertaining to certain animals which the public have inquired after. Their
fate is not known, and in a public facility, this lack of accountability
and transparency is both unacceptable and shocking.

Former Park Commissioner Roslyn Cassells received numerous calls from
volunteers and staffers at the shelter reporting concerns that they knew or suspected that animals were being killed away from the public eye. This has now been clearly evidenced with a number of witnesses to this incident. Furthermore she received calls about animal research done on shelter dogs by UBC researchers studying the effect of social and physical deprivation on dogs. Some of the dogs in the study who were in the deprived group had such declines in their overall health that they moved from being considered adoptable to unadoptable. The debate over the ethics of using seized and lost dogs, who could easily be someone's pet gone missing, in a long study which could adversely effect their health went unspoken as staff and volunteers asking questions or questioning the study were strongly discouraged. Eventually the dogs in the study, which was never reviewed at city council, were moved to a locked area in the facility where only specific staff and researchers were permitted. Other staffers and volunteers who had previously been regularly visiting and exercising the dogs were forbidden to do so. During the period of the study the animals were removed from the possibility of adoption and were used only as research subjects for the UBC study. A number of dogs was released informally to UBC researchers. What was the fate of those animals?

Cassells commented "When I was an elected representative on the park board from 1999-2002 I received a lot of complaints from members of the public that the pound was not doing enough bylaw enforcement. When I asked pound officials about this they said they needed more money for enforcement. I voted in favor of large budget increases to the pound to increase bylaw enforcement in the park system and improve animal welfare. However, despite huge infusions of cash and significant infrastructure improvements to the physical plant and the level of staffing, the complaints increased. I am concerned about how the money is being used at this facility. I am concerned about the fact that the animals do not receive basic preventative vaccinations and their veterinary care seems inadequate. Where did all the money go that was meant to help the animals? Why is the public being asked to donate money to this facility under the guise of a no-kill shelter when the shelter is clearly killing animals and even using them as research subjects. A homeless animal needs advocacy, not exploitation. A strong light needs to be shone on the Vancouver Animal Shelter at this time. The City of Vancouver needs to decide if they are willing to go to bat for homeless animals or not. They are truly the most voiceless and powerless members of our community. If we are truly civilized we must oppose any attempts to abuse, kill, or use these living creatures in any way which goes against their nature."

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