Knee-jerk stupidity — the death of animal control in C-K


ospca“Good luck, Animal Control, you’re going to need it.”

That’s a comment from Chatham-Kent council budget chair Art Stirling on Facebook over the hasty decision by council to gun down its animal control program.

Stirling is frustrated. He saw one of his worst political fears realized Thursday night — politicians reacting before really thinking. But that’s the budget process for you, Art. Council crawls along at a very slow pace, refusing to slice a little here, opting to add a little there, and suddenly it’s faced with a bigger tax increase than expected. Something has to give.

I’ve seen it where one local emergency service got much of what it wants because it came before council early on in budget deliberations, and the next one, up a couple of days later, received table scraps.

I’ve seen lifecycle funding for infrastructure shorted for years, as it generally gets deferred to the tail end of deliberations, where council, desperate to make some impact on a looming tax hike, shorts the future to appease the present.

And this time around, animal control came up at the wrong time. It also came up with the crows. Not a good mix. Crow control isn’t working. When you aren’t blowing them out of the sky or taking away their food source (as in easy-to-open garbage bags holding a smorgasbord at the curb), you aren’t controlling them.

So council smartly axed the $57,000 it used to “control” the crows.

But then it collectively swallowed a stupid pill and culled animal control. I understand the notion behind killing the dog tag program that too few people use. But dumping the OSPCA contract is just plain wrong.

Yes, by euthanizing the two, council sliced more than $210,000 out of the annual operating budget. It did keep $30,000 a year around to pay for the handling of dangerous dog situations. But we have a host of animal problems here.

Chatham-Kent is a blend of rural and urban geography and demographics. We have regular issues with wild animals. Plus we have a serious feral cat problem. What are our options?

Two summers ago, my wife and I saw a very confused raccoon sitting on a neighbour’s front lawn one Sunday morning. They’re nocturnal creatures, so he really shouldn’t have been there. Something was obviously wrong. We wondered if it was rabid, and called animal control. An OSPCA staffer showed up in no time to capture the animal. Turns out it had dysentery. In fact, it was a bad year for that illness among the raccoon population in C-K.

So if I look outside in the near future and see a sick raccoon, or even a rabid one, what do I do? What is the option, council?

I pay nearly $3,000 a year in taxes and now I have no easy call for animal removal?

I’ll tell you what I’m pledging to do. I will start calling councillors. Two NOT on my call list for this matter are Stirling and Derek Robertson, councillors very much against this motion (Robertson was so shocked by the decision to remove animal control cash that he had to leave council chambers for  few moments).

I urge citizens to prepare to do the same. If you have an animal issue, call your councillors. And don’t stop with just one. Buzz them in bunches. Their numbers are readily available on the municipal website.

As Stirling said on Facebook, this is a matter that should have been addressed by the ongoing service review, not via a spur-of-the-moment decision during the fatiguing budget deliberation process. Very, very true.

Let the service review process handle such long-term planning. Even if it isn’t working efficiently, and savings could be had, to gun it down outright without a replacement plan ready to be implemented is bad decision making.

Then again, it is budget season, and some of our elected officials just want to get it over with.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


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