City council will vote this fall on whether to fix its “prehistoric” way of dealing with animals by looking at adopting out animals from Hamilton’s city pound, and creating a spay and neuter program.

Coun. Sam Merulla will introduce a motion on Sept. 24 to ask PetSmart Charities of Canada for help with a pair of initiatives. One would be a program adopting out animals from the Hamilton Animal Services (HAS) shelter. The other would be a low- to no-cost spay and neuter clinic that could be mobile.

Local animal activists have been calling for an adoption and a spay and neuter program for years. But Merulla said it was a Toronto initiative, not the local call, that inspired the move. In Toronto, PetSmart Charities funded a mobile spay and neuter clinic.

“I thought, 'That would be wonderful, and why haven’t we done it?'” the Ward 4 councillor said.

The city’s way of dealing with animals is “prehistoric,” he said, and “we need to put dollars toward dealing with it.”

HAS shares a shelter on Dartnall Road with the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA. It has no adoption program. The SPCA and volunteer-run animal rescue organizations save as many animals as they can, and the rest are euthanized. In 2005, HAS euthanized more than 4,000 cats, a number that dropped to roughly 1,000 last year. So far, it's euthanized more than 210 cats.

HAS is planning an overhaul of the service early next year. If approved by council, the new plan would include an adoption program.

Merulla said he has “always agreed” with that.

“It’s a matter of finding a funding source, and we’re on our way to an avenue to find that source.”

Jill McKerrow Collins, moderator of the Facebook group Hamilton Animal Services — Promoting and Supporting Change, thinks Merulla’s motion is progress. Animal rights activists have been contacting candidates for the Oct. 27 election to press them for their views on HAS’s adoption policy, she said.

Merulla’s motion “is showing me that people are finally listening,” she said. “I’m happy with that. But I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying.”

With the election, she worries that people are “saying what we want to hear. Whether or not they’ll actually go through with it, that scares me.”

But a PetSmart grant for a spay and neuter or adoption program “would be wonderful.”

Merulla will introduce a notice of motion at a council meeting on Sept. 10, which means council will debate it on Sept. 24.