Nova Scotia

Mayor demands changes at Sydney animal shelter

The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality says he wants immediate improvements at a Sydney animal shelter given a scathing report from two veterinarians.
The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality says he wants immediate improvements at a Sydney animal shelter. (CBC)

The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality says he wants immediate improvements at a Sydney animal shelter given a scathing report from two veterinarians.

John Morgan and council members received a 10-page report on Wednesday from the veterinarians, who inspected the animal shelter earlier this week on behalf of the municipality.

The veterinarians noted bad smells, overcrowding, a lack of protocols for cleaning and a haphazard system for examining sick animals.

"It's hard to read that veterinary report and think that that's an appropriate circumstance for animals," Morgan told reporters on Wednesday after a five-hour in-camera session.

Given the veterinarians' report and a similar, earlier report from the provincial SPCA, Morgan said the council wants some changes.

"The focus is really I would say on ensuring, really, that we fix things to the extent it can be fixed within the current facility," he said.

In the meantime, the people who run the animal shelter said they had severed their ties with the provincial SPCA, but it's business as usual at the facility.

"We were told we had to take anything related to SPCA off our doors, our building, vehicles or whatever and we did that," said Patsy Rose, the manager of the shelter.

"We are in the process of getting whatever we have that's in the SPCA name removed."

The provincial organization gave the shelter — formerly the Cape Breton SPCA — until noon on Monday to hand over control of the shelter, citing substandard care as one of the reasons.

The Nova Scotia SPCA claimed records at the Cape Breton shelter had been falsified and that there was inadequate handling of animal waste that could spread disease.

Ongoing fight

The provincial group dissolved the local board and voted to fire Rose last week. It also sent the Cape Breton animal shelter a letter explaining its demands.

Monday's deadline passed with no change, and the provincial SPCA began legal action to try to wrestle control from the Cape Breton branch.

The lawyer for the shelter said although some improvements are needed, he thinks that's largely because the shelter is old and cramped.

"None of the issues in those recommendations suggest in any way that there are any animals that have been or are immediately in distress or not being properly cared for," Robert Sampson said Wednesday.

"We're no longer operating with the label of SPCA but otherwise nothing has changed. The physical shelter, the staff remains the same."

Morgan said councillors are worried about the animals and their safety, so they have asked the shelter's lawyer to deliver a letter of assurance that the shelter will make immediate changes.

"Obviously there are many, many recommendations that are listed there with respect to cleaning and medications and veterinary care and issues of crowding, so the issue is we need to get a commitment to deal with those things moving forward," he said.

Despite the concerns, Morgan said council does not plan to take its animal control contract away from the local shelter because there are no alternatives.

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