INNISFAIL - Three months after the wrongful application of the town’s Animal Control Bylaw led to the premature euthanization of an unregistered cat, the fire and protective services department has implemented changes designed to prevent future euthanizations of healthy local pets.
“These procedural changes will result in more efficient service and eliminate the potential of healthy animals in our care being euthanized in the future,” said Gary Leith, the town's manager for fire and protective services, at town council on Aug. 27.
On June 9 a cat named Mikey, owned by the Piesse family, was euthanized on the instructions of a town bylaw officer, even though the required waiting period outlined in the bylaw had not expired. It was later determined the feline was healthy, microchipped and not a stray, as initially reported to senior town officials.
The incident garnered widespread national media attention and led to the resignation of peace officer Brandi Gray.
The incident triggered a departmental review of procedures, training, policies and the Animal Control Bylaw.
Appearing before council, Leith outlined the changes that resulted from the review, ones that are procedural and therefore do not require a motion of approval by council.
Town peace officers have received animal control training from the SPCA and the City of Calgary animal control, he said.
The department has also made changes to the way it handles stray cats and dogs in town, he said.
“We have engaged the service of Alberta Animal Services in Red Deer, who will provide adoption service for any animals that we have outside of our bylaw, where we can only keep them for 72 hours if the owner isn’t found,” he said. “That 72 hours excludes Sundays and statutory holidays.”
The adoption services will include full vet checks, spaying or neutering and microchipping, he said.
That service comes with a fee of $85 per cat and dog.
“This arrangement results in the town never having to look to euthanize a healthy animal in the future, and will look to reduce the administrative time spent trying to rehome animals.”
Another change sees the town enter into a contract with It’s a Dog's World Pet Resort in Bowden to provide the ability to kennel animals in the town’s care outside normal working hours, he said.
Daily fees for that service are $40 for a dog and $20 for a cat.
“These costs will be offset by the savings in overtime and also the impound fee that we impose upon any individual that comes forward as owners of the animals,” he said.
The town has also introduced a new waiver form for residents making use of cat traps supplied by the town, he said.
“The waiver form details the requirements under the bylaw for the use of the trap and clearly directs them to contact the town’s peace officers when an animal is caught in a trap,” he said.
Councillors passed a motion accepting Leith’s report as information.
Following his appearance before council, Leith said he is confident the procedural changes create a “much better system that will result in us never having to euthanize a healthy animal.”
In regards to injured or sick animals, the procedure would be to take the animal to a veterinarian and follow his or her advice, he said.
The review of the Animal Control Bylaw now underway is a “general update and a modernization,” he said, noting he will be reporting back to council at a future meeting.
The Province reached out to the Piesse family for comment but requests for an interview were not immediately returned.