Friends of the Shelter of Hope advisory committee chairperson resigns

To: Joint Animal Control Municipal Services Board
From: Christine C. Rowland
Date: November 16, 2016

Dear JACMSB members:

During the past 18 months, there have been significant improvements for the animals at the Shelter of Hope: microchipping has been implemented; FVRCP vaccination upon admission has been implemented; pain medicine is now being given to animals receiving surgery; kittens are now being spayed/neutered before being adopted; and a road sign finally went up after 14 years. The most significant change is the drop in the kill rate – during the first nine months of 2016, zero cats were killed due to “aggression” whereas in the same period in 2014, 106 cats were killed because they were scared and didn’t act friendly during the holding period. This turnaround in the kill rate is due to the implementation and success of the barn cat program, a program which has been promoted primarily by the Friends of the Shelter of Hope advisory committee..

Despite these positive improvements, I am concerned about the new rigid 30-day limit for animals that enter the facility that was passed at the September 21, 2016 board meeting . Craig Richardson of OMAFRA, when asked, told the board on July 19, 2016 that other animal control facilities did not have a fixed limit time. When I asked at the Oct. board meeting what the plan was regarding the 30-day limit and what would happen to animals on day 31, I was informed that a plan didn’t exist yet but was being worked on. It’s important to note that the “average care days” for cats according to the manager’s report was 43.9 days in 2016 and 31.6 days in 2015. What would have happened to those cats in 2015 and 2016 that had overstayed their welcome at the 30th day?

I’m also disappointed that the board at the September 21, 2016 board meeting passed a motion aimed at dissolving the Friends advisory committee. The motion was: “Friends of the Shelter of Hope” committee be renamed to “Friends of Animals” and further that at such time as a formal plan for the new model is developed and accepted, the board shall dissolve the Friends of the Shelter of Hope committee.”

At the September board meeting, the board chair described his vision of the Friends committee volunteers becoming a separate outside entity and taking on the following services, this way: “Animal advocacy, dog walking and socialization, feral cat colony management providing TNR, feral kitten socialization, foster care and registry, last resort placement, pet boarding, pet ownership training and education, rescue by breed management, senior dog retirement, transportation service, a wildlife rescue service just to list a few. This is what I see the Friends of the Shelter of Hope becoming.”

Like the other Friends members, I signed up to be on an advisory committee to help the SOH, not to have services, that the SOH should be doing, downloaded onto us. It’s 2016 and attitudes towards pets – and the public’s expectations of the SOH – have changed dramatically since it opened almost 15 years ago. And the public expects the SOH which has paid staff and a taxpayer funded budget of almost $350K to be the one providing enhanced services – not 4 volunteers.

The volunteer Friends committee members have played an active part in helping to restore public trust in a facility that faced a crisis in January 2015 after reports of the gas box and euthanasia rates came to light as a result of a Cobourg man being lied to after his cats were killed at the facility. In the past 18 months, during which time the SOH staff held no public events, the Friends committee members acted as ambassadors promoting the facility and its services including the barn cat program to the public, both individually, and as a group at events we organized.

The skills that I myself had been providing to the board prior to the Friends committee formation, and while acting as Chair of the Friends committee, were the experience and skills learned during 30 years in both corporate management and as an business owner. For example, last year I wrote and transmitted to media 5 positive press releases on behalf of the board. Those were done directly with the board and outside of the Friends committee. I also helped maintain the SOH’s Facebook page and website. Also, a quick perusal of board agendas during the past 18 months will reveal a regular contribution from me of researched reports and proposals for consideration.

At the October board meeting, the board chair stated that suggestions related to the operation or management of the facility are now outside of our committee mandate. Since almost anything related to the pound could, loosely interpreted, be about the operation or management of the facility, that doesn’t seem to leave much room for suggestions or participation from the advisory committee except perhaps fundraising. And although we did hold three fundraising events in 2015, fundraising was not the reason any of the Friends members had applied to be on the advisory committee.

I realize of course that all decisions related to the SOH are made by board members, and that as a non-board member, I have no decision-making authority. However, I would have thought that suggestions and proposals on potential improvements for the SOH would have been welcomed and considered in the future, as they have been in the past.

If the board is no longer receptive to considering researched proposals and suggestions, then unfortunately I do not see a place for me to participate as part of the board-appointed Friends advisory committee.

Given the current situation, I feel I can better help promote the welfare of the animals at the facility from outside the restraints of the advisory committee given its precarious and reduced mandate. I am willing to continue to offer assistance with media releases and online promotion. as I have done outside of the Friends committee for the past 18 months, And I do intend to continue to have an active interest in the care received by the animals at the facility. I intend to continue to submit suggestions. as a member of the public, in the hope that suggestions from the public will be considered before being filed.

Please accept this letter as my resignation as the Chair and as a member of the Friends of the Shelter of Hope advisory committee.


Christine C. Rowland
Chair, Friends of the Shelter of Hope