Shelter looks back on 40 years of animal welfare
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Oct 30, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Shelter looks back on 40 years of animal welfare

Stratford Gazette

Chet Greason cgreason@stratfordgazette.com

A lot can change in 40 years.

Social movements take hold, attitudes change, and institutions are born. As proof, the Stratford-Perth Human Society celebrated 40 years of animal welfare services in Stratford on Sunday.

The organization marked the occasion by holding a community event at its new building on Griffith Road. The event included cake, treats, games, and live entertainment by The Chris Brine Band.

“There’s been no dog fights and only one piddle,” said executive director Jack Kinch. “In my line of work, that’s a good day.”

Also on display at the event was information regarding the building’s proposed renovations, which would see the building replace the organization’s current headquarters on Douro Street.

Plans for the former warehouse include three unique adoption centres, for cats, dogs, and small animals, as well as properly ventilated quarantine areas, veterinary offices, and an education centre. Board members hope for an official opening sometime in 2014.

That’s in the future of the Stratford-Perth Humane Society, but what about the past?

Elspeth Macdonald has been with the organization since 1989. She began as a volunteer when the Douro Street building was first built.

She credits the founding of the group to Lillian Kitty Cree, who died this fall at the age of 90.

“She was a lady of great energy,” said Macdonald.

In order to convince the provincial office of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) to open the shelter, it was necessary to show there was enough community backing to support a Stratford/Perth branch. Therefore, an intense campaign was carried out to collect $5 from 100 citizens. Cree was a driving factor behind the initiative.

“At that time, we rented a building on George Street where the LCBO parking lot is now,” explained Macdonald. “It was just an adoption centre and shelter for cats at first … all volunteer-run.”

Expansion came soon after when it was realized a shelter for dogs was needed as well. Macdonald explained that, prior to the OSPCA branch opening in Stratford, animal control was overseen by the local pound.

“The pound only held animals for 72 hours,” she said. “If they were not claimed or adopted, they were euthanized. That did not sit well with us. Some people don’t even realize their pets have gone missing in that amount of time.”

At the OSPCA branch, animals that were not claimed were assessed and put up for adoption rather than immediately euthanized. It was this element of compassion, in addition to a more economically feasible agreement, that led the city to award the centre with its animal control contract.

“They knew the animals would be looked after,” said Macdonald.

One of the biggest changes came when the Stratford shelter merged with the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society a year and a half ago. Shortly thereafter, the controversial euthanization of 21 cats caused outrage in the community and resulted in two employees, including manager Sarah Tickner, resigning.

Stratford-Perth Humane Society has since adopted a 90 per cent live release program, saving euthanization for only extreme cases of sickness and behavioral issues.

Macdonald noted the concept of animal care has changed enormously over the years. Properly ventilated quarantine areas are essential to prevent the spread of sickness.

Dogs need areas to run and exercise, and cats found living together outside fare much better when kept together in the shelter.

For this reason, the new animal welfare centre plans to incorporate dog runs and “kitty condos” as well as many more beneficial features.

“I was there when the Douro location was built. I hope to see this location open before I retire,” said Macdonald.

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