Since the 1970s, the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society has provided animal control and pound services to the City of Windsor. Although these services are not the core of our organization’s mission, we have agreed to provide them for decades given our unique ability to do so. Like other municipal services that are contracted out, a request for tenders is published by the City for these services. For years, the Humane Society has been providing high quality services at below cost, subsidizing municipal services with donations and fundraising. For example, from 2013-2016 alone, the Humane Society lost more than $350,000 by providing contracted municipal services to the City of Windsor because the costs of providing services was higher than the contracted fee. Those shortfalls have had to be covered by donations and fundraising, but we can no longer continue to agree to that.
An RFP for animal control and pound services was issued by the City of Windsor early in 2016. The Humane Society submitted the only response. We offered to continue to provide these services to the residents of the City of Windsor, but we could no longer subsidize them. As such, our submission is higher than the previous contract. This is not a mark-up, and does not include any margin of profit or contingency. The City of Windsor agreed to sign a one-year contract while City staff investigated alternatives; that contract expires in June 2017. You may have heard that the Humane Society refused to provide financial information to the City, or that we refused to meet with the City. That is false. The Humane Society provided more than 40 pages of financial documents and support – far more than would be required of any other municipal service provider. We also attended an in-person meeting with City staff, two Council/Committee meetings, and participated in multiple phone calls with City staff to discuss the proposal and services.
The City of Windsor has several options for animal control services – it can choose to in-source them, find a private or alternative provider, or can agree to a contract with the Humane Society that will cover our actual costs of providing those services. It has been shown through research and experience in other municipalities that when animal control and pound services are performed by the municipality itself the costs are typically far higher. The Humane Society provided the City with information from another comparable municipality (whose Humane Society per capita fee is higher than ours), and their City staff found that it would cost their municipality more than twice as much to provide the same services the Humane Society charged!
The City is currently exploring the possibility of providing services through another municipality, by contracting with the Lakeshore Dog Pound. The Humane Society has many concerns with the proposed plan. These concerns aren’t that the City is considering another provider, as the Humane Society offers numerous programs apart from municipal services. Our adoption program, public spay/neuter clinic, pet food bank, in-school humane education, and cruelty investigations – these are all services separate from City of Windsor programs that are funded and supported by our generous community donors.
Our primary concern is that the plan being consider isn’t just an alternative provider, but rather a massive downsizing of the animal care and control services offered to the residents of Windsor. When comparing these costs, the City isn’t comparing apples to apples, they are comparing apples to a small slice of apple!
The most significant decrease in services is that the City of Windsor will no longer offer residents any shelter for stray cats. This will be a devastating step back for the cats in our community, and will make Windsor one of the few large communities in Ontario that do not offer sheltering services for stray cats. In 2015, nearly 2,500 stray cats were brought in to the Humane Society by residents of Windsor. Under the City’s proposed plan, those cats will have nowhere to go. That will leave residents who have lost a cat no central location to look for them, and residents who are concerned about stray cats no place to bring them. Sadly, for some of those cats, with no alternative provided by the City, residents will resort to options like dropping cats off in rural areas…or even poisoning or killing them. You may ask, “Why wouldn’t the Humane Society continue to accept those cats even if the City won’t contract for it?”. The answer is that the responsibility for stray animals lies with municipalities. And while the Humane Society would like to be able to, it is not fair for us to ask our donors to subsidize the City of Windsor’s municipal services. Our organization’s mission is to help animals in distress, and we will continue to do that by accepting stray animals who are sick or injured. But to ask the Humane Society to continue performing the services we currently do under contract but instead for free is not sustainable.
Another major decrease in services is the quality of service provided by the Lakeshore Pound. Currently the Lakeshore Pound is open approximately 5 hours a day, compared to the Humane Society, which is open 10 hours a day, 7 days a week to allow residents the opportunity to look for their lost animals. All found animals are also posted online on the Humane Society web site where they can be viewed 24 hours a day, allowing an owner the peace of knowing their animal is safe even when we are closed. The Humane Society is located within City boundaries, on a bus route. The Pound is located in the Town of Lakeshore, at least a 20 minute drive from most locations in Windsor. Sadly, this will make it challenging for residents to visit the Pound to claim their lost animals, and will undoubtedly result in some dogs being unclaimed and losing their homes as a result.
The distance will also make it more challenging to bring stray dogs off the streets and to safety. In 2015 almost half of the Windsor stray dogs who entered the Humane Society were dropped off by caring finders. That is far less likely to happen when the Pound is far outside the City, and combined with the City’s plan to decrease response time (the City has advised the Lakeshore Pound that they plan to reduce the number of dogs who enter the Pound from the current number by providing less responsive animal control services), will leave more loose dogs running the City’s streets. This can be dangerous to residents, as stray dogs may be overexcited and become aggressive as a result, but is also dangerous to dogs as they can be hit by cars and killed while running loose.
While at the Lakeshore Pound, dogs will not have access to the same services as are currently offered by the Humane Society. The Humane Society has two veterinarians and eleven veterinary technicians on staff, which means that animals who are sick or injured can be helped quickly. We also have a team of three behaviour advisors, who are able to assess dogs for behaviour concerns and work to resolve them. While we work to get animals back to their owners or into new homes quickly, the Humane Society has many volunteers who donate their time to help walk dogs, socialize animals, and provide foster care when needed. None of these are available at the Lakeshore Pound, and there has been no indication that they will be in the future. Instead, dogs will be held for three days, and then the Veterinary Technician Training Program at St. Clair College will have the right of first refusal to take any unclaimed dogs to use in the program’s training.
While little information has been released yet regarding the City and Lakeshore Pound’s plans, and no information has been made available regarding the plans for animal control, it is clear that the City is hoping to save money not by finding a less expensive alternative, but by finding an inferior alternative that will be devastating to animals in our community.
For more details about the value of services provided by the Humane Society to the City, please click here to view our July 2016 presentation to City Council.
But I live in the County. This doesn’t impact me, right?
Unfortunately, the City’s decisions will impact you as well. Currently, the Humane Society provides stray cat intake services to all of Essex County. This is possible because we are already accepting stray animals, and the relatively small number of cats coming from county residents is able to be accommodated. However, if the Humane Society is no longer offering animal control to Windsor that will necessitate a massive overhaul of our operations. This will make it impossible for the Humane Society to continue to offer animal control services to county municipalities, and sadly, will mean that all County municipalities will either have to find alternative services (likely at a higher cost) or no longer offer shelter for stray cats.
This is terrible! What can I do?
The decision to decrease services and move Windsor animal control to the Lakeshore Pound is not final. This is the time to talk to your Councillors if you have concerns. Contact information for Windsor City Council members can be found at: http://www.citywindsor.ca/mayorandcouncil/City-Councillors/Pages/City-Councillors.aspx
Contact information for Lakeshore Pound member municipalities can be found at: