Council deliberates closing pound – again

Eganville – There were five dogs in the Bonnechere Valley pound in all of 2022, so keeping the facility open doesn’t make financial sense, council was told last week.

“If it was five dogs a week, but five dogs a year?” mused Councillor Merv Buckwald during a committee meeting last Tuesday afternoon.

Not only were there only five dogs, but some had been lingering for some time.

“Most had been there since 2021,” By-Law Enforcement Officer Darryl Wagner said. “At present there are no dogs in there whatsoever.”

A recommendation to close the pound came before council last week and in March council will decide on the future of the beleaguered pound which was slated for closure last year, but a community outcry saw the previous council reverse the decision temporarily. The intention was to come back to council with more information and re-visit the issue.

Former By-law Officer Steve Fiegen pictured at the pound. Leader file photo.

With an in-depth report presented to council last week, it seems the days of the pound are now numbered, although a final decision won’t be made until the next meeting of council. In his background information, Mr. Wagner said the dog pound was built in 2007 at a cost of $50,000 and it was built as a service to the municipality and other municipalities due to the closing of a facility in Pembroke.

“Initially there were eight partners, including Bonnechere Valley,” he said in his report.

The number grew to nine but since then three partners have withdrawn from the agreement. He noted in 2021 the previous council asked staff to explore options about the future of the pound. An agreement was reached and signed with the OSPCA in Pembroke and council agreed to notify the partners the pound would be closing.

“Due to public concerns the pound was given a six-month extension,” he said.

 In reviewing the financials, he said the pound was breaking even in the beginning, but this is no longer the case.

“For quite some time now the pound has been operating in the red,” he said.

As well, the pound was more active in the past. While it was hard for him to find accurate numbers, it is clear the pound is no longer very busy.

“There was a total of five dogs in 2022 – some from our partners and some from Bonnechere Valley,” he said.

The majority were retrieved by owners and there were adoptions. However, there were dogs that lingered in the pound.

“Our adoption fee is quite minimal,” he noted.

He said the Provincial Animal Welfare Standard (PAWS) indicates the holding period for dogs should be five to seven days.

“In the last few years some dogs have well exceeded that mark,” he said. “With prolonged stays the mental state of the animal comes into question.”

While the animal control officer visits the pound daily, there is no set schedule and this is detrimental to the dogs, he said.

“According to animal behaviourists, dogs thrive on consistency,” he said.

While the pound has been inspected, there are issues such as no running water and the need for daily cleaning and a weekly deep clean which is made more challenging with no running water. As well, the lighting is dim and the lobby is heated by an electric baseboard at a minimal level. There is a small wall mounted electric heat unit in the kennel area.

“The OSPA facility for housing dogs has better lighting, running water, 24-hour staff, access to veterinary care and a vast network to call upon to assist with adoptions or fostering,” he said.

At present with the current agreement, dogs received within the township are taken to the OSPCA in Pembroke soon after they come into the possession of the township unless they need a vet.

Mr. Wagner said he consulted with numerous people including an animal behaviourist in making his recommendation. 

He said financial savings are an estimated $9,000 annually.

“Should residents wish to retrieve their dog from the OSPCA, they will be required to drive to Pembroke,” he noted.

There is also reduced liability for the township, improved well-being of the animals and an extensive OSPCA network would lead to more adoptions, he concluded in his report.

Councillor Tracey Sanderson pointed out the OSPCA is a shelter and has the appropriate facilities. There is also access to veterinary care.

“The vetting is the most critical,” she stated.

It is also important to recognize the pound is only for dogs, not any other animals, she said.

Mayor Jennifer Murphy said the report was very in-depth and she appreciated the work to provide the background information.

Councillor John Epps asked if the agreement with the OSPCA is for the other townships as well. Mr. Wagner said it was not.

The councillor noted the cost of upgrading the facility would be extremely costly as well and this is an important consideration.

Mayor Murphy pointed out building new runs would have been very expensive and this is why the new runs have not been built. She said council would discuss the future of the pound and the recommendation of Mr. Wagner at the next meeting of council