British Columbia’s animal protection agency says new provincial funding will allow it to build new rescue shelters in Vancouver, Duncan, Prince George and Fort St. John to meet the demand to help abandoned, neglected or abused pets.
“We’re seeing growing numbers of anxious, fearful and under-socialized animals coming into our care,” said Leon Davis, a senior manager with the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (B.C. SPCA) at a funding announcement on Monday.
The province says it is contributing $12 million toward shelters in the four cities.
The B.C. SPCA said it will either replace or upgrade current facilities in the communities that are closed or outdated. The shelter in Fort St. John was closed last year, for example, due to it being structurally unsound.
The new centre in Vancouver will use $7 million of the funding and feature a 20,000-square foot animal centre, a 9,000-square foot veterinary hospital and 5,000-square foot education centre.
Speaking at a popular dog park in Vancouver with pets in attendance, including a corgi named Honey, Premier David Eby acknowledged British Columbians care deeply about animal welfare.
“That’s why we’re helping the B.C. SPCA build four new facilities where rescue animals will be able to get the high-quality care they need and deserve before they find new homes,” he said.
Marcia Moriarty, the B.C. SPCA’s chief of protection services and outreach services, said most of the agency’s work is funded by individual donors, which at times has been limiting for the organization as it aims to conduct enforcement while providing care to, on average, the 15,000 animals it takes in each year.
“We greatly appreciate this significant support from the province for these four communities where our aging facilities are making the care and protection of vulnerable animals increasingly difficult,” she said.
WATCH | Premier promises to deliver on long-promised pet breeding regulation:
The COVID-19 pandemic created a sharp demand for pets across Canada and in places like B.C., people jumped into the breeding industry to meet demand.
As the pandemic waned, the numbers of animals the B.C. SPCA took into care jumped, from 14,838 in 2021 to 15,762 in 2022.
The society told CBC News in February that many of the abandoned animals it was seeing were coming from pop-up breeders who could no longer sell their puppies or kittens as demand and prices dropped.
It said many were turning to animal shelters to surrender the animals.
Breeding regulation promised in 2017
On Monday, along with the photo opportunities with adorable dogs, the province also acknowledged it needed to catch up on a plan promised in 2017 to regulate cat and dog breeders in the province.
The promise was made by Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal Party government in late February of that year, a few months before the B.C. NDP took power.
The plan proposed amendments to B.C.’s Prevention to Cruelty of Animals Act that would enable the province to regulate commercial breeders through either a registration or licensing system to help ensure commercial cat and dog breeders were treating animals with respect and care.
“That framework had been paused because of external factors such as the pandemic, the 2021 flood and the avian influenza outbreak,” said a release on Monday from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
On Monday, Eby said the ministry would deliver on the amendments to the act and breeder regulation but did not specify when.
“We are going to deliver on that, but it’s not as quickly as we like. But it is absolutely essential work and we are committed to that,” he said.