Call for more animal welfare issues to be addressed

Animal services have been improved, but more needs to be done, Animal Alliance leader says

cat at North Toronto Cat Rescue
Shelters now spay and neuter cats, like this one at North Toronto Cat Rescue, before getting them adopted. (Madiha Karim/Toronto Observer) 

Some beneficial changes have been made to animal services in Toronto over the past decade, but the Animal Alliance of Canada is calling for more changes.

Backyard hens, feral cats and the use of Avitrol are issues that should be looked into, party leader Liz White says.

The number of birds affected by the Avian flu virus continues to rise. (Zoe Schaeffer/Unsplash)

More than seven million birds have been affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Canada as of March 2023, according to Inspection Canada. More than 750,000 birds in Ontario have been affected.

HPAI is a virus that can cause severe illness and death in poultry flocks.

“These are animals that at the end of the day are pretty much just disposable,” White said. “When the hens stop laying eggs, the entity that brings the hens to them just takes them back.”

Nobody asks what happens to those hens, but they have been in a place that is not considered sterile and may have been infected, so they cannot be introduced to the rest of their flock.

“There have been thousands in Ontario that have been killed because of bird flu, not necessarily because they have it, but because they may have been exposed to it,” White said.

Hens that get infected shouldn’t be put back into their flock but if this happens the whole flock can get infected.

People who take a live animal home and are not experienced in killing chickens may not know how to care for these birds or keep them safe from exposure to bird flu, White said.

City offers low-cost sterilization for cats

Toronto has about 100,000 stray and feral cats, according to Toronto Cat Rescue.

Over the past 10 years, about 20,000 feral cats have been spayed and neutered, and ear-tipped by the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition, according to White.

Toronto Cat Rescue
Cats at Toronto Cat Rescue, which says Toronto has about 100,000 stray and feral felines. (Madiha Karim/Toronto Observer)

“Getting them into rescue groups that are there to get the animals adopted, takes the stress off the shelter and gets them into places where they more likely are going to get adopted,” White said. “So what you find is that the euthanasia rate of animals in shelters goes down.”

In 2016, the City of Toronto launched the SNYP (Spay Neuter Your Pet) Truck program. The SYNP truck goes to low-income communities and offers spay and neuter services at a low cost, or may do it for free for those who cannot afford it.

Many people who trap feral cats are volunteers and pay for it out of their own pockets because there is no money. So the city offers a course that teaches you how to trap, neuter, return and manage a colony. After you take this course they take and sterilize the cats for free.

“It’s an upfront cost … but in the end, it saves the city money because they have fewer animals coming into the shelter,” White said.

A chirp away from eating poison

Over the years, many complaints have been about pigeons and the impact they have on the city since they are considered a nuisance.

The city needs to find a better approach to control the pigeon population and ban the use of Avitrol.
(Madiha Karim/Toronto Observer)

“In some municipalities, the way a lot of pest control companies deal with pigeons is to poison them,” White said. “So they use a poison called Avitrol, and Avitrol you get grain that’s laced with poison and the birds eat it. It’s a highly toxic, not humane approach to wildlife.”

Avitrol is not used on other animals, but it can still have an impact on them because if another animal eats the poisoned pigeon, it poisons them too. This becomes a problem for at-risk species like the peregrine falcon, she said.

A new drug called Ovo Control has been licensed for use in Canada. It is considered humane and prevents pigeons from laying fertilized eggs.

“My approach — and I think we might have some support in this — is to talk to the city about banning the use of Avitrol,” White said.

About this article

Posted: Mar 19 2023 3:25 pm
Filed under: News