CITIES

No room in the ark

A new ad campaign about cast-off pets,MAUREEN ARGON October 3 1988
CITIES

No room in the ark

A new ad campaign about cast-off pets,MAUREEN ARGON October 3 1988

No room in the ark

CITIES

A new ad campaign about cast-off pets

Every summer, animal health workers at the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Montreal are subjected to long lineups of people trying to dispose of their unwanted pets. The Montreal organization receives as many as 200 animals a day—more than in any other city in Canada. Last year alone, SPCA workers were forced to kill 31,708 cats and 11,127 dogs—almost half of them at the owner’s request. Now, the SPCA is in the midst of a hard-hitting television and newspaper campaign. Said Cynthia Drummond, co-ordinating director of the Montreal SPCA: “We no longer want to gloss over the fact that we have to kill thousands of animals.”

In the past, officials there say that they were reluctant to reveal the magnitude of the problem because they did not want to add to the public’s perception of the SPCA as animal killers. But they add that the ad campaign, using such slogans as “Stop us before we kill again,” is intended to shock residents into spaying or neutering their pets. Indeed, the root of the problem, according to Drummond, is the lack of low-cost spay-neuter clinics, which the SPCA is lobbying the city to subsidize—as Vancouver and Ottawa now do. In Vancouver, the regional branch of the SPCA reduced the number of animals killed to 9,656 last year from 50,000 when the clinic was set up in 1976. Declared Drummond: “It is morally abhorrent that we have to kill healthy animals because their owners are tired of them.” Still, Alain Leclerc, a spokesman for Montreal city hall, said that city officials see no need for the clinics.

In the meantime, the Montreal SPCA has been forced to reduce its public education programs in order to care for homeless pets. And the job of killing the animals clearly is taking its toll on its 100 workers. Susan Frappier, an animal health technician who selects which animals will live or die, describes her task as “totally depressing, endless, hopeless.” But many SPCA workers say that they hope the campaign—produced free of charge by Cossette Communication-Marketing, a leading Quebec advertising firm—will provoke pet owners into taking more responsibility for their animals—and relieving Montreal of a dubious distinction.

MAUREEN ARGON in Montreal