Saturday, April 23, 2011
Fermez le Berger Blanc!
I went to the protest in front of City Hall to demonstrate against the city rewarding the Berger Blanc with a renewal of their contract to be the official city pound. The Berger Blanc is a private operation that is the sole owner of the contract from the city to deal with stray dogs and cats. The place is a fucking nightmare and finally proper attention, at least by the media and the citizens, is being paid to it. The Mirror did a cover story on it a few weeks ago and Radio-Canada did a visit with a hidden camera that revealed how badly the animals are abused. Momentum is starting to build and somebody, maybe Society for the Protection of Animals Canada, organized a protest.
Turnout was quite good and lively for a rainy, grey saturday. There were maybe 300-500 people there, chanting and waving signs. Lots of dogs, of course. The majority of the people were on the City Hall side of the street, up on the steps with lots of signs, but there was a good crowd on the other side of the street as well. The police were there, handling the situation in a very professional and friendly manner. Every time a car would drive by with dogs in the back, everybody would cheer. Good media turnout too, with cameras from Rad-Can, Global and CTV. It was just a good scene all around. There is going to be another protest, same place (275 rue Notre-Dame est) on May 13. Be there! There is going to be on in Quebec City as well on that date. This campaign has real potential to make change.
The thing is, while the heart of this issue is an emotional one—the natural human reaction to cruelty to our animal companions—the relatonship between the Berger-Blanc and the city is a very clear example of fallout from the corruption that is endemic to the current administration. I'm not saying that there is any explicit corruption in the contract that the Berger-Blanc gets (though I wouldn't be surprised if there are some kickbacks going on there), but that the way the issue of stray animals and pets is handled (or rather not handled) is an indirect result of leaders whose priority is lining their pockets and maintaining their power. This isn't just about treating animals humanely. It's about how you manage city services, specifically animal control. We should have an infrastructure in place that actively works to limit stray animals through licensing, neutering and education. Rescue shelters should be the last stage in this overall plan, not the first and only, as is basically the case in the city right now.
The city deals with the animal issue by giving one company the sole contract to deal with stray animals. There is no oversight, just the money. And that organization basically runs those animals though like a slaughterhouse. They don't even check the animals for RFID tags. No effort is made to return them to their owners. There are several stories of people calling the Berger-Blanc looking for their dog and employees saying it wasn't there, only to find out later that their dog was there and was killed! You can read in more detail here the negligence and abuse that takes place at the Berger Blanc. It gets worse.
This issue is very similar to the shoddy municipal construction, the terrible road conditions, the shitty bus service, the bootleg domestic airport and all the other embarrassments that make Montreal seem second class when, in fact, she has the heart and soul of the greatest city in Canada. The difference here is that living creatures are suffering terribly and that can motivate people to take action. I've also heard that several organizations and veternarians are working on getting the funding to build a competing shelter to try and get the contract. I hope to hear more concrete information on such a project and would certainly support it.
In the meantime, let's keep fighting. Here is a very helpful web page from the Humane Society with links to all the people you can contact here in Montreal to put pressure on about this issue