Each year around July 1, thousands of household pets are left behind by their owners. Côte-des-Neiges–NDG is one of the boroughs that can use the SPCA
on Jean-Talon, which sees the number of animals it receives triple every year in the months surrounding moving day.
“We get about 1600 animals a month during this period of the year,” said Alanna Devine, the Montreal SPCA’s director of animal advocacy.
Not all animals left behind are brought to the SPCA however.
“We do find them abandoned in apartments or in the street, and people need to know that abandoning their animal in distress is a criminal offense and they could be prosecuted, » said Devine.
“There’s no good reason to leave an animal behind in an apartment. To do so is unethical, cruel and illegal. Your animal could die of starvation, hunger or injury, and that’s unacceptable.”
According to Devine, the increase boils down to three different reasons.
The first is that few residential leases allow animals. According to the Régie du logement du Québec, only three per cent of residential leases in Quebec allow dogs. When families move, new regulations by different landlords often lead to pets being left behind.
“There are people who legitimately care about the animals, but for financial or other reasons they have to move, and they simply are unable to find affordable rental housing where they can take their animal with them,” said Devine.
The SPCA is currently trying to petition the government to modify the civil code so that people who already have pets can move into new residential housing with them.
The second reason for pet abandonment, said Devine, is a lack of education and a lack of understanding that having an animal is a lifelong commitment.
“That mentality needs to change,” she said.
The third reason is a lack of services, meaning people end up with more animals than they expected because they can’t afford to have the first animal sterilized.
“There’s the problem of not having services available to people who want to act in good faith but don’t have the means to do so,” she said.
According to the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ), a female and male pair of stray, unsterilized cats can lead to 20,000 newborns over the course of four years. For dogs, the number would be 4000.
“Abandoning an animal is not a solution and should not, under any circumstance, be considered an option,” said MAPAQ’s Cédric Paré.
“The SPCA should be the last resort, not abandonment,” he said.
All that being said, there are still between 30,000 and 50,000 animals abandoned each year in Montreal.
“Our ratios remain the same during this time of the year. For every dog we receive, we receive about three cats,” said Devine.
Though they represent the majority, cats and dogs aren’t the only animals that show up at the SPCA’s doors during moving season.
“We also receive rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, rodents, all different kinds of companion animals, and sometimes we receive some farm animals as well, oddly enough,” she said.
Currently, the Montreal SPCA has more than 1300 animals in its system, spread out
between its two shelter buildings and foster homes.
“It’s a good time of year to help out an animal and help out the SPCA,” said Devine.