After a few referrals to the Planning and Development division, council finally decided to not approve the request from Best for Kitty for usage of the Town of Fort Frances animal pound.
Best for Kitty had submitted a request to the Town of Fort Frances on Nov, 8, 2021, to use the town’s animal pound to house cats during an emergency. But reports from Patrick Briere, bylaw enforcement officer, show that in order for this request to be permitted, council would have to direct administration to look into the requirements to have the facility be changed from a pound to a shelter.
In coming to that conclusion, Briere sought advice from stakeholders, their insurance provider and the provincial legislation governing the operations of the town’s animal pound facility.
In a report submitted to council, Briere said he does not recommend unfettered access to the building. He also said that Best for Kitty volunteers will not qualify for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits.
“This is a challenging problem because should one of their workers slip and fall whilst in the facility, the town could have exposure as the occupier,” Briere said in the report.
Another concern Briere cited was the unsupervised access to the building because there are no surveillance cameras or alarms.
Briere also said in the report that they have concerns about communicable illness as it pertains to the other animals.
“Increasing the amount of animals in the shelter at any given time, there is a risk that contagious illnesses could be brought into the pre-existing shelter,” he said in the report.
Douglas Judson, a Fort Frances Coun. and a cat lover, said although he understands the basis of the recommendation, he is concerned about the mixed messaging that the town sends to volunteers.
“This is a situation where a volunteer group is providing a service that they’ve pulled up off the ground on their own that completely bootstrapped it. And it’s having results and they’re asking for our support. And we’re saying no.”
Judson also said there have been other examples of that during the term where community groups have come to council asking for help, and have been met with rejection.
“But then on the other hand, we have examples like with the splash park proposal that came forward,” Judson said. “We’re saying we want volunteers to spearhead it, while at the same time our fire chief is bringing us a report saying we don’t have volunteer capacity in our community.”
Judson said council needs to think about how they engage with the community and respect and recognize volunteerism, while embracing what the volunteer capacity looks like. Judson said he also worried that council is not being consistent with what they expect and provide to volunteers.
Coun. Wendy Brunetta said she agrees with some of Judson’s points, but the application was not declined without good reason.
“I think the committee was really looking toward assisting this group and, and we definitely support the volunteers that work towards this effort,” Brunetta said. “But there’s definitely reasons that are just tying our hands.”