Bill Bruce Tour
THE BILL BRUCE TOUR by Janice Anderson
During the month of June, 2009, California Federation of Dogs Clubs (CFoDC),
in conjunction with the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), Orange
Empire Kennel Club and Silver Bay Kennel Club sponsored Bill Bruce, Director
of Calgary Animal Services & By-Laws (ordinances), to present his model for
the most successful animal services department in North America. This, in
an effort to bring viable solutions to communities within California that
may be dealing with unwarranted and excessive legislation or high rates of
impounds and euthanasia of dogs and cats,
"We don't have a pet problem. We have a people problem", states Bill Bruce
as he begins. Owner responsibility is the mantra in Calgary. A three prong
approach to responsible pet ownership incorporates licensing, public
education and enforcement. Educational programs developed for school age
children through adults, address responsible citizenship and responsible
animal ownership. Educational programs include PAWS: Dog Bite Prevention,
Dogs in Our Society, Urban Coyotes and the Junior By-Law Project, just to
name a few. There is strong public support for the efforts of Bill Bruce by
the citizens of Calgary, as they enjoy their pets in a community full of
dog-friendly parks, paths and off-leash areas. They gain comfort knowing
that their kinder-friendlier Animals Services Department is there to help,
Bill Bruce, as the Director of Animal Services and Bylaws in Calgary,
Alberta, Canada, took over a struggling program. He has had remarkable
success, developing a program which now (2008) boasts a licensing
compliance rate for dogs of 91%, a return to owner rate of 85% and a
euthanasia rate of only 6%. A newly implemented licensing program (2007)
for cats already has a licensing compliance rate of 54%, a return to owner
rate of 56% and only an 18% euthanasia rate. A majority of those animals
being humanely destroyed are for behavioral issues and poor health or
injuries. Aggressive animal incidents are almost non-existent. With a
population base of over 1 million people, those are staggering statistics.
In addition, Calgary has no limit laws, no breed specific laws, no mandatory
spay/neuter ordinances and no interference from animals rights groups.
At Animal & Bylaw Services, the mission statement is to "Encourage a safe,
healthy, vibrant community for people and their pets, through the
development, education and compliance of bylaws that reflect community
values." "They have a right to have pets and we want to ensure they're
properly cared for, so we don't end up with more unwanted pets." Through the
use of modern technology, a licensed animal found wandering the streets is
returned directly to its home (for a small fee) whenever possible. This
saves time and money for everyone. However, an unlicensed animal will be
taken immediately to the shelter. Before the pet can be released to its
owner, licensing requirements must be met and the owner is fined $250.
Repeat offenders face penalties that increase in $250 increments per
violation. While educating the public is essential, sometimes money is the
strongest motivator. Bruce targets owners, rather than pets, saying "any
animal that ends up in a shelter is there because the human end of the
relationship failed." It's all part of his philosophy about animals and
This approach helps to facilitate a $5 million annual operating budget,
which is generated through license and penalty revenues, with no cost to the
taxpayer. Fees generated from cat licenses have provided the community of
Calgary with a state of the art facility providing no-charge spay/neuter
services for pets from low-income homes. The clinic, staffed by a full-time
vet, may be the final feather in Bruce's cap. "Within three to five years,
we'll be a no-kill city," said chief Animal Control officer Bill Bruce. "No
animal will be killed unless it's in the best interest of the animal."
With a model that is tried and true, Bill Bruce has been met everywhere he
goes by enthusiastic crowds. The SoCal Tour was a whirlwind for Bill,
visiting 4 counties in 5 days; San Diego, San Bernadino, Kern County and
Sacramento. Bill expertly navigated through his Power Point presentation,
explaining how Calgary has become known as the most successful Animal
Services Department in North America. Each presentation was followed by
lengthily Q&A sessions from his audiences, which included city and county
officials; animals control officers, supervisors, police officers, breeders,
rescue groups and the general public. Several officials had the opportunity
to meet with Bill Bruce privately and discuss his successful program in
detail, while he toured SoCal shelters. Citizens and officials of Kern
County had a chance to meet Bill at a social prior to his presentation. The
media attention was great, with television stations, print media and Inga
Barks of KERN radio taking advantage of "By-law Bill's" visit to California.
The presentation in Kern County was held in conjunction with the Kern County
Animal Control Commission (KCACC) meeting. The commissioners voted to move
the meeting and location of their June meeting to facilitate Bruce's
appearance, which was held at the County Supervisors Chambers. This meeting
location offered a unique opportunity to have the presentation filmed by
KGOV. KGOV will be airing the Bill Bruce presentation in July and August
and has DVD's available to the public for a $25.00 fee. KGOV may be reached
at (661)868-3000 or accessed at www.co.kern.ca.us/gsd/KGOV.
Our cities, our counties and our state are being overrun with animal related
legislation, much of it under the guise of "pet overpopulation". Bruce
states, "We can reduce the number of animals in the shelter by reducing the
number of unwanted animals being produced." It is being realized through
his campaign for owner responsibility, including a bylaw with strict rules
and stiff fines.
Our elected officials have been approached to endorse severe and expensive
ordinances to limit pets and the rights of their owners. Much of the
legislation being foisted upon us is by special interest groups from beyond
the borders of California. Groups that have no stake in the effect of
their actions, other than satisfying an agenda that attacks the property
rights of animal owners and agriculture, forcing unwarranted expenses on our
citizens, our businesses, our communities and our state.
Gracious and generous with his time, we are fortunate that Calgary is so
willing to allow their very popular and successful Director to travel far
and wide, sharing their program with other communities, not only in the
United States, but around the world. The Calgary Model is one possible
solution available to communities that can enable them to successfully run
an animal control program with no cost to the taxpayer. Early reports from
Kern County verify a keen interest in the Calgary model. A KCACC
sub-committee has been formed to bring back recommendations to the
Commission. It is our hope that other communities will follow.
60; We do not
want to waste this opportunity.
An important but unmentioned part of the success Calgary is experiencing is the collaboration with animal services of local animal welfare groups. For example, Calgary Humane Society alone shelters more than 8500 animals each year, ensures that all adopted animals are spayed, neutered, vaccinated, dewormed AND licensed. Further, Calgary Humane educates more than 12,000 children and youth each year about responsible pet ownership, and provides animal training classes to more than a 1000 owners who then are better equipped to be responsible and humane with their pets. Calgary Humane also deals with several animal hoarding cases each year and its Protections department responds to more than 1500 community concerns annually about homeless, neglected and abused animals. The Society also picks up more than 1000 strays from local vet clinics. Few of these have licenses or ID of any kind.
Without the work of animal welfare groups there would be many more thousands of homeless, wandering animals in the community, most of them breeding. Don’t overlook this part of the equation if you are looking for a solution to animal problems in your community.
The idea that one organization or one individual has the sole answer to this complex social problem is misguided.