Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dear City of Surrey & BC Commissionaires,

The BC Commissionaires & City of Surrey (updated 2012AUG22)

As some of you know our dear cat Glimmer went missing on the night of July 28th. We handed out 100 flyers within a 1 km radius and put up 80 posters at mailboxes, light standards and coffee shops. Hope started to wane that we would find him after the first week. He was an 'outdoor' cat during the day as we have a beagle who uses an animal door. He always came home at night. It became clear to me after several nights and some reports from neighbours about raccoon attacks and coyotes seen in the neighbourhood that our sweet daft Glimmer had been predated.

He was well loved in our cul de sac and when HWSNBN (He Who Shall Not Be Named is my handle for my husband who hates to see his name in print) went door to door that first night he was missing we saw that love in motion. From the Chinese gramma who fed him tuna from her front step to the Indo Canadian kids who frolicked with him and the stay at home mom who enjoyed his company on her deck. He was loved and missed by our neighbourhood and especially us his non furry family.

We searched actively for Glim Glams for weeks. We took our beagle off leash in the wooded area and papered the neighbourhood like we were having a Garage Sale to end all Garage Sales. We posted in Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter, PetLynx and the BC Vets. He had a tattoo and we called the original vet and confirmed our address. We reported him missing to the SPCA via their website. We visited emergency vets and called shelters within a 20 km radius.

One night coming home from work I saw a coyote crossing the road a block from our house. I pulled over at 3 am and shook my fists at the wild dog and cursed it for eating our cat. It gave me the side eye gaze and looped back into the wooded area.

The story of Glimmer started in December when we adopted him from the SPCA. We found him after scouring the web at the local SPCA sites. I do not believe in getting cats from pet stores (unless placed there by shelters) or backyard breeders. I believe in animal shelters and rescued pets. We found our Glims right before Christmas and adopted him on the spot at the Langley Abbotsford SPCA. We filled out a form and answered all the questions and had our name entered into a database (mabe to ensure that we were not serial cat adopters?). Glimmer came into our home after a nominal fee of $180 which covered his neutering, tattoo and first vet visit. He was scrawny so we fed him turkey and gravy and milk for the first few weeks. He gained 2 pounds in six weeks and got a clean bill of health at his next vet visit. I had some guilt about not adopting a cat from our local SPCA in Surrey but they did not have an orange cat at the time and it took a lot of negotiating to get all three kids to agree on one cat (which we did by looking through the website for the SPCA). Because of my 'buy local' guilt I started to donate to our local SPCA monthly ($30).

When Glimmer went missing I learned that the SPCA no longer held the contract for the kenneling services in Surrey. An internet search revealed that the kenneling contract had been given to the BC Commissionaires. I searched online and could not find a website for the BC Commissionaires which had ANY information about the Animal Care Centre in Surrey or any information about their services offered. There was no posting of found animals in Surrey and no way to register your pet as missing online.

I could search Petfinder and the SPCA and they had listed the cats available and the cats reported missing AND the cats turned in as strays. But the thriving metropolis of Surrey BC has no such service for their furry inhabitants. UNBELIEVABLE! And frankly unacceptable considering the amount I pay in property tax.

I went to the old SPCA location which is where the Commissionaires are at. They had a binder at the front desk and directed me to look in the folder as they had all the found cats there. No Glimmer. I put up a poster on their wall and asked about how often to check back and if I could actually LOOK at the cats that they had in the found area. They told me that for 'liability' reasons they could not allow me to see the cats. I was advised that they only keep the strays for 3 days before putting them up for adoption or euthanisia (a bit of a short window considering the summer months, people are on holidays!). I returned several times and brought a 20 pound bag of Iams cat food as a donation. Each time I went to the shelter I searched the wall of missing cat posters and the binder at the desk.

We have now come to terms with the fact that our cat is likely not coming home. We packed up our kitty carrier and returned to the Commissionaires building and chose a new cat (with great negotiations going on between the kids). Filled out 4 page form, was ignored by the 4 staff members who were there eating doughnuts and lectured by the clerk at the front about the fact that we should not get a cat unless we can ensure that it can be indoors (because presumably death by leathal injection is preferrable to living with an upper middle class family with a dog door). THEN she yelled at my son for walking the wrong way down the kennel alley where the dogs are kept.

To add to the misery and disorganisation they told us that they will get back to us within 48 hours after our application has been reviewed by a 'supervisor'.

During one of our earlier visits this same clerk advised that they had 100 cats and were thinking of housing them by colour.... and now I know why they have 100 cats waiting for a home.... no advertising, horrible service and a 2 day wait period to adopt a kitten.... wonder what went wrong with the low ball offer for the contract.

So here is what I have learned: you get what you pay for City of Surrey! You gave a contract to the lowest bidder and the result is substandard care of the abandoned and lost animals of our community. Sometimes you don't go with the lowest bidder. I am beyond disappointed that I am in any way paying for this substandard service through my tax dollars.

Bad decision City of Surrey. To the BC Commissionaires a HUGE raspberry for your asshat behaviour to my children and your utterly unprofessional pressence in my community. You are doing a disservice to the animals of Surrey and the potential pet owners. My son was crying when you advised that you might not adopt a cat to us because we have a dog door.

Oh and I found it especially classy when the staff cringed when the SPCA arrived with a stray dog and they actually started to nervously chatter and shuffle around (and stopped eating the doughnuts).... hmmm funny how your behaviour can change when you have actual professionals around.

Poorly played City of Surrey... messages into Mayor Diane Watts and her council are in the email bin as well as notes to The Surrey Now and The Leader newspaper. Surely as a community we deserve better.

Have you had the misfortune of dealting with the BC Commissionaires and the Animal Care Centre? Would love to hear about your experience. Maybe we can change this contract and provide a service that is actually helpful to cats and dogs in our lovely city.

UPDATE AUG 23, 2012

We received a call on August 21 by the Commissionaires to advise that our adoption application was approved and we were able to pick up our new kitten (s) later that afternoon. The incredibly rude woman who had lectured me the day before was present although she refused to make eye contact with me. We were assisted by a very helpful Commissionaire (the same woman that took our lost report in July for Glimmer). The kids were thrilled with the wee kitten & older kitten that we adopted (WHOLE other story about how that happened...).

I hate to criticize and organisation without providing some critical feedback about how they can improve. So here it is:

The BC Commissionaires need to advertise their available animals on the internet. You should be able to type in 'Surrey lost cat' and get the BC Commissionaires website which has a tab for missing and lost and available animals in the City of Surrey. Currently when you put Surrey Animals for adoption in a google search you get directed the the very efficient SPCA website which provides you with the information that they no longer hold the contract for the City of Surrey.

Get those available animals on Petfinder, have your own website, allow the citizens of Surrey to view your adoption form and policy BEFORE trekking out to the shelter with their three kids.

The BC Commissionaires need to hire staff to work at the shelter who actually like people AND animals. Without persistence and a flinty little heart, I would not have gone back there to adopt those cats. I could have easily walked away and gone to the SPCA in Maple Ridge or Langley Abbotsford. Your Mission statement should be to place the most number of animals that are abandoned and given up into the best homes available.

Last but not least - get some street signage! I was only able to locate the BC Commisionaires Animal Care Centre because it is housed in the old SPCA location on 152 street.

Advertise, Advertise, Advertise...

In the end I hope the City of Surrey spends my tax dollars on a new contract for kenneling to the SPCA - the professionals who seem to understand this whole animal welfare business and the importance of an online pressence in order to place animals quickly and efficiently.

I voted for Diane Watts and her council because I appreciated her style of governing and the fact that she outsmarted the bullies that were formerly in charge of Surrey. We are a better city because of her - I can only hope that she reconsiders this particular contract so the animals in the city of Surrey are better served as well.