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Consultant recommending extensive renovations to City of Nanaimo’s pound

$215,000 a ‘starting point’ for cost discussions to upgrade Nanaimo Lakes Road animal control centre
The City of Nanaimo’s Animal Control Services centre on Nanaimo Lakes Road. (News Bulletin photo)

Nanaimo council will make decisions this summer on animal control strategies that could include at least $215,000 in upgrades to the city’s pound.

At a meeting earlier this month, Nanaimo city council was presented with a consultant’s draft report on animal control services. According to a staff report, the pound on Nanaimo Lakes Road was built in 1977 and service levels had not been evaluated since the 1980s.

A city staff report notes that the pound requires “extensive renovation or replacement” to meet basic standards-of-care requirements in animal shelters and the consultant, Neilson Strategies Inc., suggests renovations.

For comparison, the Neilson report notes that the SPCA’s facility on Westwood Road, which opened in 2016, cost $3.4 million, and that the City of Richmond looked at price points between $8-13 million for a new pound. The report notes that a 2017 estimate of $214,000 for renovations to Nanaimo’s pound should be considered a starting point for cost discussions.

“Renovation may not be a permanent solution given the age of the building and the breadth of deficiencies,” the report notes. “Some change, however, needs to be made, and renovation would appear to represent the fastest and least expensive change to make.”

Another aspect of the review was to gather information to help council decide whether the City of Nanaimo should continue to contract out animal control services or bring it in-house. Consultant Allan Neilson said staff and stakeholders seemed satisfied with the current service and said his analysis suggests costs to bring animal control under the city’s purview could end up slightly higher or slightly lower than they are right now.

“It’s probably not enough of a factor to make that the determining factor to whether that stays out-of-house or comes in-house, in my view,” Neilson said.

Some of his other recommendations include adding one full-time staff member to animal control, transferring removal and disposal of roadkill to public works, making modifications to the pound to accommodate cats, and updating dog licensing procedures and fees. He said other jurisdictions tend to have tiered pricing for licensing depending whether the dog is spayed or neutered and whether it is designated vicious or aggressive. Neilson said Nanaimo can improve its rates of licensing by offering online payment and adopting more of a “zero tolerance” approach when issuing fines for non-compliance.

He was asked whether there could be an opportunity for a co-ordinated animal control service in the Regional District of Nanaimo, and said the RDN currently offers “basic” animal control services through a private contractor, so any change would have to come in the medium- or long-term.

“There would have to be some discussion around whether there was a common vision around that…” Neilson said. “That would require a big change in the philosophy around animal control that currently exists outside of the city’s boundaries.”

Council is expected to approve a new service contract with Nanaimo Animal Control this summer, as well as make decisions around renovating or replacing the pound and updating its licensing and control of animals bylaw. City clerk Sheila Gurrie told council that the bylaw update process will include a public engagement and education component.

Following the discussion, Coun. Don Bonner joked that he counted five bad animal puns made by the consultant and three by the mayor.

“We’ve never had any complaints about our current system and how it’s working, so I think that’s a testimonial to the professionalism of our animal control officers we have here in town,” Bonner said.

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