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Council to vote on animal welfare advisory committee

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The city has moved closer to establishing an advisory committee regarding the care and protection of animals.

Back in April, council unanimously supported the creation of the committee and will vote on its proposed terms of reference on Sept. 23.

The terms received backing from the city’s community services committee at its latest meeting.

The lone dissenter was Ward 5 city councillor John Gray.

According to a staff report, the estimated annual cost of the committee will be $60,000, credited to staff overtime costs.

Gray found that amount concerning, and was surprised to learn all of the city’s advisory committees have approximately the same cost.

The former mayor said while Oshawa Animal Services and other community groups do “tremendous” work in caring for animals, he had issues with how the committee was recommended.

“I’m fully on board with all the great work, my issue is the structure of the committee and the additional costs. That is all,” Gray stated.

However, Gray’s ward counterpart Brian Nicholson said those volunteer groups save the city plenty of resources and money when it comes to animal care.

“If we had to reach into our pocket… you wouldn’t be arguing about $60,000. You’d be adding at least another zero, maybe two,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said Oshawa’s various volunteer organizations help rescue between 3,000 to 5,000 animals each year.

“If they weren’t doing that, the amount of bylaw staff we’d have to put into service would be tremendous on our budget,” he adds.

Controversy erupted earlier this year when it was revealed the Humane Society of Durham Region had offered to take over animal services from the city.

Local activists from both the city and region led an outcry, overflowing committee and council meetings, and protesting outside of city hall.

Eventually, the Humane Society rescinded its offer to the city.

Mayor Dan Carter said the committee’s creation echoed the will of those who are “passionate and committed” to the care and well-being of animals in Oshawa.

Carter also believes this advisory committee will attract much higher interest from the public than others.

“We are going to have a lot more people who are engaged. The cost is the cost,” he said.

Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr said council had unanimously supported forming the committee, and given the subject matter, the costs are “immaterial.”

“They are identical to any other advisory committee. This advisory committee deserves to be set up and funded as any other in the city,” Kerr said.

According to the proposed terms of reference, the committee’s mandate will be to “assist, advise, and educate” city council and staff, key stakeholders and the Oshawa community on “continually improving the efficient and compassionate care of animals.”

It is advised the committee be made up of one councillor, two members of the public, and four representatives from community animal advocacy groups.

Under the proposed terms, the committee would meet 10 times a year.