• The SPCA Montreal has been helping save animals in Montreal for over 150 years now and shows no sign of slowing down.
  • MTL Blog got a chance to speak to Anita Kapuscinska, a spokesperson for the SPCA, about topics ranging for how adoption at the shelter works to how you can properly take care of your animal during the holiday season.
  • Read the heartwarming interview with Anita and find out the many ways you can help animals this holiday season below!

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is more commonly known as the SPCA, has been a leader in animal protection for over 150 years now. The SPCA Montreal takes in over 15,000 animals a year, which range from cats and dogs to birds and turtles. Known as one of the most progressive animal protection organizations in North America due to its commitment to each and every animal, the SPCA wants to ensure all animals get the chance at life that they deserve.

The holidays are always a time where families seem to get brand new pets, at least according to all the Hallmark Christmas movies. But these movies typically fail to point out the little things that we may not think of during this busy time that can have a large impact on the animals we're surrounded by. For example, the fact that the holiday season is not only a stressful time for us humans, but for animals as well.

So, with the holiday spirit in mind, the SPCA launched a matching gift campaign for the 2019 holiday season, which means whatever donations are given before December 31, the centre will double!

I got the chance to speak with Anita Kapuscinska, a spokesperson for the SPCA, about why it's so important to adopt rather than shop, different ways to help if you don't have the current means to adopt an animal, how to ensure your animal has a happy holiday season, and so much more.

* Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

How exactly does the adoption process work?

Before an animal gets put up for adoption, they get evaluated by a veterinarian to make sure they’re healthy and up to date with their vaccines. Cats, dogs, and rabbits will be sterilized if they haven’t been already, and cats and dogs will be microchipped. All of our dogs are also evaluated by a behaviouralist so we can really get to know their personality.

So, when people come to adopt an animal, they will see an adoption counsellor, and essentially, it’s a discussion for us to get to know what the person adopting is looking for in an animal, what their expectations are, what their lifestyle is like. That way, we can ensure that we give them a good match.

When are adoption rates the highest and lowest during the year? 

This is a difficult question to answer because we do receive more animals during the summertime. Right now, animals don’t spend that much time in our shelter, which is a great thing. We definitely do not have any time limits for any animal that is in the shelter, we work really hard to put animals in an adoptive home.

Our save rate for cats right now is at over 91% and for dogs, it's at almost 92%, and the average length of stay for cats is 7.4 days and for dogs, it’s 8.3 days.

Summertime is definitely when we get the biggest influx of animals, for a number of reasons. One reason, which is problematic, is moving day in July. It’s very difficult for people to find affordable apartments in Montreal that allow animals.

So, it’s the devastating choice between an affordable dwelling and their animal that they consider a part of the family.

What is the biggest mistake people make when they adopt?

Well, I would say it’s never a mistake to come to the adoption centre, because our adoption counsellors are here to answer any questions people may have. So, I guess what I would say is, if you’re looking to add an animal to your household, come to a shelter, speak to a counsellor, and we can help guide you.

I would say that there’s no mistake with someone coming to the adoption centre because we can talk about what they’re looking for and what their expectations are. We want people to think of us as a resource.

If people would like to help out the SPCA but do not have the means to adopt, what other kinds of support can they offer?

There are really so many ways of helping. People can open up their homes to become foster homes, which people will do for many reasons. Either they can’t commit to an animal for a long period of time, or other people simply do it because they can.

Also, this month, we launched our annual year-end campaign, which is a gift campaign that was made possible through the Bryant-Mapes Fund. What happens is that this year’s fund administrator matches every donation made to the Montreal SPCA before December 31, 2019, up to a maximum of $100,000. This matching gift campaign is an extraordinary way to help. It helps us start the year with momentum and continue to be a leader in animal protection.

So, if anyone is thinking of helping, doing so before the end of the year will let their donation go twice the distance.

It says that one of the SPCA's missions is to "give animals a voice." How do you believe that can be done?

To have animals’ voices heard, advocacy campaigns are needed. We currently have a campaign that’s based on banning the declawing of cats across Quebec. With this, we inform the public about why declawing is not an ideal choice and should be avoided in general. We’re also encouraging the Veterinary Order of Quebec (the OVQ) to ban declawing, as it has already been done in many other provinces in Canada.

So far, over 39,000 people have already signed our petition against declawing cats in Quebec alone, and we’re hoping to reach 40,000 people. To give you an example, we have a palliative care section for the animals where their comfort is our main priority. That’s just one example of the advocacy we’re trying to do.

If you could tell people why it's better to adopt than shop in only a few sentences, what would you tell them?

First of all, there is a big overpopulation of animals, and by adopting, you help curve that. And, you’re also helping give an animal a second chance. You’re helping make room for more animals by adopting.

It also often comes up cheaper than shopping for an animal online, since then they haven’t already been sterilized, microchipped, received their first vaccines, and adoption clinics cover all of these fees.

Do you recommend adopting during the holidays or getting a pet as a gift?

No. If you know that someone is looking to get an animal, obviously don’t discourage them from getting the animal. But, we encourage people to, instead, write a card to the person you would like to give the animal to and say that you’ll go to the adoption centre together and you can offer to pay the adoption fee or something.

The reason we encourage this is that there is nothing more rewarding than going through the adoption process, meeting the animal, making sure that the bond between the animal and the person who will be living with it for the next X amount of years is there.

We also encourage people to make sure that the animal they are adopting is not simply seen as a holiday present. You need to be ready to commit to the animal for the rest of its life, which can be a big lifestyle change – a wonderful lifestyle change if it’s done right.

What advice can you give to people about taking proper care of their animals during the holiday season?

Of course, a lot of people already have a tree up, but it’s important to ensure that the tree is secure – especially if you have a cat. We also recommend that people use shatter-free ornaments because decorations often get mistaken as toys and can be a hazard to the animal. We also tell people not to add any fertilizer to the tree, since animals will often drink from the water under the tree – this can be very toxic.

Also, not to get any poisonous plants such as poinsettias, but if you already have one, make sure it’s out of reach. There are alternatives like a Christmas cactus that are not toxic for animals.

During the holiday season, we all know it’s a very festive time that often involves a lot of movement and a lot of hustle, which can be very stressful for an animal. So, it’s a good idea to provide a quiet space for your animal to be able to escape all the craziness. Whether it’s a bedroom or a washroom, just a space with their bed, their favourite toy and some water, can be very beneficial for them. It’s a good idea to make sure your animal isn’t stressed. This can also help prevent your animal from escaping since doors will likely be opening and closing often.

Other than that, there are certain foods that you should be watching out for. Most of us already know that chocolate is toxic to animals, but so are caffeine, onions, avocado, and garlic. We also always need to watch out for animals around alcohol, since this too can be very dangerous for them.

So, just in case you're looking to adopt, you can visit the Montreal SPCA during adoption hours from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to Sunday.

The SPCA’s adoption service is closed on December 25-26 and January 1-2, but rest assured that services for any injured animals will remain available.

Whether you’re considering fostering, adopting, or donating, ‘tis the season to help the animals in need!

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