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Devine Intervention

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Operation feline, puppy mill seizures and more on Montreal SPCA exec’s agenda

Devine InterventionMontreal native Alanna Devine has proven that change can manifest itself, even if it appears like the chips are stacked against you.

Case in point: after years of alleged malfeasance at the Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the SPCA is currently in litigation with the former executive director; therefore, Devine could not provide further comment), the 29-year old animal lover started volunteering at the SPCA in place of the former administration only to be hired as the executive director in June of last year.

The task ahead was a daunting one for the trained lawyer who formerly clerked at the supreme court of Canada, but she was up for the challenge nonetheless. “The opportunity to help an organization that helps animals was something I could not pass up,” says Devine, who grew up in a household of rescued animals and continued to pursue her animal welfare passion during university.

Her first order of business was a heavy hand. “When I first started, the Montreal SPCA had a lack of funding. There was no public trust or support. We were understaffed, had a lack of resources, and there were many many animals to care for.”

After months of hard work and dedication, Devine’s 13-hour workdays (and often weekends) have resulted in tangible results for the better.

With her beloved pit bull in tow, Devine’s starts each workday with a bevy of issues to manage. She plans future programs like Operation Feline which offers low cost spay and neutering for cats, meets with police officers and her inspection team to discuss cruelty cases, fields emails from the public about animal welfare, plans puppy mill seizures, approves budgets for animals medical care—and that’s just the tip of the doggy bone. If her dedication isn’t inspiring enough, she makes sure to personally spend time with the animals in the shelter on a daily basis—the paper work can wait.

One of the biggest misconceptions that Devine has had to contend with under new management was the public’s former impression that “all dogs go to heaven”—and fast, when they end up at the Montreal SPCA.

“Not true at all,” says Devine, at least not on her watch. “There is absolutely no time limit for animals to stay with us. We’ve had some stay for 8 or 9 months before finding the right home for them.”

She goes on to put the kibosh on the idea that the animals are also considered on death row and that their time is numbered when at the SPCA. “Euthanasia is seen as a last resort,” says Devine. “We do not euthanize for lack of space in the shelter—we get creative if we have to and will keep animals in our conference room if we have to. Even if a dog cannot be placed here either because of temperament or health issues, we can have them placed through another rescue or shelter.”

Sadly however, for cats the situation is much more difficult. Rescues all over Canada are overwhelmed with cats and the overpopulation issue is enormous. “We do our best to find as many possible homes, whether foster or permanent, for cats, but if they fall ill or have temperament issues and we cannot find a foster home, we have to resort to euthanasia.” Devine’s Operation Feline program is trying to temper this problem by offering a no-cost spay-neuter clinic.

While taking on her new role at the SPCA, Devine has also worked hard to ensure that every animal that comes into the SPCA is treated with as many “creature comforts” as possible. All animals are examined and treated by a veterinarian and given their basic vaccines upon arrival. Additionally all of the animals are well socialized with walks and “play time” as well as given soft blankets, toys and Kuranda dog beds. Under the previous administration, the dogs were subject to sleep on the cold floors in their cages—only adding to their anxiety and stress.

Cleanliness is also a virtue under the new administration and thanks to generous donations, the laundry room is a well-oiled machine providing clean towels and blankets for the animals around the clock.

By far the biggest improvement at the Montreal SPCA has been the extensive renovations to the previously defunct ventilation and air conditioning system. While still a work in progress, there is already a palpable difference being felt in many areas of the SPCA with the remainder of the work to be completed shortly.

Along with being a voice for the animals at the Montreal shelter, Devine remains committed to stopping puppy mills dead in their tracks from continuing to exist, by raising public awareness and most importantly working with law enforcement to stage seizures. Unfortunately, Quebec is the only province in Canada that does not allow provincial SPCA’s to enforce provincial animal welfare laws. Quebec’s weak provincial animal legislation combined with inadequate enforcement has allowed the province to become a puppy mill haven. To give you a better idea how unbalanced the system is in Quebec; in Ontario there are over 200 inspectors enforcing their Provincial animal welfare legislation, in Quebec there are only five.

While she is working hard on her end to beef up the small number of inspectors working for the Montreal SPCA (there are only two), Devine is adamant that the public can help to stop this cruel practice by following these very simple instructions:

*Never purchase an animal, or pet supplies from a store that sells cats or dogs and encourage others not to as well.

*Never purchase an animal from a newspaper ad or online and encourage others not to as well

*Choose the adoption method and save a shelter or rescue dog. www.petfinder.com

While the road ahead is still uncertain in Quebec, the animals have a bona fide warrior advocate in Devine, a woman who works tirelessly overtime and is dedicated to fighting the good fight in honour of those who can’t defend themselves.

“The reason I work in the field of animal welfare is a desire to give a voice to those who do not have one, and to protect the most vulnerable in our society. I just want to pursue justice and I cannot think of an area where there is more injustice than animals and the law.”

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