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   Oct. 18,  1989     Mississauga News  -  Editorial   -  Page - ?

City shooting itself in foot on shelter

By Albert Atkins

A year ago Mississauga's formidable mayor, Hazel McCallion, found out that Lois Stevens , a rent-paying tenant living on City-owned land, operates a non-profit shelter for sick, stray and homeless cats, in supposed violation of a seldom-invoked by-law prohibiting the keeping of more than four animals on a residential site.

No one had complained.  No one had demanded enforcement of the bylaw.  The Stevens home, situated at a distance from other dwellings, created no nuisance by functioning as safe haven for unwanted cats that would ordinarily clutter city streets and invade private domains until captured, examined, classified, given medical treatment and in all probability end up being put to death - all at the expense of the Mississauga ratepayer.  Moreover, the costs of the shelter are paid by Lois Stevens and her husband, Brian.

Such considerations did not prevent Mayor McCallion from insisting that Mrs. Stevens evict the cats and terminate her work of mercy; the chief beneficiary of which, ironically, is the City of Mississauga.

The Stevens shelter, like other presumably illegal animal shelters operating under-ground in Mississauga, would probably not exist but for the City's lack of a comprehensive, humane animal control program.  (None is in sight.)  Unsheltered, un-neutered and un-spayed cats, reproducing at an alarming rate, present an enormous control problem that publicly financed animal care and control facilities cannot handle adequately.  Nor  are these tax-supported institutions equipped to care for such animals with the kindness compassion and thoroughness available at privately operated shelters.

This festering boil, far from being high on the agenda of City planners, is being allowed to magnify itself while municipal politicians sit on their hands, hoping it will cure itself.

Understandably, Lois Stevens refused to sacrifice the animals in her care to the very fate she'd worked hard to rescue them from.  So the City, egged on by Mayor McCallion, tried to condemn as unsafe the City-owned house which has been the Stevens home for a decade (the maintenance of which, contrary to Mississauga's own property standards bylaw, has been sorely neglected by the City).   When that tactic failed, Mayor Hazel was no amused.

Nobody thwarts the mulish will of Hazel McCallion and escapes unscathed.  Mrs. Stevens and her husband found themselves ordered by the City to vacate the premises, on the hollow and transparently spiteful ground that, safe or not, the house must be demolished.  Mayor McCallion also harped on her pet allegation that their lease, an ungainly and legally questionable instrument, had been breached.

When the upstart press observed that Ward 6 councillor David Culham had gone to bat for Mrs. Stevens, Mayor Hazel took umbrage.  Perceiving that this one lonely member of her otherwise docile council declined to fall in line with her wishes, she began forthwith to treat him as a pariah, just as she treated former council member Larry Taylor prior to Taylor's unexplained defeat, following years of  earnest public service, in the last municipal election.

To his credit, Culham has bravely endured the slings and arrows of an aroused Hazel's wrath.  So far.

On Monday, Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m., Lois Stevens and her supporters - citizens concerned about the City's lack of a comprehensive animal control policy - will attend a meeting of the city council. They hope to persuade the council to reconsider its previous adverse decision - based largely on incomplete data and false allegations - regarding the Stevens cat shelter.

I'll be there, too.  Wild horses couldn't keep me away.  I want to see, at first hand, whether the council has the guts to act in accordance with correct information and from personal conviction rather than from a servile fear of the consequences of bucking a  mayor who has savored the heady wine of political power too long.

It will make a difference!
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