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Bill 228: The Animal Shelter and Rescue Awareness Day Act - making April 10 a day to remember.

Thursday June 7, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on the Animal Shelter and Rescue Awareness Day Act.   This bill would, if passed, make April 10th, each year, a day for animal shelter and rescue awareness.   My comments (from Hansard) are below:

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill 228, The Animal Shelter and Rescue Awareness Day Act.
      I speak in support of this legislation because I think it would be valuable to have this day on April the 10th as a way of creating greater awareness of pets, of the importance of looking after pets well.
      I think, fundamentally, pets have been tremen­dously important for individual people, for us as a society and for humans throughout our development and evolution.
      What is particularly significant, I think, is that when kids are growing up, when they have pets and can learn from the pets the care and the compassion that you need to properly look after a pet, and that that care and compassion can be something that then lasts a lifetime, because pets can sometimes teach you important lessons. And the more kids can learn well how to look after pets well and relate to pets, I think the better society we will have.
      Pets are also important at any age. There have been numerous studies showing the positive impact of pets on the health of people. People with pets get out regularly, get more exercise. The relationship between a person and a pet can be a very important relationship and important in addressing things like loneliness, which has been identified as a particular problem in recent years for seniors, and so the better we can do in recognizing the importance of pets, [the better our seniors health will be].
      Indeed, a number of years ago I brought in a bill, Fluffy's law, which would have made it easier for people to have pets in apartments. I didn't have the support of the other political parties at that time and it didn't pass. There have been some modest steps making it a little easier for people to have pets in apartments, but we still need to move in that direction because it's tragic when a senior has to move from their home into an apartment and can't take their pet with them. And that's, of course, one of the reasons why I was working very closely with Bill McDonald and the Winnipeg Humane Society at that point, who were also very, very positive about this effort and very, very supportive.
      I want to salute the people who work in the pet rescue area for the efforts that they make and for what they do. There are some incredible animal rescue organizations here in Manitoba that do great work, driven by dedicated volunteers. And the volunteers have big hearts, sometimes tough skin, as they, unfortunately, have to rescue animals from some fairly sad and occasionally horrific conditions that can have a long-lasting impact on the animals and sometimes on people.
      Let me mention a couple of people: Chris Bishop in our caucus staff has spent a lot of time helping with the Spirit of Hope Rescue centre, and they deal with some of the issues which are being highlighted here, which is pets in the North as well as pets more locally. Roger Tam, who is in River Heights, and others have been working hard in supporting the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter. And I could go on and on naming people who have contributed. The circle of people who are involved in pet rescue is large, and it is a major effort and it talks, really, to the care and compassion that Manitobans have for pets and the understanding that we need to be looking after pets well as part of building a healthy society.
      On April the 10th, we hope that the government will encourage adoption, spaying and neutering and creating a humane environment. Indeed, it is not just the government, it really needs to be all of us celebrating and working on this day, creating the right environment for companion animals. Treating animals with dignity and respect is the least we can do and sets an important standard and base mark for how we treat others as well.
      I would urge all members of the Legislature to be involved in some way or another in supporting the effort to look after pets well, look after animals well.
      You know, Manitobans love their four-legged family members, and we would have one suggestion for the MLA for St. Johns as she works on bringing this day into account, and that is that people who work here be allowed, on April the 10th, to bring their dogs to work with them. And we could have a celebration in real time celebrating the animals that we share our lives with and that we love.
      I know one of our caucus members, a number of years ago, loved on occasion to sneak her small dog into the building. I don't think it was really allowed but she managed to and the dog behaved beautifully and was just fine in the office and very  quiet and we liked having her pet around and it  just spoke to who she is and spoke to what the opportunities are to do something like this.
      So with that suggestion, Madam Speaker, I will pass this on to others to speak on this bill, which hopefully will pass forward and we can make April the 10th a day to remember.
      Thank you.


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