Rats and other rodents win Laureen Harper’s heart during SPCA tour in Vancouver

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 27, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

VANCOUVER — She is the wife of the prime minister, but at heart, Laureen Harper is still a country girl who is completely at home around dogs, cats and yes, even rats and a degu.


The little rodent of South American origins captured the heart of Harper, who lovingly cradled it during a tour of the SPCA’s animal shelter in Vancouver on Friday. The squirming pet, called Orchid, looked positively rat-like, but Harper didn’t see it that way. “What a lovely animal!� she exclaimed, oohing and ahhing over its perfect little feet and ears.

But then, the politician’s wife, who is on a solo western tour promoting volunteer and animal causes, had only good things to say about rats, too. A pregnant rat came in for a shower of affection and a little quip: “Been having some parties, eh?�

While the SPCA tour was full of levity, the message behind it was not.

British Columbia, like most provinces, has a serious animal over-population problem. “It leads to a tremendous amount of suffering,� said Marylee Davies, president of the B.C. SPCA.

Craig Daniell, the B.C. SPCA’s chief executive officer, estimated the organization cares for about 32,000 homeless animals every year. About 57 per cent are cats.

He and Harper urged pet owners to behave responsibly by having their animals spayed or neutered.

Daniell praised the organization’s more than 4,000 volunteers who put in countless hours at the SPCA’s 36 branches across B.C.

During the tour, Harper gracefully stepped in and out of pens holding cats, scooping them up in her arms while looking straight into cameras and inviting people to adopt them.

Wearing blue jeans and casual loafers, she said the tour took her back to her childhood in the foothills of the Rockies, where she grew up with a varied menagerie.

“We would end up with old chickens and you name it, old animals that just deserved to live out the rest of their lives in comfort and safety. There is nothing sadder than an animal that has been thrown away like a piece of garbage,� she said, while an eclectic collection of strays peered out at all the excitement generated by their visitor.

At 24 Sussex Drive, the sedate residence of the prime minister in Ottawa, Harper has set up what she calls the cat room, which has provided a temporary home to more than 200 kittens since her husband was elected in 2006.

That’s in addition to the couple’s two cats and, of late, a chihuahua that she rescued from a shelter.

She isn’t sure her husband loves animals as much as she does. She excuses him with the explanation that he didn’t grow up on a farm. But, she said, he loves them just the same.

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