Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One of those rare win/win things

When I was a little girl, my parents always went out on New Years Eve. They were one of those wonderful couples who truly enjoyed each other's company and were even good enough sports to leave whistles and horns out for us to find on New Years Day.
For most of my adult working life, New Years Eve was just one more banquet or buffet to cook... and in time to organize. To this day, the biggest treat I can have for New Years Eve is to be at liberty to stay home or visit friends. After years of being one of the few sober people in the room, going out and painting the town on New Years Eve holds all the appeal of babysitting any toddler who is not my grandaughter.
For my parents, the flip side of being such a wonderful couple was how very tough it was for my Mom to soldier on for seven years after we lost Dad. After forty five years of that, it would have been unrealistic to expect Mom to celebrate New Years Eve in high style.
My folks had always been charitable, giving what they could, when they could. After Dad passed, it became one of Mom's little projects to make sure that the balance sheet of giving was always carefully weighted to minimize her income tax. New Years Eve became her time to quietly celebrate both the good feeling of having done well and the satisfaction of knowing she would receive enough of an income tax refund to pay her property taxes : )
I am fifty four years old... so I have discovered that time really does fly by more quickly as one gets older. Just the other day I was sitting at my daughter's table having a lovely New Years Day Dinner and suddenly 2008 is nearly over.
For those who were meaning to donate something to any cause dear to their heart, New Years Eve day is the last day to do so if one plans on using it to help with this year's taxes.
For those thinking of helping the animals in this province in any way, in no particular order:

I apologize in advance if I have somehow missed listing any NS group that does have a tax number. Normally anyone with a tax number is quick to mention it on their website, as well as listing whether there is a minimum donation required for a receipt.

Rescues may be built on love for the animals, but donations are the 'gas' that will keep them running and enable them to save more animals. This is just one of those rare times when folks can do something good for themselves and do something good for the animals all in one shot. In my books, that's worth celebrating.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What a difference a day makes

Sometimes the injustice of life is enough to make me weep. Cats and dogs are dying every day because their original guardians didn't care enough to train/alter/care for and of course love them enough. Cats and dogs are dying every day because shelter staff keep on doing things the way they've always been done. Cats and dogs are dying every day because of stubborn resistance to change by those who are unable to admit that compromising their compassion was the wrong road to take.
There are moments when I am still four instead of fifty four ... when I still expect life to be fair. This morning I took McG into the vets for what I thought was going to be a fairly routine senior citizen checkup. We've lived with his heart murmur for years and adjusted to the reality that last years dental surgery had stepped it up.
The short version of this story is there wasn't any good news waiting in his xray ( Scotties are small enough that one xray covers their heart, lungs and tummy ) and his blood work. For the short term his heart meds have been stepped up to double strength and we'll go back in four weeks for another 'photo shoot' and blood work. That will give us a better idea of what our timeline is.
The four year old in me wants to throw something. In a world where so many are so careless with the pets in their charge... it is utterly unfair that someone who is willing to do just about anything has no good options available. There is nothing that is operable. McG's sodium levels are too low to allow for lasex. After a certain point of listening to what can't be done it just became a blur.
McG is only eleven and has never had a hard day in his life. He eats good food and gets regular checkups. McG has never thought of himself as little... in his mind he has always been the biggest lad on the field.
I have been down this road before with other old friends... this bittersweet place where every day must simply be treated like a gift. McG has seen me through some very hard things .... for whatever time we have left it is for me to return the favour.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Miracle needed for 26 Cats on the Rock

The Clarenville SPCA, http://www.clarenvilleareaspca.ca/index.php is in urgent need of fosters and / or adopters for these gorgeous kitties. Their shelter was already full on the 23rd of December when they had to remove twenty-six cats from a home. The adults are already spayed or neutered although of course the kittens are just getting to the age where they can be altered.
By the way, yes there are only 24 kitties pictured here, because two very lucky ones already have an adoption pending.
To read their bios, http://www.clarenvilleareaspca.ca/adoption-cats.php. Dreyfus, Dolly, Munchkin, Treasure, Tabitha, Sparkle, Velcro, Jody, Nathaniel, Missy Moo, Becky, Trouble, Smokey, Buddy, Cinder, Toby, Chelsea, Misty, Pumpkin, Sweetie Pie, Smoocher, Ollie, Precious and Gail are all in need of their own little miracle for the holidays.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Way Ahead is Always Paved by Voter Feedback

From this morning's Herald

SPCA waits for power
Sick animals shivering in cold, volunteers have no hot water to wash soiled cages, blankets
By PATRICIA BROOKS ARENBURG Staff Reporter Fri. Dec 26 - 5:12 AM

Some ailing puppies were shivering in the cold at the Metro SPCA on Christmas Day after spending about 30 hours without heat at the Dartmouth animal shelter.
The lights were on in a handful of rooms, but there wasn’t enough power getting into the Scarfe Court building in Burnside Park to generate heat for the more than 30 dogs and many cats and a handful of rabbits housed inside.
In an interview barely audible over the din of howling and barking dogs, Sean Kelly, the chairman of the shelter management team, said he had repeatedly called Nova Scotia Power to get someone to come out to restore power, but got nowhere.
"We had volunteers come in today expecting to clean a few kennels and help a few animals and instead they were hit with a huge amount of work and seeing the dogs like this . . . everyone’s just demoralized beyond belief," he said.
The high-pitched ring of the alarm, which activated when the power went off but couldn’t be shut off for security reasons, prompted more barking and meowing as it changed pitch. Volunteers had no hot water to sanitize the kennels and working areas, which stank of feces and urine.
About a dozen tall laundry baskets piled high with soiled blankets were lined up in front of two industrial laundry machine sets, while the blanket storage area was almost empty.
"If we don’t have power tomorrow, we’re done," Mr. Kelly said. "We’re out of stuff. We have to start bringing this to our homes."
Kat Horne, a member of the management team, said the shelter was using extra blankets to keep the dogs and cats warm during the lengthy outage, which began early Wednesday morning. Two thin-coated terriers were shivering in the observation room, which housed some sick dogs. They wear coats at night to keep warm, but would have to wear them during the day, she said.
The low, heart-wrenching moans of one particular dog — a large husky-German shepherd mix named Reegan — could be heard from the front entry, even though he was tucked away in the last cage of the dog isolation room at the opposite end of the building.
"When they can’t see, it freaks them out," making a stressful situation even worse for the animals, Ms. Horne said.
"What we really need is Nova Scotia Power to come and do something like they were supposed to yesterday."
There were no metro-area outages listed on the company’s online outage page when The Chronicle Herald contacted NSP. Company spokeswoman Glennie Langille confirmed the shelter’s strange power situation, saying the shelter’s outage was a "one-off" in the area and that the crews focused on larger outages and institutions on the restoration priorities list.
At 2:30 p.m., after The Chronicle Herald contacted NSP, Ms. Langille said a crew was on its way to fix the problem.
The power was still not on at the shelter shortly before 3 p.m., but Mr. Kelly was glad to hear help was on its way.
And, he said, the shelter is "going to try and get ourselves put on their list of priorities, so that’s just something that the Nova Scotia SPCA and Nova Scotia Power have to work out."

But I'm getting off topic. We've been having a chilly December all around the province. I don't even want to think about how very much worse this story would have been if the mercury hadn't risen dramatically during that time.

This wouldn't even have been mentioned in the news if Metro had a generator. If Metro is the sheltering partner for HRM, then as an essential service involving living breathing sentient beings, HRM has a moral ( and legal ?) obligation to protect the helpless creatures in its care. Ergo, HRM Emergency services has a obligation to provide Metro with emergency backup in case of disaster.

My brother, who is an engineer, tells me that propane generators are the way to go. The initial outlay might be a bit more, but they are cheaper to run and involve less maintenance. And then of course there is the purely practical aspect that when there is an extended loss of power, most gas stations cannot pump gas, while purchases of tanks of propane and propane deliveries are still possible.

I expect that assistance for Metro from HRM will be more readily forthcoming on the heels of strong voter feedback. THe EMO may be contacted by emailing HRM_EMO@halifax.ca. You find contact information for your Councillor at http://www.halifax.ca/districts/index.html.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. Albert Einstein

Thursday, December 25, 2008

We need some new traditions

No matter where we lived, when I was a little girl there was always lots of Christmas magic in our home. My Mom's people were originally from Holland, so our holiday began on the fifth, the eve of St Nicholas day. Before we went to bed, we each had a pair of wooden shoes that we would put outside our bedroom door. In the morning we would wake to find that St Nick had been by to fill them with chocolates and treats. ( One of the great miracles of the season was that we never wound up with branches in our shoes instead : )))
Like most families, our holiday traditions developed over the years .... often inspired by the various places Dad's postings took us to. Our time in Germany added gingerbread houses and a newfound respect for the possibilities of chocolate.
But throughout the years, there were always some constants underpinning it all. The presents never appeared under the tree until we went to bed on Christmas Eve. Everyone hung up one of Dad's big wool socks for Santa to fill. We always made a sandwich for Santa before going to bed. And of course opening gifts in the morning had to wait until Mom and Dad were awake .... and there was to be no nudging them up before five.
I am old enough to remember listening to the radio announcer tracking Santa's progress by radar on Christmas Eve. When midnight mass was full of mystery with latin and incense.
We bring some traditions with us and begin making our own holiday traditions when we leave our parents roof. The no putting presents under the tree beforehand works really well in a multipet household : ))) From the orange in the toe of the stocking to the menu that evolves over time, it is the homely little things that weave the fabric of our traditions.
If there is one constant in life, it is that nothing is ever constant. Just as we can never stand in the same river twice, we can never have the same holiday in spite of all our traditions. Children grow up, grandchildren are born. People should grow and change over the years as their experiences open their minds and their hearts to new ideas.
Back in the day, we used to pray for "Peace on Earth". I am older now, if not necessarily wiser, and understand that first we need real respect for life. Until we create an environment where it is socially, and more importantly legally, unacceptable for humans to abuse and kill helpless animals, Peace on Earth hasn't got a chance.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why S.O.P.'s Should Be S.O.P.

Standard Operating Procedures are exactly what they they sound like in the military. They are a set list of procedures covering every aspect from mundane administration to defining the pecking order of responsibility and accountability on all levels.
They sound as dull as dishwater don't they? In today's computer savvy world, why would the military still use them? SOP's are used at all levels by all branches because they clearly define procedures and clarify any question of individual responsibility.
Some very hard lessons have been learned this year as a result of the Celtic Pets seizure. Much of the ensuing controversy could have been avoided if the society had clear cut SOP's for cruelty seizures of any size that would include, but not be limited to :
  • specific timelines before seized animals could be adopted
  • clear cut criteria for killing any seized animal
  • precise accounting of all the animals, whether they were adopted, fostered, transferred to the custody of a rescue, still at the shelter or killed.
  • an explicit definition of the BOD authority with respect to both the investigation and to the fate of all of the animals.

SOP's clear up the fuzzy grey areas and prevent individuals from assuming more authority than they actually should have. Organizations just run smoother when responsibility and accountability are "written in stone" If the society is truly in pursuit of more transparency, having SOP's for the sticky spots would be a darned good start.

After all, if there had been SOP's this year when the seizure took place, the society could have garnered much sympathy and public support for the plight of so many animals. Instead, the society very nearly circled the drain as a result of the public indignation about the misuse and overreaching of individual authority.

With SOP's, the society would have been able to draw in public support by allowing them to understand and share the journey. The society should have been strengthened .... instead it was shrouded in a veil of secrecy by individuals who refused to accept criticism or even hold themselves accountable to the society BOD. The society is still trying to recover the credibility and support that was lost at that time.

SOP's prevent situations like that from happening. We cannot and should not ever attempt to whitewash what happened this year after the Celtic Pets Seizure. I still have all the old pictures of Chinchilla Charlie ( remember him... he was the front door poster boy for the society after the seizure while they were drumming up donations and then he was killed, in spite of the fact that there was a place and training/ rehab available for him.

I still have all the old pics of Jackie, and I remember like it was yesterday when the society tried to take him away from Joan. SOP's would have made it impossible to rescind memberships and threaten Joan like that.

And the Celtic Pets Six/seven eight nine????? If there had been SOP's we would know how many of those rescued lived to tell the tail. But of course the person who made those decisions is gone and because there were no SOP's, that person got away with murder. Because there were no SOP's, to this day not even the BOD knows the numbers.

And of course, in the here and now, SOP's could change the killing in Cape Breton. But that is a rant for another day, because THAT whole situation is so darned big its going to take more than better administration to fix that.

At the end of the day, SOP's are like routines..... they free our minds to focus on the big picture.... and they minimize the time that gets wasted deciding what to do.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Who will rescue them after the rescue?

1. to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil.

From the Services page of the Cape Breton SPCA http://www.capebretonspca.com/services.html (anything in green italics is of course not from the site but is commenting on the material therein )
What the SPCA Chapters Do:

1. Rescue abandoned or distressed animals:

  • no mention is made of the fact that the CB branch holds the AC contract for dogs only.
  • Nor is their any indication that they accept all owner surrenders. Many of these are listed separately in their branch statistics as being killed by the request of the owner.
  • Without funding for cats, they only include 66% of the cats taken into the shelter in their branch statistics.

2. Provide quick, humane disposal in cases where it is an act of mercy:

  • In reality , according to the annual statistics on the provincial branch home page, the Branch has taken the liberty of redefining disproportionate numbers of the animals as being untreatable or unadoptable. Once again, these numbers are not included in their branch statistics.
  • If one looks at the definition of humane ( characterized by tenderness, sympathy and compassion for people and animals; especially for the suffering and distressed ) and disposal ( disposing of, or getting rid of something ), it is an oxymoron to use those two words together to describe the killing of living sentient beings.
  • Special permissions notwithstanding, continued use of the gas chamber violates Official Position Number: 600/E/10 of the provincial society.

3. Find homes for unwanted, healthy animals:

  • While the CBFSS, http://www.cbfss.org/ , does work an adoption booth in the mall on saturday's for the CB Branch, there is nothing on the Branch website to offer potential adopters. Not one single picture exists on the Branch website of any cats or dogs that are available for adoption. Not one.
  • Clicking on the dogs or cats for adoption link on the branch page links visitors to the Branch Petfinder page.... which is STILL completely empty. If they are receiving an average of 75 pets a week in the shelter ( that they will admit to ), having their petfinder page empty for the last three weeks means that 225 pets didn't get listed. Does it take longer to list the pets or to kill them?

4. Promote humane education:

  • Their spay neuter page is a reprint of a flyer produced 13 years ago by CFHS. No mention is made there of the spay neuter assist program the CBRM offers.
  • Their education page consists of a couple of paragraphs offering to go into the schools on request and the terse advice that pet ownership is a big commitment and if one is unsure, it is better not to adopt at all.

5. Investigate cases of cruelty or neglect involving household pets:

  • Any investigation into cruelty should start with the Branch refusal to stop using their gas chamber to kill animals.
  • In the recent and well publicized case where two hunters found a little dog nailed into a box that was submerged in a pond, the animal in question was immediately returned to his owner before any facts could be reasonably verified. Their chief investigator only mentioned to the media that he would look into the circumstances after a deluge of public protests in the comments section of the articles in the Cape Breton Post.

6 Cases involving livestock and wildlife are referred to the provincial investigator:

What the SPCA does not do:

  • Does not take action in annoyance cases except where cruelty/neglect are involved-
  • Does not put its inspectors at risk by allowing them to climb trees or hydro poles-
  • Does not supply animals for scientific or medical research ( Why would that even need to be mentioned? )

Visit our webpages that describe the services we provide:

Recipe for a Great Dog

  • one dog of any age. Size does not matter
  • At least one loving human
  • Daily time available
  • Complete lifetime commitment
  • More than a pinch of patience
  • Consistent routine
  • Balanced nutritious diet suitable for weight/age/size
  • Appropriate safety gear: seatbelts/lifejackets/hunting season vests/etc
  • One good vet or animal clinic,
  • Toys and Treats, and last but definitely not least
  • Lots and lots of Love

Optional Ingredients ( May not be required by all models)

  • Available Groomer
  • Obedience training
  • Coats and Boots for inclement weather
  • Dog Sport Training
  • Clicker or New Clicker Leash


Please note that preparation time will vary with individual age and history. Older models often train quicker while some of the ones that have been given a rough start might need a little extra time and effort.

  1. Combine loving human, dog with daily time together. This step is critical and cannot be bypassed. If no daily time is available in current lifestyle, postpone bringing home a dog until things change. Not sure if you have the time available? Take a 'test drive' by volunteering to be a short term foster for your local animal shelter or rescue for when their regular fosters go on vacation/on curling bonspiels or just plain need a break.
  2. Dog is a living breathing sentient being, not a thing to be recycled through Kijijji or rescue when its people get tired of it/do not train it properly/or any other variety of bullshit excuses available. If Commitment is not available, postpone bringing home dog until things change
  3. Patience will pay off in the long run. Dog is intelligent and wants to please.... dog simply needs to know what you want. Please note that there is generally less mopping and midnight waking up for walks with older models.
  4. All dogs of all ages and all sizes like the security of a steady routine. This is particularly important for models that were ill treated by their previous humans.
  5. You are what you eat... and so is your dog. It is poor economy to feed any dog cheap food. You will spend a lot more money on vet bills in the long run than you will save on food. If you cannot afford decent food for dog, postpone getting dog until circumstances improve... or consider volunteering to foster ( animal shelters and rescues normally pay for food and vet bills for their pets in foster )
  6. Safety gear is important. You wouldn't drive without a seatbelt or go out on the water without a lifejacket. Protect your new best friend too.
  7. Reasonable proximity to a good vet that you can trust is critical. Dog will need regular checkups , will normally need vaccinations and altering, and will of course need emergency care. If vet care is out of your budget, postpone getting dog until things improve. Please note that dogs adopted from Rescue normally have been altered, health checked and vaccinated.
  8. Toys and treats are more than good fun... they are great ways to let dog know when he or she is on the right path. Did I mention the fun bit?
  9. And of course, while Love isn't all Dog needs, it is the one thing Dog needs the most. In return, Dog will have more love than you could ever imagine for you.

Cleaning Instructions:

  1. Ears should be gently cleaned, at least weekly and for some dogs, daily. Patience may be needed until dog understands this is neither a game nor something to fear
  2. Nails will need to be clipped. Otherwise paws will get sore and it will hurt dog to walk. If human is worried about doing this, it can be done quite reasonably by vet techs and groomers.
  3. Dog may need to be groomed. Find out beforehand because dogs that must be clipped will get matted fur and worse if this is not done. If you cannot afford a groomer, you probably cannot afford the other things you should do for dog.
  4. Dogs without winter boots will need their paws washed after walking on winter roads with salt. If not, dog can get sick licking salt ( with chemicals ) off paws.
  5. Eyes may need to be gently cleaned on a regular basis, especially for small or older dogs. When this is not done, dog's eyes can get infected and dog can lose vision. Eyes can also be 'sealed' shut which is very painful for dog.
  6. Butts may need to be wiped and cleaned of 'organic' matter. If human is squeamish about this, human should perhaps have fish instead of dog because human will be required in most locations to pick up dog's poop and carry it with them for the rest of the walk.
  7. Dog should be brushed regularly. Even short haired dogs will feel better and it is good training for dog to stand still. Trips to the vet will be much easier that way.

Maintenance Notes:

  • Under no circumstances should dog be chained outside, even with a dog house. Dog is not a yard ornament. Dog is a social pack animal whose spirit will wither without the company of his human. If there is no room and/or time to train dog to be a suitable companion in the home, human should settle for a dog screensaver.
  • Dog will eventually get older. We all do. Good food and regular checkups will help minimize health issues, but human must be prepared to give dog the extra patience, tlc and time that is needed. Please note that commitment includes loving and properly caring for dog in his or her senior years.
  • Dog's love provides constant support to human. If human has a new partner who insists they cannot live with dog, human should consider carefully whether they should share space with someone attempting to control them by isolating them from their friends and loved ones.
  • If dog is originally adopted from rescue, human is never working without a safety net. If human is unwilling or unable to look after dog, human must return dog to the rescue or shelter dog came from. The adoption contract specifies this. Dog is not to be passed around like an old sock on free online ad sites.

Dog is like a Do It Yourself Kit ..... everything human needs to make a great dog is there.... all human needs to do is take the time and love to put it all together.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Learning New Tricks

My eldercat, Bear, is the best dog trainer I have ever known. She refuses to run from any dog of any size and has always been quick to teach any and all newcomers the first rule of cat ... that she was here first and she rules. Like many old school girls, she is the iron fist in the velvet glove. From the moment each newcomer has set foot though the door, Bear has been quick to let them know their place in the scheme of things. She understands instinctively how important it is for everyone to get off on the right paw.

And like many old school gals, her age is a mystery .... fourteen years ago when Bear wandered in my vet thought that she was at least two or three. Happily in catspeak that should mean there is no imminent cause for concern, especially as this years checkup was still full of good news. I am still surprised when people hesitate to adopt an eight year old cat because they don't realize that a well cared for cat can live to be twenty or more.

Now I'm no spring chicken myself, so I bring a little bit of my own experience about pets to the table. But some of the best lessons I've learned are the ones Bear has taught me. She is quick to let any 'new kids' know their role in her 'pack' and never changes her ground rules. She gets respect because she expects to be respected. And most importantly, she is patient and willing to spend whatever time is needed with each 'new kid' to achieve her desired results.

Whether it was teaching Clive not to disturb her beauty sleep or reminding Ruby not to chase her, Bear stayed the course until the lesson was learned. Judging by the occasional wee scratch on Henry's nose, he is still learning not to stick his cold nose on her butt : ))))
Which is why I am always put out to hear tales of adopters giving up before they ever really get started on the road with their new pets. My friend Joan has a great page on her Charlie Loves Halifax site called How to Be a Benevolent Alpha, http://charlieloveshalifax.ca/benevolent.html. As the local rep for Dogs Deserve Better, she has often passed out the articles on adopting a dog that has been chained or penned http://www.dogsdeservebetter.com/rehab.html
All relationships take work if they are going to last ... its unrealistic to expect to successfully bring home a new pet of any age without investing the time and energy.
I am fifty four years old and so I have learned that the most successful people in life are the ones who are willing to learn 'new tricks'. These are the folks who understand that they do not know everything. Their willingness to learn is what sets them apart.
At some point in every pet owners life they are a rookie. The great pet owners are the ones who have been, and are still, willing to 'learn new tricks" There is a wealth of support information available for anyone bringing home any new pet of any age:

No matter what age you are, how can you expect your pets to learn new tricks if you won't?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Can Get There from Here

I tend to view the world from a cooks perspective. There's the logical side, where success depends on deft combinations of measured ingredients and traditional skills. Then there's the creative end of the stick, where new techniques and innovative recipes create bold new concepts. Whoever it was who said there is nothing new under the sun clearly never set foot in a kitchen.
The No Kill Concept has been around long enough to have mapped its own ingredients for success. These are not radical theories but tried and tested techniques.
Basically, the recipe has ten ingredients:
#10 TNR program for Feral Cats
#9 High volume / Low Cost Spay Neuter
#8 Rescue Groups
#7 Foster Care
#6 Comprehensive Adoption Program
#5 Pet Retention
#4 Medical and Behavioral Assistance
#3 Good community relations and involvement
#2 Volunteers, and last but not least
#1 Compassionate, goal focused leadership
If you look at the situation in Cape Breton, some of the ingredients are already in place, even if not in the needed quantities.
#10 The Cape Breton Feline Support Society already exists, and has been doing their bit not just with TNR but in trying to help with adoptions. http://www.cbfss.org/
#9 The CBRM has funded 300 low cost spay neuters for this year. That number pales in light of the nearly 4000 animals admitted to the CB branch, but it is something that can be built on. There was an article recently in the news about the intention of CBRM to fund more assistance for people who "take in" strays.
#8 There are rescue groups throughout the province that have been and would be willing to accept animals into their care. A standardized procedure, such as the New Hope Network used by LA Animal Control would engage the rescues and shelters in this lifesaving work
#7 Foster Care is the backbone of every rescue and shelter. Animals that are living in a cage seldom have a chance to show their best selves. Admittedly it is difficult to find people willing to volunteer for a high kill group.... but if the killing was to stop, the animal loving community would step up to the plate.
#6 Promoting the animals through free services like Petfinder is a critical component to boosting adoptions. Online dating services can't hold a candle to how far kind animal lovers are willing to travel for their new best friend. The CBFSS already has made the big step of taking the adoptables to the mall and on the road. Building on this would just make sense
#5 An ounce of pet retention is worth a pound of cure. If the CBRM was willing to make the leap of offering free lifetime licenses for microchipped and altered pets, it would cut down traffic at the CB branch and liberate more resources for rescue Right now there is a flat ten dollar licensing fee with no "reward" for having pets altered or microchipped.
#4 Hand in hand with that, it is penny wise and pound foolish not to provide medical and behavior assistance when needed. The cost of a few free obedience workshops, a help line and emergency low cost medical assistance would just keep Fluffy and Fido home and out of the shelter.
#3 Good community relations happens in a positive environment where life is nurtured and respected. The Gas Chamber is one of those 'dirty little secrets' that no one likes to talk about but everybody knows about. There will be no good community relations until that is permanently gone. When AC went No Kill in Maricopa County, their donations took such an upswing they were able to add on to their facility and fund more programs.
#2 People who volunteer with the animals are normally animal lovers. In this day and age, they are simply not going to step up to the plate until the gas chamber is gone.
#1 None of this will be possible without a committed Branch president and executive who are on the same page as the provincial society. Granted that it is possible to teach a turkey how to climb a tree, but general wisdom has it that its easier and quicker to hire a squirrel for the job.
At the end of the day, the recipe only works if all the ingredients are available. Until then, everything is just going to keep falling flat.

Talking to Politicians... yet again

When I came in from scooping the lane just now, this was waiting in my inbox from the Hon . Brooke D Taylor, in response to my ( much ) earlier email
Ref. # M166/112508019
Dear Ms. Young:
Premier MacDonald has asked me to reply on his behalf to your email of November 24, 2008.You may be aware by now that Bill 186, the Animal Protection Act, passed in the Legislature on November 25, 2008. Regulations supporting the Bill will be drafted and suggestions from the SPCA dealing with animal transport will be considered at that time.
The exemption for researchers operating under the control of the Canadian Council for Animal Care passed with the Bill. I have every confidence this group will be diligent in their work and are considered a gold standard organization by many other countries.
Thank you for taking the time to write the Premier and we appreciate your efforts on behalf of homeless pets.
Yours sincerely,
Brooke Taylor
Minister of Agriculture
c: Premier Rodney MacDonald
In the orginal email I had also given a list of good reasons, from both a humane and a public safety perspective in support of the proposal for banning the transport of unsecured and unprotected animals in the back of a pickup..... heavy sigh.... that basically reiterated an earlier post of mine http://catanddogmother.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-we-should-never-save-our-breath-to.html
Whenever there is an issue that I feel is of concern, like my mother before me I do not hesitate to contact the politicians who represent me at every level. They don't always agree with me but have resigned themselves to listening politely at least, although I am at that wonderful age when I am past being treated as 'cute' and can expect to be taken seriously.
IMHO, there is never any point in whining about anything if you don't express your concerns to your elected officials. That's the only way that democracy really works.
"..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people's minds."~Samuel Adams

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa Never Made it to Cape Breton

This is what anyone searching for adoptable pets at the Cape Breton SPCA has seen for the past week. Once again, they are back to not even bothering to list any pets on their petfinder page.
For a few months, they were listing a few, mostly young pets, for a month at a time... then the listings would be replaced with a few more young pets... then after a few more weeks, another handful of young pets.
None of the pertinent info that adopters are looking for was included. Were these pets housetrained/vaccinated/altered? Nobody could tell. Nothing of their personalities shone through any of the sparse descriptions. Never an appealing or even a sad tale to tug at the heart.
No mention of their gas chamber is made anywhere on the official Cape Breton SPCA site, http://www.capebretonspca.com/. If one did not go and read the annual reports from the AGM that are listed on the Reports and Minutes page of the provincial society webpage, one would have no idea that the gas chamber is still being used at all. http://www.spcans.ca/resources/reports_minutes.html
We all know that things are tough all over. We all know that there will be a lot more belt tightening at every level of government. So we all know that makes everything just so much tougher for the island of Cape Breton.
Cape Breton is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in Canada. Some of the most brilliant and creative people in our history were born and raised there. It has inspired some of the most brilliant creations in both scientific and artistic history. It is world famous for its preservation of the Gaelic language and culture.
On the front door of the Cape Breton SPCA Branch website, they announce that they admitted 3977 animals last year. (That figure should be taken with a very large grain of salt, given the propensity for the branch to deduct nearly two thousand animals as being 'unhealthy and unadoptable" from their statistical total ) Still, using 3977 as a benchmark, that means that on an average, over 75 animals were admitted to the branch every week. Three hundred a month.
It goes without saying that an island with a steadily dwindling population and increasing job losses might be hard pressed to find nearly 4000 good homes for the animals every year. That is still no excuse for the gas chamber. Not when:
  • There are few, if any animals listed on their www.petfinder.com site
  • The only thing they seem to keep asking the provincial branch for is permission to keep using the gas chamber
  • The branch president does not attend the BOD meetings
  • Queries from the public addressed to the branch level are either ignored or treated in a very unprofessional fashion
  • The branch holds the AC contract for the CBRM, yet no requests for additional resources can be found in any of the CBRM Protective Services meetings.

In other words, as long as the Cape Breton Branch has permission to use the gas chamber, it has no need to change anything. Its just too easy for them to kill the animals, rather than put some energy into finding better solutions. If there was no gas chamber, if there was no crematorium to dispose of the evidence, would they still keep on killing?

If Santa really wants to do something for the animals in Cape Breton, he could start with that.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Came to Metro

Uri , Angelica, Indy, Summer and Thomasina had a chance to meet Santa when he came to the Metro Shelter the other day. Of course Santa's not telling, but its pretty easy to guess what they all asked him for.

Santa isn't the only one visiting the Metro Shelter this year. Judging by the turnover on their Petfinder page, I would say that adoptions are up at the shelter. And no wonder - Metro is making much better use of Petfinder with nicer pictures and more informative details in their listings. If I'm not mistaken, they have more user friendly hours now for adopters. And best of all are all the reports I have been getting from adopters of how friendly and helpful the staff and volunteers have been.
Its a pretty simple equation - the more adoptions - the more pets that can be saved. And success breeds success by word of mouth as well. Every person who has a good experience... every person who doesn't get treated in a curt or rude fashion... is one more person who will be telling all their friends and family about this.

Its a fact of life that every event usually affects at least a couple of dozen people on a personal level and that number gets squared when you factor in acquaintances and work friends.

So every adopter who has a good experience is actually a recruiter. Their Happy Tail can encourage a whole other world of folks to consider adopting.

At the end of the day, that's even better for the animals than seeing Santa.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why we don't let the fox guard the henhouse, part two

From this evening's CBC News website
100 sick dogs found in Quebec puppy mill
Last Updated: Friday, December 12, 2008 6:23 PM ET
CBC News
Authorities have busted yet another puppy mill in Quebec, this one with about 100 dogs living in "appallingly inhumane conditions" in a three-car garage northeast of Montreal, the head of the Montreal SPCA said.
The dogs were living in filthy, cramped cages in the poorly ventilated garage in the town of St-Jacques-de-Montcalm, said Alana Devine, acting executive director of Montreal's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Conditions in the garage were so bad that the smell of ammonia burned the eyes and it was hard to breathe, the CBC's Amanda Margison reported.
Some of the dogs are pregnant and others are young puppies. Several have urgent medical issues including "ear problems, eye problems [and] skin problems," said Alain Dessureault, a veterinarian.
The animals have been taken to Montreal, where the SPCA will clean them up before they're matched with foster care homes.
There may be enough evidence to file criminal charges against the owner, Devine said.
This is the third puppy-mill bust in Quebec in the last two months.
Animal rights activists have called for tougher laws to crack down on breeders who mistreat dogs

Or, as my friend Joan has been tagging it lately, another facility with "substandard care".
According to the official policy statement of the CKC, with respect to Puppy Mills, http://www.ckc.ca/en/portals/0/pdf/Chptr%2012%20Legislative%20Policy%20Statements.pdf :

The term “Puppy Mill” generally refers to a high-volume, sub-standard dog-breeding operation,
which sells purebred or mixed breed dogs, directly or indirectly to unsuspecting buyers. Some
of the characteristics common to puppy mills are:
(a) Sub-standard health and/or environmental issues;
(b) Sub-standard animal care, treatment and/or socialization;
(c) Sub-standard breeding practices which lead to genetic defects or hereditary disorders;
(d) Erroneous or falsified certificates of registration, pedigrees and/or genetic background.
Note: These conditions may also exist in small volume or single breed establishments.

There is a great glossing over of things by the use of the word "substandard" but where it is to be found in the CKC official legislated policy statement it is no wonder the CKC members spout it like Gospel. Even more interesting is article 12-13 of the same document which officially differentiates between "Animal Welfare" and "Animal Rights" groups, encouraging the support of the former without stating anything at all about the latter.
There is another portion of their website where the CKC Breeder Code of Ethics maintain that all members must adhere to the housing standards which are laid out quite specifically in CVMA Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations,
Now that sounds quite impressive, until one realizes that the CKC only has authority over its members.
Hmmm..... so who watches the rest of the henhouse? Is it those darned animal activists? The dreaded animal rights folks? The animal welfare people are normally too busy cleaning up after massive seizures like the ones in tonight's news.
Letting the commercial breeders who are not CKC members police themselves is right up there with letting the food production industry do its own inspections. The recent outbreaks of listeria have clearly shown that letting the folks with the vested financial interest monitor themselves wasn't the path to public safety.
Who should be crafting the legislation on behalf of the animals at the federal level? Should it be the folks with a vested financial interest? Or should it be the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, who already have an established legal research and lobbying department in place?
Before the last election, CFHS http://cfhs.ca/ surveyed all the political parties to determine their stance on animal welfare. Visitors to their site are actively encouraged to contact their politicians about animal welfare issues in general and on Bills C-373 and C-558, which were removed from the order paper when the last election was called.
While it is understood that the current political climate is not about getting work done, but about jockeying for power by all parties concerned, that should not deter animal lovers from reminding the people who represent them at all levels how important this issue is to them as voters.
"Substandard" operations like this one will only become obsolete through effective legislative change. The way ahead, as always will be paved by voter feedback.
If you wish to contact the Senator for your area, http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/senmemb/senate/isenator.asp?sortord=P&Language=E. If you wish to contact your Member of Parliament, http://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E
What time is it? Its time to stop pretending that the CKC has any legal or moral authority over "substandard' operations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It shouldn't happen to a dog

From this morning's Herald
Loyal lab didn't abandon N.S. duck hunter in sinking boat
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:30 PM AT

A Louisbourg man hopes he never has to relive the harrowing three hours he spent in a sinking boat Wednesday — with his loyal dog paddling behind.
Charlie Lahey was duck hunting on Bras d'Or Lake, near Christmas Island, when the wind picked up and blew his small aluminum boat off shore.
With waves close to a metre high, Lahey's engine died and then his oar locks broke.
A friend back on land saw what was happening 1,500 metres away and called 911.
"I was just stuck out in it," Lahey told CBC News. "I let [the boat] fill full of water so it wouldn't tip over. I made oar locks up with a rope and three hours later, I made it ashore."
While Lahey struggled to row back to shore before his boat sank, his dog Tess had her own struggle.
For the entire three hours, the chocolate lab swam behind the boat, refusing to head to shore. Lahey said Tess grew so tired she was frothing at the mouth.
"The wind took the boat and she couldn't catch up to the boat, it was blowing so fast. She wouldn't leave. She stayed right with me until I got ashore," he said.
Both Lahey and Tess made it to shore just as rescue crews arrived. They were both exhausted but otherwise fine. "I don't ever want to ever be there again," Lahey said. "It was terrible."
Rescue personnel say Lahey is lucky to be alive.
"[It was] not a day to be out in a boat," said Bob Bonnar, a rescue team dive master.

When animals will go the distance like that for us, why can we not return the favour?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas for a Chained Dog

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
With no thought of the dog filling their head.
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Knew he was cold, but didn't care about that.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Figuring the dog was free and into the trash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But Santa Claus - his eyes full of tears.
He unchained the dog, once so lively and quick,
Last years Christmas present, now thin and sick.
More rapid than eagles he called the dog's name.
And the dog ran to him, despite all his pain,
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Let's find this dog a home where he'll be loved by all"
I knew in an instant there would be no gifts this year,
For Santa Claus had made one thing quite clear,
The gift of a dog is not just for the season,
We had gotten the pup for all the wrong reasons.
In our haste to think of giving the kids a gift
There was one important thing that we missed.
A dog should be family, and cared for the same
You don't give a gift, then put it on a chain.
And I heard him exclaim as he rode out of sight,
"You weren't given a gift! You were given a life!"

Webmaster Note: These two pictures are of the same dog. Before he was rescued in Cape Breton his name was Po. Not only did they keep him chained out back, but he was also behind a fence so they did not have to look at him.

Lucky for Po, a very kind woman kept on insisting that something be done about his plight.

Even luckier for Po, after he was rescued, he came under the loving umbrella of ARC , who really walk the walk when it comes to No Kill. ARC never defines treatable by the dollar sign and they keep each pet in their care until the appropriate Forever Home is found.... no matter how long that takes. Po is now Handsome Henry and is living the life he should have had all along : ))))

If you have a chained dog in your neighbourhood... be their Santa and speak up. Now we all know that people who can do this type of thing aren't always the nicest or the easiest to talk to. What a great blessing that at http://www.dogsdeservebetter.com/ you can download printable material to hang on their mailbox and they will even mail the literature to your neighbour if you prefer to remain anonymous. And of course for neglected dogs like Po, here in NS you can call the Nove Scotia SPCA Toll Free Cruelty Line 1-888-703-7722

Henry's story had a happy ending because one woman wouldn't take no for an answer and kept speaking on his behalf until action was taken.

"..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people's minds."~Samuel Adams

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why I Muse about things at Midnight

From this morning's Herald
'Slap on the wrist' for C.B. women who admitted animal abuse By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton BureauTue. Dec 9 - 5:28 AM
An animal rights activist says that allowing two Cape Breton women convicted of animal cruelty to keep pets exposes the flaws in the province’s animal cruelty laws.
Janet Chernin, who runs a daycare for dogs, says she’s outraged that the former owner of Celtic Pets Rescue and her mother got only a "slap on the wrist" after each pleading guilty to a provincial animal cruelty charge Friday.
Zonda MacIsaac and her mother Alice will each have to pay a fine of $1,000 and are prohibited from running any business that would care for or board animals.
Both the Crown and defence lawyers agreed upon the sentence.
They must also allow the Nova Scotia SPCA to search their properties for the next 20 years without a warrant. Zonda will be allowed to keep her five pets and the SPCA will give Alice back two of the dogs seized from her home. The rescue society had not been able to find new owners and the dogs would have otherwise been put to sleep. But Ms. Chernin said it would be more humane to euthanize those dogs than return them to a convicted animal abuser.
"To allow these women to have animals of their own is a travesty. To me, they should be doing jail time. They should be living in the same condition the animals were living in."
The charges against the former operator of the Celtic Pets Rescue shelter were laid after the SPCA found more than 100 feces-encrusted animals living in a compound in West Bay Road. Some of the animals were found dead. The SPCA later seized 25 animals from Alice’s home. The two women were well-known in the animal rescue community before the raid. Alice had been a special constable with the SPCA and the Crown attorney said Zonda had helped find homes for about 600 animals.
The sentence reflects the fact that the pair did have a clean record when working with animals in the past, said Daniel MacRury, the chief Crown attorney for the region. He said the women also got credit for pleading guilty at an early date.
The Nova Scotia SPCA was involved in the discussions between the Crown and defence lawyers, a society spokesman said.
Sean Kelly said the parties had to reach this compromise because of the toothless animal cruelty laws in place. Typical sentences usually only prevent someone from owning an animal for a couple years, he said.
There has been a lot of buzz in the animal loving community about the conditions of last friday's judgement. People who were initially outraged by the betrayal of trust after the seizure were hoping for more than our legal system had to offer.
There have been so very many hard lessons learned from the whole sad miserable Celtic Pets story. It shone the light in some grubby corners and was the catalyst for the changes we have seen in the society.
But it is impossible to talk about the Celtic Pets story without talking about the situation for the animals in Cape Breton in general and the problems with the CB Branch of the SPCA in particular.
One of the society's unwritten mandates is to lead the way for the animals by their own example. How has the Cape Breton branch done this?
  • by killing healthy adoptable pets at the owners request
  • by inappropriately labelling animals as unhealthy or unadoptable to justify killing them. This number is never included anymore in their branch statistics, which is how they were magically able to improve their adoption rate without actually changing anything. In the business world that is referred to as 'cooking the books"
  • by only ever listing a few token adoptables on their petfinder site, which btw this morning has no animals. Is it too much trouble to have to keep the ones listed on the site alive for a little while? Is it too embarrassing to have to explain when anyone inquires that " nope we killed that one already" ? Is the branch worried that people would pay attention and actually notice how many they are killing?
  • and last but not least, by attempting to sugar coat the whole situation by sweeping all the dirt under the rug instead of letting the light shine in. Trying to pretend everything is alright when they are so evidently in need of real assistance.

With such a role model at hand, is it any wonder that it is such a crapshoot to be a homeless animal in Cape Breton. All the laws in the world are not going to make a difference until the inadequacies of the Cape Breton Branch are tackled head on.

What time is it? Its time to recognize that Celtic Pets was just the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Midnight musings - part two

Why did I vote NDP in the last federal election? Do you remember Bill S 203, the woefully inadequate piece of animal cruelty legislation that was galloped through the House and Senate at breakneck speed last spring? My own MP at the time, Liberal, not only voted for this particular bill, but never replied once to any on my emails inquiring about this. I may be a middle aged granny, but the last time I looked I was a registered voter in this country.
But I digress. What was wrong with Bill S203? Basically it really didn't change anything. There is no point in increasing penalties as long as offences against animals are categorized as property offences. Why is that? Because under the current law, animal cruelty ( except for some odd reason against cattle ) is a summary conviction offense and not the more serious indictable offense.
Whats the difference? Under our Criminal Code, a summary offense conviction makes the accused liable to a two thousand dollar fine and/or six months in prison. That's what the first difference is. What else ?
  • Bill S- 203 did not change the wording of the offense, 'willful neglect" Why is that a problem? Proving that a person intended to neglect their animals has made it difficult to lay charges in offenses, even where dozens of animals have been starved to death. Bill C -373 introduces the word 'negligent' with a clear definition that minimizes legal loopholes
  • Bill S- 203 does not address the Brutal and Vicious killing of an animal as a form of violence, while Bill C-373 introduces it as a specific offense, whether or not the animal dies immediately. Why is this a big deal? Under existing law, if an animal dies on 'the first blow' it is impossible to get a conviction
  • Bill S- 203 did not change the fact that under the existing law, it is not illegal to train and use animals to fight other animals. Bill C-373 makes it a specific offence to either train and use the animals to fight other animals as well as to profit from the same.
  • S- 203 contains no protections or standards for the 'traditional uses of animals" , which includes animals used for hunting, farming and medical or scientific research. This is addressed in Bill C- 373/

So why did our federal politicians vote for Bill S 203 when there was a much better piece of legislation on the table, an NDP introduced version, Bill C-373, which would have moved animal cruelty offenses to a new and separate section of the Criminal Code?

Politics is a funny game and bills in the House move according to the priority they are assigned. Although much is made of the fact, on the Prime Minister's website, http://pm.gc.ca/eng/default.asp, that our PM supports pet adoption, at the end of the day most of politics is a game of expediency. We didn't get the good bill because it obviously wasn't an issue of importance.
Did they not know about the difference between the two bills? Of course they did. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies , http://cfhs.ca/ , repeatedly lobbied the government on behalf of the better bill. They are still determined to reopen the issue , but of course now our House is on an extended holiday that will sadly very likely result in the second election within the space of a year.
It is a sad day for the animals when playing politics has become more important than getting on with the job of making our Canada a better place.
Until then, if you live in NS, you can reach your MP, their riding office and or their parties at:

Brison, Scott (Hon. ) Kings—Hants Liberal
Casey, Bill Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Independent
Cuzner, Rodger Cape Breton—Canso Liberal
Eyking, Mark (Hon.) Sydney—Victoria Liberal
Keddy, Gerald South Shore—St. Margaret's Conservative
Kerr, Greg West Nova Conservative
Leslie, Megan Halifax NDP
MacKay, Peter Gordon (Hon.) Central Nova Conservative
Regan, Geoff (Hon.) Halifax West Liberal
Savage, Michael Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Liberal
Stoffer, Peter Sackville—Eastern Shore NDP

Before the last election, the CFHS sent all of the parties a questionnaire to determine their stance on animal welfare issues. If you are interested in reading the results, http://cfhs.ca/law/urging_candidates_to_debate_animal_welfare_issues/

Why do I take the time to follow all these things? Because at the end of the day, all politics is personal. When I was a young woman, the human rights legislation completely changed how employers could treat women. If I had become pregnant with my daughter one year earlier, there would have been no guarantee that the military could not have released me on my maternity leave.

Politics isn't an arbitrary bit of entertainment on the six o'clock news. It defines our freedoms and protects what is close to our heart. At the end of the day, democracy only works if we pay attention. If we don't keep our eyes on the ball, it could turn into a game we don't want to play.