Saturday, November 29, 2008

A HART warming tale

From this morning's Herald
Valley youth come to aid of animal rescue team By GORDON DELANEY Valley Bureau Sat. Nov 29 - 5:26 AM
Chandler Austin-Deveau, of Kentville; Colton Saltzman, of Torbrook; and Ty Hunt, of Port Royal, raised $1,600 to help the Homeless Animal Rescue Team pay off its burgeoning vet bill.

AYLESFORD — Colton Saltzman grew up around animals.
So when the call came to help the Homeless Animal Rescue Team pay its growing vet bill, he was there do what he could.
The Grade 9 student at Middleton Regional High School went door to door getting pledges and donations, raising more than $700 for the Aylesford-based team of volunteers that takes in abandoned cats and dogs.
"I wanted to help any way I could," the tall 14-year-old said in an interview at the home of Laurie Wheeler, president of the animal rescue team.
He pledged to run 10 kilometres for every $100 that he raised. Colton said he has five cats and two dogs at home and his mother, Debbie, provides a foster home for animals when she can.
He was one of five students from the Annapolis Valley who raised $1,600 for the vet bill, which sometimes exceeds $4,000 per month.
The team has all the animals it fosters vaccinated, tested and spayed or neutered by Annapolis Royal veterinarian Jody Rice before sending them off to new homes.
The group of volunteers has rescued hundreds of animals since the team was formed a year ago to deal with the growing problem of stray, abandoned and feral cats.
It started out getting about a dozen calls a week about such cats. Now team members are called as many as 125 times a week.
They recently began rescuing dogs, accepting calls from anywhere between Weymouth and Halifax.
All the money comes from fundraising and donations. In summer and fall, the group raises funds through yard sales and flea markets, other sources of funding are needed in the winter months.
Several children raised money for the team, but the top five fundraisers were Colton, Ty Hunt, 9, of Port Royal; Chandler Austin-Deveau, 9, of Kentville; Levi Smith, 9, of New Minas; and Sevannah Leclerk of Kingston.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Of Small Dogs and Stray Cats

I had a pretty unusual upbringing for a woman my age. At a time when most of my peers were still being groomed to be good wives and mothers, I was tinkering around the workshop with my Dad. My parents both worked, so seeing my Dad chip in with the housework was normal in our house, even if it was a rarity elsewhere.
Dad was a rock for us all, so we were all completely blown away when we lost him suddenly at the young age of 63 ( Wait until you are 54 to see how much younger that looks ) Of course I did not know it at the time, but while my daughter and I were battling an early blizzard to drive up home for the funeral, over on the south shore a little scottish terrier was born who would soften the hard edge of my grief and see me though everything else since.
McGuinness turned eleven today and has slept on my pillow every day since he first arrived here. He came from Guesthouse Kennels which I really liked because their dogs live in their home.
His birthday was such a celebration this year ... I know that eleven isn't normally all that old for a Scottie, but last year when the little man had dental surgery, the anesthetic affected his heart to the point where he needed to go on Vetmedin. So it is a great joy to still have him here to sleep on my pillow tonight.
There is another good reason to celebrate tonight too. If you go to the society webpage, there is now an official position of support for TNR posted there, Feral Cats and TNR Population Control Programs , as well as a new page in the "What We Do section called Managing Feral Cats Actually, if you look closer in the Animal Care and Control section, there is also a promising start with some info on what is available right now for Spay/Neuter assistance.
Anyone who has read this blog or the old one knows how strongly this middle aged granny feels about TNR. Having the official recognition of a strong position statement by the society is a very important first step. None of the municipalities in this province could be expected to recognize the value of TNR until the official voice for the animals spoke up.
It seems like every time I turn around these days there is something new and good coming from the society.... and THAT is really something to celebrate.

Why We Should Never Save Our Breath to Cool Our Porridge

Remember that wonderful presentation that Sean Kelly made on behalf of the society to the Law Amendment Committee? Today I had my first glance at a copy of the new Animal Cruelty Bill, .
As far as I can tell, most of the proposals they put forth didn't make the final cut for the bill, although there is some very ambiguous language there with respect to the ability to inspect research animals at Dal. In section 3.3, it states
(3) This Act does not apply to mandatory testing procedures undertaken by a
research laboratory that are required by Health Canada or the World Health Organization or an organization prescribed in the regulations

and yet later in the act, in section 28 (2)
(2) Where an inspector is of the opinion that an offence pursuant to this Act is being committed with regard to research animals, the inspector shall
(a) consult or be accompanied by the chair of the animal-care committee associated with that research; or
(b) consult with standards setting agencies prescribed by the regulations or, where the facility in which the research animals are kept is part of the Canadian Council on Animal Care audit program, the Canadian Council on Animal Care, before taking any further action

On the first reading, I see no mention of any of the points in the SPCA proposal, and can only hope that the provision in Section 40,

40 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations
(a) prescribing, with respect to animals kept for sale, hire, exhibition, research, or that are impounded, boarded or kept for breeding
(i) standards of design, construction and maintenance of facilities in which the animals are kept,
(ii) the standard of care with which the animals are to be maintained;
(b) defining what are reasonable steps to find and notify an owner;
(c) determining reasonable expenses to be charged to the owner of an animal taken into custody pursuant to this Act for transportation of the animal, food, care, shelter and veterinary medical treatment provided to the animal and for the enthanasia of an animal;
(d) prescribing acceptable methods of euthanasia;
(e) prescribing societies, organizations, institutions or persons to which this Act applies for the purpose of enforcing this Act and determining the extent to which this Act applies to the society, organization, institution or person;
(f) exempting research activities from the requirements of subsection 23(1) if the research activities are being conducted pursuant to an audit program approved by the Canadian Council on Animal Care or an organization prescribed in the regulations;
(g) prescribing activities for the purpose of subsection 21(4) or 28(1);
(h) prescribing procedures and time periods for appeals to the Board;
(i) prescribing identification devices or methods for the purposes of subsection 26(1);
(j) prescribing further powers and duties of the Chief Inspector, the Provincial Inspector or inspectors;
(k) prescribing minimum qualifications for persons appointed as the Chief Inspector, the Provincial Inspector or inspectors;
(l) prescribing procedures respecting appeals to the Board;
(m) defining or prescribing unacceptable animal practices, modifications or mutilations;
(n) prescribing activities that are deemed to cause animals to be in distress;
(o) prescribing or adopting acceptable codes of practice respecting animals;
(p) respecting the licensing of animal care facilities and standards for such facilities;
prescribing fees or ranges of fees for appeals;
(r) prescribing fees for the purpose of this Act;
(s) defining any word or expression used but not defined in this Act;
(t) further defining any word or expression defined in this Act;

In other words..... the door is still open for the Act to morph into a document that sets NS either backwards or forwards.
And if that is the case, we very definitely need the society to keep on speaking up by submitting timely proposals and doing follow up on the outcome.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Changing my tune

Relationships are important at any time of year. From up close and personal to thinly veneered civility, the fabric of our lives is woven by the connections we choose and the ones we discard or reject.
As the holiday season gallops in, we can't help but be more aware of our family and friends. Whether one 'spends like Santa' or 'saves like Scrooge', there are presents to mull over and halls to deck.
For many folks every year, all this warmth and good cheer inspires the push for a pet as a present, either for the kids or the family as a whole. Pet stores do booming business this time of years. There are breeders all around the country who try to make sure there at least one litter of puppies born by mid October to be ready to leave momma in time for Christmas.
I'm a mother and a grandmother .... so I know first hand that getting pets for the children is a cherished romantic fantasy right up there with losing twenty pounds before swimsuit season. Parents looking at bringing a pet home for the holidays want to be prepared to actively engage in the process themselves. As the adults in the house it will be their job to set boundaries for the new pet ... and when the 'novelty' wears off and the busy routine of school/sports/etc starts up again after the holidays, it very likely won't be the children walking/feeding/training and of course pooper scooping after the new pet.
That being said, if the parents are committed to the process, bringing home a pet can be a celebration of love that can teach children valuable lessons about commitment It is not a journey that every family can, or should, make. But for those who are willing to invest the energy and love, a family pet can enrich the lives of everyone in the house.
Now the big question is - should rescues adopt pets out during the holiday season? That's a long standing debate with some fairly firm opinions on both sides. Anyone who used to read my old blog knows that I used to sit very firmly on the 'not a great idea' side of the fence. But a comment was posted to that blog that set me off to investigate. The poster claimed that at a Petfinder conference, she had learned that holiday adoptions actually had a very low return rate. Hmmmm.
And ya know, the poster was right. It isn't the pets adopted from rescue that wind up being surrendered after a few weeks /months. Its the puppies and kittens from the pet stores and backyard breeders that wind up getting the bums rush. Hmmmm.
After all, just think about it. One doesn't "buy" a pet from rescue - one is adopting. Here in NS, both private rescues and the society normally have a screening process built into the adoption application ( with the rumoured/very likely exception of the cape breton branch - but that is a rant for another day )
People can just sashay into a pet store and waltz out with a pet, because for them it is a business and the pet is just another item on the shelf. Pet stores don't normally provide advice and assistance once the sales receipt is printed.
For most rescues, the adoption process is pretty straight up, but its not going to accommodate impulsive decisions by expediting things any quicker. At the end of the day, if someone would pass the screening in September, they should still be able to pass the screening in December.
I still believe that in most cases the new pet should not make his or her first appearance during the peak of the holidays. Pets love routines and would just be confused by all the excitement and distractions. Some rescues will 'hold' a pet until the hoopla has settled down. In other cases, bringing home a new pet a couple of weeks before the actual holiday could be a positive way to teach children about the spirit of the season and divert the focus from the more material things on the wish lists.
Petfinder also has a very cool option called the Promise Certificate, Its very similar to a gift certificate, in that the giver is promising to pay the adoption fee for a pet that can be sought out after the holiday season. This of course would only be a great option if one is 100% sure that the recipient will pass the adoption screening : )
At the end of the day, I realized several things about the whole holiday adoption bit:
  • every pet that is adopted from rescue is of course one less from pet stores and backyard breeders,
  • every pet adopted from rescue will be one less pet that is surrendered later when the novelty wears off.
  • the pets adopted from rescue are normally altered. Adopters of pets too young to be altered normally get at least a discount for the surgery as part of the process
  • adult pets that are adopted may even be housetrained and if they aren't will still train quicker than the youngsters, and of course
  • the compassionate act of adopting a homeless pet is very much in keeping with the spirit of the season.

I'm fifty four years old and so have learned the truth of the lyrics of a favourite old song of mine " and in the end, the love you take.... is equal to the love you make.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This months' dogs at the cb branch

Meet shadow, Madelaine, cleo, Jimmie , jingles, Fly , Mcgruff and Baby Doll. I can't tell you much about them, other than the fact that they were listed today on the Petfinder site for the Cape Breton SPCA Branch shelter. None of their listings even include the basic information about whether they are housetrained, vaccinated and/or altered. I can tell you that they are the new group of dogs listed for the next month. The next month? Well.... it was over a month ago that the last group of dogs was listed on their site.
I do understand that Cape Breton has its own set of problems. Every year the population shrinks roughly four percent as their young people chase the better paying jobs out west. Worse, the problems with the auto industry have a direct effect on Cape Breton, with North Sydney taking a hit just this week. In the current financial climate, there are no signs of prosperity on the horizon.
The Cape Breton SPCA Branch has a well deserved reputation for being the black sheep of all NS rescue. What makes them so different? Other branches of the society are located in rural areas without a strong economic infrastructure.
Is it the location? The CB Branch is located in the most populated area of the island. But it is also at least twice the distance from the city as every other branch besides Yarmouth.
Are their resources overtaxed? Is the shelter too small to meet both the society and their contractual AC obligations?
Is it the resentment of being told what to do by folks from 'away' who haven't worked at the shelter, been part of the family?
Do they not feel like they actually belong to the provincial society in any fashion? Since the society BOD meetings have been posted this year, the branch president, Mel Neville has not attended one meeting.
Did they just harden their heart to take the high kill revolving door approach and never thaw them out again? If that's the case, there is never going to be any respect, understanding or acceptance of the goals the society are working towards.
We are so impatient for change that sometimes we don't see the forest for the trees. Any effective change with the Cape Breton branch should come from a fully elected Board with a strong mandate from the membership. Nothing else is going to work. Nothing.
Now is the time to get those memberships in, so that the society gains the support needed to really effect the changes we need to see.
What time is it? For the eight great dogs listed, and the heaven only knows how many that aren't, its a very short time before they get blended in the fudge of the creative accounting called the CB annual Branch stats.
PS - If you really want to save any of these dogs.... this is not the time to dawdle.

To Have and To Hold

It should be no surprise that my friend Joan is the regional rep for Dogs Deserve Better, I don't think its possible to be an advocate for the animals without addressing this issue.
Yesterday I noticed on the society website there is a new release entitled "Give Me Shelter" . This is a very real issue here in NS and this article is a step in the right direction.
Personally, I don't believe that companion animals should be housed outdoors. ( Although feral cats do fall under a separate category, and need outdoor shelter. For great examples of what can be done for humane housing for feral kitties, go have a look at the great ones Pierre ( aka Pierre's Alley Cat Society )has built
In NB and Nfld, the provincial SPCA's have had a campaign called "Start a Chain Reaction" to oppose the chaining and penning of dogs.
From the NB SPCA website:
Start A Chain Reaction
Dogs, just like human beings who get locked up for no reason, will get mean and bitter.
-- Dr. Roger Mugford, Vancouver Sun, April 28, 2003Across North America communities are taking action to limit the number of hours a dog can be tied up outside. Municipalities in more than half of the 50 states in the U.S. now have "chained dog" laws and North Vancouver has recently passed by-laws pertaining to the chaining of dogs. However, New Brunswick dogs do not enjoy this kind of protection. While the provincial SPCA act requires dog owners to provide adequate food, water, shelter and care, nothing in the act protects dogs from being kept outdoors on a chain. The New Brunswick SPCA is launching a public education and awareness campaign to call attention to the plight of chained dogs across our province. The "Start a Chain Reaction" program is intended to give individuals the information, materials and moral support they need to act on behalf of dogs in their communities. The campaign has been made possible by a grant to the
Fredericton SPCA from the McGrand Trust Fund and by private donations. The McGrand Trust Fund gave an additional $1,000 to support the project in 2006. If you would like to receive a free information package, please contact us by mail, email, phone or by fax.
Mail:New Brunswick SPCAP.O. Box 1412, Station AFredericton, NB E3B 5E3
Fax:506-458-8209Click on the links below for more information, frequently asked questions, resources and downloads.

Start A Chain Reaction - Main
Frequently Asked Questions
21 Things You Can Do to Help
Do you chain your dog? These guidelines will ensure your dog is safe and comfortable.
News & Media
Downloads - "Chained Dog" Material
Start A Chain Reaction Desktop Art and Other Advertising Downloads
Other Resourceful Websites
Help spread the word. Tell A Friend About This Site

From the Newfoundland SPCA website:Start a Chain Reaction Campaign
The SPCA is addressing three main issues facing dogs in our communities:
1. Chained Dogs - they are three times more likely to bite; they live their lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year on the end of ropes or chains. They become bored,lonely, and frustrated which leads to anger and aggression.
2. Backyard Breeders - these people breed dogs regardless of their health and temperment. They want to make MONEY! THese dogs are sold without contract to anyone who has the cash.
3. Penned dogs - many dogs particularly hunting dogs such as beagles are living in inhumane living conditions without adequate food, water or shelter and are kept in wire cages for long periods of time without exercise or veterinary care.Education is an important part of the SPCA mandate. Through educating dog owners and encouraging legislative change,(anti-tethering laws, regulation of breeders and humane treatment laws), we feel many problems associated with our canine friends will be solved.
We are encouraging supporters to sign our petition Write letters to your munipalities and to local papers. Call radio talk shows, tell family and friends, and report cases of neglect to the SPCA.
Together we can make a difference

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the legal definition of companion animals. All protective federal legislation on behalf of the animals currently falls under the property section of the Canadian Criminal Code. Animal advocates from the CFHS down are all pressing to have a new and separate section of the Criminal Code created in recognition of the simple fact that as living breathing sentient beings, animals must be protected in a different way.
Until then, there will be those who maintain they have the legal right to do what they want with their property.
Every good change that is done at the provincial level is undermined by the simple fact that animals are legally property. Untenable legal defenses are permitted because of this. It enables chaining and penning and neglect and abuse.

This definition has polarized those concerned with the animals, like a line drawn in the schoolyard. On one side are the businesses whose livelihood hinges upon the sale of animals and those who are unwilling to properly care for their animals. On the other side are the humane groups and concerned members of the animal loving community.

Breeders fall into both groups. There are wonderful breeders who adore their dogs and lavish them with love and encouragement. Their lucky animals are part of the family and are only ever bred after an exacting round of medical clearances are done. Then there are the others, ranging from the backyard breeders to the big commercial farm breeders to the hardheaded individuals who are afraid that any change in the law will negatively affect their ability to do business.

The choices that we make define us. The use of scare tactics by some show dog enthusiasts to oppose certain sections of Bill 186 is unfortunate... as there will be many kind hearted folks sitting on the same side of the fence as the puppy mills and backyard breeders. Somehow I suspect thats not where they meant to be.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Update from the Hawk

From the Hawk Website

Still no plea in alleged animal cruelty case
Monday, November 24, 2008 , 10:48
A Port Hastings woman facing animal cruelty charges will be in court next month to enter a plea.
Zonda MacIsaac, the former operator of Celtic Pets rescue shelter in West Bay Road, wasn't present in Port Hawkesbury provincial court Monday morning.
She's due back in court on December 8th to enter a plea.
MacIsaac was charged following a raid on the shelter in February.
The SPCA seized more than 90 cats and dogs during the raid.

Update on Cotton

Remember that lovely white kitty named Cotton? ( About white cats and white elephants )There may be no room at the as yet unopened Kings County Branch SPCA shelter, but the Valley Animal Shelter has tucked her under their wing. If you are interested, she will be available for adoption from them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baby Its Cold Outside

There are four windows in my living room... the two on the south overlook the birdfeeders in the backyard, while the two on the north afford a splendid view of the birds in the shrubbery out front. All four of my cats can pick their own "channel" of cat TV and have their choice of a solitary perch or sharing a windowsill with one or more friends.

By the best estimates of SPCANS last spring, there are 300,000 stray and feral cats in Nova Scotia. Three hundred thousand! That number just boggles the mind and its a wonder that anyone who works frontline animal rescue can even be civil those who are too careless/foolish/just plain stupid to spay and neuter their cats.

It is definitely not winter wonderland outside for the strays and ferals now. As the mercury drops, the first generation strays who were dumped this year are ill prepared to cope with the cold. Feral cat colonies in this province are in continual danger of being trapped and killed by municipal AC's around the province. Even tended cat colonies are at risk when there is no provision for ferals in any municipal bylaws in NS.

Three hundred thousand! More than one solution will be needed to tackle a problem this big:

  • TNR is not an unheard of concept here in NS. Thanks to the pioneering work and information provided by Alley Cat Allies , we have several hard working, experienced little TNR groups in this province. Why haven't they been able to make a dent? Actually, Team TNR in Annapolis County has made a big difference in less than three years. Why can't all the others follow suit? Annapolis County budgets a modest amount to subsidize the work done by TNR. Even though TNR groups are volunteer powered, they still need funding to cover the testing/vaccinating and altering costs. Without funding their work is put on the back burner while they fundraise to pay off their vet bills. Consistent funding for TNR by all municipalities in the province will play a critical part in the solution
  • Municipal bylaws, such as HRM's A-300 and Kings County's 12A, make no provision for stray and feral cats. Existing "at large" clauses are used by AC's around the province to justify the 'catch and kill' approach to strays and ferals. This failure to protect the ferals does affect domestic cats - we all remember the tragic story of Ducky, the elderly cat who was killed by HRM within hours of being seized. Acceptance of the need for, and more importantly legal protection for, managed feral cat colonies must play a key role in any solution
  • Somewhere along the line, we have really 'thrown out the baby with the bathwater' when it comes to feral cats. From barnyards to business premises, there is no more environmentally friendly option for controlling vermin than a feral cat. In LA, the Voice for Animal Advocacy, with a grant from the Petco foundation has implemented a program where ferals from TNR programs are relocated to places that have problems with rats. The beauty of this idea is that it transforms perception of ferals from being a nuisance to being a valuable asset. Creation of a Working Cat program in NS would save lives and be a valuable reminder of the traditional roles that housecats cannot fill.
  • There is still considerable opposition to early age spay/neuter for kittens. After fifty years, there is enough data available that the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has taken a position of support for early age spay neuter The traditional timeline of six months does not address the population problem as effectively as early age spay neuter. A positive position statement by the society for early age spay/neuter would have a significant impact on prejudice and opposition.
  • Tis the season for the first generation strays to start showing up on doorsteps, desperate for a new home. In the current economic climate, kind people who would normally "take in" a stray have to think twice if they are going to do it properly with tests/vaccinations and of course spay/neuter. At the same time, tax breaks are getting scarcer for all NS businesses. Cooperative support between NS businesses and the society for assistance with the initial expense of "taking in' stray cats could save lives, while 'saving' on taxes.
  • Its really tough for seniors to make ends meet. Many would love the company of a pet but are unable to afford one. Its a proven fact that there are many health benefits to pet ownership. ( In recognition of that, CAPS has a very cool program called PAWS - pairing animals with seniors, where eligible seniors can be long term fosters for pets .... not to be confused with the group at St Mary's university working to help pets : ) Here in Nova Scotia, there is a Department of Seniors. A cooperative partnership between the society, rescue groups and the Dept of Seniors could "free up' shelter space for first generation strays while boosting the quality of life for NS Seniors. Appropriate assistance for food and vet costs would be a low cost solution that would yield unimaginable benefits for our seniors.
  • Adoption fees never cover all the costs associated with rescuing each pet. A $25.00 cat adoption fee for those with suitable vet references would help 'undercut' the free kitten market.
  • Without a good SNAP, the tap will never be turned off. It is the critical foundation for the population problem. Cooperative support between the society and the provincial government for a "Big Fix" program would ensure consistent funding and at the same time would be an excellent way to connect the society with the public in this province.
  • Microchipping is a valuable tool in the pet retention arsenal. Low cost microchipping clinics would be another great way for the society to engage the NS public.
  • Every pet that "stays home" is one less homeless pet. The Free Ride Home concept, offers a more successful way to encourage responsible, lifetime pet ownership. Universal adoption by all NS municipalities of free lifetime licences for microchipped and altered pets would be a more cost effective way to address the problem of strays.
  • And of course last, but very definitely not least ...... as long as people can "hide" irresponsible and uncommitted pet ownership behind the anonymity of free online ad sites, there will always be another round of 'free kittens" to keep the annual river of cats at full flush. Online ad sites also provide an excellent place for uncommitted pet owners to keep cycling though pet after pet. ( The issue of how the unscrupulous can prey on the unsuspecting is a separate rant for another day) Banning any type of traffic in animals in online ad sites isn't just a population issue, its a consumer protection issue on every level

Three hundred thousand cats. On any given day there are a minimum of three hundred cats listed on the rescue and petfinder sites around the province. What time is it? Its time to figure something out for the other two hundred and ninety-nine thousand and seven hundred. We will never get to No Kill Nova Scotia until we do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why we don't let the fox guard the henhouse

Quoted from the SPCA Recommendations to the Law Committee, 17 Nov 20008
9. In regard to Section 39 (f) exempting research activities from the requirements of subsection 22(1) if the research activities are being conducted pursuant to an audit program approved by the Canadian Council on Animal Care or an organization prescribed in the regulations;
The CCAC is well known to not be a regulating body. This section should be removed. (see Annex b)

Having an organization comprised of people who do animal testing to audit testing facilities is a conflict of interest.

In recent months, news stories have been popping up everywhere since the listeria outbreaks followed hot on the heels of the deregulation of food inspection. Under the new rules, the front line responsibility for inspection shifted to the food industry.
We all know how that worked. There are reasons, good reasons, the fox does not get sent to guard the henhouse. The proposal from Dalhousie requesting exemption from SPCA inspections for research animals should be raising a red flag with the Dept of Agriculture. Setting aside the humane issues, there could be devastating economic repercussions for permitting Dalhousie's proposal to move forward.
The use of animals in research is closely scrutinized by international animal welfare organizations. To permit that particular fox to guard the henhouse invites all types of international economic boycott for 'made in Nova Scotia' products and services.
This is a time when our traditional trading partners south of the border are in desperate financial trouble. This is a time when Nova Scotia will need strong markets such as the EU.
The EU is a different kettle of fish from the folks south of the border. Their animal welfare groups have carried on strong campaigns and been responsible for more humane rules in the housing, transporting and slaughtering of farm animals. These groups wield a lot of clout, as we have seen with the anti sealing campaign.
It would be very short sighted of the NS Dept of Agriculture to permit Nova Scotia's reputation to be blemished. Do we want the international community to be able to question why we let the universities oversee the treatment of their own research animals? Are they willing to jeopardize markets for NS goods and services?
What time is it? Its time to remind the Dept of Agriculture how important this issue is to the Nova Scotia economy. You don't have to be an animal lover to see the sense in that.
This is a time sensitive issue as Bill 186 has passed the second reading and is with the Law Amendments Committee as we speak.
To email the Premier, the Hon Rodney J. MacDonald (PC)
To email the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon Brooke Taylor,
To find the contact information to email your own MLA,
To lend your voice to SPCANS,
The appropriate contact for the Law Amendments Committee is Gordon Hebb Legislative Counsel 902-424-8941

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Talking to Politicians Part one

From the CBC news website today
Dog fighting must be banned, SPCA tells MLAs
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 11:01 AM AT
CBC News
The Nova Scotia SPCA wants the province to outlaw dog fighting.
Sean Kelly, a board member with the animal protection group, said federal legislation is weak and only about one-quarter of the people charged are convicted.
"Our provincial legislation at this point in time is not much stronger," Kelly said. "We've had several cases where they've been lost on technicalities. So we want to make it very clear that Nova Scotia is not going to allow animal fighting."
Kelly made his plea Monday before a committee of the legislature examining a bill to revamp the province's Animal Protection Act.
This is the first time in a decade the act is being overhauled. Though the province consulted with the SPCA when it drafted the bill, Kelly said dog fighting needs to be singled out as a specific crime.
He told the committee the legislation must explicitly ban dog fights, attending a fight or profiting from one.
He also said it's time to make it illegal to allow dogs to ride in the back of a pickup truck.
"Transporting your animal in the back of your pickup without having any kind of restraint or any kind of walls on your pickup is cruel to the animal," Kelly said.
Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor, who tabled the bill last spring, said he's open to the idea of banning dog fighting — something he calls inhumane and abhorrent.
But he's not convinced that having a dog in the back of a pickup constitutes cruelty.
"Looking at it at face value I think it is inappropriate," Taylor said. "But you know, there may be situations where you know it works out fine."
Taylor said he'll talk with his staff to see what they think of the SPCA's suggestions before proposing any amendments to his bill.

Not convinced? Hmmm, lets see... why shouldn't dogs be allowed to travel in the back of a pickup without restraint and the protection of high walls:
  • Besides the obvious potential for injury sliding around in the back if the driver takes a corner too sharply,
  • there is the real chance of injury and death when thrown from the back of a truck if the driver has to hit the brakes or swerve quickly to avoid anything
  • dogs that are thown from the back of the truck are also at risk of being run over by the vehicles behind
  • with no shade there is a real danger of heat stroke or sun stroke
  • travelling in the back of an open truck on a cold day creates an instant 'wind chill' that is both cruel and hazardous
  • it creates a hazard to other motorists who could get in a traffic accident trying to avoid running over a dog that has fallen out of the truck.

Any law that provides protection for the helpless will be seen as a restriction by others. From child labour laws to legislation protecting women, there was considerable opposition by the oppressors.

If you wish to let the Honorable Brooke Taylor know how strongly you feel about this issue, please email . If you want to cc the Premier, his email is

If you wish to lend your voice to the society, email

If you want to know how to contact your own MLA,

Bill 186 is with the Law Committe right now. If you wish to let them know how you feel about this , contact Gordon Hebb , Legislative Counsel, 902-424-8941

Sufficient unto the day

From this morning's Herald
Docking ban on the docket Cosmetic alterations among issues in consideration for animal protection law By AMY SMITH Provincial ReporterTue. Nov 18 - 5:38 AM
Nova Scotia should ban cosmetic procedures on animals such as tail-docking and ear-cropping, the legislature’s law amendment committee heard Monday.
Sean Kelly, a member of the board of the Nova Scotia SPCA, said animal protection legislation before the House should be amended to make altering an animal for cosmetic reasons illegal. He said that would include declawing and removal of vocal cords.
"When it’s done properly by a veterinarian and the animal is properly anesthetized, everything is usually fine. However, there are a lot of people taking this into their own hands," he said after his presentation. "There is no way to crop a dog’s ears humanely without anesthetic."
Mr. Kelly said removal of the vocal cords prevents an animal from communicating when it is in pain. He said the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association has recently stopped all cosmetic surgery for animals, adding the majority of vets in Nova Scotia don’t crop, dock or remove vocal cords.
Lendra Barker, an owner and exhibitor of Dobermans, said she fears such a ban would drive some people to do the cosmetic procedures themselves.
She said she has always had her dogs’ ears and tails done by a vet under anesthetic and doesn’t think the practice is cruel.
"I have had Dobermans for 30 years, and the general public wants them cropped and docked," Ms. Barker said. "I guess it’s just a look that we prefer."
Lee Steeves, director of the Canadian Kennel Club for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, said the club is reviewing best practices for purebred dogs.
"Will we see changes over the next few years? Absolutely. Is it something that should be mandated by a legislature? Absolutely not," Ms. Steeves said.
Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor said he will review the suggestion.
"Some (procedures on animals), I think, are quite ethical but then there might be others that, in fact, might be inappropriate."
The minister seemed a bit more receptive to another of Mr. Kelly’s suggestions — to make it against the law to put an animal in the back of an open pickup truck without a crate or safety harness.
"If it’s more safe and more humane, then I would be for that," the minister said.
Mr. Kelly told the committee there should be an entire section in the act to wipe out animal fighting and prohibiting the possession of an animal for fighting. It should also be illegal to attend, fund or profit from animal fights, he said.
Mr. Kelly said NFL quarterback Michael Vick, in jail for bankrolling a dogfighting ring in Virginia, might have gotten away with it if the case had been in Nova Scotia.
The minister, who called dog fighting abhorrent, said he will speak to his staff about bringing in the rules that Mr. Kelly spoke about.
A group from Dalhousie University also made a presentation, saying it’s not necessary to have the SPCA oversee care of research animals because that is already done by the Canadian Council on Animal Care. The council and SPCA both oversee animal testing, but amendments to the legislation would remove the SPCA.
But Mr. Kelly said there needs to be oversight by an organization that isn’t affiliated with animal testing.
First I do have to say that the proposals offered by SPCANS are a big step forward. A few months ago we wouldn't have seen this .... the bill would have gone through, like everything else, without any input/support/ discussion from the society at all.

The group from Dalhousie would have disabled the SPCA's ability to protect research animals. Why they would even want to do that is an interesting question I think and should raise a red flag or two. In my opinion its a very good thing that Mr Kelly was there to provide input on that issue.
The whole issue of cosmetic alterations is going to play a very important role in the next few years everywhere. It boils down to the concept that animals are property and that people have the right to alter their property. Until animal cruelty is moved to a separate section of the criminal code and out of the property offences sections, this type of thing is always going to rear its ugly head. Until then, the issue will be opposed by the same type of archaic attitudes that refuse to surrender their right to chain dogs, be a backyard breeders, run a puppy mill or be legally obliged to just plain treat their animals in a kind and humane way.
In a rural province like this, its a real step forward to protect the many animals who ride in the back of pickup trucks. At one time it was common to see a gaggle of teenagers in the back of pickups. We know better than that now and should recognize the danger in it for dogs. My friend Joan is forever snapping shots of that whenever she has her camera in hand.
We all get that the ban on dogfighting needs to be included. Once again that is such a good start that will be more effective when the federal law recognizes that animals should be protected because they are living breathing sentient beings and not lumped in the same boat as property.
Are there more things we'd like to see in the Bill? Of course there are.... puppy mill bans, pet stores selling animals, mandatory spay neuter, etc are only the top of a very long list.
But for this middle aged granny, it is sufficient unto this day that SPCANS even stepped up to the plate at all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

About white cats and white elephants

Clearly Adopt a Senior Pet month hasn't caught on here in Kings County. At the beginning of November, somebody dumped this beautiful cat out on the Rafuse Road near Waterville. She's quite a distinctive looking beauty, with lovely long fur and double front paws. She also has one blue eye and one yellow eye. They figure she is somewhere between seven and nine. She was a housecat, because she's kitty litter trained and they strongly suspect she may even be spayed.

Right now she is bunking at the farm near where she was dumped, but they cannot keep her ( if they are like most other kind souls in the country, over the years they have 'filled up' with cats that have been callously dumped in their area.

So where will she go after that? Well I'll tell you where she won't be going. There is a beautiful new shelter in Kings County. Its only a year old and it cost just a hair under half a million dollars to build. Its almost 5000 square feet, with room for 30 cats and 14 dogs in the adoption area. There is room for another 10 dogs and 10 cats in an isolation area.

So why can't Cotton go to the nice new SPCA shelter? Its been finished for a year now. Is the shelter full? Is there no room? Not even close.

There is no room at the inn for Cotton because the shelter isn't even open yet. It has radiant in floor heating and so must be at least be minimally heated in order to keep pipes from bursting. Once a month, the Kings County SPCA ( ) is holding a kitty adoption fair for the cats they have in foster. So every month, they drag all the kitties in for a few hours, and then the shelter sits empty again, like a dream that once was.

If you live in Kings County, you will be pleased to know that this issue was mentioned in the house by the MLA for Kings West, Leo Glavine ( Lib ) during the second reading debates for Bill 186:
In the area of the Annapolis Valley where I live, the SPCA has been going through a very difficult time. We actually have no SPCA shelter currently and a number of other organizations have come in to try and support the need for strong animal welfare in our area. It is hoped that the new shelter will, indeed, get open, with a combination of paid staff and volunteers, so that the tradition of the SPCA being a highly regarded institution in our Valley community can be re-established.
If you live in Kings County and wish to express your concern about the still empty shelter, the phone number for his constituency office at the Southgate Court in Greenwood is 765-4083. His office email address is also the better one to use than the one on the government web site, and it is
The appropriate contact email for SPCANS is
The Honorable Brooke Taylor is the Minister of Agriculture. He is the minister in charge of the SPCA, and his email is
If you live in Kings County, you can Click Here to send a message to all Councillors at the Municipality.
Right now there is an unparalleled opportunity for the Kings County Branch of the SPCA. There has never been a shelter before, so there are no old protocols to undo. Just imagine what could be created with this! It could be the first No Kill SPCA shelter in the province. It could become a living breathing focal point for the animal loving community in the county.
Right now it is nothing but a big fat white elephant. With radiant heating, it must be at least minimally heated to keep the pipes from bursting. There is no way to justify having an empty, semi heated beautiful new shelter in an area with no other rescue options.
Right now, the only rescue options are Berwick Safe Haven Animal Rescue , and the Valley Animal Shelter . Two hardworking little TNR groups and a cat shelter born of need by a local vet out of his office.
The mercury is dropping and the numbers of stray and dumped animals in need are rising. What time is it? Its time to get the doors of that lovely new building open so it doesn't sit empty for another winter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Navigating the obstacles

Going to the woods every morning is definitely one of the best bits of the day. The old growth trees provide a canopy of cool relief in the summer and shelter from the harshest winds on a day like this. Even so, there are still sometimes fallen trees to navigate around on a day like this.
It never means turning around and going back home, just that we must navigate a detour through the underbrush until we are back on the trail. Rain or shine or snow we still head out. We might not be able to navigate all the trails, but we still go.
Why do we do this? Besides the fact that its fun for me and the dogs? We go every day because the exercise keeps my heart and my arthritis much more manageable. The alternative is an unthinkable merry go round of medicines that would create a whole new set of health issues for me.
The road to No Kill Nova Scotia is a bit like that. Its not always as straight forward as going from point A to B. Here in Nova Scotia, we have been very lucky to have a few hardworking groups who have embraced the No Kill philosophy. They have done great work and have saved many many lives. For a long time the society was the biggest stumbling block on the path. Deliberately undermining progress while paying lip service with no kill jargon. Since this summer we have seen some real changes at the provincial level that are rippling out to many of the branches.
In the course of my work with the homeless pet project, I have been very impressed by how many pets the Metro Shelter has been listing on petfinder. Better still is the rate at which these pets are being adopted. I have been told that visiting the shelter is a much more user friendly experience these days..... I'll have to take their word for it because this trifocal wearing / no peripheral vision granny doesn't get on the highway to go the city : )
Its been a treat to see so many seniors get adopted since Metro embraced the November Adopt a Senior Pet Month with special incentives for adopting senior pets.
There are still a couple of very serious roadblocks on the way. Kings county should not have to rely on a couple of hardworking little TNR groups to do animal rescue, particularly while their beautiful shelter is still sitting empty a year after it was finished. And then of course there is the Cape Breton Branch.
Everytime I mull over the situation there, the questions seem to keep rolling in:
  • the old familiar one always tops the list - is the shelter too small to meet both the AC and society functions?
  • could the healthy adoptables be transferred down to Metro? Is there space/ room for that now that their own adoptions seem to be up?
  • if there are no adopters in cb, maybe the sydney location is a big part of the problem. Should the CB branch be located closer to the causeway?
  • Or maybe the society needs to help build a shelter/adoption center at antigonish which is more central and would get more traffic. Healthy adoptables from CB could be transferred in there. Antigonish is pretty central and makes a great halfway point from Sydney to Dartmouth. The adoption center could also help the Truro Branch find homes for its adoptables too.

I once read in a leadership manual that there are no problems, there are only solutions waiting to be discovered. There will be a solution in time to the roadblocks to No Kill Nova Scotia. The beautiful thing is that the more crowded the path gets, the more achievable solutions there will be. Its a refreshing change of pace to see more of the society on the path at all, when for a long time there have only been isolated beacons of hope.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Really Good Dog News!!!!!

Bentley the puppy home at last
By MARY ELLEN MacINTYRE Truro BureauSun. Nov 16 - 4:46 AM
The merry chase is over for a pint-sized pooch named Bentley.
The 11-month-old papillon with big eyes and even bigger ears finally took the bait in a live trap set up to catch him after he fled the scene of a motor vehicle accident last Sunday on Highway 104 near Londonderry.
"They got him — he’s fine," said a breathless Shana Snow.
One of a large contingent of concerned people who showed up to search for the little dog last week, Ms. Snow found it hard to contain her excitement.
"It’s such good news — I can’t believe it," she said.
Scared, tired, shaky and in need of food and rest, Bentley was found in the trap late Saturday afternoon by his owner, Steve Angus.
Mr. Angus had spent long days searching for the little dog after his wife, Ena, was involved in a motor vehicle accident near the Cobequid Pass last Sunday.
Ms. Angus had some physical healing to do over the past week but she was grateful she had only scrapes and bruises.
"We were coming back from a dog show in Moncton and the next thing I knew the truck was in the air, flipping over," said Ms. Angus, during a telephone interview earlier Saturday.
They had tried his favourites: hot dogs, cheese and cat food, but nothing seemed to work as a lure for the obviously scared dog.
"He was scared and it seems like he’s still scared because he runs away when people try to catch him," she said.
Search teams had been looking for the sable- and white-coloured dog every day. The couple even hired a woman who uses beagles to track missing animals but they couldn’t capture the now-timid little guy.
For most of last week the couple fretted and worried.
They even brought his mother to the spot where he was last sighted but even that bait didn’t work.
On Friday they got a break.
"A truck driver called to tell us on Friday he saw Bentley running by the woods and he even got out and whistled and Bentley stopped and looked at him but then ran back into the woods."
Another driver called to say she saw what she believed was Bentley running out of the woods on Friday.
She described him as a small dog that looked like a brown and white shaggy cat.
Mr. Angus had set out live traps earlier in the week and he spent Friday night and all day Saturday in his truck near where the vehicle crashed.
He intended to spend Saturday night as well but it wasn’t necessary.
"He told me he’d gone to get a coffee and when he came back, Bentley was in the trap, so he was happy," said Ms. Snow.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

I found this really hilarious thing while I was looking up more information about the Pedigree Partner shelters in Atlantic Canada. Now I knew the Yarmouth SPCA was part of the program because they proudly advertise it on the front of their new website, Yarmouth SPCA. As well they should.... they keep their animals for a long time, list most of them on petfinder, offer incentives for their seniors and are the soul of friendliness and cooperation every single time I have contacted them.
Imagine my surprise to see the Cape Breton SPCA also listed as part of the program, with this entertaining piece of fiction on their page

In May we became an official branch of the Provincial society. In September 1978, we officially opened the doors of our shelter.
We handled 3990 animals in 2007, with an adoption rate of 75%, the remainder were claimed by the owners and some adopted by foster homes while waiting for a new home.
We provide shelter for lost and found animals, unwanted pets, strays and injured animals. There is adoption service for new pets, a 24 hour emergency service for injured animals, and information and education program on animals care. We investigate all cruelty complaints, conduct spot checks on animals throughout Cape Breton Island, and prosecute deliberate cruelty cases under enforcement of the animals protection act.

Unlike the Yarmouth SPCA, there is no proud announcement anywhere on the Cape Breton Site, I guess it really is like the old tv show said" Truth is stranger than fiction"

PS, if you want to let Pedigree know what you think of the CB shelter being part of their program, Please be specific if you are commenting, because it would a real shame for the Yarmouth SPCA, or any of the other shelters in Atlantic Canada to be tarred with the same brush.

Out of the frying pan part 2

From the Cape Breton Post

Last updated at 1:49 PM on 15/11/08 Dog ditched in box and thrown in water reunites with owner

SYDNEY — Toby the terrier, who was found inside a plywood box and left in a cold pond, has since been reunited with his owner.Cape Breton SPCA animal cruelty investigator, Ken Manning, said the dog was found by two hunters in a wooden area of Edwardsville, Monday. The dog was later recognized by his owner on a television news report and has since returned home.A woman from Westmount had been searching for her pooch and was anxious to retrieve the dog Saturday morning, said Manning. “She called right away. She doesn’t know how the dog got out, and she doesn’t know how someone could do it to her dog, but it is still being investigated,” Manning said. The hunters told SPCA members, they had heard crying sounds when they came across the box — they also thought they heard a splash.A stick was used to lure the box out of the water, but the dog couldn't be freed as neither man had a screwdriver.SPCA officials freed the dog and said the plywood box was very well-made. Materials used were marked with a picture of a cartoon character and writing in what looks like “Juggqzo for life”. “If we do find out who did it, they could face charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, plus charges under the Nova Scotia Animal Protection Act,” said Manning. For full story, see Monday's edition of the Cape Breton Post
One can only hope that ownership was confirmed ( by dog license/vet record or better yet because the distraught owner had contacted AC when Toby went missing ) One can only hope that whoever so very nearly killed this little dog in such a horrible horrible way is brought to justice
This is what happens when a branch has the kind of reputation that CB does. Anything that happens, good or bad, is viewed with much cynicism. If this had happened somewhere else, we'd all be breaking out the champagne.
Sometimes I think my spirit will drown in the river of blood flowing from that place ..... and then I pull up my socks and remind myself that the way ahead won't be found in melodrama. It will be forged in the awakening power of the strength of community. It will be built with the power of love.
As an add on to this story, in this mornings (sun nov 16th) Chronicle Herald, Mr Manning is now saying that they are still investigating the circumstances. Hmmm, how many phone calls and emails did that take? Its entirely possible that someone at the provincial level had something to say to, although that is sheer speculation on my part.
SYDNEY (CP) — Toby the terrier has been reunited with his owner after being found inside a plywood box and left in a cold Nova Scotia pond.
Ken Manning, an animal cruelty investigator with the SPCA in Cape Breton, says the dog was found Monday by two hunters in a wooded area of Edwardsville.
Manning says a woman who had been searching for her dog recognized Toby on a TV news report and fetched him Saturday.
He says she claims she doesn’t know how the dog got out or how it ended up screwed inside a box, but that the case is still being investigated.
The hunters say they had heard crying sounds when they came across the box, but were unable to free the dog because they didn’t have a screwdriver

Out of the frying pan?

From this morning's Chronicle Herald
Dog locked in box, thrown into pond Hunters in Cape Breton find pooch, turn him over to SPCA By PATRICIA BROOKS ARENBURG Staff Reporter Sat. Nov 15 - 5:30 AM
There’s one lucky dog in Cape Breton right now.
A little terrier escaped a watery grave Monday, thanks to two hunters in the woods of Edwardsville.
"They thought they heard a splash and then they heard a dog cry, so they went over to this pond and there was a box in the pond," said Ken Manning, an animal cruelty investigator with the Cape Breton SPCA.
As the men got closer, "they could hear the dog, so they got a stick and they pulled the box out of the pond and then they called us."
The dog had already clawed and chewed a hole in the side of the plywood box when the hunters retrieved it from the water, Mr. Manning said. But the men couldn’t free the dog because the box was screwed shut and neither man had a screwdriver.
The SPCA, which also does animal control for Cape Breton Regional Municipality, picked up the dog in the box and took it to the shelter, where it was freed from its would-be coffin.
"He’s traumatized," Mr. Manning said of the pooch. "The first day or so, he was really scared and snappy but now he’s OK, you can pat him and everything and walk him on a leash."
The dog is a male, has white and grey wiry fur and a blue collar with no name tag. He stands 30 to 35 centimetres high and "weighs less than a bag of potatoes," Mr. Manning said.
The dog didn’t appear to be injured but was missing a bit of fur on his back, though that could be due to a flea allergy, he said.
The SPCA is now looking for anyone who knows the dog, its owner or the origin of the box. "The box is well-made," Mr. Manning said. "It’s done by someone that knows carpentry."
The plywood box was about 35 centimetres wide, 35 centimetres deep and 60 centimetres high. Grooves were cut into the plywood to ensure a tight fit at the corners. It also had some kind of character on the box, possibly Lisa Simpson from the cartoon The Simpsons. It also had a word scrawled across the top. Mr. Manning, who was speaking from his Sydney home Friday night, said it meant "for life," and was possibly spelled "joggqom."
The two hunters who found the dog came by the Sydney shelter earlier this week to see how he was doing, Mr. Manning said.
The dog is not up on the shelter’s adoption floor, because he’s being held as evidence for the time being.
Those responsible for the pup could face charges under the Criminal Code for causing unnecessary suffering and further charges under the Nova Scotia Animal Protection Act. "This was done deliberately," Mr. Manning said. "And there was no need of it because the shelter is there. If they brought the animal in and they didn’t have any money to leave the animal, we wouldn’t refuse them."

There is no way to justify an act of cruelty like that. Even the fact that its common knowledge that the Cape Breton SPCA Branch is a high kill shelter still doesn't justify that.
Or is is it common knowledge? Does the Cape Breton Regional municipality know whats happening in their own backyard? Or are they simply turning a blind eye as long as the voters and taxpayers in the municipality don't complain?
The other day I read an article in the Cape Breton post about therapy dogs being used to promote reading programs at the North Sydney Library, so I find it hard to believe that nobody in the CBRM gives a hoot about what happens to the animals.
Still its easier to turn an blind eye than to have to invest money and energy in a solution. The CB branch does double duty as AC for the CBRM. For them to acknowledge the problem would obligate them to address it. Do they need a bigger shelter? Or a more central location? Or training?
Should the shelter even be considered a SPCA branch in light of its activities? I rather doubt that the original animal lovers who fundraised to get a branch open were hoping for the situation they have now.
We all know that for many years, it was common practice to have high kill shelters. Nobody liked the idea, but until the dawn of the No Kill Movement it was thought to be one of those horrible fact of life things - in the same way industrial polution was regarded as an unfortunate necessity.
We know better know. We know there is a better way. There are good role models out there that are the apple of the eye of the animal loving community.
There has never been a better time to try to raise the consciousness of the animal lovers in the CBRM.
Four years ago, they were still shooting stray dogs just down the road from here. I lived half an hour away, and like most other residents, I had no idea this was happening. Four years ago it came to the limelight and as a result, CAPS was formed and the rest is history.
There will be no effective solution to the difficulties with the Cape Breton Branch from 'away" Without strong community support for a new path, the CB branch will keep going its merry old way.
The society does have the power to take away their branch status. Would that address the problem? Not even close, unless one is prepared to abandon the CB homeless animals to the 'wolves'.
A public awareness campaign for CB could be launched, to coincide with the opening of the new Pets Unlimited store in the Mayflower Mall next month. ( Remember that here in the valley, when the whole shooting the dogs story came to light, people immediately responded to their politicians and the shooting stopped, almost overnight.)
There could be no more important education project than this. Its time to take the blinders off and see if there is enough power of love for the animals in cape breton to overcome the love of power by a few.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wake up kiss

In between the Animal Rescue community and the horrible people who should never be allowed to put their hands on any animal, there is a whole world out there. That means there are a lot of potential adopters out there, like a buried treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Or more aptly, like sleeping beauties waiting to be awakened.
In spite of a universal enthusiasm in the Animal Loving community for humane education, the spca education committee is still in need of more tangible energy and support. Like TNR and SNAP, getting their youth outreach program off the ground wouldn't yield results today, but it would address the problem at the source.
Even when the program gets into the schools, how can the problem of humane education for adults be addressed? Its great to see the society getting good information up on it provincial website. But..... and yes there is always a but..... outside of the animal loving community and people who are already committed to pet adoption, who reads the rescue and society webpages?
When word of mouth isn't enough, what else can be done? My father often used to say that there was no greater prude than a reformed hooker. Why not try:
  • letting it be known that people with no vet references could 'earn' the right to be eligible to adopt by volunteering at the shelter for a few months or even a year, in the same way that the legal system promotes community service for wayward teenagers. And before the keyboards light up, this option should never be available to anyone who has harmed an animal or put a healthy or treatable animal to death ( I refuse to call it to sleep when they aren't going to wake up) Encouraging these people to become part of the animal loving community instead of alienating them and sending them to the free online ad sites just makes sense.
  • Set up a mentoring program for first time adopters with experienced pet owners in the animal loving community
  • Pursuit of a private member's bill in the house that would ban the sale of pets in pet stores, instead offering the adoption option as the Petcetera branch in Dartmouth Crossing does
  • Pursuit of an separate bill to ban the sale/giveaway of pets through online ad sites. Until that is actually illegal, there are always going to be people who don't understand the problem and could/will be taken advantage of. It should presented as a consumer protection bill for speedier passage.
  • Going out to community halls and offering free workshops on responsible pet ownership. Sweet talk the hall or church ladies group into providing sweets: ))
  • In their capacity as the official voice for homeless animals in NS, the society could provide the needed encouragement for newspapers in NS to install the "featured pet" module in their online editions ( to display all the adoptable animals in NS available on petfinder )
  • All municipalities in NS have websites now. There is no reason that space cannot be made for a featured pet module on their sites either
  • At the very least, there should be a 'featured pet' module on the Dept of Agriculture site , given that the society and animal rescue falls under their jurisidiction
  • I know I've said it before, but a regular five minute slot on Live at Five each week would be an opportunity to awaken a lot of good people

There will always be people who will not, and should not, meet the screening criteria for pet adoption. They should not be able to hide among the majority of kind hearted people in this province.

Broadening the base of the animal loving community will have another advantage too. Years ago nobody would talk about spousal and/or child abuse.... it was like a dirty dark secret that was ignored. There are no 'blind eyes' turned anymore, making it a much safer world for women and children. When the animal loving community is part of the mainstream, how much harder will it be for anyone to put any animal in harms way?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Full circle or full speed ahead

I walk an Earth Based Path. Believing that animals have souls isn't just an idiosyncrasy, its a firmly established part of my belief system. I believe all life is precious and every life counts. The Earth does not belong to us, rather we belong to the Earth.
So you can see where reading Redemption was like coming home. For most people its also a bit of an 'AH HA' moment to realize that there are sensible solutions that really do work.
Another one of my favourite Nathan Winograd quotes is "Ending the killing of healthy and treatable pets means building, brick-by-brick, the programs, facilities, and community involvement necessary to lower birthrates, increase adoptions and keep animals with their loving, responsible caregivers. But most of all, it means believing in the community and trusting in the power of compassion"
That tripod cuts through the crap:
  • lower birthrates to turn off the tap with SNAP, TNR and of course making sure that all rescue and shelter adoptees are spayed or neutered
  • Increase adoptions by being more user friendly and getting the word (and the animals ) out there, and of course
  • pet retention with a strong safety net of community support programs

One of the other miracles of No Kill is that it engages more support from the animal loving community. When people realize that all the healthy, treatable animals are living to tell the tail, they are much more inclined to volunteer/be a member/donate/etc... The more support the community gives, the better the whole thing works.

The path to No Kill Nova Scotia is still full of pitfalls:

  • The Union of NS Municipalities needs to stop wasting its breath working on Breed Specific Legislation and start funding the hardworking little TNR groups that are in essence saving the tax payers money with the work that they do.
  • The UNSM also needs to reevaluate the level of funding, training, programs and facilities for its own AC departments.
  • A provincially funded SNAP would ensure consistent results throughout the province
  • The Department of Education already has a suitable umbrella for funding Humane Education in the public school system, the Learning for Life Program. This should be pursued, not only as a life skill but as a way to save future tax dollars
  • Every good step forward that the society is taking now is still tarred with the ugly brush of the Cape Breton SPCA Branch. Until this issue is addressed, it will continue to affect the reputation of all the rest of the society.
  • All the rescues and the society will need to be able to set aside their differences and work together. ( My 'favourite' rescue groups are the ones that never 'bad mouth' the others, but they are sadly few and far between )

There are lessons for everyone to learn and unlearn:

  • adoption fees by themselves are no guarantee of financial stability - someone can easily ante up while shortchanging something else in their budget. Sometimes those with the deepest pockets are most inclined to pinch pennies with food and vet care. Checking vet references is more of an assurance than a hefty adoption fee. Anytime I have said this before its been treated like heresy, but its just a fact of life. Lower adoption rates cut out the 'competition' - every spayed or neutered animal adopted from rescue is one less pet that will reproduce
  • not accepting owner surrenders doesn't mean there will be less irresponsible pet owners, it means there will be more animals put in harms way
  • TNR does not endanger wildlife or promote the spread of disease.

Still, I have faith that we will get to No Kill Nova Scotia. The power of so much love for the animals, combined with the awakening consciousness of the animal loving community in this province could move mountains. If only we don't drop the ball and get bogged down in nitpicking. Otherwise, we could wind up turning things around 360 degrees instead of moving ahead.

It’s easy to get good players. Getting them to play together, that’s the hard part. Casey Stengel

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weighing and Measuring

I love to bake - for me there is no downside ( except on my backside : ) to baking. It makes the whole house smell great and I can't imagine domestic bliss without home baked things for both the furkids and myself.
Baking is a pretty precise art - and the best results are achieved by careful measuring and close attention to timing.
That type of precision can't be applied to defining responsible pet ownership. If you put a dozen animal lovers around the table, there would be a dozen different definitions.
No matter what the specifics most will agree on these three things, that responsible pet owners try to provide:
  • the commitment for life,
  • the comfort and security of consistent routines and boundaries, and
  • the compassion and understanding that a pet is a living breathing sentient being not a thing or a possession

Those who have the commitment will always do their darnedst to work with the curve balls that life offers - moving, new partners, new babies and allergies. Those who understand the need for a steady routine are well down the training road, even if they let their pet sleep on their bed, walk in front of them or eat off their plate. Kind, compassionate people understand that pets are companions who need to spend time with and be close to their people, not to be shut away all alone.There is no denying that there are some pet owners out there who do give up too easily. There are others who seem to be caught on a treadmill where they keep giving up one pet for another that they think will be more suitable. Those, I think, will continue that way as long as they can cling to the anonymity of a free online ad site.

There are rescues and shelters out there that will occasionally take owner surrenders, but there is usually a waiting list for that. Metro has inherited a policy not to accept owner surrenders - it will be interesting to see if that changes as the petfinder policy and hours have.

Its a real crapshoot to be a pet. The really lucky ones wind up in good homes with committed and kind pet owners for life. Should a pet be penalized for having the bad luck to have an inexperienced or an uncommitted pet owner? Not accepting owner surrenders seldom punishes the pet owner - they just dump them someplace and tell themselves they had no other choice.

What if there were some conditions to owner surrenders? If the person couldn't afford a surrender fee, why not negotiate some volunteer time at the shelter. Seeing what its like for homeless animals might put a different spin on pet ownership. It goes without saying that a quiet list could be maintained to help avoid repeated surrenders.

In the course of my work with the homeless pages, I have seen some real steps forward with Metro. They are discovering that listing their pets with petfinder does boost adoptions. Its easy to see how well things like their Adopt a Senior pet month is working when I do site updates for the homeless pet project. If I'm not mistaken, they have changed to more user friendly shelter hours too. Who knows what other new and cool things will be coming?

With this kind of progress, wouldn't it be wonderful if the old inherited policy could be revisited?