Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do You Recognize this Lovely Cat?

Press Release from SPCANS
April 30, 2009 Halifax, NS
SPCA Seeking Public's Help with Badly Injured Cat
The SPCA is looking for assistance in finding the owner of a cat that fell from at least the third floor of an apartment building at 6969 Bayer's Road in Halifax on the evening of Friday, April 24th.
HRM Animal Services received a call at approximately 10:30pm from the Superintendent of the building who received a call from a tenant on the second floor who witnessed the cat falling from above, she hit the concrete and lay there in distress until she eventually dragged herself under a nearby car.
After being rushed to the Metro Animal Emergency Clinic, she was diagnosed with a broken leg and bruised bladder and is currently under observation at Eastern Passage Veterinary Hospital where she is in stable condition. At the time of this release, no one has come forward looking for their missing cat (see attached pictures). Anyone with any information is asked to contact investigator Nancy Noel at 835-4798 at the NS SPCA Provincial office.
Staff at the Metro Shelter have named the cat Hope. Due to the cast on her leg she has limited mobility, and despite her injuries she has maintained a wonderful spirit. Staff are hopeful that the cast will be a success, but previous attempts to heal the broken legs of cats have not always been successful and amputation is still an option that may have to be considered. Due to the expense of such an operation, the Metro Shelter is looking to the public to help out in any way they can.
At this time of year, the Metro Shelter is also in desperate need of foster homes for cats like Hope and all of the mothers and kittens that have been flooding into the shelter in the last few weeks. If you are interested in making a donation to assist Hope, or in opening your home to becoming a foster, please contact the Metro Shelter at 468-7877 or email There is no cost to the public to foster; the shelter provides the food, litter, medicine and all other essentials to foster homes.
Media requests and interviews may be directed to or by calling 835-4798.
Outside of the special effects of cat treat commercials, cats have better sense than to jump out of windows. They are brilliant creatures, but they can come to harms way all too often from humans.
Thirty two years ago, when my daughter was a baby, we were adopted by my best friend's cat. She was babysitting for me and Mr Fritz just fell completely and utterly in love with my daughter. He was already a mature adult at the time, but he lived to the ripe old age of almost 22 .... tagging along with us as we moved from Alberta to New Brunswick to Ontario and then here to Nova Scotia.
While we were in New Brunswick, Mr Fritz was hit by a car and sadly after a couple of surgeries we were unable to save his rear right leg.
Did that mean the end of the line? Of course not ..... cats don't have the same hangups that people do about disabilities. The only time we were reminded about it was with what we all came to refer to as the "turkey trot" .... whenever I was cooking a holiday turkey, Mr Fritz would limp into the kitchen and fling himself down on the floor in front of the oven, always with the 'stump' side up.
We had the pleasure of Mr Fritz's company for nearly ten years after the accident as we kept moving around the countryside. He was still feisty enough that in spite of being neutered, his ear needed stitching while we lived in Ontario. By the time we moved to Nova Scotia, he had settled into his more sedate senior years. The point being of course that "till death do us part" should be part of every pet owners promise. But I am wandering afield here.
Hope is a great name for this lovely cat .... as we all hope she heals and gets to keep all her 'feet' on the ground. I know i sound like a stuck record on the pet blog when I say this, but Hope really would have more love than anyone could possibly imagine for the person who is kind enough to open their home and their heart to her.
We could learn a lesson or two from the generosity of spirit that allows animals that have been hurt to trust and love again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When I am Old

When I am old... and no snickering please because fifty four is far from elderly .... I am not going to wear purple. Nor will I wear a red hat and spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves or satin sandals. Most importantly ... when I am old I will not be adopting four footed youngsters.
When I am old, I will foster and adopt old pets. By then I probably won't want to gallop through the woods for a couple of hours every morning and I will prefer their more sedate pace. I expect that will mean my pension will be spent at the vets .... as we all need a little more tlc when we get old.
I will not need to wait until I am old to do as I please because the best bit about turning fifty is losing the fear of looking foolish. It was very liberating to realize that I can do as I please now, because my eccentricities generally pass under the radar for most of the world.
When I am old, I will still eat brownies for breakfast and popcorn for Sunday Brunch. I will still speak my mind and scold politicians. My closet will still give the what not to wear people conniptions. And loving to cook will still be the only domestic thing about me.
But I will be sensible when I am old. I will remember that a well cared for pet can live well over a dozen years. I will remember how many mature pets I have listed on the homeless pet site who have become homeless when their owners became unable to care for them. I will remember how difficult it is to find good homes for older pets.
I will remember that my two good dogs who will turn three this year as I turn fifty five will, barring unforeseen sadness, still be with me in ten years time when I turn sixty five. I will remember that all my young cats who are here now should still be here with me when I am seventy.
So when I am old, I will be sensible .... at least about this.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A new visitor and a great new idea


The NS SPCA will facilitate a Town Hall meeting between interested groups and members of communities who wish to be part of the Feral and Stray Cat solution. We invite all concerned residents, City/Municipal staff, and anyone who wishes to be a part of the solution to attend.
In addition to its core mandate of prevention of cruelty to animals, the NS SPCA also works hard to take in abandoned and unwanted animals whenever space and resources allow, accepting over 5,000 unwanted cats per year provincially. While the function of animal control falls under City/Municipal responsibility, the NS SPCA cares about the welfare of all animals and wants to be part of the solution. This is a community issue and therefore must be resolved by our community as a whole.
There will be speakers on successful local programs such a Trap-Neuter-Release program in the Halifax dockyard and a low-cost spay/neuter program in Halifax including discussion on how such programs are implemented, how they work, and how you can do it in your own community!
Date:Saturday, May 30th
Time:8:30am –12:00pm
Location:Saint Mary’s University, Sobey Building, Room 265, 903 Robie Street
Feral and Stray Cat Community Town Hall
RSVP appreciated to

It was lovely to find this ..... especially the day after I have caught site of a new visitor at the outdoor feeding station for the kitties.... one that was hungry enough to empty a fairly substantial dish of dry food. With my perfect track record of completely getting the genders wrong, I'm not even going to hazard a guess at the whole boy/girl thing until we get better acquainted : )))
Today's wish list starts with the hope that the Town Hall Meeting invitations included all the municipal councillors around the province.
If there are people who can't make it in ..... because not everyone around NS will be able to .... a timely submission of suggestions and practical lessons learned to spcans would help those chairing the meeting round out the picture for those who can be there.
I certainly can't speak for the society , but I can tell you that this new bod has been the soul of patience with this middle aged granny anytime I have had a suggestion or proposal for them.
Will this meeting solve everything? Not by a country mile .... but there will never be any solutions if we all wait for the 'instant fix".... because that's about as realistic as my great hope that people will stop dumping cats out here. This Town Hall is a great first step down a road that will need everyone to pitch in and help.
In the meantime ..... I think I'll call the new visitor Jamie .... after the chef who likes food so much ... just in case: )))

Monday, April 27, 2009

For the want of a nail

We are always hungry when we get back from the woods and it really says a lot about what sweet dogs Ruby and Henry both are that neither of them are food aggressive. Even though Henry wasn't as terribly emaciated as Miss Ruby was when she was rescued, at forty pounds he was still much too thin for his size.
They are both the soul of patience when Mcg, who has never missed a meal in eleven years, tries to tiptoe past his old fella weight control stuff to sample their bowls. ( If you've ever shared space with a Scottie, you will know that the 'thrill of the hunt' for someone else's dinner dish/toy/treat is something they simply can't resist)
My heart just goes out to families who are trying to make ends meet these days. It was a bit like winning the lottery a few years ago to become an empty nester .... now its easy to see why the mothers look shell shocked at the cash registers.
It seems everytime that I shop for the few little things that I need, at least half of what's in my cart has crept up in price again.... and I'm really a horrible consumer from the grocery store's perspective because I'm not a one stop shopper. Most of my staples come from our health food store, the vets or the feed store.
The 'free to a good home' ads on Kijiji are full of mature and even senior pets these days and many of the dogs are the larger ( ie cost more to feed) varieties. How many of these people would keep their pets if there was a pet food bank available to them?
At times like these, I can't think of a better way for the pet food companies to rebuild trust with animal lovers than by contributing to a pet food bank. The pet food industry is big money and would be hard pressed to turn down either the free publicity accrued from this or the long term loyalty their participation would earn from the animal loving community.
It should be no surprise that there already are quite a few pet food banks set up south of the border. The really clever ones recognize there is no such thing as a 'free lunch' and so they:
  • 'seize the day' and make spay/neuter a condition for participation, with low cost vouchers available.
  • "paying it forward". In other words, all participants are required to volunteer for at least five hours a month with the food bank,
  • and if all else fails, they offer "owner foster" programs where the food bank provides the food so the the pets can stay with the owner until a new home is found through their local shelter or rescue
What time is it? Its time to remember that we will never get to No Kill Nova Scotia without pulling out all the stops for pet retention. At the end of the day, it wouldn't only be the pet food companies who would garner good will. This is the kind of thing that could build bridges between all the rescue community and more of the province's pet owners.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pawsitive Training

Water changes everything. It looks innocent enough in a glass, but one only needs to notice how quickly furrows can be formed by rain dripping off the roof to catch a hint of its strength.
Sometimes the change is abrupt and dramatic .... such as the strong fall storms that can sculpt entire sections of the rocky Fundy shore in a new and unrecognizable way. Normally its more subtle than that .... every year the spring runoff of melting snow down the South Mountain behind us has steadily reshaped the course of the little Fales River. Bit by bit .... year by year .... the riverbank is gradually shifting to the south.
So it should be no surprise that the rescue community would use water analogy by referring to the annual river of cats and kittens. When the something becomes a predictable annual occurrence .... when the 'free kittens' either keep recycling through Kijiji with 'free kittens' of their own or wind up fending for themselves on the back roads and byways around the province..... when everyone is 'up to their ass in alligators', its easy enough to forget that the original objective was to drain the swamp.
On a good day, there are normally at least eight cats for every dog that is listed on petfinder in NS. That of course does not count the ones with the shelters and groups that do not use Petfinder, the ones who have been scooped up by AC departments around the province and of course the countless ones who have been dumped or drowned or shot.
We already know what is needed to get to No Kill Nova Scotia. We know about TNR and the value of a good SNAP..... about the need for Rescue groups to work with the SPCA and AC .... everyone understands the lifesaving role played by Fosters. .... from mobile adoptions to adoption incentives to pet retention programs .... everyone is brimming with good ideas.
So if we already know what is needed..... what is the holdup? Everyone has been so accustomed to wrestling with the alligators of irresponsible pet ownership that a very important thing has been overlooked. We will never drain the darn swamp without everyone's help.
Not just the people involved in rescue ... not just the folks who already ARE responsible pet owner ..... but everyone in the province. If those darned 'irresponsible pet owners" aren't part of the equation, they are simply going to keep on filling up the swamp.
One of the most important things we need to do is be more proactive about getting the right information out there to everyone. Right now in NS there are too many 'urban legends' and outright misinformation about animal welfare and animal rescues that are taken as gospel by too many people. We need to recognize that:
1. TNR is only a lifesaving tool when people know how it works and who provides the service. For instance, I've lived here in Kings County for 22 years and if I wasn't interested enough in animal rescue to have done a bit of research, I would never have known that we have TNR groups here or even about TNR at all. Many of my friends live in Annapolis County, and they had no idea who Team TNR were until I told them.
TNR is an 'easier sell' for a community BEFORE situations reach a crisis point.
2. Nothing will replace a good SNAP There is no point is getting judgemental about people getting pets that they cannot afford. Just as some people never marry the right partner, when it comes to love, common sense often goes out the window. Twenty five dollar discounts are meaningless for those who cannot afford the remaining hundred plus dollars for the spay or the neuter. The good news is of course that each pet only has to be altered once, instead of producing hundreds and even thousands of progeny which will need to be rescued/TNR'd or killed by AC.
3. Aggressive Adoption Incentives for Cats are not just an adoption tool .... every cat that is adopted from a responsible rescue that alters its adoptees is one more that will not add to the River of Cats.
4. Alienating 'irresponsible pet owners' is not the path to success. Its not human nature to respond well to criticism and pet owners are under no legal obligation to be responsible as long as they are meeting the horribly basic bare minimums required by law. In this, as with many other things in life, there is a choice between the moral satisfaction of scolding an idiot, or getting the job done.
5. Don't depend on Websites and Animal Clinics to get the word out In a province where many well loved pets never see the inside of a vet clinic in their entire lives, its important to remember that Animal Welfare Websites and Vet Clinics are normally 'preaching to the choir"
What time is it? Its time to use some of those pawsitive training techniques to make better pet owners.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Getting better bang for the buck

From today's online edition of Metro:
Province gives $100,000 to SPCA
April 25, 2009 9:37 a.m.
The province is giving $100,000 to the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help with new legislation.The Animal Protection Act, passed in November 2008, designates the SPCA as responsible for the enforcement of the companion animal portion of the act."The SPCA plays a significant role in assuring companion animals in Nova Scotia are protected and treated with the care they deserve," said Minister of Agriculture Mark Parent. "This funding will help the SPCA meet its obligations under the Animal Protection Act."The new act shifts responsibility for farm animals from the SPCA to the Department of Agriculture. It will allow the SPCA to focus on the protection of non-farm animals. The act is scheduled to be proclaimed in the coming months."We are very pleased to receive this funding from the department as it allows us to focus on improving our investigation capability by providing our staff and volunteers with operational funding and additional training," said Jim Kochanoff, treasurer for the provincial SPCA. "As well, it allows us to adjust to our new administrative requirements and responsibilities under the act."The provincial SPCA has been incorporated since 1877.
Nova Scotia was the first jurisdiction in North America to pass laws for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

No denying this is a well needed change from the existing $3000.00... which was so woefully inadequate the province should have been embarassed to grant.
If the province really wants to get the most value for this money, they should arrange for some "humane education" for their public prosecutors so that appropriate penalties are consistantly sought for the animal cruelty cases that are prepared for them by the SPCA.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Backwash is Beginning from the Five Dollar Decision

It has been less than two months since the infamous Five Dollar Decision put NS in the limelight. For those who are new to NS, or just newly awakened, the full news story may be found on When NIMBY gets in the way of justice .
I strongly suspect that our Premier is tired of getting emails from this middle aged granny. Its actually been some time since I've had more than a canned response from him or his office. Now that he has moved on to the greener pastures of Transportation, the task of answering my emails on behalf of the Premier no longer lands on the plate of the Hon Brooke Taylor. Instead, our new Minister of Agriculture, the Hon Mark Parent gets the dubious honor of answering emails that will very likely find their way into my blog, such as his disappointing response on the Premier's behalf to my email protesting The Five Dollar Decision:
The outcome of this recent case in Hants County has upset many animal enthusiasts. It has also drawn attention to the lack of resources the Society for Prevention of Cruelty has to manage feral and stray cats. Hopefully this will encourage more people to come forward and assist the SPCA with providing better options for the feral and stray cats in Nova Scotia.
I don't imagine my email was much different from everyone else's;
Good afternoon,
As an animal lover, I regularly visit the Nova Scotia SPCA website
, . I was appalled to read their latest press release, SPCA Cruelty Case Results in $5 Fine for Killing Cat.
In one fell swoop, all the hard work that was done by your government with Bill 186 has suffered a terrible setback. Even worse, in this electronic age word of this has already sped around the continent. This is not the type of image that Nova Scotia is trying to promote with the "Come to Life" campaign.
Even worse, this represents a terrible lesson in values for children in Nova Scotia. Respect for life is the cornerstone of any ethical system worth teaching to our children. As a grandmother, I can assure you that with children, "more is caught than taught". We can talk until we are blue in the face but the lessons they really learn are not necessarily the ones we meant to teach them.
The only good lesson that could be gained from this would be if our prosecutors became well enough acquainted with animal welfare issues to understand that animal cruelty to feral and stray cats is still animal cruelty.
Thank you in advance for your time and attention
Janet Young
East Tremont
webmaster for
Coming out of the gate it is clear that nobody read the email. I wasn't complaining about the SPCA. The issue at hand was the Five Dollar Decision and its implications.
Its been less than two months and we are already seeing the backwash from The Five Dollar Decision. A couple of days ago, I did a pet blog post for a little pup (above ) named River, who was narrowly rescued from drowning and is currently in the care of the LA Animal Shelter . At the same time, I listed nine Shar Pei Mix Pups on the site as well.
It has been confirmed this morning that these nine Shar Pei Mix Pups pictured below were rescued by ARC at four days of age from being drowned. Why is that happening? How many other helpless pets are actually being drowned because noone is there to rescue them?
The Why is pretty simple. The Five Dollar Decision set such a dangerous precedent because it announced loudly and clearly that the Nova Scotia Legal system does not take animal cruelty charges seriously. ( The need for better laws is a separate rant for a different day ... today's topic boys and girls is to apply the full existing penalties .)
To receive an email from the Min of Agriculture suggesting that The Five Dollar Decision had anything to do with the resources available to the SPCA smells as bad as the red herring it really is. IF you want our new Minister know that as a voter and a taxpayer, you do not approve of such fishy business, the appropriate email is
What time is it? Its time for the minority Conservative government to summon up a more suitable level of concern for the animals in Nova Scotia and recognize that the backwash from The Five Dollar Decision has only just begun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy 40th Birthday for Earth Day

Its Earth Day and if you live in NS and its not raining too hard for you, Click Here to find out what events are planned for today.
Like any other forty year old, Earth Day has shifted its focus somewhat over the years. When I was a teenager, Earth Day emphasized global sustainability and was centered around issues like overpopulation. But, celebrating Earth Day was still something done by those darned hippies and people out in BC and California.
By the time I was heading for forty, concern for the environment was much more mainstream and Earth Day was more about practical solutions such as recycling.
As Earth Day itself headed for forty, the emphasis shifted again to the newfound concern about global warming.
One of my all time favourite quotes is Marshall McLuhan's "There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth - We are all crew". In the space of forty years, concern for the environment has certainly come a long, long way. Activities that were once branded as 'radical', such as organic gardening and being vegetarian are now considered to be more than 'lifestyle choices" and are being actively campaigned for.
And this is how I know that getting to No Kill Nova Scotia is an achievable objective. Genuine No Kill .... not hoarding and stockpiling .... not cherry picking the most adoptable animals to rescue .... but an educated environment where it is socially unacceptable to be an irresponsible pet owner. Honest to Gawd No Kill .... with the appropriate legislation to protect both the animals and the pet owners.
Think that can't happen? Take a look at the whole tobacco issue. When I was a teenager, it was a rare thing to meet someone who DIDN'T smoke. Now its more socially ... and in many cases legally ... acceptable to light up a joint in public than to smoke a cigarette.
Think its inconceivable? Look at the amazing progress that has been made in the space on one calendar year here in Nova Scotia. Last September, I did a blog post that listed the changes that I would need to see to believe that the society was truly on New Path
I'll believe they are on a new path when:

  • appropriate apologies are issued for revoking memberships of long time members for voicing their differences
  • use of the gas chamber by the Cape Breton Branch is no longer acceptable-
  • partnerships with AC do not inhibit the society's ability to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves,-
  • and when monthly branch statistics are readily available to the public.

Well, the apologies have been issued, the Cape Breton Branch has been given a non negotiable deadline for removal of their gas chamber, the new board didn't hesitate to speak up for the Harbourville Cats and the branch stats are available online.

We might not get there next week .... but at this rate its not going to take us forty years to get to No Kill Nova Scotia

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise

In the midst of all the sad little ads on Kijiji trying to give away pets ... the ads for the four and five and six year old and older good cats and dogs .... in the midst of all the excuses .... the newfound allergies and moving and every other imaginable tale of 'woe' ....the kittens and puppies that were born because nobody spayed the mothers ..... there is a refreshingly different ad : Wanted: looking for a medium size cat carrier
Someone is moving to Toronto at the end of the month and WANTS to bring their cat with them.
So if anyone in the HRM area has a cat carrier they don't need ... email these folks who are moving and want to take their cat with them. (The address on the ad is Windmill Road in Dartmouth )
On a day when I've had to put all the dog leashes on my left wrist because it would seem that a couple of weeks ago I actually broke a couple of ribs when I fell, it was nice to see such a pleasant and unanticipated surprise for sure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What are you doing this Tuesday at Six?

She is as tireless and energetic as the Border Collie who became her very own first dog..... Ceilidh never lost that 'lets go' attitude and went for two off leash walks the day before she passed away in her sleep at the happy old age of fifteen.
She has been a strong supporter and contributor to the animal loving community in the HRM area, so it should be no surprise that she would choose a dog related way to earn her daily bread.
She is my age, yet I have seen pictures of her hanging off the sides of buildings in support for the animals.
Last year when the UNSM tried to sneak BSL into NS undercover of a municipal housekeeping bill, her work as Co Chair for the Public Programs Committee of the Dog Legislative Council of Canada provided the necessary crediblity to launch one of the most effective grassroots public information campaigns our NS MLA's have ever experienced. Without the diligence of dedicated animal lovers like her and my friend Joan, we simply would have woken up one morning to find that BSL had arrived. (If you are new to NS, you can find more info about that at Banned in Nova Scotia? Bill 138 on Facebook.
Last August, she lost her own sweet Heart Dog, Oreo ..... a beautiful Bull Terrier who was otherwise known as Lumpy Dog. Like her Mom, Oreo was a wonderful advocate for her breed by being such a successful Therapy Dog. I can't even imagine how many people changed their opinions about Bull Terriers after meeting this laid back clown, who was always happiest rolling around and making everyone who met her feel better. (The first pic of Oreo below is with her Mom at the the Paws for Point Pleasant Park Mini Dog Jog that she organized to raise money for the restoration of the Park after Hurricane Juan.)
It should come as no surprise that Oreo's Mom would earn her 'bread and butter' by working with dogs. For the past thirteen years, she has successfully run a wonderful in home Doggy Daycare called The Canine Casbah. What is a surprise are the legal hurdles she has had to jump for the last four years to keep her business open.
Why would would such a well run business with a 13 year successful track record be in trouble with HRM? Because four years ago, a competitor raised zoning questions with City Hall that resulted in at least 10 City Council Meetings and Public Hearings in the past four years.
All of which has led to a very important public meeting on Tuesday , at 6pm at HRM City Hall. Why is this meeting important? Hasn't there been enough already?
THIS meeting is to 'get public input' about the importance that the animal loving community attaches to their accessibility to Doggy Day Cares. Zoning changes that will finally put this issue to bed for Canine Casbah will depend on a strong show of public interest. Its as simple as that.
For all of her adult life, Janet Chernin has spoken up for the animal loving community and in one way or another, every dog owner has benefited from her tireless energy on their behalf. Even in this battle for her business, she has been paving the way for better zoning laws to enable all neighbourhoods in HRM to have access to this very valuable service for their dogs.
What time is it? Its time for the animal loving community to return the favour. I know I sound like a stuck record, but the only thing any politician understands is numbers. Make the time to show up at City Hall on Tuesday at Six PM. Set a precedent so that the next time that any animal welfare advocate or group is working on changing any animal related bylaw in HRM, the Councillors can remember the strength and the number of animal loving voters in their wards.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Its Already an incredible day

From the new SPCANS website

April 15, 2009
In follow-up to Board discussions regarding use of the carbon dioxide gas chamber by the Cape Breton branch, the Executive of the Nova Scotia SPCA Board of Directors has issued the following notice:

The Board of the NS SPCA, in order to reinforce existing policy, requires that all branches, shelters and other operations under the authority of the NS SPCA cease the use of any euthanasia technique for the euthanasia of animals other than lethal injection by trained personnel or a veterinarian, by no later than 24 April, 2009. Any branches, shelters and other operations found to be in non-compliance with this motion shall have their Board of Directors, or equivalent, removed. Any volunteers or employees who use a gas chamber to euthanize an animal after 24 April, 2009 will be disciplined, up to and including termination. Members of the Society involved may have their memberships terminated. Any and all equipment used for euthanasia techniques other than lethal injection, whether in or out of service, shall be removed from NS SPCA property no later then 24 April, 2009. Compliance is to be filmed and verified by disinterested third party. Film or photographic evidence is to be provided to the Provincial Office of the NS SPCA.

Wow! We have nagged and complained. We have emailed and we have blogged. It was better than Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one to see this on the lovely new Nova Scotia SPCA website this morning.
The gas chamber at the Cape Breton SPCA has been the ugly brush that has tarred every animal welfare group and shelter in NS. People who are not involved in animal rescue do not differentiate between one groups policies and others. It has stained the reputation of all the other SPCA branches who have been working so hard for the animals.
Does this mean we have hit No Kill Nova Scotia? Of course not. But it does represent a giant leap down the road. Without the obstacle that gas chamber at the Cape Breton SPCA represents, the path is just ever so much clearer and cleaner.
We haven't even left for our morning hike on this absolutely lovely day and its already an incredible day!

One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others. - Lewis Carroll

More Ferals in the News

From this morning's Herald
Rescuing feral cats one at a time
Woman who uses trap-neuter-return method helping colony on fish company property By MICHELLE JONDREAU Thu. Apr 16 - 5:36 AM

Sonya Higgins tries to find a group of feral cats near H&H Fisheries in Fishermans Cove in Eastern Passage on Wednesday. (Photos by Darren Pittman / Staff)

Sonya Higgins feeds a group of feral cats who have taken up residence on the H&H Fisheries property in Fishermans Cove, Eastern Passage. Ms. Higgins not only feeds the cats but traps some to be taken to the vet for neutering and medical treatment.(Photos by DARREN PITTMAN / Staff)

An Eastern Passage woman has taken it upon herself to help out with the feral cat problem on a property in the Fishermans Cove area.
Sonya Higgins, who lives about a three-minute drive from the property owned by H&H Fisheries Ltd., goes twice a day to visit the cats, who have taken up residence among crates and rubber bins scattered across the property.
"Sometimes I come across as the crazy cat lady," Ms. Higgins, 36, said with a laugh. "The cause for the cats is what’s important."
Ms. Higgins got permission from landowner Reg Hartland to care for the cats. She not only feeds them but traps them to take them to a vet for neutering and medical treatment, if needed.
"People come here and let their kids run around and just drop off their cats," Mr. Hartland said.
He said it becomes a real problem when the cats have kittens and they all start multiplying. He said Ms. Higgins is doing wonderful work.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, reacting to a phone call, inspected the property early last month.
"The main concern was that the cats might be getting in" to the fisheries building, agency spokesman Etienne Chiasson said from Moncton.
He said the inspection turned up no evidence to support the theory.
Ms. Higgins said she started getting calls in November about cats on the property. Since then, she has rescued seven but she said there are still 10 that need help.
"People like me would like to see all the cats put into homes, but that’s not realistic," she said.
Ms. Higgins is a strong supporter of the trap-neuter-return method of dealing with cat colonies. She humanely traps them, pays for their neutering and any needed medical treatment at the Eastern Passage Village Veterinary Clinic, and then returns them to the surroundings they came from.
She raises money through projects such as bottle drives to help offset her expenses.
Ms. Higgins said she has rescued about 185 cats from all across Halifax Regional Municipality in the past three years and found homes for all but about a dozen.
She said people who decide to take in strays must be sure they don’t overextend themselves.
"Don’t take in a cat unless you can afford it," she said. "One lady had 18 kittens within nine months, from feeding one cat."
She estimated it costs at least $300 to get a feral cat properly taken care of at a veterinary clinic. For this reason, she would like the province to step in and provide low-cost services.
I am certainly relate to her statement about not taking in strays unless you can afford it. I am lucky that my vet practices at at a clinic with reasonable rates.... and even so, by the time Dora and Oscar were tested, vaccinated, Dora was spayed and we had the followup appt for their boosters, the tab was easily over four hundred. It would have been higher if Oscar hadn't already been neutered when he showed up.
It is mind boggling at how quickly the population of a cat colony can multiply. But spay neuter isn't just about population control either. All the experts, including SCAR agree that altered pets are also healthier and much less prone to wandering.
On a personal level, I can tell you that having Dora spayed really cut down on the 'foot traffic" of every Tom, Dick and Harry throughout the yard. ( Bearing in mind out here in the country in Kings County, very few barn cats are "fixed.... and toms will travel quite a distance. The Kings SPCA is working on county funding for TNR but that's still in the works)
I have the worlds smallest cat colony because I know that with all the pets that I already have, that I don't have the resources to invite in a whole crew. It might not seem like much, although I expect to Dora and Oscar it means a lot : )))
Its really wonderful to see this story in the news and I hope that all the media keep on doing stories about the great folks who have been doing the frontline TNR work. People might not read the animal welfare websites as a rule, but if we get enough stories out there in the media, maybe they'll get the picture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting the Cat out of the Bag

From this morning's Herald
Rescuers probe cat mystery
By GORDON DELANEY Valley BureauWed. Apr 15 - 5:40 AM
HARBOURVILLE — Members of the Homeless Animal Rescue Team want answers to the mystery of the missing cats.
"They didn’t just walk away," said HART President Laurie Wheeler. "Cats don’t do that."
She was referring to a colony of feral cats that the group was planning to trap, test, vaccinate, spay and neuter before returning them.
Some people here don’t mind the cats and have been feeding them.
But the fishermen have been complaining about the estimated 12 to 30 cats for the past two years, saying the animals were defecating on their boats and getting into fish waste and other garbage around the wharf.
Last week, Kings County halted an order to destroy the cats, at the request of HART, to allow the group to do its work.
But the cats mysteriously disappeared on the weekend.
"There’s not one cat left," Ms. Wheeler said in an interview Tuesday. "I just can’t believe it. I was just devastated."
The group had been collecting donations to pay for the TNR — trap, neuter and return — project, which has worked to successfully reduce and control feral cat populations in other areas.
"Whatever we had collected we were going to put it toward that, no matter how many cats there were," said Ms. Wheeler.
Ms. Wheeler said there are rumours about what happened to the cats, but no evidence.
"It makes me really sick. . . . You can’t take the law into your own hands," she said.
Kings County Warden Fred Whalen said Tuesday that he, too, was surprised the cats had disappeared.
"We halted the destroy order and told the TNR people to go ahead and do what they can do," said Mr. Whalen, who represents Harbourville on council.
"I have no idea what happened. If they were destroyed, it was without our knowledge."
The county has arranged a meeting for later this week with HART, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and residents of the community. They have asked the Wolfville group Peacemakers to mediate the meeting.
"I don’t have any answers as to what actually happened to the cats, but we are trying," Mr. Whalen said. "We’re going to have this meeting and try and find solutions."
Sean Kelly of the SPCA said Monday that an investigation will be undertaken to determine what happened to the feral felines and if charges are warranted.
I've lived here in the Valley for twenty two years this spring and this is the first time I've heard about the Peacemaker folks.... you can find more info abou them on their site at
Any meaningful dialogue will at some point have to include the fishermen and the residents of Harbourville, so it is to be hoped that this weeks meeting will find some of them in at the table.
This morning when I was talking to my daughter about this whole story, she reminded me that most folks are simply unawakened to TNR and how it works. She used as an example the fact that she and her husband, who have owned one cat for five years and adopted a second from a No Kill Rescue in Arnprior, would never have even heard about TNR if it wasn't a topic I often bring up.
My bearded and burly flannel coated buddies out here have heard of TNR too ... and not just from me. CBC radio interviews and CTV newspots about Halifax's own Cat Man brought the issue to their attention as well.
In this day and age, most people are quick to understand the benefits of TNR.... once they know about it. And of course, that is the ticket ... how to get the word out on a broader canvas?
It is wonderful for SPCANS to have come out with an official position of support for TNR. It is groundbreaking for them to have acted in such a timely fashion by sending an official message to all the members of the Kings County Council about the Harbourville Cats. Without the support of the official voice for the animals, its pretty clear that the Kings County Council would neither have needed to be aware of the issue nor react to it in a timely fashion.
One of the biggest bits of feedback that I get about the site is from folks who had no idea there were so many great groups, including the SPCA, working so hard on behalf of the animals. Its not that they don't love animals, but generally the animal welfare sites are already "preaching to the choir"
There is one way that would get the word out to more .... even if it wouldn't be to everyone. Every year when we get our tax bills in the mail from the county, there is a little county newsletter included to let residents know about local programs. Wouldn't that be a splendid place to include an article that explains the hows and whys of TNR? If the newsletter's already been printed, perhaps the county could insert a one page addition in the mail out.
Wouldn't it be lovely if all the counties and municipalities could do that? Just imagine the possibilities if every homeowner in the province had the chance to find out about TNR? Its enough to make one dizzy indeed.
What time is it? Its time to understand that its not realistic to expect people to do the right stuff if nobody paints them a picture.

A little thing for the kitties

Like many of the best things in life, tending a cat colony begins with an act of kindness. With luck, there is a TNR group working in the area so that feeding can evolve into proper caregiving by giving all the cats a better life.
But even when the population has been stabilized and everything is done right, what happens to the colony when the caregiver is no longer able to care for the cats?
I had an email today about a situation where the colony caregiver has passed away and his heirs are selling the farm. Sadly this is not the first time I have seen a story like this.
What happens to a colony when the land they live on is sold? It is the very rare purchaser who would be willing to take on such a commitment. Rescues and shelters are already full of socialized house pets and simply do not have the resources to tackle anything like that.
I've blogged before about the need to make some sort of provision, if possible, in our estate planning for our pets. Anyone who has worked rescue for any time at all can rhyme off an endless list of unhappy tails that occur when pet owners assume that their heirs will care for their pets as much as they do.
( The rant about how if we love our pets enough to care for them during our life .... we should love them enough to find a couple of caretakers willing to assume their care if we become unable to do so .... is a subject for another day.)
At some point, everyone involved in any way with animal rescue dreams of opening an animal sanctuary of some sort. Gosh .... even this middle aged granny would love to have the wherewithal to open a senior pet sanctuary. But here in the real world, like everyone else, I do what I can with the resources I have at hand.
So would a feral cat sanctuary be the solution? For a limited time .... right up until it filled up.
For the time being, I have started a new bit to the homeless pet site - Working Cat Listings in the Private Adoption section. Like everything else in the Private Adoption section, listings must be referred through a reputable rescue, an SPCA branch, a vet clinic, an AC or a TNR group. In the interests of simplicity, listings may be submitted to
So .... if you know anyone who has a farm or a warehouse or a business and is looking for an environmentally friendly form of pest control, send them to the site for a look see.
I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do.- Helen Keller

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Kitty Cat Day

With three dogs, four indoor cats and now the two kitties who make up the world's smallest cat colony, a trip to my vet is not out of the ordinary. Today's jaunt should have been as simple as pie .... the follow up boosters for Oscar and Dora's Fel/L vaccine.
And if they were indoor cats it would have been. At first I thought I hit paydirt because Oscar was close enough to the front step to be out of Dora's line of sight. As soon as I picked him up, he knew something was afoot but was in one of the cat carriers out in the workshop before he could complain loudly enough to alert Dora.
Now at some point Oscar was somebody's dear pet ..... he's just a big sweetie pie and was already neutered when he showed up here. Dora... now she's different kettle of fish entirely. She is a true feral and the only reason I have been able to tame her as much as I have is because she was so very young when she first showed up here.
So she smelled a rat right away .... and it finally took changing into my funny old yard parka with the dangly strings to coax her in for a cuddle. After getting tucked into a carrier and making the 15 km trip each way to and from the Berwick Animal Hospital .... well I expect that it will be at least a day or two before she comes within arms reach of me.
Its been a day for cats ..... most of my friends are animal lovers and the tale of the Harbourville Cats has crept into most conversations today in some shape or form.
For those of us who live out here, the chat was as much about the other end of the stick for ferals .... the many cats that are dumped out here every year. For every Oscar and Bear, who were already altered and socialized, there are so many more juveniles that will become Momcats long before they should. ( The subject of why the many benefits of Early Age Spay Neuter should be more widely advertised is a separate rant for another day )
Out here most folks aren't just full up ... they are fed up. As individuals they are generally responsible pet owners. As individuals their pets are altered and properly cared for . As individuals, most have already taken in more strays than they ever intended. But most of all, as individuals they would like to be able to point a finger to find someone to blame for the river of cats.
The particular finger that I choose to point is deterrents, such as stronger legislative penalties. When I first moved out here, it was pretty common for most of the fellows around here to drive around with an open two/four on the front seat beside them. Why did they do that? Because they had always done it. Because they could. Because it was a rare occasion to see an RCMP car out here. And of course, even if they did get caught, it really wasn't much of a big deal.
You don't see that happening anymore.... not even out here. Why is that? More patrol cars? Tighter legislation? Strong public relations campaigns by groups like MADD? Most of the fellows I know would still be driving around like the old Irish Ballad - "he was never quite drunk, but never quite sober" if not for all of these changes.
When the big dogs and I go for a hike up the Rocknotch Road, there are signs all along the gorge stating that there is a $5000 penalty for dumping garbage along there. Would it help to have signs like that stating that dumping a pet is against the animal cruelty law?
I never make a new recipe for company. Why would I think that way , with all my years of experience as a cook? Because I know first hand that the only way to test a recipe is to actually make it ..... so if I don't believe in animal testing I'm certainly not going to 'test' with my friends : )))
There are a lot of good ideas out there from a wide variety of interested animal lovers and rescue groups. But we won't know if they'll work until we put them to the test, hmmm?

Another News Story about the Harbourville Cats

From this morning's Herald,
Harbourville’s feral cats disappear
Local rescue group had planned to deal with colony humanely
By PATRICIA BROOKS ARENBURG Staff Reporter Tue. Apr 14 - 5:38 AM
( furry feral felines in Harbourville, Kings County, have disappeared, leading some to believe they’ve met with foul play.
"There’s no confirmation, but it looks like some people may have taken steps into their own hands and, unfortunately, wiped out the colony," SPCA spokesman Sean Kelly said Monday.
On Friday, The Chronicle Herald published a story about the possible rescue of the 12 to 30 cats living in the colony just north of Berwick.
The cats’ habits raised the hackles of local fishermen, who complained for the last two years about the felines’ fondness for fish remains and garbage on the boats and around the wharves.
A local animal rescue group wanted to trap, neuter and release the healthy animals as a humane way to control the colony and eventually wipe it out.
The provincial SPCA even sent a letter in support of the program last week to Kings County councillors and the animals got a reprieve from death row, Mr. Kelly said.
But over the weekend, the cats vanished.
"There have been a few people out looking around for the animals and, unfortunately, they haven’t seen any," Mr. Kelly said. "There’s no carcasses or anything along those lines, so . . . without making any false accusations, we don’t know what happened. The animals were there a couple days ago and now the animals are gone."
There was a report that volunteers with the Homeless Animal Rescue Team found one carcass Saturday, but group president Laurie Wheeler could not be reached Monday to confirm that information.
A local woman who feeds the cats regularly also could not be reached Monday.
Mr. Kelly, who heard that one person spotted a small animal trap in the back of a truck belonging to an unidentified fisherman, said the SPCA hasn’t officially ruled out the possibility that someone may have rounded up the cats.
But that would be a "huge undertaking," and it would typically take a couple of weeks to perform such a feat.
"It is possible that somebody went out there and trapped all the cats; it’s just not probable," Mr. Kelly said.
"They would have to use some other means (to remove the colony) and I shudder to think what means they would use."
Belle Darris, president of the Kings County SPCA, has no idea what happened to the cats and said: "I can’t see animal control getting involved over the weekend, as they had been told to stop until everything was decided."
The plan to trap, neuter and release the animals "could’ve been a viable solution" to the feral cat problem in the area, Ms. Darris said, and every grant proposal her group has submitted to council has included a trap-neuter-release program.
She hopes the SPCA and the municipality will continue to work together to provide this program in the future.
The Kings County branch is prepared to assist the provincial office in its investigation, Ms. Darris said.
The Nova Scotia SPCA, which is mandated to investigate animal abuse, has heard a lot of rumours about who might have done what to the colony.
"They’re just rumours and I certainly wouldn’t act on any bad rumours — that’s how bad relationships develop," Mr. Kelly said.
"But we will certainly be investigating those rumours to ensure that, if those rumours are correct, we will act on them and we will act on them in a very severe manner

If there is any upside to this whole sad story is that it has highlighted some of the best changes that have happened with both the provincial society and the Kings County Branch. This time last year, there would not have been any effort made by either to improve the lot of feral and stray cats.

Anyone acquainted with TNR can tell you that removing the Harbourville cats has created a vacuum that will continue to be filled.... so there will be another chance for the residents of Harbourville to pick a more humane path.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Somebody has killed the Harbourville Cats

Do you live in Kings County? Did you have a nice Easter Dinner? Lots of Chocolate? Family and Friends? Maybe you even went to church?
While all that was going on, someone was killing the Harbourville Cats.
I received a tragic email from Laurie at HART that all the feral cats at Harbourville have been killed.
There is just no way to sugar coat this :
April 7th : Laurie from HART sent out an urgent appeal advising all interested parties of the plight of the Harbourville Cats. At that time they were preparing to do a TNR for the cats.
April 8th: The Nova Scotia SPCA had sent an email to all the Kings County Councillors when they initially became aware that Kings County AC planned to catch and kill the Harbourville Cats.
April 8th: The Kings County Councillors passed the matter on to Gary Smith, who is in charge of Protective Services. Assurance was given that trapping of the cats by AC would cease until all other options had been reviewed.
April 12th: Scott Saunders, the VP of HART sent an email to Gary Smith details that from April 7th to April 11th, the number of cats observed decreased daily
April 13th: There is no sign of any of the cats .... less than five days after all parties concerned were led to believe that no cats would be trapped and killed until " all options were considered"
Five days? How VERY convenient for this to happen on the Easter Holiday weekend, when municipal offices would be shut down and unavailable for a four day stretch.
So while everyone was all comfy in their homes.... while everyone was sure that the Harbourville Cats had enough of a reprieve to be safely TNR'd..... while everyone was trying to decide the best approach to educate the Harbourville residents about TNR and why it is such a success ....... someone was killing the Harbourville Cats.
The questions just roll ...
  • starting with where did they get the live traps because it certainly wasn't from any of the TNR folks?
  • Did Kings County let the Harbourville residents know that the SPCA had contacted them and that the county Protective Services had agreed not to catch and kill the cats right away?
  • Did the county talk to the fishermen who had made the complaints?

If you live in Kings County and would like some answers - Click Here to send a message to all Councillors

If you live anywhere in NS and would like to lend the strength of your voice to the many questions that I am sure that the society has for Kings County Protection Services , the appropriate email is

What time is it? Its time to recognize that animal cruelty to stray and feral cats is still animal cruelty.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Update on Its Time to Row with Both Oars

This has been a beautiful morning to be outside, but its still chilly enough that I'm making a little brown rice and vegetable pilaf for lunch. Its not quite ready, but in if I have learned anything in thirty years as a cook, it is that watched pots may not seem to cook, but they also never burn.
While I was waiting, I popped online for a quick looksee and found the nicest little surprise in the Board member candidate profiles now available on the society webpage..... Nova Scotia's very own Cat Man, Pierre Filiatreault, is on the candidate roster for a Director Position.
‘Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.’ Robert Kennedy

Every Journey has to start somewhere

From this morning's Herald
Feral felines gain champion
Animal rescuers trying to save cat colony
By GORDON DELANEY Valley BureauFri. Apr 10 - 4:46 AM
The Homeless Animal Rescue Team in Aylesford has rescued hundreds of cats, including this little one, named Avalon, who was recently placed in a good home. The non-profit group is now attempting to rescue a colony of feral cats at Harbourville. (GORDON DELANEY / Herald)

Laurie Wheeler isn’t getting much sleep these days.
That’s because she and members of a registered, non-profit animal rescue group in Aylesford are facing their biggest challenge — rescuing a colony of feral cats from certain demise.
Fishermen at Harbourville, a short drive north of Berwick, have been complaining about the cats for two years. It seems the cats are attracted to fish remains on the boats and garbage around the wharves.
No one knows how many cats there are in the colony, but estimates range from 12 to 30.
"The fishermen want them gone because they’re defecating all over their boats," Ms. Wheeler, the president of the Homeless Animal Rescue Team said Wednesday.
"But euthanizing them is not the answer. If you take a cat colony away, it’s going to be replaced by another colony because there’s a food source there."
Kings County council referred the matter to its animal control officer Wednesday. Animal welfare people now fear the cats will be trapped and euthanized.
Warden Fred Whalen confirmed the cat problem had been referred to animal control, but he did not know of any order to euthanize the felines.
Ms. Wheeler wants the cats trapped, tested for disease, neutered or spayed and returned to Harbourville.
Her group is trying to set up a meeting with the local fishermen.
"We need to find out how many cats are there." she said.
If there are kittens, homes could possibly be found for them, she added.The job is huge for a small group that operates on donations and occasional fund-raising events, "but we can find a way," she said.
Her group’s position was supported by the Nova Scotia SPCA. They circulated a letter to Kings County councillors, Wednesday, asking them to allow more time for the felines to be trapped and relocated.
In the letter SPCA director Mary Hill said humane efforts should be undertaken, particularly through trapping-neuter-return programs.
Euthanizing is an ineffective means of controlling feral cat colonies, she wrote.
"It can exacerbate the problem by allowing more cats to move into the area once occupied by the colony."
Returning sterilized cats will work better to reduce unwanted colonies, she added.
Since its inception a year ago HART has rescued four dogs and 245 cats. Almost all of those cats have been tested for disease by a veterinarian, vaccinated, spayed or neutered and placed in good homes.
For anyone who is unacquainted with the issue, or who wants to brush up so they can explain the facts to their friends and neighbours, there is a wonderful article from the Feral Cat Activist, which is published by Alleycat Allies, . It backs up the principles of TNR with solid scientific evidence that has been compiled in the last two decades.
Closer to home, feral cat activists in NS have been very pleased that SPCANS came out with an official position of support for Feral Cats and TNR Population Control Programs . This might not sound like a big deal, but when the situation arose with the Harbourville Cats, it gave the society the authority to send the letter from SPCANS to the Kings County Councillors. It also gave the Kings SPCA branch the support and credibility they needed to work with the Kings County for this and other feral cat situations.
Or to quote a friend of mine, "Isn't it lovely to see our provincial SPCA finally acting like an SPCA?"
What time is it? Its still only the start of the journey.... but at least the boat has left the wharf.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Its time to row with both oars

Port of Halifax's cat fix

People call him the crazy cat man.
"I don't care," says Pierre Filiatreault, digging into a greasy Ziploc of boiled and cubed Costco beef. "It won't stop me from doing my work."
Crazy cat man he may be---it's a by-definition by-gone for a guy who looks after 40 cats---but Pierre Filiatreault may be the most sensible voice in feral animal control in HRM.
And in two languages, no less.
"Vient manger? Charlie? Charlie Brown...Charlie...come here..."
Charlie Brown, a burly orange and white tabby who will dance on his back legs for a treat, had popped out from behind a building when he heard the engine of Filiatreault's Blue Ford Ranger XLT.
He was probably waiting for his breakfast. Cats have enviously (and irritatingly) accurate internal clocks and Filiatreault is there every weekday at 6:30am to feed the cats their morning meal. On weekends he sleeps in and arrives at 8. The cats must hate that.
D-2 is next, approaching the now-stopped truck's open door with a caution reserved for---and perhaps characteristic of---wild cats.
Out of the truck, there's a timid flood around 48-year-old Filiatreault. Or, at least, in a 15-foot radius of the bottom of his Levis. Weaving, observing, narrow-eyed and always-guarded cats loom. Captain Binou, Orancina and Trixy arrive---all of the 40 cats here are three or four years old, most have thick coats and, says Filiatreault, "some people say they are chubby."
More felines saunter in, a dozen in total. The Puffy Brothers---White Puff and Puffy Tail---don't show today. There are 19 cats in all in the North End Gang, living on the waterfront roughly around the latitudinal base of Young Street.
Farther south, under a leg of the Macdonald Bridge, is the Catty Shack Gang---another 11 live in that gentle mob. Other cats, the ones not accepted in those cliques, live scattershot around the Halifax Dockyard, a Department of National Defence property that extends from the Irving Shipyard to the Casino. This is where Filiatreault has worked since 2005. He's taken care of the cats, with the blessing of his bosses, pretty much since he arrived.
And if he didn't care for the cats? "I'm sure [they] would survive but"---he shrugs---"they wouldn't be as healthy-looking. And their lives? They would probably be two years max. Three years."
That's it? That's why he spends on cats what is, added up, probably the equivalent of another full-time job?
"I've done a lot of things in my life to help people," he says. "It's time to help animals who cannot help themselves."
The cats all know their own names, but that's the closest to domestication most come. A handful gets close enough to Filiatreault that he can put Revolution---a flea medication---on their necks. But only three of 40 understand what it means when he flicks a toy on a string; "Mou-Mou?" Filiatreault says, "It took her two years to learn to play." There are shows of affection, though. Or at least gestures of alpha-cat surrender; they leave Filiatreault mice and rat offerings once or twice a day.
"If you can gain the trust of a feral animal," says Filiatreault, who only has one cat, Zorro, at home, not to mention a very supportive wife, "that means a lot."
The Dockyard swallows a huge chunk of prime waterfront real estate in Halifax, but instead of defining the city by its geographic heft, the Dockyard's inaccessibility to average Haligonians makes the base functionally invisible. It's like the city ends at Barrington Street, rather than the water's edge.
Filiatreault's cats are almost invisible, too. "Some people say 'We have cats in the Dockyard? I have never seen them. And I've been here 20 years!'" he says.
And yet, the cats have always been there too, just like similar colonies lay claim to other parts of the city. "Every neighbourhood has cat problems," says Timberlea-Prospect councillor Reg Rankin. "I don't think if we reduce the numbers the cats would be greatly offended."
And the Dockyard, since Filiatreault began his compassionate crusade four years ago, has seen just that change in its feral cat gangs. There are fewer joining. And the ones there are healthier.
"All it takes is one female and a couple of males," Filiatreault says. "Abandoned by humans. They make their way by eating what they can. She gets pregnant. Those become feral cats. The males look for love elsewhere and the population explodes. Halifax is full of them. Dartmouth is full of them."
But not the Dockyard. Not anymore.
That's thanks to Filiatreault, who carves three or four hours out of every day to run his trap-neuter-release (TNR) program.
It works just like it sounds. Filiatreault sets live traps and brings the cats to a vet. (He won't say which one offers the partly donated services---"he will be flooded with people needing help and he's already overworked.") If they're in good health Filiatreault's society (Pierre's Alley Cats Society, or PACS) pays to have them spayed or neutered. After recovery, they go back to their colony.
Pierre Filiatreault's program works. "I haven't had kittens in three years," he says.
And he wants to expand.
"No meddling with licenses," he says. "I want [council] to give me money to sponsor a TNR program for the city."
And 300,000 people scream: not the cats again.
Roaming cats have been on council's agenda who-knows-how-many times in the last who-knows-how-many years.
Cat-talk dominated Halifax Regional Council chambers---and certainly council media coverage---for a healthy stretch of 2007. A year after the latest cat debate was put to bed. (The upshot? Cats would not have to be registered.) Halifax's mayoral race saw cat-chat claw to the surface again, symbolizing all that was wrong with council members and their leader, mayor Peter Kelly. During the October 2008 election, council was criticized as a gaggle of small thinkers in a big city, who focused on spraying strays when they could have been tackling crime, transportation and downtown development.
Cats. They're a real flash point for us.
Eighteen councillors, including the mayor, were voted back to their seats in October. Mayor Kelly---duly chastised---has since been working to reign in off-on-a-tangent councillors.
Pam Berman covers municipal affairs for CBC Radio in Halifax. She says since the election Kelly has been acting like a stronger chair at council sessions. "He got the sense from the community that enough is enough. Get a grip on things down there. We don't want [council] endlessly talking about inane subjects."
Councillors took their own warning---can it on the friggin' cats.
As a result, on the topic of a city-wide TNR program, these days some councillors resemble Filiatreault's Dockyard felines. Meowing on the sidelines but reluctant to engage.
Here's councillor Reg Rankin, who knows there are problems all over the city with "cats that don't have an address":
"I'm very much in support of the trap-neuter-release program."
And here's downtown councillor Dawn Sloane, who's currently feeding a large "lackadaisical" unneutered feral feline (her nickname: David Puddy) who visits her front step:
"I've asked for TNR ever since we started talking about the cat bylaw."
And, she adds, "I noticed that Jim Smith is now on board."
Sloane makes mention because north Dartmouth councillor Jim Smith is known as the anti-cat guy. He was an outspoken supporter of the struck-down portion of the so-called cat bylaw that would have required licensing and which gave Animal Control officers the power to trap, and in some cases euthanize, roaming cats.
But Smith says he's always been game.
"I've brought it up in council a number of times, but no one wants to put any money on it."
Maybe that's because since the cat bylaw kerfuffle "no one wants to talk about cats," as councillor Sloane puts it.
But it's more than that. Despite mayor Kelly's attempts, keeping council on point is a bit like, um, herding cats.
"What council is maybe fearful of," Rankin says, "is that this will go off in another direction...Are they going to talk about the shelter, are they going to talk about fines, are they going to talk about cats at large?"
Smith agrees. "When you bring something forward like this, it gets bent all out of shape."
So to do it, Rankin says, "takes a little bit of courage."
Reg Rankin, who asked city staff for a report on the feasibility of a city-wide TNR program in the very thick of the cat debate, is the closest now to dipping in his toes. "If several councillors give me a call and they are in support, then maybe we can take something concrete in."
To Rankin, TNR is common sense. "Government," he says, "is there to do the things for people that they are otherwise unable to do."
Unless, of course, they're Pierre Filiatreault.
Filiatreault is inside the Catty Shack.
It's a portable shed---the kind out in the parking lot at the Bayers Lake Kent. But this one is heated. It never goes below 10 degrees. "It's nice," Filiatreault smiles, "when you park out there and it's minus 15. And you see them warm in the window."
There are sturdy plywood shelves along the interior walls of the Catty Shack with tidily folded blankets set up as cat beds; there are bags and cans of food and containers of hand sanitizer. The floors are swept and disinfected. There are toys and treats, a litter box, scratching posts---all donated.
"It smells like a cat house," he apologizes. "Or, a cat shelter. To me, I'm French, so 'cat house' doesn't mean anything." Filiatreault met George Canyon in the autumn at a concert, "He said, 'Pierre, what do you do?' I said, 'I run a cat house down at the Dockyard.'" Filiatreault laughs. "He has very good humour. Maybe he'll do a benefit concert for a TNR program."
The cash would be a boon for Filiatreault, who spends not only his time but his own money on the cats.
In the Catty Shack, Filiatreault stands up to stir scoops of Viralys L-Lysine powder into a bowl of wet and dry food. The medicine helps protect the cats from feline herpes, a common upper respiratory virus. The container costs $97.
Filiatreault keeps his cat resources in the black by getting food donations and collecting recyclable bottles around the base. He produced a benefit calendar for 2009 with photos of the cats (and sold out 700 copies). A little girl he knows got kids to come to her 11th birthday party last year with gifts for the Catty Shack, instead of her---food and kitty litter. Pierre's Alley Cats Society accepts donations through the Bank of Montreal, but so far, he has only had two. He also has a small budget from the Department of National Defence.
"The previous admiral was aware and was very supportive of what I did," says Filiatreault, who is a marine engineer and has been in the navy for 31 years, since he left Montreal as a 17-year-old. "I think if I had started at the bottom of the chain of command---'can I have a shelter?'---it would have been: 'Are you crazy?'"
"Right now," he says, "I am stable in the Dockyard and that's why I want to reach out and help other people."
Filiatreault is talking about the other TNR programs he helps support around Halifax. One example: PACS got $5,000 last year from the city to run a TNR pilot in Dartmouth.
Councillor Jim Smith remembers the grant. "It was a project on Myrtle Street. I don't know how that worked out, but for $5000, you can only [spay and neuter] 30 or 40 cats."
And how many feral cats are there in HRM?
If only they had thumbs and could fill in a census.
A 2007 report on TNR programs pegs the number of domesticated, owned cats in HRM at either 39,000, using a model developed by the city of Calgary which extrapolates on a cats-per-house formula, or, the report indicates, there could be a whopping 93,000 cats here, if cat-counters put faith in a 2005 HRM-commissioned consultant document that relies on cat-per-person extrapolation.
Superintendent Robin McNeil, who is the go-to cop for animal issues, was the man on these numbers. In his staff report, he couldn't determine which were accurate. Today he suspects, "it's somewhere in the middle there."
Wishful thinking.
"I do have a number for you," says an expectant Andrea MacDonald, HRM's manager of Animal Services.
According to an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in Halifax in September 2008, which determined the number of cats per household, there are 109,362 cats in Halifax.
Remember, these are owned, domesticated cats, as councillor Rankin might call them, cats with an address. But the number is relevant for our discussion here. Based on Robin McNeil's research---and MacDonald says it's likely accurate---the housed cat population matches the feral and stray numbers cat-for-cat.
McNeil determined TNR surgery and recovery would cost, at minimum, $300 per cat. That's 33 million bucks.
Those aren't all first-year costs, and, heck, maybe the number of cats isn't even that high. But there's no getting around it: $33 million is a terrific figure.
But Filiatreault looks at it this way. Right now most feral cats are either left to reproduce and die early (which doesn't cost anything directly, but compounds the problem) or, they are captured and euthanized and cremated, which isn't free.
Trapping is part of the equation either way. Euthanization and cremation may be less expensive than surgery and recovery, but ultimately, Filiatreault says, destroying cats doesn't solve the problem.
It's reproduction 101.
In the '90s at the Dockyard, the feral cat families were rounded up and exterminated. "But they came back," he says. "They will always come back."
Councillor Jim Smith agrees. "There's a lot of evidence that [TNR] works in the long run. If you just take the cats out of their wild environment, other cats will replace them. So, you do it through attrition. Spay and neuter them and let them go, and eventually the colony will shrink in size naturally."
And so will the cost to the city. And so will the misery of sick, cold, wet cats. "It's all politics," Filiatreault says. "Because it costs money."
Petit-Loup pokes a nose into the Catty Shack. Then, deciding it's safe, starts to wolf down the medicated food.
Filiatreault will retire from the navy in June. Then, he says, "I'll have nothing else to do but play with the cats."
Or, maybe, run the city's TNR program.
Gosh I can't think of a better candidate for sure. When I was first setting up the TNR section on the homeless site, Pierre very generously provided me with some wonderful pictures of his kitties and their housing, which you can find at PACS.
Even out here, on the 'foot of the mountain', my burly bearded flannel coated buddies have heard of TNR, thanks to the CBC interview with Pierre that aired on the radio and the interviews lately on tv.
Closer to home, he has been the soul of patience with my technical questions as I refurbish the old garden shed into snug safe quarters for Oscar and Dora.
Thanks to people like Pierre who have been tirelessly working for the kitties, word is finally starting to get out about TNR.
Sure the startup costs look steep. But if you talk to Jill Brideau of Team TNR, she will be the first to tell you that every year the number of cats needing TNR will naturally decrease ... and she has the numbers to prove it because part and parcel of Team TNR's municipal funding is providing Annapolis County with a record of how their support money was spent.
Its even starting to look more promising in Kings County, with both the Provincial SPCA and the Kings County SPCA branch going to bat for the kitties.
I know I sound like a stuck record, but the way ahead is always paved with voter feedback. Wherever you live in NS, take the time to contact your municipal councillors and your MLA's to let them know that TNR is important to you as a voter.
What time is it? Its time to recognize that the skills and expertise of the TNR groups in NS are only one oar on the boat, and that we'll just keep going around in circles until our elected representatives provide the other oar - which is of course the funding.