Saturday, October 10, 2009

Going around in Circles

Andy has only been here for three days and already its clear that he has the heart of a lion. He has needed that to survive being he is a small senior with only two teeth. Honestly ... I have cats that weigh more than he does.
Andy is living proof that size doesn't matter and has no trouble at all keeping up with the big dogs. In spite of having been let down before by his last owner he is a sweet and gentle optimist.
I'm at an utter loss to understand how this great little guy wound up being tossed away like rubbish. Did his people move and leave him behind? Was he free to a good home when someone had a baby? Did his owner's children cut him loose after settling the estate?
I can already tell that there is enough terrier of some type that he has no sense of his own limitations and is willing to take hold of this better life that has been offered and make it his own. Big dogs, strange people, cats and even wildlife the size of deer are opportunities not obstacles for Andy.
Year ago when I taught at the military cooking school, I had a poster in my office that showed Odie sitting up in the tree with Garfield ... and the caption read " Its amazing what can be done when you don't realize its not possible"
For months now, my friend Joan and I have been mulling over the role that different levels of government and that different organizations should be playing to better the lot of homeless pets in this province. Last night, she summed up her thoughts rather well on her blog Me and My Dogs in Halifax Nova Scotia .
A while ago, while I was out in the woods with the dogs, I had an Ah Ha moment. Money is NOT the root of all evil and it definitely is not the biggest stumbling block on the road to No Kill Nova Scotia.
The biggest obstacle is the same thing its always been .... IGNORANCE. To overcome that, we are in desperate need of:
1. Honest statistics from all Animal Control Shelters, Rescues, TNR groups and SPCA Branches . These numbers need to include:

  • total intake
  • total refused intake
  • total killed for any reason... why is this important? An ongoing study by the No Kill Advocacy center has shown that when any group or shelter are killing more than a total of ten percent, the term unhealthy and untreatable is being misapplied. To read the document

Without numbers, it is too easy for the public consciousness to allow the problem of homeless animals to be ignored. Making the public aware of the real scope of the problem and the actual numbers of animals being killed annually is the only way to galvanize any action for the animals. Remember how they were shooting animals in Annapolis County? Everyone 'knew' about it for years until it became public knowledge and couldn't be ignored any longer.

2. Existing provincial animal cruelty legislation must be changed to include effective prevention and deterrents of both animal abuse and irresponsible pet ownership, by including:

  • mandatory breeder registration, including limitations such as the ones in effect in England - minimum breeding ages for bitches and both annual and lifetime limitations on the number of litters each individual bitch can produce.
  • specifically defining minimum humane housing for companion animals
  • banning the traffic of living breathing sentient beings on the free online ad sites

3. Municipalities need to be responsible for their own animal care and control centers with:

  • legislation to ensure that all centers have convenient hours for adoption and that all adoptables are spayed or neutered before leaving the facility
  • according to Petfinder application rules, any AC is automatically eligible for a petfinder listing. This lifesaving tool should be used by all NS municipalities.
  • a provincial database for lost and found animals
  • a 'red flag' network legislated ... in other words .... before an animal can be killed, rescue groups and shelters must be given the opportunity to save the life
  • free workshops on responsible pet ownership topics such as obedience, health care and feeding
  • public information on TNR that is broadly available on the county website, tax mailings and through community cat workshops
  • no questions asked readily available spay neuter chits
  • low cost microchip clinics
  • free lifetime licensing for all microchipped and altered pets, and last but not least
  • if municipalities can pay for commercials about not flushing tampons and newspaper ads about getting permits, then they can pony up for ads in all media about responsible pet ownership.

It should be noted that it would also be more difficult for the municipalities to ignore the reality of the killing when it must be physically engaged in by their employees and not buried in a dry report filed in their Protective Services office.

4. The society needs to rethink the limits of their mandate:

  • first and foremost, their shelters should not engage in AC contractual arrangements. The above mentioned study has also discovered that when communities have to pay to run their own 'pounds' it costs them more. Why? Because the shelters that contract to do so wind up subsidizing animal control and that in turn inhibits their own ability to do lifesaving work. In addition, the study also suggests that it simply saves more lives to have two shelters instead of one because there is more space for the animals.
  • adoption methods need to be changed. There are proven methods for boosting adoption - mobile and offsite adoptions and offerring a broad variety of incentives.
  • The traditional practice of using the adoption fee to either recover some of the rescue costs or determine whether an adopter can afford a pet is a large part of the reason why there is 'no room at the inn' for strays. It doesn't matter that the adoption fees are much less than the vet check/vaccine and altering costs. What matters is the public perception of that.
  • I know I go on like a stuck record, but the society should get behind a Nova Scotia Week for the Animals. It would be an apparelled opportunity for the society to fulfill their education mandate while broadening the public support base for all animal rescue
  • Another hobbyhorse of mine is Petfinder. Its important to remember that Petfinder is like E Harmony ... people using the service are already looking to fall in love. Until all the cute / little / well behaved / purebred / and/ or puppies are listed ... no matter how briefly .... first time adopters will assume that none are available and will move on to another source for their pet. There is no sense in getting huffy about people who opt for the pet store, the online ad or the backyard breeder if there is no indication that the society has as much selection to offer as they do.

The old adage ... the better you do the better you do... is so very applicable here. In every single instance where communities have pooled their resources and changed their approach, support has been immediately forthcoming. They didn't have to get to complete no kill ... it was enough for them to be making the effort.

The legislation isn't enough by itself. Nor is the municipal support. Or the society. Or all the great rescue and TNR groups working in NS right now. But if everyone could just grab and oar and pull in the same direction, the boat would get there instead of going around in circles.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure how many agree with me but I would take your honest statistics one step further and require shelters to list the trail of each individual animal separately on their website and have a hard copy at their desk at the shelter. It is hard to listen to the rhetoric of we treat every animal as an individual and then they disappear from their website with out anything being said. This individual trail would contain medical,behavior information and treatment, all efforts made to adopt and reason that the animal had to be killed, to mention just a few. By putting a face on each statistic it should become harder for shelter workers to euthanize anyone and also harder for the public to accept it. That's how I see it any way.

Anonymous said...

Pet stores and breeders should be put on a level playing field with shelters and also must spay/neuter all animals. The only exception being from one registered breeder to an other.