Sunday, February 7, 2010

Laying a fire

I love putting on a cozy fire in the morning. Admittedly it takes time for my little airtight stove to really warm things up, but it is always well worth the wait. The warmth doesn't just radiate through the house, it sinks in and soothes the arthritis that is just part and parcel of being a middle aged granny.
Is wood heat extra work? You bet. By the time I put a stick in the stove, it has been in my hand at least four times. Even though I get my wood cut and split, it still has to be stacked to dry when it lands in the yard, put away in the woodshed before the fall rains and brought into the wood cupboard in the house before it gets anywhere near the stove.
It isn't always neat and tidy. If its piled in the wrong place, the wood will be full of ants. Mice and snakes are attracted to the warmth of the wood pile, and after a summer seasoning in the sun add an element of surprise when the wood is being brought in. There are always bits of bark and wood chips that get tracked to the wood cupboard and then to the stove.
Is it worth all the extra work and mess? You bet. The payoff.... a better quality of life.... is always well worth the time and effort.
Animal welfare issues usually fly under the radar for most folks. They have their own work and families and their own wood to stack, so to speak. Every now and then, there is a Horrible Unhappy Tail in the news that briefly generates public outrage until it becomes yesterday's news.
The newfound interest that all parties developed in the wake of the strong voter feedback on Bill 138 was the reason that the new Animal Protection Act was fast tracked through the house. But, without sustained voter feedback, our politicians normally only pursue the problems that pop up in the public opinion polls. That is how the new Animal Protection Act wound up sitting on the shelf for so long, waiting only for the formality of the official nod from our Lt Governor.
So if we have this wonderful new Act, why were the SPCA in Cape Breton not able to seize a chained dog living in what any sane person would deem to be inhumane conditions? Because we do not have legislation in this province to limit tethering. Without that, lacking more specific minimum housing standards in the Act, there was no legal way for the SPCA to seize 'property'.
Anti tethering legislation is a pretty touchy subject that our MLA's will NOT touch without sufficient voter feedback. They are politicians not advocates ... and they will be unwilling to risk their job security on battles they feel they cannot win.
Why is there so much opposition to anti tethering legislation:
  • Does it mean that yard leashes at the back door would be illegal? Nope!
  • Would it mean that SPCA inspectors would start poking around everyone's back yard? Not unless the neighbours were complaining about the living conditions for a chained or penned dog .... the society simply doesn't have the budget to have proactive home inspections and must rely on reactive inspections generated by complaints.
  • Would it mean that dogs could not be tethered at dog shows and field trials? Of course not!

Anti tethering legislation simply sets specific time limits and minimum standards to protect both dogs and the communities in which they live. Its important to remember that anti tethering legislation is as much about public protection as it is about preventing animal abuse.

What would a law like this mean here in Nova Scotia? It would mean that when SPCA inspectors reacted to a complaint about a chained or penned dog, they would have the authority to react BEFORE the dog died.
What would such a law look like? Existing legislation varies from state to state, but the best parts should include:
  • Time limits for tethering ... whether the three hours in California to ten hours in Texas
  • Nighttime ban ..... the times vary but most are between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am
  • Prohibited within close proximity to schools, and on this the general consensus seems to set a 500 foot limit for proximity
  • provisions for weather conditions ie prohibited below 40 degrees F and above 80 degrees / windchill / storms/ heat advisories/ etc
  • specifically banning certain types of collars, such as prongs
  • It should be noted that it has been found to be counterproductive to specify leash length as that has proven to be a loophole enabling animal abusers to get off the hook

What time is this? Its time to recognize that the ONLY way to effectively address animal abuse is to tighten up the legal loopholes. Its not going to happen at the flick of a switch. Its not going to be easy. And it will not get out of the gate without strong voter feedback.

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds. Samuel Adams

1 comment:

Janet Chernin said...

Great post Janet - we need to have laws that reflect humane treatment to animals. You are spot on!