Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dangerous Days for the animals here in NS

I love stewed rhubarb. It is the first of the summer pleasures from the garden and so simple and sweet a child could make it. Its a little sentimental too ... as my rhubarb came from my Mother's garden where I began my own journey as a gardener. ( the lovely story of how well my mother's garden and her barn kitties coexisted is another sweet subject deserving its own post on another day)
I am the gardener that I am today because over the years more experienced gardeners like my mother have been so generous with sharing their expertise. I'll be the first to admit that gardening isn't for everyone. Its dirty and sweaty and soon will be so buggy that I won't tackle even the smallest job without my bug jacket and hat.
Many people lead a full and complete life without ever needing to know the ins and outs of gardening. If the lawn is kept mowed and the yard is kept tidy nobody in the community has any cause for concern, eh?
Sadly the same is not true when it comes to the animals. Whether or not individuals want to personally own a pet, there is a real need for all members of a community to be educated in a sensible fashion about humane issues. Like many humane issues, it transcends the boundaries of animal welfare and becomes a public safety issue.
For instance ... legislation to ban the online traffic of pets is as much about consumer protection as it is about limiting options for backyard breeders and puppy brokers. Mandatory breeder registration and breeding limit laws are designed to maintain breed standards and prevent the unscrupulous from exploiting the animals behind the scenes while creating the nightmare of unexpected medical bills and Unhappy Tails for the kind hearts that just want a nice pet.
But I am wandering afield here. There was a local story in the news yesterday that really highlights the need for public education in all sectors http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2010/05/10/ns-pit-bull-shot.html :
  • first and foremost of course was the immediate mislabelling yesterday of this dog as a pit bull. In the Chronicle Herald followup article today , http://thechronicleherald.ca/Metro/9016363.html, Ian Fairclough still insists on referring to the dog as "an aggressive pit bull-like dog". Pitbull advocates already understand the implication of sensationalizing stories and the whole issue is well expressed in a published psychology paper from Missouri Western University that can be found at http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/835.php ( the subject of what role the NS media played in the politics of the coyote bounty is a separate story for another day)
  • Secondly, the comments from the public REALLY highlighted the need for targeted education about pitbulls to NS residents who are already out of the public school system
  • thirdly, the story emphasizes the need for better training for the professionals who have to deal with the public in situations that may or may not involve an aggressive dog,
  • and last but not least the story really brings home the need for public education about 'yard dogs'

Yard dogs? What's that you say? A yard dog is "any dog that is consistently left outside the family home ... whether it is on a chain, in a pen, a garage, under a deck or even in a fenced yard with a dog house.

There is a growing move in BC by the Animal Advocates Society to push for bylaws that prohibit tethering. In Lions Gate, BC ... it is actually illegal to leave an unattended chained or tethered dog.

Now I am not familiar enough with the circumstances surrounding this particular dogs living situation .. because the media was long on emphasizing the plight and terror of the handicapped man and his son and short on any relevant details about the dog other than a hint that the family was not home at the time of the incident. So it would be churlish and inappropriate of me to suggest that is the case here.

But anti tethering legislation would provide a proactive way to protect neighbourhoods from similar instances. When a dog is deprived of human companionship .. a Lab is a Terrier is a Collie is a Golden Retriever is an unsocialized and unsafe member of the community.

As with any other humane legislation, laws to limit or prohibit unattended Yard Dogs are designed to do more than protect the animals. Such a law would do double duty by creating safer communities while educating the public about proper and safe animal husbandry practices for companion animals.

What time is it? Its time to realize that anti tethering legislation is one of the most effective ways to protect all members of a community. For more information, go to www.bringthedogsin.ca You can also lend the support of your voice by joining Break the Chain in Nova Scotia

More importantly .. its time for the society to step up to the plate with this before we wind up in the same situation as Ontario. It was knee jerk politics that changed things overnight there and, as the NDP reversal on the coyote cull shows, it could happen here. We are in the same boat as Ont was then ... with a Majority government desperate to regain public confidence. If the NDP Natural Resource Minister is now hoping that trappers will kill "half of the 8000 coyotes" do you think our government will scruple over a few hundred dead dogs?

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

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