Friday, July 30, 2010

Everything is connected

There have been two items on the CBC website this week from Nfld that caught the eye of most folks here in NS.   The first of course was the next sequel in the ongoing story of animal abuse by an eight year old boy.  Readers have been horrified by the age of the accused and it should be no surprise to anyone in the animal loving community that that the coverage has extended to an expert opinion that this is a child who needs immediate assessment and intervention .
The second story is also part of an ongoing saga.   A man from the Valley has been remanded for psychiatric assessment following a very public violation of the bail terms for the original offense of weapons related offenses and threatening to kill a couple of police officers.
No question about it ... both are serious situations but there is one glaring difference between the two.   In the first instance, the child is still at home while the investigation is going on. Why?  Is it because there are a completely separate set of rules for children?  Is it that the existing animal cruelty laws don't send a strong enough message?  Or is that it isn't viewed as the same type of criminal activity that harming a human would?
In the second instance, the police were able to act before Mr Baltzer had the opportunity to kill the police men.  Why?   Is it because he is an adult?  Is it that he was threatening harm on human life?  Or is that the law contains provisions for a proactive and lifesaving approach?
And before the keyboards catch on fire ... life is life and it all precious.   Should the policemen ... and all other human victims... be protected?  Of course they should.  At its best, the purpose of the law is to protect all members of society.  Not simply from the criminals, but from the vigilante justice that occurs when the laws don't step up to the plate.
Human life is precious .... and better protected under the law.   So why the concern for animals? 
"According to a 1997 study done by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Northeastern University, animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit property crimes than are individuals without a history of animal abuse" ( from ... where that same article goes on to document the convicted serial killers who began their careers by torturing and killing animals )
In other words ... we are neither protecting our children, nor our communities by failing to recognize that children who violently kill and torture animals are in desperate need of intervention.
Nor are we are sending a suitable message when our animal cruelty laws lack sufficient penalties to act as a real deterrent.  The reason that most violent offenders begin with animals is that they are more vulnerable in every possible definition of the word.
Even worse .. when the laws do get changed .. and more penalties are on the books ... animal abuse can still pass under everyone's radar. Why?  Because it take practical resources to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty.  Here in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia SPCA is mandated to investigate and provide the evidentiary basis for successful prosecution.
So what's the problem?   Funding is the problem.  Like something out of a Monty Python movie .. they are told to the job without anything remotely resembling sufficient funding.  
There is no company in this province that would accept those kind of terms.
I also noticed an interesting tidbit in the Herald this morning.   Front and center on the front page, it would seem that the provincial deficit is actually going to be $246.000,000.00 less than the NDP bobsled team had originally projected in April.  
If you love animals and you love children, might I suggest this would be a dandy time to contact your MLA and ask them to press for more funding for animal cruelty investigations for the society.
What time is it?   Its always time to remember that the best way to have some say in how your tax dollars are spent is by directly contacting the politicians who represent you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lost Dog in Hillsvale

This is Abigail, and she has been missing from her home in Hillsvale since 7pm on tuesday.  For more information, go to the special facebook group that has been set up to Help find Abigail .. a lost Chihuahua
Even if you don't live in that area, joining the group and inviting your friends to do the same is a very quick and effective way to help get the word out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Its a red letter day!

From the No Kill Advocacy Centre :
July 23, 2010

Dear Friends,
The Governor of Delaware just signed the most sweeping, progressive companion animal protection legislation in the United States. The law was modeled on the No Kill Advocacy Center's Companion Animal Protection Act and spearheaded by the non‐profit No Kill shelter Faithful Friends, in Wilmington, Delaware, and involved groups like Stray Haven Animal Sanctuary.
Like Oreo’s Law sought to do, the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act mandates collaboration between shelters and rescue groups. A shelter cannot kill an animal if a rescue group is willing to save that animal's life. But that is just the beginning. It also makes convenience killing illegal—shelters can no longer kill an animal when there are available cages or the animals can share a cage or kennel with another one.
Specifically, the Delaware CAPA states:
Animal shelters shall ensure that the following conditions are met before an animal is euthanized:

(i) The holding period for the animal required by this chapter is expired;
(ii) There are no empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter that are suitable for the animal;
(iii) The animal cannot share a cage or kennel with appropriately sized primary living space with another animal;
(iv) A foster home is not available;
(v) Organizations on the registry developed pursuant to §8003(d) are not willing to accept the animal; and
(vi) The animal care/control manager certifies that the above conditions are met and that he/she has no other reasonable alternative.

The law also requires posting "all stray animals on the Internet with sufficient detail to allow them to be recognized and claimed by their owners," requires shelters to maintain registries of rescue groups willing to save lives, and requires shelters to post statistics (intake, adoption, reclaim, transfer and killing rate).
While the law is now the most progressive companion animal protection legislation on record in this country, and can only be considered an unqualified victory for the No Kill movement, some of the No Kill Advocacy Center's recommendations were not accepted. Nonetheless, Delaware, the first state to ratify our nation's constitution, continues to lead the way in embracing the legislative framework necessary to ensure justice. And we will build upon this framework in the coming years to strengthen protections for animals even more.
Our deepest gratitude to the animal loving citizens and legislators of the great state of Delaware.
Very truly yours,

Nathan J. Winograd
Wow!   What an awesome precedent.  When I passed the link to the new law around on facebook before supper, one animal lover very sensibly suggested that a copy of this new law be sent to every municipal councillor and MLA in this province.
Now there's another great idea!
When the story of these times gets written, we want it to say that we did all we could, and it was more than anyone could have imagined.  Bono

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Never too old to be loved.

What a great morning in the woods!  With that good brisk breeze and the cooler temperatures there wasn't a horsefly in sight!  Being able to do this is always one of the best bits about being retired ... but even more so when we get a break from the bugs.
Casual acquaintances are sometimes surprised to find out that Andy has no trouble keeping up with the big dogs.   Why?  Because he's a senior?  Because he's not much bigger than a cat? 
How many times do small dogs come into rescue because people don't realize they need all the same things that their bigger counterparts do?  Exercise, training and boundaries are really the only way to make love of any size last forever, eh? 
I wish I could hand out booby prizes .. so far this year it would go to the woman who surrendered her lovely little poodle because her new boyfriend wanted a big dog.  Sheesh.  Before he became ill, McG could tire out any big dog!
How many times are seniors surrendered or abandoned because they are thought to be past their expiry date?  ( the topic of how many seniors are abandoned by backyard breeders who feel they are 'no good for anything' is a separate rant needing a separate post on another day. As is the topic of how many of them make a side trip to an unsuspecting home via Kjijii before they come into rescue )
How many times are seniors passed over by adopters?  Some worry about vet bills.  Some are afraid to adopt a pet who might not have fifteen years of love left to offer.  And some just believe the old saw that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
To be perfectly honest, one of the nicest things about adopting a senior pet is that they don't always need to be taught new tricks.  Being older and wiser, even the ones that aren't housetrained are so eager to please that they catch on quickly.
Years ago, I adopted a senior terrier named Scamp and had the pleasure of living with him for over six years.  Readers who followed the old blog likely remember reading about Ben - who was a beautiful five year old Golden that I adopted.  Ben was only with us for a few months before we suddenly and very unexpectedly lost him :( 
In other words .. living breathing sentient beings do not come with a warranty for mileage.   The only thing that pets can guarantee us is that they will love us unconditionally for the time they have to offer. 
We can boost the odds a bit by taking the best possible care that we can.   Buttercup was a senior when my friend Joan adopted her and they have been regaling the dog loving world with stories and pictures for years, eh?
With only two teeth, its hard to pin down Andy's age reliably ... our best guess is that he was 13 last fall when he was adopted.   Which in his case turned out to be a lucky number as he clearly hadn't been accustomed to a lot of life's comforts.  From wearing coats on cold days to being allowed on the couch, it took the little man a while to understand that these things were ok in this house.
Andy has gone from trying to hide in the closets to sleep at his foster mom's to looking for a lift up on the bed every night.
If providing an adopted pet with a better new life brings special satisfactions, that experience is multiplied with senior pets.  They are old enough and wise enough to really appreciate things, eh?  I know that I say it all the time... but if everyone knew how wonderful senior pets were, there wouldn't be enough to adopt.
Which of course is why I do The NS Senior Pet Project .  I know I tend to see the world through rose colored glasses, but I truly do believe that one kind heart at a time, senior pet adoption is starting to catch on.
This spring, I was telling anyone who would listen about being awarded a Golden Paw award from the society for my work with the homeless pet sites.  But I could pass out my own awards, it would be to the way they have embraced change and now pull out all the stops for the senior pets in their care.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that pets are never too old to be loved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time to come out of the cocoon

What a great morning to go to the woods!   The horseflies didn't like that lovely light misting rain so we were able to go hiking down some of the trails we haven't dared to go down for a while.  It is so beautiful up on the ridge that its just frosting on the cake when we are treated to the sight of an eagle fishing in the river below us.
Last month, I was speculating about why more shelters and rescues in Nova Scotia weren't taking advantage of the free publicity available for those who signed up for the IAMS Home for the Holidays program.   At that time, the only ones onboard were SHAID and the Colchester SPCA ( who have mysteriously dropped off the list since then sadly.)
Its been a while since I popped into the Home for the Holidays site, so I was happy to see several SPCA Branches have signed on  .... Metro, Kings,
Cape Breton and Yarmouth .
The advertising campaign for this starts in the media on the first of October.  Each participating shelter or rescue gets a package that includes information on contacting the media along with media materials such as fill in the blank press releases.   Its almost frosting on the cake that their local radio and TV stations will be able to download IH4TH Public Service Announcements recorded by official IH4TH celebrity spokesperson and Academy Award winning actress Diane Keaton.
And while the program has become so wildly popular that there aren't always enough for everyone, IAMs also provides starter kits of goodies to offer holiday adopters.
There are still a lot of misconceptions about Holiday adoptions.   I really like what Nathan Winograd had to say about it  
“A kitten or puppy under the tree in December would end up in the shelter in January” was the dogma of the times and many shelters across the country actually refused to adopt out animals during this time of year. Taken to its logical conclusion, the argument is nothing more than “shelters should not do holiday adoptions because the animals may end up back at the shelter.” This, the thinking goes, is bad because shelters are bad places where animals are killed. The problem should be immediately obvious: the animals are already in the shelter! Stopping adoptions which would get them out of the shelter because they might end up back in it was bad enough. But not adopting them out ensures that the harm they claim to fear is all but assured—the animals will be killed, exacerbating shelter death rates
Holiday adoptions do not put pets at risk.  Why?  Because the adoption procedure puts the brakes on impulse.  One has to apply and have references checked.  If an adopter would meet all the criteria today, why shouldn't they be able to adopt in December?
At the end of the day, rescues and shelters are 'competing for the market share' when it comes to good pet homes.  To make matters worse, when they close their doors for the holiday season, the only thing they are really doing is encouraging potential adopters to turn to other sources for pets... sources that have a proven track record of creating all those problems for rescue later.
Why not LET folks adopt instead of scolding them? 
What time is it?   Until there are no more homeless pets in this province ... until there are no waiting lists ... until there are no more Unhappy Tails for the unwanted ... it is way past time for shelters and rescues to rethink their holiday adoption policy.
"If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies"  Author unknown.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking it to the streets

Within the last twenty four hours, there have been two articles in the media about the record numbers of cats being surrendered to shelters and abandoned.  
from last nights CBC News website
Pet giveaways a problem: SPCA
Online offers lead to more strays
Last Updated: Sunday, July 18, 2010
3:29 PM AT .
The Nova Scotia SPCA says this has been one of the worst years on record for stray and unwanted cats, and the internet must share the blame for the problem.
Executive director Kristin Williams says the number of animals arriving at shelters in Halifax is up 20 per cent over last year. She says the rising popularity of selling and giving away pets online is increasing the demand for shelter space.
'There's no such thing as a free pet.'—Holly Stevens, Bide Awhile Animal Shelter
For example, the online classifieds site Kijiji had more than 400 listings under "cats, kittens for sale" in the Halifax area Sunday. Most of those are ads for free cats.
Holly Stevens, who works at the Bide Awhile Animal Shelter in Dartmouth, said people turn to the Internet because they don't want to pay the $125 needed to get animals vaccinated, checked for worms, and spayed or neutered.
Stevens said many pet owners who get their cats online don't bother with those procedures. That leads to future health problems for the cats and increases the likelihood they'll be abandoned at shelters.
"It's countless the number of times we get phone calls even on a daily basis saying, 'I got this animal off Kijiji and it turned out not to be what I wanted … and I don't want it anymore. Can you help me?'"
Like most shelters in Nova Scotia, Bide Awhile is full and often can't take the animal. So the pet goes without medical attention or is abandoned without being spayed or neutered, increasing the number of unwanted animals.
"They're not thinking it through," Stevens said. "They're thinking, 'Oh, those cute little kittens. They're free. Let's get one. They're free.' It's an illusion. There's no such thing as a free pet."
The SPCA says people looking to adopt a pet should go to a reputable shelter where medical examinations are already done.

from this morning's Herald
Cat influx strains shelter’s limit
Facility extends hours to ease adoptions
By BEVERLEY WARE South Shore Bureau
Mon. Jul 19 - 4:52 AM
Shari Rafuse holds Gonzo, left, and Flash, two of the seven cats dropped off on the front step of the SHAID Tree Animal Shelter just outside Bridgewater last week. (Beverley Ware / Staff
WHYNOTTS SETTLEMENT — The animal shelter just outside Bridgewater is going to extend its hours of operation in hopes of finding new homes for an influx of animals.
"There have been a lot dropped off lately," said Kelly Campbell, manager of the SHAID Tree Animal Shelter.
"Seven cats were dropped off just last week, which is a huge number that we weren’t expecting," she said Sunday.
Campbell said an employee came to work one morning and found the cats in a dog crate at the shelter’s gate, "and we had nowhere to put them. If it wasn’t for several of our staff and volunteers who took them home we’d have been in a really tough situation."
Campbell said the shelter opened in 1985 to accommodate 65 cats, but it had 90 until a few recent adoptions saw that number drop by about 10.
"This time of year there are always a lot of kittens being born so our numbers do go up for a couple of weeks," Campbell said, but the recent influx is unusual.
Seven of the 10 dog kennels are also full.
SHAID, which stands for Sheltering Helpless Animals in Distress, is a "no kill" shelter.
"We keep them until we find them a home. We only ever euthanize if the animal is extremely aggressive and we can’t bring it around, or it’s extremely ill," said Campbell.
The shelter has decided to stay open late every second Thursday, beginning this week, to make it easier for working and vacationing families to get there. The shelter’s usual hours are noon until 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
It will now open from noon until 7 p.m. this Thursday, Aug. 5 and 19 and Sept. 2.
The shelter is run by eight staff and 20 volunteers who do everything from cleaning out the cat cages in the morning to walking the dogs and playing with the animals. Campbell said the shelter is in need of more volunteers but those under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
For more information, visit
Well then.  While its great to see animal rescue getting media attention ... two articles in 24 hours does pose the bigger question of WHY are there more cats being surrendered or abandoned?
Is it the number of jobs that have been lost this year?  The resulting loses of homes? That some have had to move out west to find work? 
Admitedly, Kijiji can claim a lions share of the blame for the ready availability of pets.  Its easy.  Its convenient and there are no forms to fill out.  There are no worries about whether one will pass the screening.
Just answer the ad ... put on a good face and Bob's your uncle.
Do we need legislation to ban the traffic of living sentient beings in the free online ads?  You bet.  Would that solve everything?  Not even close.
Getting articles in the media is a great first step.  Why not take it one step further and get the kitties out where the public can meet their sweet selves.
Why do I keep going on and on about this?  If you look at the comments under either article, one underlying current is that people choose to use Kijiji to source pets because its easy and convenient.
In many cases, they know they'll wind up spending more money.   But we live in a world where people happily spend more at the grocery store for prepared food items that yield quicker results at suppertime. 
Why do rescues need to compete with that?  I would think it would be obvious:
  • every pet adopted from reputable rescue is already altered and so will be part of the solution, not the problem
  • adoptables are the best ambassadors rescue has ... each one spreading the good word to family, friends, neighbours and coworkers
  • adopters often become volunteers or suppporters
  • and of course every pet that is adopted is one more 'chink out of the market' for unscrupulous and / or misguided puppy brokers and backyard breeders
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the very best way for rescue to 'compete' for the market share of the kitties is to hold cat only off site adoption events.   In a world where everyone is looking for the easy road, its the best way to promote the kitties. 
Offsite adoptions are a proven way to boost adoptions and promote animal rescue.   Why?  They make it simple for potential adopters to meet the pets and provide an environment where it is easier to fill out the form and have references checked.  Best of all, rescues that use offsite adoptions have found them more successful than reducing fees.
What time is it?  Its time to understand that 'taking it to the streets' is the very best way to overcome the negative urban legends about the difficulties surrounding pet adoption.

Friday, July 16, 2010

More Day tripping for the animals

It looks like its going to be a great weekend!  One of the nicest things about Nova Scotia is that there are so many lovely opportunities for lovely little day trips.   What could be better than that?   Day trips that do double duty by helping the animals of course!
On Saturday, the 17th:
  • in Shelbourne, the PET Projects Dog Jog is finally here ... see poster below
  • in the Valley, CAPS will be at the Middleton Heart of the Valley Days this weekend .. but owing to the heat will not be walking in the parade with their adoptables and happy tails
  • CAPS will also be at the Annavale Co-op 4 H Fun Day on Saturday from 10 until 2
  • if you're in or around the HRM area, the booth for the  Metro Shelter  at the Harbourview Weekend Market is an ongoing thing.( 42 Canal Street Dartmouth, every Saturday & Sunday from 9 am - 4 pm. )
  • GPAC is having a Yard Sale at its Halifax Kennel from nine until three
Last, but definitely not least ..... on Sunday, the 18th... ARC's Bark B Que was postponed because of last Sunday's monsoon and is rescheduled for Sunday .. see poster below
As always, if I've missed anyone's events for this weekend, please shoot me an email and I'll add them right in.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Stray Cat Strut

I love doing carpentry.  Admittedly, I'm an amateur .. but the permanence of working with wood has always appealed to me.   After all, no matter how well it turns out, food is such a fleeting thing to work with, eh?
Like my father before me, I learned my skills from my Dad.  To be perfectly honest, at that time it was considered a radical thing to do, but then my parents always marched us to a different drummer.   Ours was an equal opportunity home where all life skills were taught to both genders.   My brother is as skilled with the 'domestic arts' as he is with the inner workings of his Harley.
I've been wanting to make a little cattery for a while now ... and now its turn has come up on the to do list.   Its my favourite kind of project ...  most of the materials are already squirrelled away in my workshop ... I'll be working outside .. and best of all, when its finished I'll have a safe place for the kitties to sun themselves and nibble on grass.
I had thought that I would use the gazebo fittings kit for it, but now that we have the play yard I think that next year I'll put it in the middle of the play yard.  The dogs love chasing each other around anything and it would give us a shady spot to hang out in the heat of the day
See what I mean ... the To Do list is a fluid thing that never seems to get any shorter after each project is finished!   Unless one has 'staff' or deeper pockets than mine, it takes years to really settle a yard the way that we want.
Its definitely like that for the animals too.  Whenever I get too impatient, I try to remember just how much has been done in the last two and a half years.  Back then, it was even more of a crapshoot to be a homeless pet than it is now. 
If a pet came into the care of one of the private rescue groups like ARC or the breed rescue groups like East Coast German Shepherd Rescue or a private shelter like SHAID , then odds were pretty good that he or she would live to tell the tail.
But if they were brought to one of the society branches ... it was quite a different story.  Some groups weren't in a position to accept any at all.  The Cape Breton Branch was accepting everything that came in the door and gassing a sickening of number of them.  Metro was being so dragged down by internal troubles that the energy that should have been spent saving animals was wasted ... while unnecessary deaths just kept piling up.
And just look at the society now ... step by careful administrative step, the society has established the framework and the strategic plan that will take it to No Kill.  Are they there yet?  No .. but they are rolling merrily along the path and picking up steam and enthusiasm along the way, instead of alienating branches and revoking their status.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to reaching No Kill Nova Scotia is the staggering numbers of cats that keep filling up every available rescue space around the province.
Are cat adoption fees a good buy?  You bet!  Are most people aware of that?  Not even close.  To make matters worse, there is a never ending supply of 'free to a good homes' that undermine the cat adoption market.
And that's exactly what rescues need to do ... understand that they are competing for a share of the market.   How can they do that?
By making it as convenient and easy as possible for people to adopt a cat.  The fee isn't the obstacle so much as the convenience.
Like it or not, even good people will generally take the easy road.   If the pets are in foster, or the shelter is in an out of the way spot, most folks will opt for the neighbours' kitten or the free to a good homes that are only a mouse click away.
And before the keyboards catch on fire, no I am NOT saying that there should not be a screening process for the kitties.  I am simply saying that it needs to be easier for the public to MEET the cats.
Changing shelter hours is a good step,   the Yarmouth SPCA, Metro , the LA Shelter  and SHAID understand the value of this.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the thing that would Really Help is cat only off site adoption events.   In order to adopt the cats, people need  a chance to meet their sweet and appealing selves.  
At the end of the day, the cats are their own best promoters, if they are only given have a chance to strut their stuff.
What time is it?  Its always time to recognize the truth of the old saw, that getting the same results for doing the same thing is the very best reason to try something new.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When compassion doesn't lead the way

Gosh is it ever raining!  After stacking wood in yesterday's heat, it offers a welcome excuse to pick something a little less strenuous from the to do list for today.
Rain or shine, we still go for our morning hike.  Admittedly, two years ago when Henry first came here he wanted to be a fair weather friend for any outdoor activity.  It took a little time, but he now understands that in this house, wet dogs can always look forward to being towel dried and that if it is really chilly there is always the bonus of a cozy fire.
Henry's old life is a mystery.  We know by his behavior that he had been a hobo for a while, but where he came from before that is anyone's guess.  He was more than just a pretty face .. in true pitty style he is such an approval junkie that even an amateur like myself has been able to help him become his best self.
Right now he's laying on his favourite window seat - my grandfathers old sea chest.  Henry loves watching the birds in the bushes out front ... even more so because he is comfy and dry.  Warm and safe.  Loved and cherished.
Think I'm being sentimental?  Not the slightest.   In my books, everything we do in life is connected.   One cannot cherry pick compassion ... its either there or its not.  Compassion is a core value that is not subject to perception.
Just as the body knows when we cheat on a diet, deep down our hearts and minds know when we give short measures of kindness.   As the Dalai Lama says, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion"
We cannot say we are being kind to our children and then take the family pet into be killed because we are going on vacation / moving / having a new baby/ etc.   Society expects us to be kind to children and there are both social and legal penalties to be paid when that line is crossed.    
Are we teaching children to be compassionate to animals this way?  No .. we are teaching them that they only need to be kind when there are consequences. 
Compassion without commitment is meaningless.   Just as children cannot pick their parents, pets cannot pick their humans.   Its such a lottery to be a pet ... and not all of them get to win.  
Why?  Doesn't everybody understand the need to be kind to animals?  You bet .. right up until it:
  • is inconvenient,
  • costs too much,
  • goes against what their parents always did,
  • clashes with what they are willing to do to please the new partner
  • or is just too darned inconvenient
As with so many other things in life ... education is the key to changing perceptions.  In the long term, getting humane education in the public school system will be part of the solution.  But right here, right now, how to effect meaningful change? 
This morning there were 88 dogs listed on Petfinder for our province.  Its important to remember that, outside of CAPS ... who proudly list all 140 cats in their care, those numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg.  Why?  For some groups, 80 percent of their adoptables are already 'spoken for' by waiting lists of preapproved adopters.  
To be perfectly honest, it would be sheer speculation on my part to try to tally up the actual number of pets who are in care at this moment.  Nor would that number include the countless other pets who are either on rescue waiting lists or meet a wide variety of Unhappy Tails when the infatuation is over.   I call it infatuation because love means never having to say you're sorry, eh?
The good news is that the message doesn't have to reach everybody.  This is a province with 350,000 households, of which at least half are estimated to pet owners.
Of those, many are already wonderful "Love our pets for life" homes.   By my best guestimates of the numbers I've seen coming through the homeless pet site, along with the understanding that these only represent the tip of the iceberg, if ten percent of the pet owning households could be inspired to make love last forever it would be a much better world for the animals.
What is the most effective way to send any message?  Legislation.  People are generally kind to children because of compassion.  But when that's not enough, the legal repercussions do act as a deterrent.  It doesn't stop everyone, but its definitely made the world a safer place for children.
Legislation clearly states what is and is not acceptable.  It is then, and only then, that the social values catch up.  Its the only meaningful way to effect any change.  Its the best education tool around for those already finished with school.
What time is it?  Its always time to understand that legislation is the only effective deterrent when compassion doesn't lead the way.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stepping on the tail of the mouse

This time of year it is a joy to wade down the river.  Its shady and cool.  The wild roses along the bank are in full bloom.  And best of all, for some reason that I don't understand, the horseflies never seem to follow us there. 
Horseflies are one of the big reasons I never wear shorts when I'm working outside.  Whether I'm stacking wood or in the garden .. in shade or full sun ... without a long sleeved cotton shirt and Dad's old tilley hat with the bug net the horse flies would make me utterly miserable.
Which is of course just one more good argument for not having chained and penned dogs outside.   It isn't enough to provide shade and access to water.  Straight sweet and simple, its inhumane to leave any dog to the mercies of deer and horseflies.
Lee Valley has Deer Fly Patches that are basically a fancy double sided tape that stick to the back of one's hat and trap the ones buzzing around people's heads.  While they wouldn't provide one iota of protection for a dog stuck in a fixed area, they might provide a bit of relief for anyone hiking along at a brisk pace with their pups.
Of course, around here very few folks are seen walking their dogs at mid day at this time of year.   Dog lovers get out early before the bugs get too thick ... or wait until after the heat of the day.
Like any battle .. the war waged against horseflies has to be fought on all fronts .. and it really makes me happy to see companies like Savon Sage offering better solutions.   
For a long time, I've found eucalyptus oil to be very effective at deterring mosquitoes ... I'm not a scientist but I suspect it works because the strong scent masks our own.   Tea tree oil is also effective, but the eucalyptus is generally about a quarter of its cost.  And pennyroyal paste is a time honored cure that dates back to colonial times at least. 
But the only effective solution is to minimize the amount of time that pets are outside.  
What time is it?  Its time to stop simply feeling sorry for dogs on the end of a chain and urge your MLA to get onside with anti tethering legislation.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.  Bishop Desmond Tutu (1931- ), Nobel Prize for Peace 1984

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just the tip of the iceburg

Water changes everything.  This time yesterday my lawn was brown and even the leaves on the native trees in the yard were starting to droop.   Now everything has greened up and bounced back with this well needed rain.  
In other ways it seems like nothing is changing.  A friend just emailed me one of the 'free to a good home' ads from the Halifax Kijiji site where the poster is .. no word of a lie ... trying to give away  14 Free Dogs , stating in the ad that he/she has "many dogs free I am moving need homes for them email for pictures.   I have:

  • 2 golden retrievers. ( buddy and missy)
  • 1 doberman (Raven)
  • 6 chihuahuas (bitbit, Marlkin, homy, penny, casey and moomoo)
  • 1 german shepherd 9 (Dudley)
  • 1 border collie ( dramaqueen)
  • 3 black labs ( melinda, amanda, and gordon)
, and closes with "love them all, though i cant keep them.  please help they are not fixed though are all up yo date with vaccines and are micochipped."
As you know, I think Kijiji is a great place to get inanimate objects like furniture and appliances I'm familiar enough with the site to follow through by clicking on the view posters other ads icons.
At the very same time this ad was posted, the poster also listed and ad that he/she is looking for a Sheltie and a few days ago on the third, an ad looking for a border collie was posted ( is that the one that is referred to as drama queen or the new replacement ?)
One can only speculate as to how many dogs are actually at this particular residence.... or how many of them live in the house ...or are kennelled without companionship? 
Not fixed?  Gosh that opens a whole other avenue of inquiry ... were they used for breeding or are there not deep enough pockets for altering the lot of them?
The ad is disturbing .. but it is a symptom rather than the actual problem.  At this point in time, in Nova Scotia, it is perfectly legal to:
  • post ads like this on Kijiji
  • breed animals without a breeders license
  • sell the offspring on Kijiji ( or in flea markets/ fairs and roadside)
  • breed bitches of any age
  • breed bitches more than once a year
  • breed bitches as many times in their lifespan as their poor bodies will hold up for
  • breed companion animals without prior medical and genetic screening
  • breed to the point of inbreeding
  • keep dogs chained / penned / kennelled outside away from all human comforts and companionship
  • maintain an unlimited amount of animals in a residence as long as they are all provided with food, water and housing ( the subject of how the minimalist status quo of standards for that is continually opposed by the PIJAC hot alerts to its breeder members is a separate subject needing a post of its own on another day.
When my best friend was a child, his father regularly came home and terrorized the family with his drunken rages.  The entire community knew about it, but at that time there were no resources for his mother to turn to.   That wouldn't happen as easily .. or at least as overtly .. now.  Why?
Because the law has changed.   Teachers and medical professionals are obligated by law to report these things.  Women are no longer required to lay charges against their partners.  
One of my favourite quotes of all time is Einstein's " The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil , but because of those who look on and do nothing"
In the real world that pretty much sums it up.   Until the laws to protect animals change, neighbours will continue to turn a blind eye to the chained dogs, the puppy mills and yes even to neglect.  Sometimes out of fear, some times out of apathy .. but always out of a reluctance to become involved. 
What time is it?  Its time to realize that everything is related.  Laws that protect animals always do double duty by creating safer communities.
If a few hundred worried taxpayers can send the NDP bobsled team off on an unprecedented series of culls, just imagine what would happen if every animal lover in the province took the time to let their MLA  know that Nova Scotia needs more specific legislation to protect the animals.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Time to stop treating apples like oranges.

When I was watching the global news tonight, there was a little piece about the Fredericton SPCA having an adoption drive this weekend in the hopes of getting at least 30 cats adopted.   There is a coupon on their site that adopters can download to bring in and take advantage of the 'donation only' weekend.  ( As a sidebar note, that IS actually standard practice for PET Projects, who request a minimum thirty dollar donation for each adoptable in in their care.)
Regular adoption fees are posted on the Fredericton SPCA Adoption page ... and it was nice to see that their fee for adult cats and dogs is lower than the fee for kittens and puppies.
That's a very clever way to encourage folks to adopt an adult cat.  Here in NS, lower adoption fees for the adults is standard practice for CAPS and The LA Shelter.  At the Yarmouth SPCA, the fee is lower for adult dogs and higher for adult cats .. but in all fairness their kitten fee doesn't include the spay that the adult one does.
Are cat adoption fees a good buy?  You bet!  So why do the cats 'stay on the shelf' ?
Is it because people object to the fee?  The application process?   Or is it that it simply wouldn't occur to most people to investigate pet adoption?
The answer to THAT question is the kind of thing that creeps in to wake me up in the middle of the night.
If the people won't come to the shelter ... perhaps the shelter should come to the people.  Hey .... wait a minute ... that's not a new idea!  For the jackpot ... What Is an Offsite Adoption?
Cats need the extra boost when it comes to adoption.  They are the first pet of choice for first time pet owners because there is always an abundance of 'free to a good homes" and they don't cost that much to feed.  Unfortunately, first time pet owners don't always budget for the spay / neuter that will nip things in the bud.  As a result, on any given day, there are at least at least eight cats for every dog that is listed on Petfinder ... and sadly that only represents the tip of the iceberg and doesn't begin to include those who do not find 'room at the inn'
Cat only adoption events make a lot of sense.  They are quieter, so adopters are more likely to stay to find their new best friend.   At the end of the day, the animals are always their own best 'salesmen'.
Adult cats need the extra boost of lower adoption fees than the kittens.   With a never ending supply of appealing infants, even the"toddlers' and the  'teenagers' wind up getting passed over.  Every group that guarantees adoption for all in their care wind up serving as long term sanctuaries for many of their lovely cats.
Seriously .. I would quickly run out of fingers and toes to tally up the ones who have literally grown up and spent their whole lives in care with different groups around the province.
Each and every one sitting safely in care represents dozens of others who meet a wide variety of Unhappy Tails when love doesn't last forever. Reduced adoption fees, simplified application processes and off site adoptions may seem like heresy and horrify the frontline rescue folks .... but each and every one of them are frustrated with the status quo.
What time is it?  Its time to understand the truth of the old saw .. the only to get different results is to do things differently. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What's good for the goose....

On a hot day like this, its easy to forget why I planted so many lovely things around the yard.  Even with the ride on, it takes twice as long to navigate around the gardens and shrubbery than it would if I had a clear and unobstructed path. 
But ... on a hot day like this, even before things have reached their mature size, there is always a lovely little bit of shade.   Shade that comes with a view ... from the earliest tulips to the last fall flower, something is always in bloom until the real hard frosts of fall.
Its almost frosting on the cake that this greenery also attracts wildlife of all shapes and sizes and species.
No matter what way one looks at it, its well worth all the extra time and energy.
One of the things I like about Kijiji is that it saves me a lot of time.  An ongoing yard sale with a searchable database ... gee that's almost as much fun as going to Frenchies.   My best friend's dog ate his couch?  No problem ... we found on on Kijiji and if it happens again no one's out a lot of money, eh?  From toddler beds for my dogs to the funny wood framed couch to replace the one my eldercat peed on, its been ever so useful time after time.
Does that mean I think its a great place for anyone to find a pet?  Of course not!  The bargains and the curbside guarantees that are so well suited to THINGS only create a round robin of problems for animal rescuers.  
If there is one single thing that the folks who do frontline animal rescue all agree on, it is the need for legislation to ban the traffic of living breathing sentient beings in the free online ad sites.   They have tried "asking nice" and it is clear that only legislation will put an end to this practice.
But wait a minute.  More than one of the tnr folks use it to find homes for their adoptables.   Seriously .. I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized that.
Why?  Its easy and its free and the site gets a lot of traffic.  Hmm .. what does that sound like? 
Petfinder is easy and free and the site gets a lot of traffic.  And before the keyboards catch on fire, individual cat rescuers and small groups without petfinder listings can use the free Petfinder Classifieds to list their adoptables.
Right now, if one runs a petfinder search for Nova Scotia, there are NO listings. ( although in all fairness there have been a few listings in the past)   Judging by the pages of the 'free to a good homes' there could be pages of Petfinder listings for this province.
In the course of updating the homeless pet site, I'm in and out of Petfinder more than the average bear ... and being the kind of girl I am, when I find a glitch or have a suggestion, I email them.  I was delighted to find out that if traffic ever warranted it, there could be a time when the lovely Petfinder web widgets could include their Classified listings.
But I'm wandering afield here.   Petfinder is like e -harmony in that visitors to their site are already 'looking for love'.  Even better, visitors to Petfinder are LOOKING to adopt a pet and already understand that pet adoption is a Good Thing.
Its really not that hard for any group to get a listing ... even if they aren't a registered Non Profit.   Its even easier to use the Petfinder free Classifieds.  
The other day I was talking to a good friend who has worked frontline rescue for a long time and she was saying that her group has actually declined donations and offers of help from companies and trainers whose stated goals and practices are contrary to her group's.  
Listing pets for adoption on Kijiji is no different than that.  This practice lends a very thin veneer of respectability to Kijiji that that undermines all attempts by the animal rescue community to ban the traffic of living breathing sentient beings in free online ads.  
When I was in the military, this type of thing was referred to as stepping on one's own d***
What time is it?   Its time to remember the rescue mantra that is always being used " be part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

If you want to print this to pass around, here is a b & w version

comments on commenting

I'm enough of a geek that I really like the new blogger settings here, but enough of a middle aged granny that I'm still getting used to the idea that double clicking on comments now deletes them:)
The majority of comments here never get posted.  Why?  Some are simply shit disturbing statements trying to engage me in other people's agenda.  Some are linked to sites selling things.  Some get failing grades for both spelling and common sense.  And some are just simply disturbing.
I could do as my friend Joan does and ban anonymous comments.   But seeing as I have many more anonymous followers than folks who are willing to admit to it,  that might be a little mean :)
I figure its anyone's right to comment ... just as its my right to decide whether or not to publish it.

The fly in the ointment

I love wading down the river with the dogs.   Sure its a treat on a hot day .. but its also the only shady place that we can go where the horse flies don't seem to follow.  Being a middle aged granny and not a biologist, I couldn't begin to explain the why of that .... I only know that we are happy to escape the horseflies in the otherwise lovely ointment that is summer.
Its been a very sad weekend for a good friend of mine because her feisty little friend lost his last battle.  He was one of the Celtic pets survivors and in the midst of mourning for him it is impossible not to think back to the days when she had to fight tooth and nail to keep him from becoming one of the Celtic Six / Seven / Eight ....?
The society has come a long way from that summer when it was circling the drain ... doing such a poor job that the (then) new animal protection act included a clause that if they were unwilling or unable to meet their mandate that the government could opt for an alternative.
With a promising new strategic plan, their sights are now set on a timeline for becoming No Kill.   Does that mean we are on the verge of No Kill Nova Scotia?
Of course not.  It means that the society has adopted the philosophy of No Kill and is working to implement it at all of its branches.  We can follow the progress of this in their publicly available statistics that are online for all the world to see.
Do the private rescues and shelters around the province publish their stats?  No ... and in most cases they should because they deserve bragging rights for the work that they do.   Whether they are "No Kill" or "Guaranteed Adoption", animals accepted into their care are generally safe for however long it takes to find a new home.  
Why aren't we breaking out the champagne then?  At the risk of sounding like a stuck record ... too many of the actual numbers are still veiled in secrecy.  Animal Control may be funded by taxpayer dollars, but to the best of my knowledge there is not one single municipality or county in this province that provides AC statistics without a freedom of information request.  Even worse, the wide variety of contractors do not even fall under the requirements to provide such information on request.
For instance .. and before the keyboards catch on fire this is not me being mean, just stating a fact... when Metro had the HRM sheltering contract we at least knew what the numbers were because of the society's new policy of transparency that provides voluntary disclosure of stats.   If the new contractor, Homeward Bound City Pound, does not wish to provide similar data, the taxpaying voters of HRM will have no access to their numbers.
I'm not pointing a specific finger at HRM ... taxpaying voters in NS should not have to put in freedom of information requests for AC stats.  
Why are numbers so darned important?
Because numbers spell things out in undeniable black and white.  Its not about pointing fingers at individual AC departments ... its about collecting data to measure the scope of problem.  
If large numbers of cats are being killed every year, would it be cheaper to find more effective and more permanent solutions like low cost / high volume spay neuter programs and assistance for TNR groups?  
If large numbers of dogs are being killed, would it be cheaper to fund free obedience training?  Low cost spay neuter?
If large numbers of senior pets are being abandoned and killed, would it be cheaper to fund short term assistance for blood work, x rays and dental work?
If large numbers of dogs are being seized for nuisance behaviors such as barking, would it not nip things in the bud by developing bylaws to limit the amount of time a dog can be tethered or penned each day?  By banning the practice for all unattended yard dogs?
At the end of the day, statistics are not about pointing fingers and assigning blame, but are a tool to be used for sound fiscal planning. 
If the NDP bobsled team were looking for a low cost way to restore some of the shine, then a very good place to start would be with legislation that would:
  • require all municipalities to publish their animal care and control statistics on their websites
  • obligate all AC departments and contractors to advertise on petfinder
  • insist that all pets be offered to rescues and shelters before choosing an Unhappy Tail,
  • maintain a province wide Lost / Found pet registry,
  • and offer free lifetime licenses for all altered and microchipped pets.
Transparency is a beautiful thing.  It inspires confidence.  It builds trust.  It encourages the search for solutions.  It is never ever the fly in the ointment.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that what is good for the animals also creates safer and healthier communities.  Its just frosting on the cake that it saves taxpayer dollars too.