Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Painting the Whole Picture

Last night, I was working on my gardener's journal.  Why do I do that?  Over the years, I've learned that the best way to see the big picture is by creating a relevant database. 
This is particularly important for an organic gardener who uses time honored traditional methods of pest control and crop management instead of the quicker but more environmentally lethal chemical choices.   Is it more work to be an organic gardener?  You bet!  But it is a personal choice made out of regard for my own health... and that of the continual parade of wildlife that are attracted by the shrubbery and gardens.
Numbers have been critical to the success of the No Kill Movement.   When advocates argue that "many" dogs die in shelters .. no one gets particularly worked up.  But when advocates have been able to provide specific numbers, it paints a clear picture of the problem at hand.
Numbers are also a great way to measure success.  Which was why, back when there was a changing of the guard on the provincial board of the society in 2008, one of the first acts of the remaining board was to initiate a new policy of making their statistics and the minutes of their monthly meeting freely available online.
Prior to that, the society was long on rhetoric about respect for life and short on taking any serious steps toward No Kill.
What happened when they started posting the numbers?  Were they always pretty?  Not even close! 
What did all this transparency achieve?   Quite a bit.  By being bold enough to shine some light in some dingy and disgusting corners, the society was able to measure the scope of the situation and start taking steps down their New Path.
Every year now, their stats as a whole are getting better.  But that isn't even the most important result.   Like the proverbial rolling stone, the society is shedding its 'moss' and picking up speed and support along the way.
In other words .. the better they do .. the better they're doing.  Just like anything else in life ... hmm?
Is everything peachy keen and perfect now?  Of course not .. but at least they're on the right track.
Three years ago ... when Celtic Pets was a ticking time bomb waiting to implode on our consciousness ... who would have imagined that the society would be working its way to No Kill?  That is the power of numbers and the true strength of transparency.
Which is why of course the reputable private rescues in this province have declared a position of support for the principals of No Kill.  They also take Nathan Winograd's advice ... " do a good job, tell someone about it and ask for their help" 
Even better, Shelters like the Lilian Albion in Amherst and SHAID in Bridgewater understand that there is strength in numbers for the animals and are quick to bring in animals from other groups when they have space.
At the end of the day ... we have almost all the tools needed to get to No Kill Nova Scotia.  A provincial society with resolve and determination, private rescues and shelters, hard working TNR groups and of course many many kind hearts in the animal loving community.
Whats missing from this picture?  A little clarity about Animal Control.   But aren't they government and so subject to Freedom of information requests?  Not in most cases.   For instance,  Annapolis County has a pound run by its AC, so a concerned citizen can apply for the information if its not given on request.
But in other places, such as Kings County and HRM, the sheltering is contracted out.  Why is that a problem?  Because of course contractors are not handcuffed by the same freedom of information restrictions as their government counterparts.  In other words, they only have to provide the information if they WANT to ... and are under no obligation to provide accurate numbers.
And it will very likely stay that way unless the law is changed.   Without a law that requires AC and all of its sheltering contractors to provide publicly posted stats, most of Nova Scotia's animal control stats will remain veiled in mystery.
Why is that a problem?  If there is no sense of the scope of the problem, how can their ever be a meaningful solution.
Of course it might not be in the best interests of contractors to provide the information that might inspire the institution of pet retention programs that would reduce the size of the plum pie, eh?
What time is it?  Its time to understand that shining a little more light isn't about pointing fingers and assigning blame.  Its about painting an accurate picture with the information that taxpayers are entitled to  ... so that as voters they can make informed decisions about what kind of communities they want their children to grow up in.

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