Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting busy on the proof

from today's  Vanguard
Board members fed up with governance grapples
Published on June 29, 2011
Carla Allen
The frustration and stress of exploring new draft governance models prepared by the provincial SPCA has extracted a heavy toll on the Yarmouth SPCA.
Nine of the 11 board members submitted resignations on June 27. The members offered to stay until the end of July to help with transitioning a new board but have been asked to hand over all documents and files pertaining to the shelter by July 8.
In a June 29 letter to the Vanguard the outgoing board of directors stated that many of the members had been administering the local branch for close to two decades, caring for literally thousands of cats and dogs. It is a job that takes its toll - with no government funding or any financial support from the Provincial Nova Scotia SPCA.
“Dealing with the provincial board of directors and its executive director has been somewhat challenging in the past few years. Ever-changing operating procedures, governance models, shelter protocols, inconsistencies and the need to constantly exercise control from afar over our branch have added to the many pressures of running a shelter,” stated the letter.
Former president Kathleen Fitzgerald says that one of the bigger obstacles connected with the draft models of governance was the requirement for the local shelter to hand over all funds raised locally to the provincial body.
“They said that funds would stay in the community but that they would manage the funds,” she said.
“It doesn’t bode well to be heading in that direction.”
Coupled with its own problems of continuous fund-raising, trying to adapt to new regimens and faced with another slate of new proposals being developed by the provincial body was simply the last straw for the Yarmouth board members.
The letter stated that while the provincial executive director (Kristen Williams) is paid for her role – those on the local board are all volunteers who give 100 per cent of their time, energy, dedication and even personal funds, from time to time, to keep the Yarmouth shelter operational.
“To run us around with ever-changing policies and procedures is not only counter productive it is draining.”
“There should be no shock or surprise to the provincial body in regards to our disagreement and subsequent resignations. We have been talking with them about the various problems and governance issues for the past two years.”One of the local board’s issues is demographics. Halifax has a much larger pool of animal lovers to draw volunteers, and those willing to foster animals from. With the new no kill policy implemented by the provincial body last year, creative solutions, including more volunteers, donations, services and foster homes are required. Yarmouth is already strapped for all of these.
“What works in Halifax does not necessarily work in Yarmouth. We tried it their way and we ran into more problems as a result,” stated the letter.
The decision to step down was not an easy one
“It was duly considered. Indeed there have been a number or resignations in the past year. Even the newest members on the board were dismayed at the level of "control" being applied to the local boards. From Yarmouth to Sydney, there is a great deal of concern about these new operational models provincial has been working on,” wrote the outgoing board members.
The biggest concern for former board members remains the wellbeing of the animals and the operations staff and volunteers that remain at the Yarmouth Shelter.
“All of us have far too much invested to simply walk away. To suggest otherwise is not only irresponsible but insulting and unfair to those who have dedicated years of service for the betterment of the animals in this area. They have all been volunteers.”
The Yarmouth SPCA has had its share of controversy in the past year. Former president Neil Hackett was investigated for neglect and animal cruelty in February by the Department of Agriculture. The department stated that it does not release the results of such investigations.
And then there is an earlier article that was published yesterday
The resignation of nine out of 11 Yarmouth SPCA board members has been accepted by SPCA Nova Scotia.
The provincial board of directors unanimously accepted the resignations on Monday night (June 27).
The reason stated for the resignations was that members of the local board “had determined that draft models of governance being explored were unacceptable and unworkable.”
SPCA Nova Scotia executive director Kristin Williams says the decision was reached without engagement, discussion or prior notice to the provincial society.NS SPCA president Andrea Carew says that the "dramatic decision from Yarmouth, while surprising and unfortunate, signals a time for change in leadership in the Yarmouth Branch, which has experienced difficulties in the past.
“With the decision of the majority of the Yarmouth board to walk away from the work of the society as a whole, also comes a renewed opportunity to work with those who maintain a commitment to the life-saving work of the Society and our commitment of continued improvement in governance and operations.
“We regret the outgoing Yarmouth members did not share the vision or goals of the provincial society but we look forward to focusing more readily now on the future."
Williams says the society’s commitment to animals remains fully intact in Yarmouth.
All operations of the Yarmouth shelter are now directly under the control of the provincial body with the support of dedicated staff and volunteers.
“In the past, there have been concerns about compliance to standards of care and adherence to policy, which we look forward to resolving. I have personally spent a great deal of time in Yarmouth over the past 18 months and I am aware of their struggles. “The decision of these nine members was hasty and I am disappointed that they do not wish to participate in the important strategic discussions currently underway with the other branches across the province.
“Our operational commitment remains to improve live release rates and standards of care across the province.”
In the coming weeks, there will be a call for new volunteer board members. Information will be posted online at and at
So anyone who is following the online provincial bod minutes knows that there are a lot of changes going on with the society right now.   They haven't all been well received at the branch level .... as last months fine whine in the Vanguard about No Kill has shown.
Clearly the branches are coming out of their comfort zone ... and would far prefer to sail gently towards No Kill rather than jump right in.
But ... ya isn't there always a but???? .... to quote Nathan Winograd ...  No Kill begins with an act of will .... with his simple and well publicized Three Step program.  1.  Stop the killing.  2. Stop the killing.   3  Stop the killing.
When I first saw this article a few years ago ... it blew my mind!    Like half the rest of the world, I had never heard of No Kill or Nathan Winograd.   Like Paul on the road to Tarsus ... it was an experience that started a whole new journey.
Is it an ambitious step for the society to make No Kill part of its policies and implement strategic plans ? You bet!  Why did they do it?   Was it the wishes of their membership?   To move ahead with the times?  To truly fulfill their mandate of speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves?  Or all of the above?
Every piece I have ever read about successfully implementing No Kill has included the caveat that staff and volunteers who were not supportive did not all remain.
I am not privy to the inner workings of the Yarmouth SPCA Board.  But I do know this ... Quinn's story was brought to my attention by one of the individuals who did not feel obligated to jump ship.   Without that unflagging concern for all the animals .... Quinn would now be pushing up daisies instead of experiencing the novelty of being loved and cared for and safe ... and best of all of never being lonely again!
So maybe I'm thinking its not a bad thing that the Yarmouth Board has pulled this grandstanding manoeuvre.   Could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the branch, eh?
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.   John Kenneth Galbraith

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