Saturday, June 11, 2011

When Love Comes to Town

I love the water lilies in my little ornamental pond.  Whats not to love?  They are strikingly beautiful  They have settled in so well that they are so low maintenance as to be no trouble at all.  Best of all, today's first blooms are the first in a beauty pageant that will last until the hard frosts of October.
No question about it, dollar for dollar they have proven to be the best investments in my garden.  It was more work and money upfront to build the pond ... but that one time effort and expense that has so far yielded seven years of trouble free beauty.
Expense is the real bugaboo these days for all levels of government.  Here in Nova Scotia, more fiscal responsibility is being downloaded from the provincial level to the municipal at the same time as some of our small towns are struggling on the brink of bankruptcy. 
What does that mean in realspeak?
Why of course, that these are cost cutting days where bureaucrats and elected officials will be unwilling and / or unable to assume new expenses in their budgets. 
In a world where arguments against No Kill are centered around cost, it means that getting to No Kill Nova Scotia is going to take some real creative thinking.
But wait just a darned minute ... hasn't our own society taken an official position of No Kill?   Are not most of our private rescue groups and shelters already on the No Kill wagon?  You bet!
What is missing from this picture?  Why Animal Control of course!  If there is one constant in Nova Scotia, it is that there is no constant when it comes to Animal Control   Each and every one of our fifty-five municipalities have their own arrangements and bylaws.  
From bylaw negotiation to statistical tracking and beyond .. any change must be individually implemented at the local level .... fifty-five different times!
The only constant of course is the common reluctance to initiate any change that is going to cost money.
What if it was possible to pick up the pace down the path to No Kill Nova Scotia without breaking the bank?  Sound unrealistic?  Seem like a pipe dream?
Not for Washoe County Regional Animal Services in Nevada.  In an area with the highest unemployment rate in their nation, how did WCRAS achieve an incredible 95% save rate?  To begin with, there is a whopping 54% reclaim rate for dogs ( although the 6 % reclaim rates for cats doesn't look so impressive at first glance, it is still more than twice the national average. )  How did they do that?
  • Their officers in the field are allowed to make every reasonable effort, including scanning for microchips, to return the animal to their rightful owners.   The extra work in the field is offset by reduced intake and sheltering costs.
  • Officers are also allowed to proactively investigate to determine who the owners of impounded animals are
  • All impounded animals are photographed on intake and their pictures posted on a website that the county also promotes with free magnetic dog bone stickers
  • If officers believe they know who the owner is, the animal can be held longer than the five day period
  • Officers are sent to the home to hand deliver the Notices of Impoundment
  • And are allowed to talk to the neighbours to determine if a real life event such as being arrested or hospitalized is the reason for the impound.  In these cases Animal services is permitted to seek solutions that do not involve the loss of the animal
  • Animal services can and will waive the impound fees and fines if they believe that the financial hardship is all that stands between a dog and his or her owner
Closer to home, there have been some great ideas that can save lives without costing Animal Services a cent!
  • The society negotiated with the Town of Windsor to have an adoption pact included in their new Dog Bylaw.  What does that mean in realspeak?  It means that once the impound period is over, all impounded animals must, by law, be offered to the Hants SPCA.
  • In Annapolis County, Animal Control has a partnership with the volunteer group CAPS in an effort to create better outcomes for all impounded animals.  
  • Annapolis County has also provided a lifesaving per cat subsidy to Team TNR to help keep feral cats out of the system.
  • Colchester County has a longstanding lifesaving relationship with ARC that has made a significant difference for homeless dogs in their municipality.
I noticed in the last online BOD meeting minutes for the society, that the society is considering their stand on Branches being able to contract services for their local animal control.   The subject has been made a priority on their strategic issues To Do list, so we can reasonably expect some interesting developments there.
The facts speak to how successfully Metro was able to transition away from their traditional contractual revenue source ... and that has cast the entire subject in a whole new light.
The point I am making in my meandering way is that many of the tools to improve Animal Control save rates already exist here in Nova Scotia.  We have the rescue and breed rescue groups.   Hard working TNR groups are springing up in every corner of the province.  Gosh darn we even have our very own Spay Day started!
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the holdup isn't the lack of compassion. It isn't the lack of enthusiasm. As with any other logistical goal, the biggest hurdle is the need to restructure existing assets.
Even if it would be wonderful to see all municipalities have their own Animal Care and Control Centers, here in the real budget world that might be more pipe dream than possibility.   Yet there are achievable objectives that would not create a fiscal burden:
  • have free lifetime licenses for altered and microchipped pets
  • change the cat at large bylaws which inhibit kind hearts from maintaining a managed feral cat colony
  • cease expensive fines for first time offenders
  • allow a volunteer run red flag system of social networking to save lives
  • post information about spay neuter and other responsible pet ownership subjects on all municipal websites
  • post petfinder featured adoptable pet widgets for Nova Scotia on all municipal websites
  • animal control pounds are all entitled to use petfinder.   To date only the Homeward Bound City Pound contractor has availed themselves of this service.   Free service, eh?
What time is it?   It is always time to recognise that No Kill Love 'can come to town' just by thinking outside the box.
When love comes to town,

I'm gonna jump that train
When love comes to town,
I'm gonna catch that flame
Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down,
But I did what I did before love came to town
When Love Comes to Town .... BB King

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