Monday, August 22, 2011

Keeping an eye on the ball ....

from this morning's Herald
Dog control officer too powerful, says shelter president

By BEVERLEY WARE South Shore Bureau
Mon, Aug 22 - 4:55 AM
BRIDGEWATER — Bridgewater’s animal control officer has too much power in deciding a dog’s fate, says the president of Lunenburg County’s animal shelter.
"The dog control officer, whoever he or she is, has a lot of power," Claudie Le Cam, president of Sheltering Helpless Animals in Distress Tree Shelter Society, said in an interview Sunday.
"They should do more of an investigation before deciding to put down a dog."
The Town of Bridgewater is reviewing its dog bylaw, which hasn’t been updated for 15 years, and council recently asked for input from the society, whose shelter goes by the acronym SHAID.
Le Cam said the society realizes the animal control officer has a difficult task.
"It’s a very tough job, a very stressful job, dealing with all kinds of people."
But she said the town needs to implement clear protocols when it comes to dealing with dog complaints.
"The dog control officer has too much power to do what they want."
When someone complains about an animal, there is little investigation, Le Cam said.
"If there’s a complaint about a person or a dog attack, they just need to call. They don’t investigate very much."
She said that leaves the process open to abuse by neighbours who don’t get along.
"They don’t go to the site, they don’t ask the owners of the dog what happened, they don’t ask the vet," Le Cam said, referring to the animal control officer.
"They should do more investigation."
She said the officer should provide a written public report explaining what happened when there was a complaint and investigation.
"Right now, we have no idea whether they have good reason (to put a dog down) or not. "
The shelter is not opposed to a dangerous or vicious dog being euthanized, Le Cam said.
"We have nothing against the dog control officer. . . . If they have to put down a dangerous dog, then they should do it."
Well then!  More bylaw revisions!  Why is this such a big deal?   Why should pet owners around the province care?
Isn't updating good?   Not necessarily!   All too often, animal control is viewed in a different light than other municipal obligations.
Politicians wouldn't dream of building a new bridge or connector lane without commissioning a feasibility study.   Engineers would be consulted!   Public input would be required!  Financial projections would be needed to determine budgetary implications!
In other words, politicians would listen to the experts before embarking on any change.  Normally.
Does this happen with animal control?   Not always!   The Yarmouth Town Council was prepared to ignore most of the input from the society when the notorious first draft of their new Dog Bylaw was so hastily clabbered together.   It took overwhelming public opposition to the first draft for the council to read the writing on the electorates wall.
Mind you, there have been a few bright spots this year.    After input from the society, the new Windsor Dog Bylaw includes the provision that "any dog that
has not been reclaimed after a period of seventy two hours, with the exception of Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays,  may be offered to the local SPCA for adoption"

That is a lifesaving measure that should be standard around the province, with of course the inclusion of access to all rescues and shelters,
One simple little word could also be altered ... if 'may' became 'must' it would offer even more protection, eh?
In my perfect fantasy world, all municipalities would be obliged to set up their own pounds ... in easily accessibly locations with hours conducive to promoting pet adoption.
Here in the real budgetary world, municipalities are going to take the more economical route of employing contractors.   So here is today's first what if.
What if someone simply had the sense to change the laws so that anyone providing contractual services for any Nova Scotia Municipality was obliged to provide publicly available statistics?
There is nothing wrong with municipalities taking the path they perceive to be the most economical.   Not in these times.  But there is something terribly wrong with allowing contracted wolf's work to hide behind the smokescreeen of sheep's clothing, eh?
Did you know that any municipality AC ( or its contractor) is able to have a Petfinder account where they can list all the pets in their charge?   You know of course, that this is a free, zero cost to the taxpayer service, right?
So today's second what if ....
What if all municipal AC's AND their contracted representatives were obligated by law to list all the pets in their charge?  ( and before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I know that Homeward Bound City Pound uses Petfinder ... as of this writing they are the ONLY ones who do )
Last but not least is the fact that all municipalities have websites.   So here is today's third what if...
What if all municipalities were required to post two petfinder widgets on the municipal website ... one for found pets with pictures and one for adoptable pets?
Three what if's that could have a big whammy without big budget implications!
Taken in tandem with Ms Le Cam's suggestion for more transparency ... these three what ifs could save a lot of lives.  Why should councillors pay attention?  Can't they keep doing the same old same old?  
Public opinion is shifting when it comes to the animals.  PJ's Pets and Pets Unlimited did not stop selling puppies because they woke up one morning and realized how horrible that was!  Why did they stop? 
Straight, sweet and simple .. they stopped selling puppies because public opinion has shifted.  Because it is bad business practice to be an adversarial position with one's customers, eh?
We are lucky enough to have live in a democracy all our lives ... and so we often forget the one thing that elected politicians always remember.   We 'hired' them and we can 'fire' them. 
What time is it?   It is always time to let our elected officials know that we have our eye on the ball!

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