Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to put a little love in your heart ...

It was a nailbiting showstopper that would rival anything this season could offer on the big or small screen!   From the first heartstopping facebook post on Saturday about a little dog running across the bridge to Dartmouth ... to the heartache of seeing an adoptable ARC dog listed on the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network .... straight through to the heartbreaking discovery that last night Sasha had been struck by a car!
To quote her foster Mum ...  Sasha really is a little miracle!   In true terrier style, this amazing little dog has been holding at stable since she was rushed to the emerg clinic last night!  
Mind you, this story might have had a completely different outcome if Sasha had not been microchipped!  Without the surety that someone would be able to step up for the vet bill ... when she had been so very badly injured ....  this morning Sasha might have been sleeping with the angels:(
Does this mean that ARC is dripping in riches?  That they have a special fund for sudden emergencies?  Of course not!  
Sasha has done her bit!  The little dog that her foster Mum calls Little Miss Busy Bee has fought like a warrior to stay stable.  That same determined spirit that has stood Sasha in good stead since she was rescued will come in pretty darned handy in the days ahead!
There has been a LOT for Sasha to learn since she was rescued!   In true terrier smartypants style, she has settled into domestic bliss like an old pro.   That same strength of spirit that gives her wings at the beach will stand her in good stead now!
Sasha was stabilized last night and shows every chance of making a full recovery.  It will not be easy and it will not be quick.   Nor will it be cheap.  If you would like to help with this journey, please CLICK HERE
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that 100% of all donations to rescues like ARC that are entirely powered by volunteer love go straight "to the dogs".   Even better, ARC has been around long enough that they have CRA status and can offer the ever so helpful tax receipt for next year.
Best of all of course is that there are rarely such easy and effortless opportunities where one can really help to save a good dog's life!
You see its getting late oh please don't hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
Jackie De Shannon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Urgent .... the LA Shelter could use your help!

I love the kind hearts at the Lillian Albon Shelter in Amherst!  Back when I was doing the research to start the homeless pet project properly, they were one of the few groups around who were genuinely No Kill.    
Time has always been relative for them .... adoptables have always been kept in safe hands for however many weeks or months that it took for their kindred spirit to find them.
Even better ... in my books ;) ... at a time when pets over five often got the short end of the long needle ... the LA Shelter never hesitated to take seniors.
Best of all of course is that they have never defined healthy and treatable by the dollar sign.
Crumpet is only twelve weeks old but has already had a very eventful life!  When this beautiful little dog was brought to the vet with a broken leg, her family discovered that they could not afford her treatment!
The short version of this story is that Crumpet was surrendered to the kind hearts at the Lillian Albon Shelter.    When the vet was unable to save her little leg, it had to be amputated.
The good news is that she is a dog and so is not going to have any of our human hangups about being handicapped.  Anyone who has ever lived with a 'tripod' can tell you how quickly they adapt and adjust, eh?
The good news is that Crumpet is an adorable and affectionate little pup who still has so much to offer!
The bad news is that the shelter now has to look for help with a fairly substantial vet bill!  What time is it?   It is always time to support the groups that always pull out all the stops for the adoptables in their care .... so that they will be able to continue such wonderful lifesaving work!  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Time to stop trying to make a silk purse out of a corporate sows ear

From today's Herald.
Kijiji pledges to help prevent puppy mills from doing business
January 26, 2012 - 4:35am By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau
Never buy a dog in a parking lot, online ad says

Susan Clark takes part in a protest May 15, 2010, in downtown Halifax against puppy broker Gail Benoit, who has been convicted of animal cruelty and is alleged to be still selling puppies in the province. (TED PRITCHARD / Staff) Buying a pet from an online classified ad can be risky business — at least in this province.

At Kijiji.ca, they are working to eradicate suspicious ads that offer parking lot puppies.
"We rely on our users to . . . let us know of any ads that they’ve come across that may be questionable," said Shawn McIntyre, Kijiji’s community relations manager.
Kijiji uses an array of sophisticated tools to filter ads but still needs public input about things they might not be aware of, McIntyre said Wednesday from the popular website’s head office in Toronto.
In Nova Scotia, the sale of dogs, particularly puppies, on websites like Kijiji has often resulted in complaints to the SPCA.
"We have a great working relationship with (the SPCA). They let us know if anything comes up that we need to be aware of that may involve Kijiji," said McIntyre.
Earlier this month, Eileen Jay saw a Kijiji ad offering a puppy she wanted to purchase. A Nova Scotia woman was selling a bichon frise puppy.
Jay called about the advertised dog and talked about how they could get it to her on Prince Edward Island.
The seller, who identified herself simply as Ashley, would not make the drive.
"Then she wanted me to Western Union her over (some) money and I said, ‘I can’t. . . . I don’t know you,’ " said Jay.
"And my family was saying, ‘Look out. This could be a Gail Benoit.’ "
"I didn’t even know who she was," Jay said of Benoit, a Digby-area resident convicted in 2009 of selling sick puppies. Benoit was found guilty of animal cruelty and assault charges stemming from a 2007 seizure of pups from her home.
The puppy seller continued to call Jay, seeking money and locations to meet. They finally settled on a Halifax location.
"She wanted me to pay $150 for delivery and $650 for the puppy," said Jay.
The seller blocked her phone number so it appeared as unknown on Jay’s caller ID, except for one time.
"She called me . . . about 25 times," Jay said about the persistent Nova Scotian.
"She failed to block out one (call) and it came right up as . . . Gail Benoit."
A woman who answered the Digby phone number Wednesday, responding to the name Gail, said, "I don’t think so," when asked if she was selling pups on Kijiji.
Jay quickly decided to miss the Halifax rendezvous.
She said the puppy seller called a few more times to leave some rather nasty messages but eventually stopped.
Jay said she learned a lesson.
"Don’t ever agree to meet anybody anywhere but their home."
People may contact Kijiji through a flagging system to notify it of ads that may be suspect.
"We do have a code of conduct on our website when it comes to the pets category that clearly outlines what we consider to be an unethical pet reseller," said McIntyre.
The Nova Scotia SPCA had a lot of input in helping Kijiji write its pets-for-sale code, he said.
"We filter (ads) to look for things that may sort of indicate that an ad is too good to be true. If an animal is drastically under-priced or doesn’t have a lot of information, we will ask questions and we expect our users to do the same."
McIntyre said details about a dog’s lineage are important.
"We want our users to provide as much information as possible and use clear images of where the animals are kept so that when users view these ads on Kijiji they can make a decision based on that."
He said Kijiji strongly advises against anyone meeting in a parking lot to buy a dog.
"That is obviously a red flag for us."
No one has begun legal action against Kijiji with respect to an ad, said McIntyre.
"It’s something obviously that we’re . . . always going to be concerned with. It’s not something that has come up, however."
In some cases, Kijiji can remove a questionable pet ad within minutes of it being posted. And going to the library to post an ad so a blacklisted home computer won’t show up is of no help.
"We can find you no matter what," said McIntyre
The sale of puppies from parking lots continues however, said Scott Saunders, a Nova Scotia animal welfare advocate.
A transaction was attempted this month near Middleton, off Highway 101, he said. Someone suspicious of the seller bailed out and contacted Saunders, he said Wednesday.
"They don’t know what they’re getting into," he said.
"People go, they meet in a parking lot, they pick up a puppy that they’ve done no research on whatsoever."
Well then!  If there is one thing that I can say with surety after thirty odd years of earning my daily bread in a kitchen, it is that trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear is simply a pipe dream!
Shortbread cookies do not taste the same when they are made without butter.   Organic vegetables really DO taste better.   And the best thing that can be said about frozen pizza dough is that its quality is outweighed by the cost!
Kijiji has been dancing as fast as it can for years to justify the traffic of living breathing sentient beings in the unsupervised environment of their free online ads.  
When Kijiji first set up shop seven years ago, animal advocates begged the company not to allow the traffic of living animals.  One would think they were standing on solid ground to ask, seeing as Kijiji's  parent company EBay has never permitted the practice, eh?
I know that I have flip flopped on this issue a bit.  At first, I was all full of angst about the ads providing a thin veneer of respectability to the unscrupulous sorts who take advantage of kind hearts looking for a pet.  I was horrified when Petfinder partnered with Kijiji to promote its adoptables!
For a brief and shining moment, I almost bought into the justification for all that.  The competition for market share.  Access to a popular market base.   Best of all was the bit offering all the respectable info about rehoming and adoption.
Sadly, as a friend of mine said this morning "people only see what they want to see"    Just before Christmas, there was another well publicized article about Kijiji selling pets.  A Nova Scotia woman had been horrified when her new puppy passed away !     She had been concerned by the condition that the puppy was housed in, but still brought him home anyway in spite of the cautionary "rehoming and adoption tab" that is now a standard part of ads selling pets now.   ( The testy topic of why the 'free to a good home' ads are not afforded the same protections is a sticky subject that will have a post of its own one of these days, eh? )
She had also been posting a warning ad on Kijiji. Not to be mean, but when one followed the links back to the original ad, there it was in big bold red letter that "this pet should not be rehomed until 30-Dec-11"
The point I am making in my meandering way is that 'self regulation' never, ever works.    Putting the meat processing industry on the honor system resulted in a horrific outbreak of listeria.   If the RCMP stopped doing spot checks for seatbelts and such, it would take no time at all for alcohol related accident statistics to soar.
There is only one single simple solution to this problem!    Kijiji can follow in the shoes of its parent company and stop allowing ads for live animals.  Period.
Lets face it .... for every Petfinder adoptable whose ship comes in through Kijiji, there are many more ad listings that make more work for rescue.   The Petfinder Partnership is just a pretty window dressing to cover up the seamy underside of the free online ad sites.  They do not make their money from the ads ... it is the traffic that generates their revenue!
All the Petfinder partnership does is provide that thin veneer of respectability to unsupervised situations instead of addressing the actual problem!   The only meaningful pledge that Kjiji could make is the one single one that they refuse to entertain ... .stopping the practice of allowing the ads for living animals!
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that the way ahead for the animals will only ever be paved by strong voter feedback.   Here in the real world, where "caring about the animals" is never going to be part of any corporate mission statement, it is time to remind our MLA's that the only solution will be a private member's bill to ban the traffic of living, breathing sentient beings in all the free online ad sites!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A beautiful Happy Tail looking for a place to happen !

What a joy to be able to safely go wherever we want in the woods this morning!   Last night's balmy mist put paid to the rest of the ice on the trails, so we were even able to climb up to the ridge .... which is normally a very rare treat in January.
Miss Ruby is more than my heart ... she is my undisputed deputy .. the firm paw in the velvet boot :)  Why is my undisputed right hand dog?  Is it that she is a girl?  Does all the shep in her family tree make her smarter than the average bear? 
For whatever reason, I would not trade my girl for anything!  She is my 86 pound teddy bear at night and my constant joy by day.
Anna reminds me a lot of Miss Ruby.   She is beautiful and gentle and settled into domestic bliss like an old pro.   This low key girl is marvelous with other dogs ... although there has been no opportunity in her foster home to be sure about the cat thing.  But hey .. every second sentence out of my mouth the first month Miss Ruby was here was 'Leave those cats alone, Missy!'
Does she look familiar?  She should!  Anna was one of the dogs from up North that hitchhiked back to Nova Scotia with DART NS.  
No question about it, Anna is a smartypants!    When the DART NS team was loading up the dogs coming back to East Coast German Shepherd Rescue, Anna was quick to recognize an opportunity for a better life.   She hopped right in the truck ..... and the short version of that story is that the Band Chief gave her his blessing!
What a clever girl!  The only surprise to this story is that somehow she is still waiting for her ship to come in!  Who would have imagined that this gentle and laid back lovely would still be waiting for her own lucky day.
To be perfectly honest ..... one could almost envy the beautiful journey waiting for the kind heart wise enough to appreciate what others have overlooked!
What time is it?  It is time for everyone to put on their thinking caps and help this lovely laid back gal connect with the lucky kindred spirit who will say 'you are THE one'!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cutting to the heart of the matter

Preliminary Report: Cape Breton Branch, Nova Scotia SPCA

Date: January 23, 2012
Contributions: Neil Fraser (Chief Provincial Investigator), Steve Hector (Special Constable, OSH Supervisor), Dr. Lesley Steele (Chief Provincial Veterinary), Sandra Flemming (Director of Animal Care), Kristin Williams (Executive Director)
The Nova Scotia SPCA has temporary custody and control of the shelter in Sydney, following the successful injunction order motion on Thursday, January 19, 2012.
Since that time, the Society has undertaken a number of audits and assessments to determine the health of the animals and the safety of the building. These have included regulatory and animal care assessments as outlined by the Animal Protection Act, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. An Occupational Health and Safety audit is also being conducted to determine safety hazards and necessary infrastructural renewal. The findings will provide a baseline and inform short- and long-term priorities for improvement.
Dr. Lesley Steele, the Chief Provincial Veterinarian, has also examined all animals in the facility and contributed her observations and recommendations. As a result of the preliminary findings, the shelter will be closed to all intake starting immediately, with the exception of animal control.
This decision has been made because of the number of sick animals in the building, the extensive infrastructure deficiencies and the lack of available trained staff. Among the medical issues in the shelter are two confirmed Parvo cases, and approximately 50% of the general population requiring treatment for parasites, fleas and mites. There is also incidence of lice. All animals are receiving quality medical treatment and adoptions will still be facilitated where circumstances permit.
1. Animal Care Shelter Audit
An animal care shelter audit was conducted, based on the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters(http://oacu.od.nih.gov/disaster/ShelterGuide.pdf) and the Society’s provincial policies (http://www.spcans.ca/documents/about/POL_manifest_201111.pdf). These standards are considered industry best practices for the operation of an animal shelter. This assessment was completed by Sandra Flemming, with input and recommendations by Dr. Lesley Steele (hard copy available upon request) and was completed between January 19 and 22, 2012.
The following concerns were noted:
  • There is no process established for animal flow, medical care, adoptions, intake, cleaning or disease control.
  • Limited information was on hand for most animals (no intake dates, descriptions were inadequate, limited medical information noted, along with some conflicting information noted).
  • Medical and health information is still not organized and easy to find or understand. There is little to no comprehensive information on the vast majority of cats. Cats in the free roaming cat room have so little information to identify them that Dr. Steele and PAS Staff were not able to determine which animal belonged to which record.
  • Cats continue to have no detailed records of their intake vaccine and parasite treatment, nor have had weights taken for accuracy. There are cats that have been there for up to 10 months that have not been seen by a vet.
  • In at least 5 cases, cats have been improperly sexed. Cats in the common cat rooms have intake cards that have a question mark in the “sex” category. This means that there are unneutered and unspayed females mixing together, and free roaming.
  • Many cats lack muscle mass and have week back legs resulting from inadequate exercise and the inability to move naturally in small kennels. Much of the cat caging is too small for the humane caging of adult cats.
  • Cats and Dogs may have received their initial vaccine and deworming treatment, but have not received any additional updates for deworming or flea treatments. Nearly every cat examined by Dr. Steele has severe ear mites, with many also having fleas and at least one confirmed case of lice. All of these animals were currently on the adoption floors being handled by both volunteers and the public. 
  • Two cats (one pregnant) were so congested from upper respiratory infections that neither were able to swallow and Dr. Steele was unable to medicate. These cats were in the general population cat rooms and should have been isolated and treated immediately.
  • Intake had pregnant and sick kittens and cats housed together.
  • Intakes are being regularly done on dogs, only because it has been tasked to Animal Control officers as part of their job.
  • Dog (Betsy), senior (approx. 12 years old) is so crippled with arthritis that she struggles to stand up and even sit without swinging her hips to the side. This dog is not under any pain management and up until we placed her in the manager’s office was living and sleeping on the floor in the main dog room on concrete as she cannot climb onto a bed. It is our understanding that she has been at the facility twice for long term stays in excess of several months.
  • Confirmed cases of Parvo in the building. A dog was taken to a vet clinic prior to our arrival, and was not tested for Parvo (we were told it was because the dog did not produce a fecal, although it is clearly acceptable and indeed more accurate to perform a test rectally). A rectal test was performed by Dr. Steele with the dog coming back as high positive. It is currently at the vet’s receiving treatment. The entire dog room has been exposed and a second case was confirmed.
  • Recent changes include the moving of the washer and dryer to another area of the building, which based on the new location, could result in more cross contamination. Additional improvements include one cat scale (that does not work properly), a dog scale, new sinks, two new cupboards in one cat room and the use of provincial policy intake sheets for use on dogs only.
  • They still do not have communication binders or whiteboards to share information concerning the status of animals.
  • There is no documentation in the building that is easy to understand or is complete. This includes staff schedules, payroll information in addition to animal care statistics.
  • Animal Control staff were allowed to keep their vehicles at home. One officer has been able to retain their vehicle while off on sick leave for several weeks.
  • Animal Control staff were permitted to perform euthanasia in the field versus taking an animal to a vet to be properly assessed.
  • Based on the scope of the operations, 4 animal care staff trained at the current level is insufficient for this facility. We will be increasing the staffing to 5 fulltime animal care staff with improved training and oversight.
  • Staff have been inadequately trained and the majority of staff have not shown up for work (3 of 4 animal care workers). The staff member that did show up demonstrated an inaptitude for cleaning protocols and a lack of confidence for administering vaccinations. She stated that staff have limited to no medical experience and to do not know basic animal care procedures, such as drawing blood, forcing feeding and administering subcutaneous fluids.
  • The staff were also unable to identify basic ailments such as mites and no daily health checks were being performed. Improper or insufficient vaccination protocols were also being employed.
  • Most rooms were filthy. Some doors do not reach the floor which permits for disease spread. It also results in cats being exposed to barking dogs which intensifies stress. The noise level is unacceptable and inhumane for the cats.
The deficiencies of the physical infrastructure are too extensive to completely detail, but include the following:

  • Exposed wires hanging from electrical outlets
  • Huge holes in the walls in areas of the building that show no signs of having been repaired
  • Dog kennels still have extremely degraded and porous surfaces
  • No working dishwasher in the building to help sanitize toys and bowls
  • Limited heat in main dog room and cat intake (highest temperature reached is 55 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Wood shelving units continue to be used everywhere in the building which present an opportunity to spread disease as it cannot be cleaned
  • The vast majority of overhead lighting has no covering over lighting fixtures.

There is not a single area of the shelter that is functioning properly. The facility requires:

  • More highly skilled and trained animal care workers
  • A more robust volunteer and foster program and an active transport program to alleviate intake pressures
  • A veterinary partnership to improve medical care with a vet visiting weekly who is also available for emergencies and providing spay/neuter surgeries
  • Significant improvements in infrastructure2. Regulatory Inspection

    A regulatory audit based on the Animal Protection Act (http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/legc/PDFs/annual%20statutes/2008%20Fall/c033.pdf) and the Society’s published standards of care (http://spcans.ca/documents/WP_standards-care_20100929.pdf) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Associations’ A Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations (http://canadianveterinarians.net/Documents/Resources/Files/93_Kennel%20Code%20(ENTIRE)%20July%202007.pdf) , was conducted by Neil Fraser on Thursday, January 19, 2012 (hard copy available upon request with accompanying photos). The APA does not have regulations. In the absence of regulations which would specifically identify requirements for the keeping and handling of animals, the Society is empowered to draft such standards. These standards are used to asses for animal protection issues, but are considered minimum in scope.
    The following concerns were noted:

    • Ventilation needs improvement (incorrect filters, required cleaning).
    • Carpeted flooring requires replacing (can hold bacteria and disease and can be tracked to other areas of the facility)
    • The hot water tank is leaking and area is extremely dirty (unacceptable).
    • Cat cages provide newspaper only (needs improvement).
    • Most animals not provided with toys (needs improvement).
    • Many enclosures are too small with multiple cats residing (needs improvement).
    • Walls and floors need cleaning (needs improvement).
    • Cat play areas have untreated surfaces that need to be sealed/painted to protect against the spread of disease (needs improvement).
    • Some floors and surfaces are porous and require sealing/painting (needs improvement).
    • Dog enclosures: bent with sharp edges and openings on doors on kennels. Many kennels had feces present at the time of inspection. The exercise area is not used frequently and gates were frozen open in the snow. Large dogs were in small kennels and small dogs in large kennels. Resurfacing of kennels required and open trough areas need to be covered or sealed to prevent the spread of disease.
    • Cat enclosures: multiple cats and large cats housed in small enclosures, with other kennels remaining empty. Kennel cards and identification missing for some cats. Considerable feces noted at times of inspection. Many cats not provided with sufficient space to move naturally.
    The shelter is extremely dirty and requires major cleaning and painting to seal porous areas.  There are no bleach mats in any areas of the building. The conditions provide for a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.  There is no logical flow to the building for intake, examination, isolation and adoption. There is exposed electrical wiring, the HVAC system, furnace and hot water tank need repairs. The dryer is venting into a cat carrier inside the facility. There is a large fenced area for exercise of the animals but it is only divided into two spaces, which should be improved to facilitate greater turn out time for more dogs. Cats noted sneezing heavily in general population rooms. Certain areas of the shelter are very cold.  Lack of documentation for many animals.

    3. Occupational Health and Safety Audit
    An Occupation Health and Safety Audit, based on provincial policies (hard copy available upon request) was conducted by Special Constable and OHS Supervisor, Steve Hector on January 19 and 20, 2012 (hard copy available upon request with accompanying photos).
    The following concerns were noted:
    •  No bleach mats noted.
    • Loose material and debris noted.
    • Dirty, dusty surfaces and floors.
    • Fire equipment - needs to be inspected and more installed.
    • Emergency generator should be tested weekly.
    • Walls and surfaces require repair.
    • Stainless steel surfaces lacking.
    • Vents and fans need to be cleaned (air exchanger).
    • Some proper storage lacking.
    • Light bulbs need to be replaced (some missing), entrance needs light.
    • Clean laundry should be stored separately.
    • Holes in walls and exposed electrical wires and switches with considerable dust and hair.
    • Oil tank and hot water tank are leaking and room is extremely dirty.
    • Many spaces need to be organized and cleaned.
    • Dog feces around property that needs to be picked up.
    • Unused oil tank is half full of oil.
    OHS officer at the shelter has not shown physical hazards to employees or shared policies to read. Policies are not posted in an area accessible to all employees. Employees have been warned to wear proper footwear on several occasions. Employees are not knowledgeable of chemicals being used. Containers missing proper labels and safety equipment available, but not used consistently.
    The Society is undertaking immediate recommended improvements. These improvements will take place over a 4 to 6 week period, though much is already underway. A budget estimate of at least $50,000 is anticipated, which presumes that some supplies and services can be donated.
    1. Starting next week, weekly vet visits will begin at the shelter. A veterinary partnership is being established to provide ongoing support, training, emergency access, and spay/neuter services.
    2. Animal care training will be offered to all animal care staff in addition to mentorship through the Provincial Animal Shelter and Dr. Lesley Steele. Basic requirements will include introduction to policy and procedures,administration of medications, vaccinations, subcutaneous fluids, drawing blood and force feedings.
    3. All animals have been provided with a medical plan and a course of treatment.
    4. The shelter has been depopulated to approximately half of its usual capacity by removing 35 cats and 12 dogs, with an additional 28 cats and 12 dogs leaving this week. The transports are comprised of requests for intake and a portion of the current shelter population.
    5. Proper protocols are being implemented for intake to include vaccination, flea treatment, deworming, weight, vet check, surgery and adoption information.
    6. A standard sick protocol is being established to address isolation, medication and health monitoring.
    7. Standardized record keeping is being created using the Society’s contracted PetPoint system database.
    8. The installation of 4 new runs (to increase to 6 turn out areas) is being completed to improve access to exercise areas and ease with cleaning.
    9. Three new cat adoption rooms will be created in the former board room, which will be gutted. A minimum of three banks of 9 cat kennels require immediate purchasing. Common areas will be terminated because of therisk to spread disease.
    10. Kittens will be fostered or transported until they can have surgery.
    11. The furnace has been repaired and repairs for the HVAC system and hot water tank are scheduled.
    12. Substantial painting is planned and being scheduled.
    13. De-cluttering and cleaning efforts continue.
    14. Installation of new shelving and cabinetry is planned along with the installation of stainless steel work stations.
    15. A new dishwasher will be installed to assist with disinfecting toys and bowls.
    16. The washer and dryer and laundry area will be moved and reinstalled in a more suitable and safe location.
    17. Temporary intake and isolation have been created and a proper and logical animal flow is being investigated.
    18. Electrical repairs have been made and repairs to walls are planned.
    19. Safety hazards have been identified and are being addressed.
    20. A temperament testing protocol for dogs has been introduced along with new protocols for intake and dailyhealth checks. Dogs are now receiving regular turn out time and walks and cats are being actively socialized.
    21. The resurfacing of kennels and improvements to the draining system is being investigated.
    22. All policies will be posted including OHS policies. All staff will sign off on policies and the Society’s code of conduct.
    These comprise the most immediate plans and efforts, but this list is not exhaustive. The situation is dynamic and will be evaluated again in the coming weeks. Hiring for new staff and recruitment for a new board of directors has been in the works for several weeks. New staff have been hired and a new local board of directors is being appointed. The new board will be announced next week.
    Prepared by:
    Kristin Williams
    Executive Director
    Nova Scotia SPCA
    (902) 835-4798 x 228
    Well then!   One can only wonder if this was why the supporters of the dismissed shelter manager and the disbanded board were so sure that the Sydney shelter would be closed to intake in the hands of the society?
    Deep down, did they already know that everything actually was not 'hunky dory'?  That perhaps the absence of proper shelter protocols might not be a source of 'local' pride?
    Did they remember all the times that parvo proved to be a death sentence for every puppy in the shelter?  
    Did any of them ever have nightmares about the horrible home made gas chamber?
    At the end of the day, this more comprehensive audit only amplified what sheltering professionals and psychologists have known all along ... that when hearts become hardened to working in a high kill environment it is difficult if damn near impossible to take pride in any aspect of the operation at all!
    But I sincerely hope that now .... at long last ... I am done with nattering on about the horrific high kill Sydney Shelter!
    Almost, that is!   It would be inappropriate to discuss the shelter being temporarily closed to intake without talking about the past.  At the end of the day, things would not be in this state if everything had been properly run in the past.
    Straight sweet and simple ... supporters of the old guard should stand in front a mirror when they are pointing fingers.  
    It was not the new ED who neglected the animals and failed to keep up with the times.  
    It was not the provincial board (who were working to set the society on the New Path that its own membership demanded) who hoarded money in the shelter bank account instead of providing proper vet care!
    Which of course begs another very interesting question.   Where is that bank account now?   If the required changes will need a minimum budget of $50,000 ... would that hundred thousand and some not come in very handy?
    Where IS that money, now that it is needed?  The one thing that noone is talking about is who has custody of that bank account!
    Which leads of course to all sorts of incredibly interesting speculation! Is it still in the hands of the disbanded board?  The dismissed shelter manager?  Perhaps it was frittered away on legal bills?
    Or has it simply not been surrendered because even the most partisan are aware that it would not stand up to a forensic audit?
    But I am wandering afield as I often do in my meandering way.   Right here, right now let us talk about the other elephant in the room.   What other rescue options are there for the animals in Cape Breton while the Sydney shelter is being brought up to speed?
    Four to six weeks might not sound like a long time.   What does it mean in realspeak?  While the accuracy of last years stats has been called into question, before the branch was expected to be No Kill they were admitting to an average annual intake of nearly 4000 animals a year.  
    AC intake was not being tracked in publicly available online stats until 2010.  Seeing as this was the same year that the Sydney shelter magically achieved the mind boggling live release rate of 76%, it may be questionable how accurate the 32% AC intake number is.
    For the sake of argument, lets say the percentage is true.   If so, there were an average of 52 owner surrenders a week.   In realspeak, if one multiplies that number even just by four, one is looking at over two hundred animals.
    What are the other adoption options on the island?  
    • Like every other TNR group, CBFSS is already working with the next generations .. the descendants of the unaltered abandoned stray and street cats.  Even if they had the funding and the foster space, that's not part of the very valuable and life saving service that the hardworking TNR groups provide.
    • Rocking Horse Ranch in Baddeck has their own mandate and are, by all reports, already full
    • The newly formed Arms Wide Open street cat rescue has a relationship with the society and may be able to rescue stray cats if they can be transported to Metro... but they already look like they are dancing as fast as they can. 
    In other words ... for the time being the best option for the animals who would normally be surrendered to the shelter is going to be all the wonderful little rescues around the province.   Does this mean that they have just been waiting around for this lucky day when they can step up?  That they will all have fosters free?  Resources to rescue more?
    Of course not!   As always ... practical support is the key to everything!  It will take practical support for the society to set the Sydney shelter on the right path.   In the absence of the much touted well padded bank balance, it will take a LOT of practical support!
    In realspeak, if rescues around the province are going to be able to help pick up the slack .. it will ALSO take practical support.   Fosters!  Donations!  Dog walkers!  Transporters!
    Most of the kind hearts who started as volunteer cat cuddlers after Celtic Pets carried on fostering afterwards.  Many are actively engaged in some aspect of animal rescue to this day.
    More importantly, their collective experience was instrumental in the community consciousness raising that ultimately fashioned a new future for the society.
    What time is it?   It is always time to remember that it will be the relationships that are forged in times like these that will actually get us to No Kill Nova Scotia.
    Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold - but so does a hard-boiled egg.  Source Unknown

Its Feline February at the Yarmouth SPCA!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The best way to set a fire ....

I love my kitchen!   All those years of moving around did double duty ... 'seeing the world and meeting new people' also offered the opportunity to 'test drive' every imaginable kitchen under the sun.
That came in pretty darned handy when I was designing my retirement home! 
Finally I have a place for everything!  There is plenty of space for pickling and baking ... for candy making and chocolates ... and even a spot to cool cookies out of counter surfing reach :)
Best of all, it is so familiar and comfortable I could get up in the middle of the night for a glass of milk without turning on a light!
Sadly, it is there is nothing simple or straightforward for kind hearts trying to navigate the animal cruelty laws in this country.   At the federal level are the antiquated provisions in the Criminal Code that have resisted every effort to improve.  Some bills have fallen by the wayside through a combination of poor luck and bad timing ... but at the end of the day there is a general indifference to animal welfare issues by our MP's. 
Why?   Because of course animals cannot vote and until those who CAN vote put sustained pressure on their Members of Parliament that situation will continue. 
The latest effort, Bill C-277 was introduced on Sept 19th, 2011 by Liberal MP Hedy Fry and has yet to get past the first reading :(  Tough on crime bills have galloped through licketdy split since then, but the animals are still waiting.
To further muddy the waters, provincial animal cruelty laws create their own multiverse.   Lately I have noticed for instance that there have been many facebook comments on shared versions of the latest Puppy Mill bust in New Brunswick.   Kind hearts have been crying that there 'oughta be a law'... without recognizing that it is the new law in NB has has actually enabled the NB SPCA to charge the worst of their offenders.
Why the "new" law in NB and not here in our province?  Do New Brunswick's MLA's care more about the animals than our own?  Of course not!   The 'new law' was introduced after a flurry of outraged campaigning by animal lovers horrified to discover that even killing little dogs with a hammer couldn't garner the defendant even a bit of jail time :(
As always, the way ahead for the animals will only ever be paved with strong voter feedback!  Here in NS, our Agriculture Minister has no motivation to have his legal beagles draft better regulations for our Animal Protection Act.
More specific minimum housing standards and licensing requirements for all breeders would simplify the work that the society is mandated to do.  Until such time as such regulations are written, we will continue to see people like Gail Benoit peddling puppies in the free online ad sites and in local facebook marketplace groups. 
Inspectors will continue to be made foolish in the public eyes when they cannot remove chained and penned dogs even after repeated complaints.  As long as there is food and water when the inspector shows up, they can only continue to "educate" instead of actually being able to "enforce".
The third level of course is the municipal level ... where the nuts and bolts bits of everyday animal legislation exists.   It is where municipalities define what is and is not acceptable behavior for pets in their jurisdiction.
Animal advocates are wisely trying to work at this level for anti tethering bylaws to create safer and healthier communities.  The only constant in this province is that there is NO constant.
I buy a license for my dogs every year because I live in Kings County.  If I lived two km away in Annapolis County, I would only need to buy one license per dog per lifetime.  If I moved in Guysborough or Richmond Counties, I would not be allowed to bring Henry with me. 
It is no wonder kind hearts get confused when they fall down this rabbit hole!
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that animals cannot vote and they depend on those of us who can to speak on their behalf!
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.   Samuel Adams

Friday, January 20, 2012

In praise of some badly needed sanity

I must confess that it was really rather lovely to watch the oil trucks running up and down the road while I was bringing wood in this morning!  This bitter weather makes for busy days for the drivers  ... and worrisome ones for those who never imagined the cost of keeping warm could rival their mortgage payment!
At this time of year, my friends never tire of telling me how lucky I am to have wood heat.    They conveniently forget that all that lovely wood had to be stacked in the same summer heat that sent them over to the shore!  
No question about it ... wood heat is work!   By the time I put a good dry piece of wood in the stove, it has already been in my hand at least six times.  This does not even include all the other heavy lifting.   There were no leprechauns to lift the heavy tarps on rainy days.  There is no maid here to take care of the extra vacuuming and dusting!  
So why go to all that bother?  Besides the obvious bit that even though the price has crept up, it is still significantly more affordable that oil?   Setting aside the lovely secure feeling of knowing that we will be always be warm and snug when storms knock out the grid?
Why?   For the fringe benefits of course!  Without the comfort of wood heat, odds are that I would be on the same merry go round of meds that so many my age are on!   Without all that hard work, who knows how much harm my not so humble culinary skills could do to my health?
In other words ... as with anything else in life ... the best bits are always the ones we have to work for.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a happy ending.   Responsible pet owners understand that noone is going to train the cute puppy for them!   Couples celebrating milestone anniversaries could often give lessons in negotiating skills!
Here in the real world, the interim injunction represents the opportunity for effect long overdue change!  To paraphrase Thomas Edison, folks often do not recognize opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work!
What time is it?  It is time to understand that the years of wishing and wanting to see change at the highest kill shelter in the province are over.   The time for complaining is over .... now it is time to provide practical support.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and looking for different results.  Albert Einstein
from The Cape Breton SPCA Branch website
Update from Nova Scotia SPCA Executive Director

January 20, 2012
On January 19, 2012, the Nova Scotia SPCA was awarded an injunction to gain control of the shelter in Sydney. We are pleased to have the opportunity to access the shelter and implement improved standards of care. We also look forward to further assessing the facility and level of care to determine what needs to be addressed. Our focus is to create a positive, healthy and compassionate environment for animals and one in which the community at large wants to participate in.
We do have concerns that we have noted already regarding animal care and safety, but are reserving further comment until we can complete a more thorough review. We are in the midst of completing several audits which began immediately when we arrived at the shelter on Thursday. One is a regulatory inspection based on minimum kennel standards as set out by the Animal Protection Act and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. The second is a health and safety inspection which will review the shelter's infrastructure and highlight occupational hazards and related concerns. The third is an animal care audit based guidelines set put by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, which we not only consider industry standards, but also serves as SPCA provincial policy. These reviews will help us plot a course of action and determine priorities.
The SPCA's chief provincial vet will be at the shelter on Sunday to examine the animals. She will also be assisting us with forming a long term veterinary partnership for the shelter and providing critical training for staff.
A full financial audit will also be conducted and a review of current assets. If necessary, the Provincial Society will support and facilitate infrastructure changes deemed necessary, but there is concern about available resources at the local level. A wish list will be posted on line shortly and we thank the community in advance for any assistance they may be able to offer.
The Society will also be speaking with CBRM and discussing the animal control contract and delivery of service and expectations. We would anticipate being able to continue to meet the demand for service in the interim.
The staff, save the former shelter manager, will have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can meet the new standards that we set. We will be evaluating skills and attitude. There are currently four animal care workers and three animal control workers. Provincial staff will continue to have a full time presence at the shelter until such time as we are certain the facility is functioning properly and can be managed by a new shelter manager and board of directors.
We are going to be starting interviews for board candidates and a new shelter manager shortly. We have several qualified applicants.
We understand that this has been an emotional issue for many. We appreciate the public's support, which has served to strengthen our resolve in the process.
The full application to the court is still ahead, which will confirm our legal authority as set out by the Act. We are also open to other remedies that may be achieved outside of the court providing the results are the same.Thank you

Thank you
Kristin Williams
Executive Director
Nova Scotia SPCA

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It IS a red letter day!

From today's Cape Breton Post
Judge grants injunction to provincial SPCA
Published on January 19, 2012

SYDNEY — Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick Murray has ruled in favour of the provincial SPCA, granting an injunction against its former branch.In November, the Nova Scotia SPCA moved to dissolve the Cape Breton branch and fire the shelter manager. However, up until now, the local board has refused to vacate the shelter located at 401 East Broadway and renamed itself the Cape Breton Humane Society.

The provincial branch filed an injunction application and testimony was heard over several days at the Sydney Justice Centre, leading to today's decision.
The Nova Scotia SPCA will now have interim control of operations at the animal shelter.
Well then!   Even on this bitter cold day, this is news to warm the heart!   Like the rest of the animal loving community in this province, I have been at sixes and sevens all day waiting to hear news of the verdict!  
Does these mean it is all happy days from here on in?  Hardly!   There is still the strong possibility of a full blown trial waiting in the wings.   In the more immediate moment, there is a lions share of work to catch up on thirty four years of indifference and neglect.
But right here, right now ... it is sufficient unto the day to have such good news!  
The old guard now knows that the legal battles will not automatically go their way!   Even better ... the publicity surrounding this issue has had exactly the opposite effect that that the entrenched status quo had envisioned.  Best of all is that the society will now have an opportunity to demonstrate what can be achieved with enthusiasm and elbow grease!
What time is it?   While it is much too early to break out the champagne, it is time to celebrate that today we are ever so much closer to No Kill Nova Scotia than we were this time yesterday!
And this is how I see it on Thursday, January 18th ... the red letter day that the Supreme Court restored control of the Sydney shelter to the Nova Scotia SPCA.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Until the future is so bright that we won't need shades .....

What a lovely mild morning in the woods!   Last nights drizzle transformed the snow in my front yard into a lovely slick sheen of ice, so it was great to be able to stretch our legs in the soft snow still on the trails!
I couldn't go out and about this time of year without my tinted trifocals!  For anyone who does not need prescription shades, this morning I stumbled on a very sweet fundraiser for the animals.
Two very clever students at St Francis Xavier University have created custom St FX sunglasses for a project.   Even better, they will be going on sale soon and they are only asking the very modest sum of ten dollars for a pair.
Best of all .... all proceeds will be going to the Antigonish SPCA!   How cool is that?
A little birdie did tell me that supply is limited ... so anyone looking to help out the Antigonish SPCA and have a chance to sport such cool shades should act fast!
What time is it?   It is always time to salute clever new ideas to help the animals.   Until the future is so bright that we won't need shades ... every creative idea like this does double duty by advertising animal rescue while lending a helping hand!
And that is how I see it on Wednesday, January 18th .... the SIXTY - THIRD day since the dismissed shelter manager and the disbanded board created the renegade shelter.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looking for treasure .....

I love living in the Valley!   What's not to love?   After years of being posted to more northerly climes, the gardener in me is like a kid in a Zone 6B candy store.   Even better is being able to whine about bitter cold being minus thirteen and not minus thirty!   Best of all of course is that retirement means never have to leave good human friends behind anymore!
In this house, moving has never meant having to say I'm sorry to my pets.  When my posting message came in, I was appalled to have so many of my coworkers ask if they could have first dibs on Max when we moved.   As if I would leave him behind!    Funny how none of them were lining up to ask for my tripod senior kittizen, eh?
But I am wandering afield as I often do in my meandering way!   The point is that I did bring my pets along with me.  Before I get too preachy about that, it is important to remember my Dad was earning the Queen's shilling back in the days before budget constraints limited the number of postings.   
What does that mean in realspeak?  Why of course that it wasn't unusual for us to be on the road every two or three years.   As a result, I found out first hand that how easy it actually was to bring along our family pets when we moved.
Admittedly, we were considered a bit of an oddity at the time.   Why were we the exception to the (then) rule?   Was it that my Dad, as a Military Policeman, saw how poorly things usually ended for abandoned pets?  Perhaps it simply was Dad's firm belief that with children more was 'caught than taught'! 
Whatever the reason, the son of a Cape Breton coal miner and the daughter of a PEI potato farmer always walked the walk about responsible pet ownership.  They created a cycle that has carried on when their granddaughter brought her pet along when she moved!
So here is today's 'what if' ....  would it not be money well spent for municipalities to host free seminars on moving with pets?  It might not stop every pet from being abandoned.  It might not keep every pet from being passed around like an old sock on the free to a good home circuit.
But it WOULD help the kind hearts who simply do not know how easy it actually is to move with pets.
We live in an increasingly transient society.    Such seminars could prove to be penny and pound wise if they changed the outcome for even a percentage of those posted or in pursuit of a new job.
Let's face it ... every pet that stays with their original family represents one less of burden on both Animal Control and rescue groups and shelters. In that light, it is actually penny wise and pound foolish not to give it a shot, eh?  
More importantly, pets cannot be expected to be their best selves when they lose the people they love.  That is how pets wind up being caught on the free to a good home treadmill.   Until they can actually talk, pets are limited to such socially unacceptable ways of expressing their grief as chewing and marking and jumping up, eh?
The best bit of course would be that every time pet moves with their original owner, the kind hearts who would have 'adopted' them are now free to adopt a pet who is genuinely homeless.
What time is it?  It is always time to look for proactive ways to prevent pets from becoming homeless in the first place! 
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. Chinese Proverb
And that is how I see it on Tuesday, January 17th ... the SIXTY - SECOND day since the dismissed shelter manager and the disbanded board created the renegade shelter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

When cost effective opportunity knocks ....

My heart just goes out to anyone on a budget trying to feed their family a balanced nutritious diet.  Lets face it, salaries simply have not kept pace with spiralling food costs ... making good nutrition more of a luxury than the essential that it should be.
We do not have a poverty line in Canada anymore.  Does that mean we are all rolling in riches?  Of course not!   In bureaucratspeak it is now referred to as The Low Income Threshold, which here in NS is now $36,226. for a family of four! ( THe testy topic of how it now takes a gross household income of $71,154. to hit the (now) dizzy heights of Middle Class is a subject for a blog with a different focus than mine ...sigh )
What does this mean in realspeak?  Why of course that there are many more children eating fish sticks and drinking no name pop and far fewer being fed vegetables and fresh milk!
There are small ways that parents can economize, but unless they grow a garden and have their own milk cow, most find even the basic ingredients out of their reach!
Opponents to No Kill are quick to argue that it simply is not affordable to implement in these days when politicians at all levels are feeling the budget crunch.  The truth is that "We'd love to if we could only afford it" sounds ever so much better than saying" we just prefer to stick with the status quo"
The good news is that there are ever so steps that our politicians can take to save lives without spending a single cent:
  • Require all AC pounds and sheltering contractors to use the free service that is available on request to any AC from Petfinder for all impounded animals.
  • Amend local Animal Control Bylaws to require that all impounded animals be made available to rescue groups and shelters after the impound period is up.    If the AC's were using the Petfinder service this would be relatively simple to do
  • Ban the use of the gas chamber for killing.   It goes without saying that needs to include improvised arrangement such as jerry rigged piping on  moving vehicles.
  • Ban the practice of shooting impounded animals.  Not only does that place an unneccessary burden on staff and contractors, but it creates an unhealthy ethical environment where killing is perceived as easier and cheaper.
  • Implement anti tethering legislation around the province.  Opponents argue it would create an unsupportable financial burden .... yet fail to recognize that in a complaint driven process, it would make it easier and cheaper for AC and society personnel to protect animals.
  • Invite pet food companies and pet stores to sponsor obedience training classes
  • Support local volunteer Spay Neuter projects and campaigns by advertising them on the municipal web sites
  • Support the valuable work being done by hardworking TNR groups by passing ByLaws to protect feral cat colonies instead of prohibiting them.   These folks are providing a free community service that should be helped not hindered, eh?
The truth is that there already ARE enough homes for every homeless pet in this province.   According to Stats Canada, at last count there were slightly over 350,000 households in this province.
The truth is that if ONE PERCENT ... or 3,500 households ... woke up this morning and decided they wanted to adopt a homeless pet, there wouldn't be enough to go around!
The truth is our politicians do not need more money to help us get to No Kill Nova Scotia.   We already have all the tools we need ... a society with a No Kill Strategic plan, along with all the rescue groups, breed rescues, TNR groups, street cat rescues and a strong supportive animal loving community. 
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that there are very few such cost effective opportunites for our elected officials to create better communities for the taxpayers who elect them .   So when opportunity knocks,  it would be helpful for us all to remember that the way ahead for the animals will only be paved by strong voter feed back.
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And that is how I see it on Monday, January 16th .... the SIXTY - FIRST day since the dismissed shelter manager and the disbanded board created the renegade shelter.