Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It isn't just bunnies who might not find Easter funny

I hope I never outgrow my fondness for Easter Chocolate!  To be perfectly honest, most of my friends share my childish enthusiasm for any celebration involving chocolate.
That's all very fine and well for us ... when the worst that can happen is that our clothes might become "two sizes too small"!     It is quite a different kettle of fish four our four footed friends!
In the midst of all the fun, it would be easy to overlook that it isn't just bunnies who do not actually find Easter funny ... and that there can be very real risks to our pets with some of the traditional trappings of the Easter Holiday:
  • Hiding chocolate Easter eggs for children to find in the morning is a popular tradition for many parents.    The best way to avoid those expensive off hours holiday trips to the vets is to hide the eggs well out of reach of any pets.
  • Hiding real eggs outside for children to find is another of the fun bits people like to do.   Make sure the eggs are colored brightly enough so that any 'leftovers' are easy to find.    (IE don't paint them green ...lol )  It takes less time to double check the yard so that pets who love to snack on smelly old things do not get sick eating rotten old eggs
  • All that glitters is not actually good for pets.   Make sure that egg and basket decorating sessions are carefully supervised so that cats do not have an opportunity to eat the colored plastic 'straw' and bit of glitter that we often use
  • You might want to rethink having the traditional potted Easter Lily for a decoration ... or substitute it with a nice silk version.    Any part of these plants are so toxic to pets that it really is not worth the risk.
  • Who doesn't love the wide variety of Chocolate Bunnies / hens/ etc..?  Play it safe and keep all the uneaten bits well out of reach of pets.  In this house, I have always found it handy to keep these things in a small tote in the cupboard.
  • Last but not least ... for anyone planning to serve traditional Easter fare, it is wise to remember that much of what is on the menu will wind up giving pets sore tummies and will actually make some sick.  Dressing, gravy, etc are chock full of onions and other rich things that were never meant to be served to our pets.
What time is it?   No matter how you celebrate the rites of spring, it is always ever so much better to plan a pet safe holiday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No advance notice please......

What a miserable morning outside!  It seems so surreal to have to bundle up again after we were swimming in the upper pond just last week!
Mind you, nothing Mother Nature is offering this morning could possibly compete with the storm of controversy surrounding the situation at the Sydney shelter.   After years of being left to go along their merry old way,  it was utterly beyond any of the old guards imagination that change could .. and would .. be possible.
How did all that change?   What got the ball rolling and really made the difference?  It was of course the "surprise" inspection of the shelter!
Does that mean that last year was the first time that people had complained about shoddy animal care / sick and dying animals being adopted / parvo being a death sentence for most puppies entering the shelter / inhumane and indiscriminate killing / etc..!  Of course not!
Prior to that, complaints always fell on deaf ears because shelter reports and site visits were prepared well in advance.   Excuses were accepted.    Reports and statistics always taken at face value.    Up until three years ago, permission was even routinely extended to continue using the horrible home made gas chamber!
Allowances were always made because there was no concrete evidence to support the sustained criticism.    Would that have changed without an unannounced site visit?  Would there have been a game changing Shelter Audit if there had been time to cover up the ugly truth?
Of course not!   When the Dept of Agriculture sends its inspectors out to restaurants, notice is never given in advance!   When the provincial Cosmetology Association inspects beauty salons,  it is always a surprise!   The first notice a welding shop receives is when the Dept of Labour inspectors walk through the front door!
Why to they do that?  Because here in the real world, honesty is not always the best business policy.    Do businesses not mind the surprise?  Of course they do!  Why don't they do more than mutter to themselves about it?
Because it is standard policy not to give notice.   It is not 'picking on' anyone.   It is not a matter of not trusting.  
Straight, sweet and simple ...surprise inspections are a time tested practice to ensure that rules and regulations are actually being followed.  It should be standard practice for the society NOT to provide notice for site visits to its shelters.
It would only be to the society's advantage to do so.   Unannounced visits would allow them to see how well .. or how poorly ... things were working in practice.   If everything was ticking over properly, it would give the society greater credibility when dismissing criticism and complaints.
Best of all, it would keep situations from spiralling so out of control as the situation at the Sydney shelter.
To paraphrase the old adage ... it would be the 'pinch in time'!     At the end of the day, it is much easier to nip things in the bud.  To implement small suggestions.  To switch some of the bits around that aren't working.  
Even better, it is an opportunity for provincial to prop up morale by sharing solutions to common problems.
Best of all of course is that change is always more possible and more economical if addressed before shoddy practices have a chance to become entrenched.
What time is it?  In a province where some shelters are hours and hours away from the city, it is time for unannounced visits from provincial to become standard proactive practice.
The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.   Norman Vincent Peale

Monday, March 26, 2012

The sounds of silence ....

I love watching The Big Bang Theory!  In the course of my work with the homeless pet sites, my inbox is so often full of all sorts of misery that laughter really is the best medicine.  Others may appreciate post apocalyptic tales with unhappy endings  ... but I will take the good giggle anyday over that!
Lets face it ... it still is such a crap shoot to be a pet.   The lucky ones live their whole lives with someone savvy enough to understand their physical and social needs.   At the other end of the stick are the sad stories that are proof of the 'ignorance is not really bliss' pudding.
For instance ... a dear friend of mine is preparing to bring her new puppy home.    A couple of years ago, their elderly Dalmatian went over the bridge and now the time is right for a new pal.   Once again, they have gone to a good breeder and it is reasonable to expect that history will repeat itself.  Their new pal will come with them wherever they move and be cared for no matter what medical issues arise ... or whatever curve balls life throws their way.
Like myself, she has a human child and very much knows the difference between her dogs and her child.   What would that be?  In a nutshell, as parents we spend all the formative years preparing our children to be independent and responsible citizens who are both willing and able to live a rich life of their own.
On the other hand, our pets are not supposed to 'leave the nest'.   As responsible pet owners, we are instead meant to shelter and socialize our dogs so that they can enrich our own lives and be safe members of our communities.
If every pet owner was like my friend, we would never, ever need laws to protect animals in this country!   In the midst of all the sad stories we so often see, it would be easy to forget that the majority of pet owners are lovely people who are already taking wonderful care of their pets!
Unfortunately, that does create difficulties for animal advocates trying to get better animal protection laws.   Why?   To be perfectly honest, most people already think we have enough laws and regulations.
When folks are not part of the problem, it can be difficult for them to appreciate the actual need for a solution, eh?   Ironically enough, it is often the folks who are already responsible enough to alter their pets who are most opposed to government support for low cost / high volume spay neuter.    People who are NOT tying their dogs out 24/7 are not going to appreciate a law limiting tethering times.
In other words, as we used to say in the sixties, it is impossible for most folks to "relate" to the need for better legislation to protect animals!
As we speak, there is a concerted campaign to educate the public about chained dogs that is beginning to gain traction around the province.   To date, it has been doing so without any support from our own society :(
People outside of the animal rescue community often look to their provincial SPCA's for guidance on what is and is not acceptable.    The NB SPCA has a very informative page on their website about Chaining Dogs.   It is well written without being preachy ... and at the same time establishes the NB society's position on the subject with more emphasis than a simple one paragraph position statement.
What time is it?   Education is one of the primary mandates of the society.   Chained dogs sit out there for all the world to see !  Each and every time that a society cruelty inspector is unable to remove a dog from an unhealthy situation, it has a definite negative impact upon the reputation of the society.
Inclusion of an informative section on anti tethering would at least allow the public to clearly see that the society does not support this practice.  
A time comes when silence is betrayal.  Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tick Tock ....

There will probably never be such controversy at an AGM again as there was in 2008 ... when the old guard insisted on ignoring the backlash from its membership about the Pandora's box that Celtic Pets had opened.   There were some hard lessons learned that spring about the need for constitutional reform .... lessons that were put to good use when resignations finally freed up the society from the old guard.
For instance, paid employees of the society are no longer allowed voting privileges to avoid putting pressure on their very job security to support the incumbents.
A few other little bits were tucked in that year.   In the interests of promoting transparency, one no longer needs to be a member of the society to attend the AGM.   
One does, however, need to be a member to vote .... and more importantly .. that membership has to be purchased prior to April 1st in order to qualify to vote at the AGM.   No fooling!
The short version of all this is that on the heels of today's notice for this years provincial AGM, anyone intending to attend AND vote had best make sure their membership is bought and paid for before the end of this month!
Notice has also been given today that the society is seeking new applicants for its Board of Directors.   In the bad old days, there was only an election .. or rather, what passed for one ... every couple of years.   In 2009, that policy was quietly changed so that every year only half the positions on the board would be replaced.
At first I wasn't sure about that ... but upon reflection I actually like the idea.    At no point in time will an entirely new board be able to bounce in and undo all the hard work that has been done since the society started on their New Path.
From an administrative point of view .. it makes a lot of sense.   For the members who were used to the hoopla of elections though .. it will take some getting used to.   When there isn't the big fanfare of a full slate of candidates, its easier for the membership to overlook the need to step up.
Last year, all the candidates ran unopposed ... which in realspeak means that there was no election at all.   How did that happen?   Because they were the only ones who stepped up!  
Lets face it .... there have been so many good changes in the society since the Punch and Judy puppet show was shown the door that it is understandable that the membership's outrage had mellowed to complacency.
Why this year alone  ... the (long overdue) housecleaning at the Sydney shelter is a clear demonstration that the society is still headed down its promising New Path.
Which is all the more reason for the membership to pay attention.   For like minded folks to consider applying for the Board.   ( And before the keyboards catch on fire, even if the society was actually willing to bring this middleaged grandmother on board .... me and my trifocals will never be capable of committing to meetings in the ....shudder ... city. )  
What time is it?   It is time for anyone considering joining the board to apply ... and of course for everyone else who wants to vote at the AGM to get a membership!   The deadline for both is just ten days away!  Tick Tock!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A little bit about bunnies ....


I am so lucky to be able to go to the woods every morning with my good dogs!  In my books it is the very best bit about being retired and more than compensates for the more modest income of my pension.
Everyday there are fresh new scents!   Every bit of weather changes the trail in some way so that, like the proverbial river, our feet never set on the same path twice.
Even though we have a lovely big play yard that is the envy of my friends, there is simply no substitute for rummaging around the trails and along the riverbank!
Spring Solstice is often spent sliding on icy trails ... so even if the forecasted snow comes later this week, for today it is just a joy to have bare ground and see brown bunnies :)    My burly bearded flannel coated buddies take it as a very good sign we are seeing so many rabbits this spring.    
For a few years after their comeback was deliberately fostered as a February tourist attraction, folks often overlooked that bald eagles are basically birds of prey.   As they spread into other habitats, rabbit populations were almost decimated until they adapted to the 'new' danger.
Domestic rabbits are at great risk this time of year .. so it is also a lovely thing to see so many good education programs out there to discourage parents from impulsively buying bunnies for Easter for their children.
For a long time, rabbits really were 'second class pets'.   When parents discovered that the bunnies did not actually grow up to be pussycats with cute ears .... they were often abandoned in the wild in spite of being utterly unprepared to fend for themselves   :(
Four years ago, a good friend of mine who is an experienced (and award winning) rescuer started up the first  Bird and Small Animal Rescue in Newfoundland    Before long, she became so busy that she had to bow out of working with the SPCA. Her experience with the SPCA stood her in good stead ... and last week her rescue became an official Non Profit.  
This year, she had an ingenious 'adoption' campaign of plush bunnies ... and chocolate lovers in the area are often able to help with her very successful chocolate bar fundraisers.
For anyone thinking of getting a rabbit, her website would be well worth the visit!   There is an excellent Education section on proper care and husbandry that also includes an awesome page about Rabbits and Easter.
Here in Nova Scotia, for anyone with their heart set on a rabbit ... it is often possible to adopt a bunny.      Right here, right now ..... Romeo is available for adoption at the Kings SPCA Branch.
At the end of the day,  kindness to animals is a very effective way to teach our children the core value of respect for life.    It sends a very mixed message to children to get a poor little bunny or chick for Easter and expect them to believe that it magically disappears when the novelty wears off.
What time is it?   It is always time to remember that a rabbit is a living breathing sentient being ... and that the best approach is often to be responsible enough to take a cue from the Make Mine Chocolate campaign.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On quitting cold turkey ...

What an utterly beautiful morning!  There is nothing subtle about early spring ... it bursts on our collective consciousness full of irresistible enthusiasm!    Breezes caress our faces instead of chilling us to the core.   Early yard chores almost feel like liberty for not needing to bundle up.
Best of all .. in my books .. are the bevy of busy little nest building birds back for the season.   To listen to them is more just a joy ... in these days of global warming it is always a relief to seem them back!
When one thinks about it ... these little travellers would be the envy of any defense department planners.   From first arrival,  they are already hard at work readying for the job at hand.   Almost overnight, their nests will be set up and their territory well established.   It is a well choreographed dance from first courtship through to final flight lessons for rookies making their first return journey.
As a result, their exit strategy will be smoother than anything politicians could ever hope to negotiate.
During this past year, the society has been getting out of the business of providing Animal Control Services of all stripes.    They had found out first hand what the No Kill experts have been saying all along ... non profit shelters providing animal control services were usually subsidizing the expenses at the cost of their own work.
Does that mean that they intend to get out of the AC business in Cape Breton?   Although I am not privy to inside information, odds are the educated guess would say no. 
Why?  Situational ethics of course!   The alternative is unthinkable ... to enable a return in another facility to the old status quo ... where previous management was killing at least three out of four that came in the door.
At the moment, CBRM Council has decided to extend the current animal sheltering contract on a month by month basis.   Unless I miss my guess, when the bid does go to tender the society will have a well prepared bid to toss in the ring.  
They did not go to all the time and trouble and yes .. expense .. to clean up the shelter and save lives in order to let the 'old guard' have another horrible home made gas chamber built, eh?
And of course .. there is the other elephant in the room that noone wants to talk about ... what is happening to the animals that are picked by by the new contractor providing Animal Control Services?
Technically, as I understand it, those animals 'could' be brought to the Yarmouth SPCA Branch, but as of this writing, there is nothing in Yarmouth's new dog bylaw to make that mandatory!
Why is that troubling?   This time last year, the "new" contractor was a member of the Yarmouth Branch Board.   Now officially .. she and all but two other board members quit in a grandstanding ploy protesting the new governance changes.
As a board member she was also privy to the knowledge that the branch was getting out of the animal Control business.   So there is a distinctly chicken and egg aspect about whether the grandstanding was about the new governance policy or positioning to prepare for a splendid business opportunity ... unfettered by any conflict of interest!
But I am wandering afield .. as I often do in my meandering way.  The point I am trying to make here is that if the society is going to get out of the animal control business anywhere, they need a better exit strategy.
There is more to No Kill than not killing, eh?    If there is nothing in place to protect impounded animals, does it really matter who kills them?  Dead is still dead, eh?
Last year, the society successfully negotiated a splendid little clause into the new Town of Windsor dog bylaw ... after the 'hold' period is over, the town AC is now obliged to offer the animal to the local branch.    That is a life saving tool that should written into every dog bylaw in this province ... and should be expanded to include the caveat that all reputable rescues should be offered the chance to take the animal into their care.
After all, at this point in time, the society does not have coverage all around the province, eh?
Nor should it stop there.   If the society truly wants to protect those who cannot speak for themselves, then more stringent minimum housing and care standards need to be written into our Animal Protection Act.  Until that time, the only animals in care that the society can protect are the ones in the care of its own branches and shelters.  Animal control contractors have no such limitations, eh?
Last, but not least, more aggressive steps should be taken in pursuit of a law to make all animal control statistics freely available online in their respective municipal websites.     The historical reluctance to let the actual paint the picture cannot be overridden by the taxpayers' right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
What time is it?  If the society is going to let go of the Animal Control 'rope', then it is way past time for a three step program to protect the animals.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Should we be surprised or disappointed that McLeans chose to be comfortable?

from this weeks online edition of McLeans
When did crating your dog become a crime?

Leashes. Crates. Even doghouses. Suddenly they’re all evil. The debate over how to treat Fido is dividing pet owners.
by Alex Ballingall on Friday, March 16, 2012 6:10am
Just outside the small Nova Scotia fishing town of Lockeport, Robbie Fowler’s home sits near a bend in a country road that winds through Shelburne County. Two dogs named Buddy and Magnum, golden retriever mixed breeds, live on chains in the yard. The dogs love to walk in the woods, ride in Fowler’s pickup truck and swim in nearby Allendale Bay. But they hate staying inside. “They don’t even go in the doghouse half the time,” says Fowler. “What they are is hunting dogs.”

That’s why Fowler keeps Buddy and Magnum on chains about 15 feet long. These are attached to “big long-run ropes” that Fowler says allow Buddy and Magnum to move up and down the yard while preventing them from straying out to the road and getting hit by a car. “They run around and get plenty of exercise,” says Fowler.
One day in February, a cruelty investigator from the SPCA turned up at Fowler’s door. Animal rights activists in the area have been filing complaints against Fowler for more than a year, telling authorities that the way he keeps his dogs is causing them to suffer social isolation and confinement. ”The investigator surveyed Fowler’s yard, taking note of the run ropes and the insulated doghouse with a shingle roof that Fowler built for Buddy and Magnum. “He said: ‘Your dogs cannot get tangled up, they have a good long run, they have a nice house. I don’t know what they’re calling for,’  Fowler recalls. The investigator left after concluding Buddy and Magnum were well-fed and cared for.
Over the years, the boundary between animal cruelty and kindness has moved, and some of us didn’t even notice. The days when dogs were sentries first and pets second are long gone. Even the junkyard dog has largely disappeared, replaced by video surveillance technology. Now we buy them organic food, seatbelts for the car, orthopaedic beds for the house, and take them to physiotherapists when they get arthritis. And the age-old practice of tying a dog up in the backyard or leaving it in a crate to housebreak it are as morally abhorrent to some as putting a child on a halter or keeping it in a playpen all day.
David Lummis, a pet market analyst with the research firm Packaged Facts, sees a societal shift: “Pets really do perform the function of surrogate children.”
The movement to ban chains and crates for dogs first gained momentum in the U.S. in the mid-2000s, when animal welfare groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Dogs Deserve Better started focused campaigns to make such practices illegal at the local and state levels. States like California, Nevada, Texas and West Virginia have since passed laws restricting the length of time a dog can be chained or tethered.
Anti-chaining attitudes have also made headway in Canada. There are now bylaws either banning or restricting how long a dog can be chained in Calgary, Victoria and Delta, B.C. In Vancouver, there’s a little-known bylaw that prohibits owners from tying up their dogs and leaving them unattended in public, even if it’s just to run into a cafĂ© for a coffee. And in Nova Scotia, where Fowler lives with Buddy and Magnum, there’s a concerted push to amend the provincial Animal Protection Act to either ban or make restrictions on dog chaining and tethering.
Groups like PETA also want to outlaw crating, a common practice for dog owners who are housebreaking puppies, while the Humane Society of Canada doesn’t recommend it.
Last month, Manitoba made it illegal to crop dogs’ ears, a relatively common procedure among certain breeders intended to maintain the dogs’ physical standards. Those behind the ban argued, successfully, that it was inhumane and distressing to the animals.
As animal welfare groups successfully push for these changes, perceptions of what constitutes cruelty to dogs are escalating. Not everyone, however, is rising with the tide, and this is exposing fundamental disagreements about the place dogs hold in our lives. For some, an owner’s right to determine what’s best for their dog is being chipped away. The conflict has moved passed rhetorical jabs to the point where outright accusations of animal cruelty—not to mention calls placed to the SPCA—are souring relationships between neighbours. In Nova Scotia, especially in rural and suburban areas, some express outright disgust at the way they see dogs being treated. “If you don’t want to be upset, just look straight ahead when you drive down the road,” says Amanda Cleveland, founder of People for Dogs.
These attitudes are fuelled by stories of cruelty passed around by activists in the province. Scott Saunders, who is lobbying to ban continuous dog chaining in Nova Scotia, tells of a guard dog at a Cape Breton construction site that was found dead in the snow at the end of its chain two years ago. “What bothers me is that is it still 100 per cent legal to strap your dog out like a piece of junk,” he says. “Until they actually die, right on the spot, still tied to that chain, nobody really gives a s–t.”
Nahleen Ashton, who runs a dog rescue shelter in the province’s Annapolis Valley region, also has a powerful story about the dangers of tying a dog outside for much of its life. Last summer, Ashton adopted a dog named the Mighty Quinn, who had spent about eight years on the end of a rope. There was a bald ring around his neck from the rope’s constant irritation. Most of his body was hairless too, exposing oozing sores made worse by his habit of gnawing and licking at himself—behaviour common for dogs tied up continuously, left to feel anxious and distressed. Ashton acquired the help of dog behaviour expert Silvia Jay, who says Quinn’s state is typical of dogs left tied up for so long. “Dogs are not made to live alone, they need social companionship,” says Jay. “In my opinion, dogs should be inside the house.”
She also says tying dogs can aggravate them and make them more aggressive, especially when kept on a short chain. She calls it “restraint frustration,” which occurs if the dog is unable to follow its instinct to approach “environmental stimuli” that catch its attention: passing cars, wildlife and even pedestrians that distract or entice a dog beyond the reach of his tether. “An animal left outside in a backyard is really a ticking time bomb,” says PETA spokesperson Ryan Huling, going even further. “It’s not safe for anyone nearby.” A 1994 study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that dogs who bite are nearly three times more likely to be chained.
The impact of crating is similar, says Jay, in that dogs left in crates for hours on end can experience distress from social isolation. But instead of becoming more aggressive from restraint frustration, crated dogs suffer from boredom due to the lack of stimuli, which can lead to excessive barking and other behaviour, she says.
Still, even among animal rights activists there is ambivalence. “Crates can be a really good tool to manage a dog and keep him out of trouble, especially as a puppy,” says Jay. Similarly, Brad Nichols, a peace officer who conducts animal cruelty investigations in Calgary, says: “My dogs are sitting at home right now crated. It only becomes a problem when it’s excessive.”
But without a ban or strict legal limits, discretion about how much time is spent on chains or in crates is in the hands of dog owners, something that doesn’t sit well with animal rights activists who don’t trust the general public to look after a dog’s welfare. “I’d rather have a no-tethering law than leave it up to people to decide how long a dog is to be outside on a chain,” says Jay, “because most people are getting it wrong.”
On an unseasonably warm February day, dog owners congregate at a fenced-in, leash-free community dog park in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. They laugh as they watch their gregarious pets bounce around, releasing pent-up energy. Standing slightly apart from the others is Greg New, a self-employed accountant there with his dog, Suki, a white and black boxer-pointer mix. New recognizeschanged since the days when dogs roamed free in the streets of Etobicoke, then a town on the western edge of Toronto where he grew up. He never sees dogs chained up in backyards anymore, and he feels crating is just as rare. But when asked about a ban on dog chaining, his response is unequivocal. “A blanket ban on tethering is foolish,” says New. “What do you do if you don’t have a fence?”
To answer such questions, animal rights activists and organizations like PETA say all dogs should live inside “with the rest of the family,” and—like children—should only be allowed outside when supervised.
There’s hardly a notion more foreign to Mark Balkwill, a 52-year-old dairy farmer and president of the Essex County Agricultural Association in southwestern Ontario. “To me that’s cruelty to animals, keeping them in the house all day long,” he says.
Back when he was young, most farmers had chained-up guard dogs. “Your dog was your eyes and your ears,” he says. “It was like your alarm system.” Aggressive guard dogs were preferred, since they would make potential thieves and intruders think twice. “Put you back in the car, as we used to say,” Balkwill says, chuckling.
But of all the farmers in his area today, Balkwill can’t think of one who keeps a guard dog on a chain—though not for ethical reasons. Improvements in technology have allowed people to install cameras and motion sensors for security, eliminating the need for dogs to play guard. Thus, even in rural areas, perceptions of dogs have changed. “More farmers and rural people have pets,” he says. “That’s what they are. They end up being part of the family.”
As such perceptions gain traction in both urban and rural settings, sled dogs are now some of the only working dogs left. Shannon DeBruin, a 47-year-old dog breeder and trainer who runs a sled dog operation south of Edmonton called Arctic Sun Siberian Adventures, has been approached by welfare advocates accusing her of cruelty for keeping her dogs chained outside in the snow at temperatures well below freezing. “Someone who lives with many dogs and sees them on a day-to-day basis,” she says, “has a very different point of view than someone who has just one. It’s very easy to over-generalize and make giant leaps of logic.”
As DeBruin sees it, there’s a problem with how people are “anthropomorphizing” their pets; animal rights activists, she contends, are equating the way pets should be treated with the way they believe humans should be treated. “We are not allowing our dogs to just be dogs,” she says. “Why do dogs eat poop? Because they like it. We don’t. Just like I wouldn’t greet someone by sniffing his butt.”

Ron Worb, a long-time veterinarian at Winnipeg’s Anderson Animal Hospital, has also noticed a change. “The vast majority of pet owners that I see day in, day out in my practice refer to themselves as the mom and the dad.” And as would be expected from any loving parents, Worb says pet owners are constantly expecting higher standards of health care for their dogs. “We are being pushed all the time to do more and more.”
One of his canine patients, for example, is suffering from a brain tumour. In an attempt to rid their pet of cancer, its owners might spend more than $8,000 to send the dog to a special clinic for stereotactic radiosurgery. “The human-pet bond, it’s always been present, but it’s becoming stronger and stronger,” says Worb.
Part of the reason for this lies in decades of steady urbanization. As society generally becomes more detached from rural life and the farm, where wounded horses are shot and cows routinely slaughtered, the only relationship most people have with animals is that of a pet, which doesn’t exist to feed us, offer milk, or clothe us. It offers only love and loyalty. With changing demographics, where more than three million Canadians choose to live alone (according to the 2006 census) and the biggest chunk of the population are baby boomers, many of whom are living in empty nests devoid of children, pets fill a void. Humans are social animals too, after all, often relying on the strength of relationships for contentment.
At no time does the depth of such bonds become more apparent than when they are no longer there. John Sookrah, a Toronto mechanic and father of three, was deeply affected by the loss of his family dog, Sonic, a dachshund, whose death last November was unexpected. Sonic had managed to eat several lengths of dental floss, which veterinarians soon discovered had mangled his intestines. They put him down. “His passing did touch us all and made us realize he really was a part of us,” says Sookrah. “My life was actually quite devastated.”
The Sookrahs held a funeral for Sonic in their living room. “My son and I carried him in, like pallbearers,” explains Sookrah. They laid Sonic’s body down on his doggy bed in the middle of the room, surrounded by flowers, family, neighbours and friends. Prayers were said and hymns sung, including the funeral classic Amazing Grace. Afterward, a family friend read a eulogy. “I don’t think any one of us could have done it,” sighs Sookrah.
Helen Hobbs, the funeral director who organized the ceremony and offers such services—along with an urn and cremation—for about $500, often feels a family’s grief over a lost pet is deeper than that of a dead person. “I know that may sound strange to some people,” she says. “They’re so often people’s children.” Children, she adds, that never lose their innocence, their warmth or uncompromising loyalty.
And that’s why people are so passionate about dogs; why neighbours turn on each other over cruelty. At the bottom of it all—the disagreements, the controversy, the legal fracas—there’s just the love of dogs.
Wow!   When I first heard that a reporter from McLean's was interested in the anti tethering work being done by animal activists in this province .. I was very impressed.   Along with the rest of the animal loving community in this province, I was eagerly awaiting the article ... and even planning to buy a few 'hard copies' to send to family and friends! 
Well ... I am very, very glad I didn't rush out and get the subscription that I almost did in my initial enthusiasm!
Years ago, when I was a green private and one of the first women in my trade, my boss arranged for me to be interviewed by the local paper.  I learned a valuable lesson from that experience ... that even if one wasn't misquoted that objects in the finished article could be larger than they seemed in the interview.
If the reporter had contacted any of the folks he quoted here in Nova Scotia and said that he wanted to do a story about how animal activists take things to ridiculous extremes, would people have talked to him?  
Instead of a balanced story about the very real dangers of anti tethering, like a clip from a Walt Disney cartoon the tale opens with a bemused pet owner whose outdoor dogs lead some sort of magical fantasy existence.  He is perplexed by having had a visit from the society cruelty investigator when he clearly takes such wonderful care of his dogs.
No mention is made of the subsequent chain of events which resulted in the animal activist in question becoming persona non grata with the society.  In light of that, one can only assume that either the society was approached and declined an interview or that someone seized the day to undermine a successful anti tethering campaign that had NOT been initiated by the society :( 
As interesting as it is to speculate whether an organization capable of cutting off communication with said advocate and sending a report on the subject to the Dept of Agriculture had any effect behind the scenes on this article ... I am wandering afield as I often do in my meandering middle aged way!
This is not an article about anti tethering!  It is a social and editorial comment on how pet ownership per se has changed in ways the author clearly paints as not being for the better:
  • in spite of the fact that no animal advocate in this province is attempting to limit crating, somehow it seems to have become the focus of the article ... complete with quotes from the popular animal killing organization PETA.  The subject of how any reporter worth his salt would realize that is a separate topic ... showing such lack of research skills  ... for Mr Ballingall's boss to deal with.
  • a pet market analyst is quoted as saying that "pets really do perform the function of surrogate children"
  • ear cropping is described as a  relatively common procedure among certain breeders intended to maintain the dogs’ physical standards
  • Scott Saunder's outrage about a chained dog who froze to death in Cape Breton is used as an example of how "attitudes are fuelled by stories of cruelty passed around by activists in the province"  Somehow the reporter neglects to mention that most mainstream media outlets OTHER than McLeans carried the story, eh?   ( A chained dog, I might add that was deemed several times by the society as being properly cared for ... and whose death was deemed inconclusive rather than implicate investigators willing to leave a dog to suffer like that after complaints.)
  • Folksy farmers are painted as simply being sensible to have chained up guard dogs ... and no mention is made of the fact that even the most aggressive dog is no match for a thief willing to bypass the chain and are actually vulnerable to being poisoned or shot.
  • A veterinarian in Winnipeg is allowed to paint a picture of pet owners with more money than sense ... suggesting that the owner of one of his clients with a read medical conditions MIGHT opt for an eight thousand dollar treatment for their pets.
All in all, Mr Ballingall has succeeded in painting a completely different picture than we were expecting.    
At the end of the day, Mr Ballingall has only diminished himself ... by producing a fluff piece poking fun when he had the opportunity to help change history.  
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.   Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Urgent .... Emma needs our help!

A few years ago, when I turned fifty, I found out first hand how difficult losing a mother could be.   Even though I had already lost one parent and was at an age where it was a more common peer experience .... it was still a rough row to hoe.
There is always a small silver lining for every cloud.   There was never a question of what would happen to Mom's elderly little cat ... of course she came here.   Mocha was as tiny and fragile as her owner had become, but at least she was able to live out her last days in peace and comfort.  
Chris Clattenburg was lucky to have Emma to help him cope with the loss of his mother from cancer.  Noone expects to lose their mother at the age of fifty nine and throughout that dark time, Emma kept him connected.  
Emma is only eight, but she is now facing a life threatening medical problem that happily CAN be fixed.  For some folks, a two to three thousand dollar vet bill would take a bite out of the budget.  For Chris, who works as a painter, it is well out of the realm of achievable objective.
When the animal loving community first saw Chris' ad on Kjijii begging for help, their initial scepticism led to some investigation.   In a world full of internet scams .. who could be faulted for that, eh?
Upon investigation, it was discovered that this IS a legitimate set of circumstances ... and as a result, a facebook group has been set up to help spread the word.
If you are able provide financial support to Chris and Emma, a trust account has been set up through Scotiabank. The transit number is 70193 and the account number is 0051217. No amount is too small.

If you would like more proof of Emma's treatment or the validity of the account, you can contact the Eastern Shore Veterinary Hospital in Porters Lake (902-827-4257) or Bryant Clarke at Scotiabank (902-420-2089).
What time is it?  In a world where so many would simply abandon a sick pet, it is time to pull out all the stops and share this so that the power of social networking can help save this dog's life. 
Being a man or a woman is a matter of birth.   Being a man or a woman who makes a difference is a matter of choice.  Byron Garrett

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sometimes a stich in nine ......

From The Planet Paws Essentials Facebook Group
Pawsians, our friends at Fetch Inc. and Paws4Health are hosting their annual Thyroid Profile Blood Clinic. The results are sent & tested by highly respected health Vet guru Dr. Jean Dodds, author of The Canine Thyroid Epidemic.

Dr. Jean D...odds started Hemopet's non-profit animal blood bank and greyhound rescue/adoption program in 1986. Today, Hemopet offers the most advanced canine thyroid testing in the world. The quality, patented technology, service and consultation is used worldwide to benefit dogs with canine thyroid disease.
Hypothyroidism causes a wide variety of symptoms, but is often suspected in dogs that have trouble with weight gain or obesity and suffer from hair loss and skin problems.
It is common for pets with hypothyroidism to gain weight while only eating moderately. These dogs have been described as “easy keepers” because they gain weight so easily.
That does not mean that most overweight dogs have thyroid disease – they are just eating too much, eating too rich a diet and get too little exercise. Many owners are oblivious to weight gain in their pets. But when an animal’s backs become flattened instead of curved and they huff and puff with every exertion some owners bring them in for a check up.
Other symptoms include -
  • Mental dullness
  • Lethargy; listlessness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Reluctance to engage in normal activities
  • Intolerance to cold (“heat-seeking” behavior)
  • Weight gain, without increased appetite or food consumption
  • Symmetrical hair loss (alopecia), without itchiness (bilaterally symmetric, nonpruitic truncal alopecia; the head and legs are often spared)
  • Excessive shedding
  • Greasy skin; flaky skin (seborrhea)
  • Dandruff
  • Pimples or other pustules on the skin (pyoderma)
  • Chronic ear infections (otitis)
  •  
  • Skin thickening, especially on the face and forehead (myxedema), giving a puffy appearance referred to as a “tragic facial expression”
The dog’s neuromuscular, reproductive, cardiovascular and/or gastrointestinal systems may be affected as well, causing one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Incoordination (ataxia)
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms)
  • Anemia
  • Infertility
  • Decreased libido (reduced sex drive)
  • Abortion
  • Testicular atrophy
Only 20 samples can be sent and tested each year, so this is first registered first served basis! There are around 12 more spots available.
To put this into perspective, seven years ago, when I first had my little mini schnauzer tested for thyroid, the test had to be sent away to PEI.  At the time, the tally for the initial test came to eighty-five dollars plus tax.  Admittedly, that included the courier cost  ... but at the end of the day it was still a sum out of reach of some of their clients.
After the initial tests there were two more to ensure that the right balance had been reached with her meds.
In a world where costs continue to go up , not down, this clinic is a very good buy!
What did balancing Chloe's thyroid do?   It was better than any beauty makeover the what not to wear people could ever produce!  There was more spring in her step!   At her next grooming session, Chloe's groomer could already tell the difference in her skin and her coat!
In short, because dogs are hardwired NOT to complain, we had no idea of how much the thyroid was affecting her until it was back in balance!
What time is it?  If anyone is concerned about this issue ... this is a splendid time to take advantage of this incredible opportunity!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Painting by numbers ....

It has been a couple of years since I started following the Athenspets.net  website.   What is so miraculous about this one site?   After all, it isn't the official Athens County Animal Control website where anyone can adopt!
What makes the the site so extraordinary?   Is the committed volunteers who faithfully post appealing listings of the impounded animals?   The wonderful pictures of each pet?   How the site encourages volunteers to improve the quality of life for the animals at the shelter?   Or is that kind hearts can donate towards life saving veterinary care through the site?
All of these are of course Good Things ... but the truly impressive bit about this site is the impact it has made for the animals impounded by AC. 
When I first started following the site, it was heartbreaking to see how many lovely pets were killed every week.  Nothing was sugarcoated... right on the side bar it listed the number of animals in care and the outcome for all the ones who were no longer there.   Site visitors could see at a glance how many were adopted, rescued or killed!
Why do I think this is important?   Nothing inspires people to act like having the naked unvarnished truth right in front of their face.   Rescues in New England were motivated to save southern lives from this shelter!   Even here in Nova Scotia, kind hearts in the rescue community were moved to rescue those who were knocking on heavens' door. 
Like begets like ... and has resulted in a rescue ripple effect that has benefited impounded animals in AC's in other areas and states as well.  This site is not the only reason that the collective rescue consciousness has been raised to the plight of southern AC's ... but there is no denying it has played a big part.
Why do I believe this is important?  In the space of time that I have been following this site, there has been a noticeable shift in the weekly numbers.   In realspeak, there are now more animals being adopted and rescued than being killed.
Here in Nova Scotia, animal advocates are in hot pursuit of the No Kill Holy Grail.   Four years ago, when I first started the homeless pet site, quite a few of the private rescues were already referring to themselves as No Kill.   Once an adoptable made it into their care, he or she was safe for however long it took to find a second chance at love.
But .... no rescue can really be an island when it comes to No Kill.  On their own, many of the little groups were akin to stand alone computers ... doing wonderful work by providing safe sanctuary for a precious few but unable to really impact the big picture.
A couple of years ago, the society developed a Strategic Plan to bring the organization to No Kill. ( Click here for the original document ... and HERE for the updated and current one )
Does this mean we are there yet?  Not even close!  As critical as society support is for No Kill, the missing link is still Animal Control.
If there is one common thread in Animal Control in Nova Scotia, it is that there is no constant.  Every county and municipality has its own arrangements.  Nor, in these days of unprecedented fiscal restraint, are we likely to see any great sums invested in Animal Control anywhere.
So here is today's What If .... just imagine the possibilities if all counties and municipalities were obliged to use the free petfinder listings they are actually entitled to have.   If volunteers were encouraged to set up facebook pages.   I get positively dizzy thinking about what might happen if volunteers were allowed access in a timely manner to all animals impounded by Animal Control ... instead of being refused entry with flimsy excuses of liability risks!
No question about it .... social networking saves lives.   Rescues that are listing adoptables on their face book pages are often finding that they do not even get a chance to list the adoptables on Petfinder!
The short version of all this is that we need a law in Nova Scotia to allow volunteers ready access to all impounded animals in Animal Control ... along with legislation to make it mandatory for all impounds to be advertised for adoption and rescue.  
In real speak, that is often called a Red Flag Network ... and saves lives by NOT sugar coating anything.   
To be perfectly honest ... without a Red Flag network for the animals impounded by Animal Controls around the province,  No Kill is only ever going to be a great idea that cannot get out of the gate.
What time is it?  One of the best bits about living in a democracy is that strong voter feedback is always the best way to help paint the big picture for our elected politicians   In these days of fiscal restraint, it is time to encourage our provincial MLA's to provide the legislative tools that would permit the power of volunteer love to provide the services they are unwilling or unable to pay for.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Media Celebreties in need of good homes .....

I have loved Oscar from the first moment we met!   Even though he was clearly bewildered at the hand life had dealt him, from the first moment we met, Oscar pulled out all the stops to secure a place in my heart!
Oscar really is like a poster boy for all the best bits about adopting a cat that was abandoned.     He is a loyal and devoted friend who runs to the door to meet me and is seldom far from my side when I am indoors.   
It just breaks my heart to think that at one point someone loved him enough to have him neutered ... only to toss him aside like rubbish when he was seven or so.  
We live in a world where we are well accustomed to slick sixty minutes solutions on the not so small screen.   Oscar did not pack his bags and hitchhike out here!   Somebody put him in their car ... drove out here ... tossed him out of a window and sped away.  If they were able to do that, odds are they don't care how stiff his shoulder still gets when it is damp, eh?
Not to be mean ... but there is no excuse for that!  Did they have a baby?  Was there a new boyfriend?   Did somebody move?   Those are all normal life events that should not be grounds for dismissal!  Even if it took more than sixty minutes to sort out, it would be time well spent, eh?
The worst part of course is that at some point in time .. whoever did this will be at liberty to repeat history again and again!   Each and every time convincing themselves that it is actually a kindness to expect a family pet to fend for themselves!
Stray cats are actually like mice.  For every Oscar who finds safe harbour ... there are at least a dozen more who suffer much harsher fates.
Last month, PET Projects in Shelburne had quite the surprise when the few abandoned cats they thought they were rescuing turned out to be thirty cats!  Happily there was such a tremendous outpouring of support that all these cats are safe and vetted and altered.
So is this the happy ending?   Not yet!  Only five of the thirty have been adopted .... with twenty five more still waiting for their own lucky day! 
What time is it?  These cats may have been 'media celebreties' ... but now it is time for everyone to share their listings so that they can settle into a more everyday life!
A home without a cat is just a house .... source unknown.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In praise of a really great resource

I love going to the woods on a beautiful morning like this!   My good dogs are like a well oiled team .... stopping to sniff all the bits that have been buried under the snow!   To see them together, the casual observer would never imagine they had not spent their whole lives together, eh?
How did I do that?   I cheated!   I adopted them from reputable rescues!  We might have had a bit of work to do at the beginning, but from the very first time their paws hit the floor it was clear that these kindred spirits were well suited to the life that I lead!
It is beyond my understanding how anyone can even be comfortable shopping for their new best friend on the free online ad sites!   A pet becomes part of the family ... they live in our homes ... share space with our children ... and most importantly ... hold a place in our heart that no "thing" ever could.
I have found all sorts of useful bits online .. from fridges to fence posts ... with the clear understanding that these things came with a curbside guarantee.  If the shoe did not fit ... so to speak ... it was just part and parcel of the wild west atmosphere, eh?
That is all very fine and well for things, but singularly NOT suited to the pet selection process!   As we speak, every reputable rescue in this province is absolutely swamped with requests for surrenders!
To be fair ... not all of these pets were purchased online.    Long before Stats Canada came painting the gloomy numbers for Nova Scotia, anyone who read a newspaper knew that we have already lost more jobs than the well touted ship building contract will ever replace.
What does all this mean in realspeak?  Why of course that there is a whole new round robin of free to a good homes!  Why is this a problem?  Isn't it a good thing for these pets to get a second chance?
Actually it is simpler than that!  Reputable rescues know that the secret to finding Furever Homes is to find the right fit.  In the absence of any screening process,   kind hearts with the best intentions can find themselves with an adorable pet that is utterly unsuited to their lifestyle or experience. 
Even worse, unlike reputable rescues, where known health issues are never hidden ... those 'online bargains' can wind up with heartbreakingly high vet bills!
Lets face it ... the really good homes do not go looking for a pet often enough to become experts!   In a world where well cared for pets can live fifteen to twenty years, many households can count on one hand the number of pets they will own in their lifetime!
The good news is that there is a great resource available to help people decide how to choose their best friend.   The Canadian Federation of Humane Society set up an information site last summer called Finding Fido.    ( and before the keyboards catch on fire it is not limited simply to dogs :)
What a great idea!  There are all sorts of goodies and it is just chock full of info!  
What time is it?   The next time someone you know or love is thinking of getting a pet .. it will be a very good time to share this resource with them!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot ....

I love my sweet O Henry!    Underneath that handsome exterior is the sweetest and gentlest soul I have ever shared space with.   If the cats are having a spat he is first in line to referee.   When I drop his leash, he is immediately back at my side to make sure all is well.  Best of all, Henry is always the quickest to respond to any request!
Did Henry come here that way?   Of course not!   His history was a mystery before he came to the Annapolis County Pound .... so we will never know for sure how long he had to manage on his own.    Judging by the knots we had to work through, at some point in his life, Henry had good reason to be afraid of men ... particularly if they were holding a shovel or a gun.   It took him a long, long time to stop worrying when anyone would pick up another pet or even a human.   Saddest of all was his initial fear when anyone stood over him in the dark :(
How did we get through all that?   Am I some kind of professional dog trainer?  Of course not!   Sharing space with a few dogs over the years doesn't give me any kind of professional experience, eh?
One of the upsides of being loved by a pittie is that they are real approval junkies.  Henry may have come here with an entire luggage set of baggage, but from the very first day he was eager to please!   
When I first saw Dominic's picture while doing site updates I was struck by how very much like Henry he is.    I was sure that this lovely boy would be headed for his own Happy Tail in no time at all.
Sometimes it is just a puzzle why the nicest dogs get overlooked in a shelter.  Dominic has been at the Yarmouth SPCA for five months now ... and it is way past time to get this good dog out of there.
Luckily for Dominic, Atlantic Small Dog Rescue has agreed to bring him under their loving umbrella.   He will be loved and nurtured and most importantly .. he will be safe.
What is the hold up?   Why of course the same thing that always comes into play!  Before ASDR can transfer Dominic into their care, they need someone to step up to foster this Good Boy in Training!
This beautiful boy will blossom, once he has a chance to get out of the shelter.  Now it has been suggested that Dominic will do best in a home without cats ... so he would be singularly well suited to someone who was strictly a dog person :)
What time is it?  It is time for everyone to put on their thinking caps and try to find a great home to foster this great dog ... so that he can have a chance to really shine!
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,  nothing is going to get better.   It's not.   Dr. Seuss 






Monday, March 5, 2012

Sometimes, it is more than a matter of opinion ...

I love driving down my road on a morning like this ... when the snow is so heavy and wet it sculpts all the shrubbery along the way.    Even with all this winter wonderland, one of the true signs of spring is starting to spring up along the way too!  I am of course referring to the real estate signs that crop up around here once the posting messages come in!
No question about it - this is a great neighbourhood!  Unless there is something structurally wrong with the house or it has been over optimistically priced, most places on this road sell lickedty split!
We are close enough to the village for those concerned with commuting costs.   Even better, there is still a strong country feel instead of that strung out along the road subdivision look that so many back roads have acquired.
Best of all,  it is long on friendliness and short on the sort of things that bring the RC's rolling in with their sirens.
Further down the way, the folks trying to sell the house across the road from the new gravel pit are having a much harder time of it.  Why would that be ... when the price is quite reasonable and the home itself so lovely?
Buying a house is not like browsing for the latest tech toys or going for groceries.   At the end of the day, a house is always more than the sum of its purchase price.
Why?  Because a house is more than a building ... and if those walls could talk they could tell the tales of our lives!   To quote the lovely banner on my wall ... to be at home is to find yourself with those who put your heart at ease.
Picking out a pet is much the same, eh?   The purchase price cannot possibly guarantee the right fit.   If care is not taken, the kindest of hearts can easily find themselves in over their head.
When kids are in school, they learn how to budget and to bake and even to tend babies.    Sadly, nowhere, in this province are children schooled in picking out pets.
Just imagine the possibilities!   Children could discover how much it costs to feed pets and provide responsible vet care.    It could help raise awareness that pets are not like an interactive toy that can be tucked on the shelf.   
Would every child learn that cats need to be spayed and dogs are not yard ornaments?  Of course not!   Sex education has never prevented all the unwanted pregnancies and social diseases, eh?
Still, it is such an important life skill to leave out of the curriculum, eh?   Just imagine the impact this ounce of prevention could have!  It wouldn't keep every future adult from making inappropriate choices, but it could and would have a meaningful impact on the pound of rescue cure needed in the future to pick up the pieces.
In other words, it would be money well spent!   After all, noone needs to reinvent the wheel with this one.   Lesson plans have already been written by reputable professionals for all age levels.
What is the hold up?   Why it is the same bit as with everything else.   Our MLA's in general and the Dept of Education in specific respond best to strong voter feedback.    If none of their constituents consider this to be a priority... there is no inspiration whatsoever for them to act.
What time is it?  It is time to understand that investing in our future is the very best way to create the sort of communities we want our children to live in.
Every reform was once private opinion.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, March 2, 2012

Simply because it is right ......

from The Annapolis Spectator
Unchain their hearts
By Heather Killen
The Spectator
NovaNewsNow.com
An Annapolis Valley man is almost at the end of his rope looking for someone willing to explain why it’s okay to leave dogs tethered outside 24/7.

Scott Saunders, of Kings County, wants to hear why it’s fine to leave man’s best friend out in the cold. He knows more than a few dogs tied or confined outside with barely the necessities, but not a single owner would go on the record to say why they keep them this way -- even when Macleans Magazine called.
“I was able to find a lot of people willing to talk to them about why they think it’s wrong, but not a single person would explain why they think it’s okay,” he said. “It’s too bad because I really want to hear what those people have to say. I could be judging them unfairly and not know it.”
A reporter from the national news magazine recently contacted Saunders, following up on efforts to make it illegal to keep dogs continuously chained or penned. Initially the idea was to change a few municipal bylaws in Shelburne. The more Saunders thought about the problem, the more it made sense to take the cause one step higher and petition the provincial government to amend the Animal Protection Act.
Online Petition
An online petition has been gathering more than 300 signatures since Feb. 7. A group of animal advocates recently met with Kings West MLA Leo Glavine, hoping to convince him of the need to leash-up offenders and tighten up the Act, giving SPCA officers more power to intervene.
If these changes are made, Nova Scotia could be among the first to ban the practice of tethering. Even if they can’t change the laws, Saunders says he hopes that their efforts will change a few minds.
“Even if this petition doesn’t change the Act, I hope it will generate enough conversation to make it not socially acceptable to keep dogs chained,” Saunders said. “Maybe we grew up seeing dogs tied to trees, but we don’t have to do this anymore.”
Nahleen Ashton, of Atlantic Small Dog Rescue in Annapolis County, says she thinks it would be a great move to change the laws, but she also worries about what it will mean to the dogs already out there.
Sees Problem
“It’s a wonderful,” she said. “But if it becomes illegal for people to keep them chained outside, what will they decide to with them? We need to have something in place where people can surrender the dogs.”
Often unwanted dogs end up as give-away items on Kejjijji. Saunders said he recovered a female beagle from Kings County from the popular online classified site. The individual was keeping two breeding beagles outside in a make-shift pen.
While the female is now in foster care, the owner refused to give-up the male. Ashton says ASDR has taken in a few outdoor dogs that were surrendered over the past year. The worst case was Quinn, a mixed breed who spent most of his eight or so years tied outside. Hairless in spots, he was found with open sores and fur that was still embedded in his gums from his constant attempts to bite away fleas.
One side of his face will probably always droop a little, likely due to an old injury. After staying nine months at a foster home in Tupperville, he has since been adopted.
"When he came here he was very cautious, but friendly,” she said. “He was scared of everything. You could pat his head, but you couldn’t touch his body. These dogs are savable, but you have to invest a lot to do it.”
Worked With Quinn
Sylvia Jay, a dog behaviour expert, was called in to work with Quinn last year. She says that while he was already well on the road to recovery when she began working with him, he still displayed a few of the characteristic behaviours.
“With him the big things were nipping, or biting when he didn’t want to be touched,” she said.
Jay added that dogs tethered outside 24/7 aren’t just suffering from emotional neglect, but a particularly insidious form of abuse. If the dog is not in control of its basic actions and is forced to remain without shelter in extreme weather; the animal will often display extreme anxiety, become aggressive and obsessive, posing a danger to themselves and others.
“A dog can live on its own as long as it has its autonomy,” she said. “But once they are owned, or forced to live with people they need guidance. When they’re chained, they miss social inclusion, and lack autonomy.”
Dogs are pack animals and in the absence of other dogs, people become its pack. If a dog can’t follow a leader, it must follow its instincts and when it’s unable to act on basic instincts for shelter and companionship, unwanted and even dangerous behaviors are likely to develop.
Steps taken to correct obsessive behaviors such as shock collars for incessant barking are apt to make the situation worse.
Pain And Discomfort
"Some are secured with choke chains, or other devices that cause pain and discomfort,” she said. “So when someone approaches, they learn that people are the announcers of pain.”
She says that the practice of tying dogs is still pretty common in her neighbourhood, where she can find three dogs that are left out with only basic food and shelter.
Shelly Hipson, of Shelburne County, agrees that chained dogs are likely to become more aggressive. Last year in her county there were two instances when a chained dog attacked people. While some people think aggressive animals make good guard dogs, she disagrees. The best watchdogs are the ones allowed in the house.
“Mistreated, chained dogs simply become aggressive, not protective,” she said. “Protective dogs are well-socialized and accustomed to meeting people and are able to distinguish an intruder from a family friend.”
She added when a chained dog feels threatened it can’t obey its flight instincts, so it learns to fight. Over time chained dogs become territorial and when they escape can be dangerous to the community.
To find out more about the petition visit the Facebook community People For Dogs; or the online petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ban-the-tethering-of-dogs-in-nova-scotia/signatures.html.
For more information about Sylvia Jay visit voice4 dogs.com
Well then!   What a wonderful article!  Carefully researched and covers all the bases.
To be perfectly honest, it is great to see the general consensus awakening to how horrible tethering actually is.   For a long time, it was one of those issues no one wanted to get involved in.  
People on the street just did not want to take the chance of pi**ing off their neighbours!  At the risk of generalizing, people who can sentence a living, breathing sentient being to life on the end of a chain are not the sort to be squeamish about revenge, eh?
As a matter of fact, even in the animal loving community, people were so afraid of having their name attached to the issue that the last petition ... created by my friend Joan .... got a whopping FOUR signatures.  Not four pages of .. not four hundred .. or even four dozen.  NOPE!   FOUR!!
After being horrified to realize that no charges would be laid when the dog that froze to death in Cape Breton because the necropsy results were "inclusive" ..... only 35 people joined the facebook group, Break the Chain in NS and Four whole people signed the petition!
Given the existing legislation .. or rather the lack of it ... the provincial cruelty inspectors have chosen to walk the 'Educate not Enforce' path!  Sadly that has only ever resulted in temporary relief, at best.  Each and every time that a complaint cannot be acted on has a negative impact on the society's credibility.
At worst, it has created an adversarial relationship with some of the very rescue people the society should be partnering with :(
And that of course leads us to the politicians.   Elected officials never, ever forget that their job security is always directly connected to the good will of their constituents.
Will they want to risk alienating any of those voters?  Of course not!   Any excuse will be seized on to send the issue to staff review!  How can that be changed?
It is a shame there is no humane education for elected officials.  Here in Nova Scotia, most of those now sitting are old enough to remember the days when it was perfectly acceptable for a dog or cat to spend his or her entire life living outside.   It can therefore be a tough sell to expect them to do battle with their constituents on any animal welfare issue.
One of their favourite arguments is that there is no reasonable way to enforce any anti tethering bylaws or legislation!
As an organic gardener, I have no problem recognizing the distinct aroma of bullsh**!   Drinking and driving laws do not obligate our police to inspect every single vehicle every time that it leaves the yard!     Laws to protect children from abuse do not mean that social workers will regularly visit every household!    Even food safety laws do not mean that the health inspectors will be popping by your favourite restaurant everyday!
At the end of the day, all laws are merely the tools that allow the proper professionals to address an issue properly when the need arises.   Straight, sweet and simple!
Admittedly, any Anti Tethering laws will have their best chance of success by focusing on the public safety issue.  To put it very simply, Anti Tethering will not get out of the gate as long as politicians are able to put it on the same back burner all the other animal welfare issues seem to simmer on.
Which is a shame .. because like every single other issue ... an ounce of prevention is worth many many fiscal pounds of cure!   Delaying spay neuter solutions simply magnifies the problem!   Failure to regulate the sale of pets online does not provide one whit of consumer protection for voters!
Reluctance to lose votes continues to keep councillors from creating safer communities for their children!
One of the best bits about this article is that it broached the important issue of what might happen to all the dogs who are currently tethered, should such legislation get out of the gate.
At the end of the day, that particular issue needs to be addressed as part of the planning process.  If plans are not put into place to provide safe harbour, in its initial stages, anti tethering legislation could result in a flood of Unnecessary Unhappy Tails!
Everyone in the animal loving community understands that it is inhumane to sentence a dog to life on the end of a chain.   People who live in the neighbourhood have no problem understanding the need for change.
What time is it?  It is time for each and every person who talks the talk  to actually step up and sign the petition, eh?
Cowardice asks the question: is it safe?   Expediency asks the question: is it politic?    Vanity asks the question: is it popular?   But conscience asks the question: is it right?    And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.   Martin Luther King Jr