Moving at the speed of Love (reprised)

These days it would be a stretch to call our little sojourns a walk.    Why?    The short version – to paraphrase Bette Davis – is that old age is no place for sissies.     Henry is completely blind now (from the diabetes).   We are both a bit arthritic these days too, eh?

So why do we still head out twice a day .. weather permitting?    There is absolutely nothing wrong with his nose!    Henry can still smell the tracks that I can only guess at without a fresh coat of snow.   Even better, he is still as bright as a new penny and can remember every driveway where people come out to wish him well.   Best of all of course is that unless it is minus many, Henry is still eager to go.

So very much has happened with respect to animal welfare since I adopted Henry in 2008.     In 2008 the SPCA were catching and killing feral cats.    Now they have a fabulous mobile spay neuter van touring the province to help feral colony caregivers.    Does this mean that I think the SPCA are perfect now?   Of course not!   I still believe that trying to wear both SPCA and AC hats creates conflicts that get in the way of genuine count ever pet that is taken in No Kill.    The sticky subject of governance issues  and how they have discouraged the development of any long standing local relationships with volunteers is also a testy topic for another day.

Still … to be fair .. they are trying in their own funny way.     Branches that have physical shelters are now offering open admission.   Low cost spay neuter is more readily available.    And my personal favourite is the emergence of more ‘fix your momma’ programs.

Gosh, with the advent of the regulations for the Animal Protection Act, their cruelty investigators have been actually pressing animal cruelty charges!   Before the keyboards cat(ch) on fire here, the sticky subject of the vigilante cat rescuer is a testy topic deserving of its own post on another day.

So with all that goodness, are we actually at No Kill Nova Scotia?   Absolutely not!    I am appalled when people claim this.   Why?   Because it only provides justification for all the well meaning Starry Eyed A***oles who keep dragging dogs in from the States and beyond.     After all, what is the harm if Nova Scotia is No Kill?

Here is the thing.   Here in Nova Scotia, each and every municipality has their own distinct arrangement for animal control.    Some contract out the sheltering services.  Others contract out the whole shebang.   Other municipalities still have their own pound and pound keeper.  Just to make it more ‘interesting’, contractors can be the SPCA or a private company or an individual.

In other words, if there is one constant, it is that there is no constant.

So here in real world, a No Kill SPCA motto does not even come close to No Kill Nova Scotia.   It also means that every rescuer I know has a waiting list of surrenders.    In realspeak that means that most rescues cannot even come close to accepting all the surrender requests they have.

What happens to the ones who cannot find a safe berth with rescue?    What do you think?

Now I can understand the desire to help.     Nor does anyone want to see adoptable pets be killed when they could have a home.

All I am saying is that includes the pets who are already here in this province, eh?

What time is it?   Henry began his journey to the comfy bed by my side when he was impounded by Annapolis County Animal Control.    It is always time to remember that we will never get to No Kill Nova Scotia until there are rescue slots available for all the impounded and surrendered dogs in this province.

A little chat about alternative facts

I have always enjoyed the precision of carpentry.    How many other things in life are so simple?    Success is a surefire thing if one measures carefully, cuts the correct angles, and uses the right fasteners while keeping everything plumb and square along the way.

Real life of course is much more complicated..   Take animal welfare for instance.    On the surface it should be so simple.   People with kind hearts want to save lives.   What could be easier than that?

Of course , here in the real world the waters are often muddied by misconceptions that gain legs and gallop around Facebook.    At best they cause hard feelings.   At worst, they polarize the very people who should be working together if we are ever to get to No Kill Nova Scotia.

Fallacy #1 –  All branches of the Nova Scotia SPCA are open admission.   And before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I know they are ever so much better than they were nine years ago.   But they are not Open Admission anywhere … yet.     How did the idea that they are all open admission take root?    The short version is that in March of this year, the Dartmouth shelter did an open admission trial run.

How did that work out?   Very well as a matter of fact … so much so that “The director said this approach to intake could expand to other times of the year depending on the demands of breeding season and to their other shelters as well.”      Personally, I think that is a wonderful step forward in the right direction.

But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way.   This little “alternative fact” is often used to justify importing homeless dogs into this province.   Not to be mean, but as of this writing, any group using that to justify bringing dogs in from away is living in a dream world.

Fallacy #2.    Nova Scotia is already at No Kill.    And before the keyboards catch on fire, yes Virginia I know that we have No Kill rescue organizations here in Nova Scotia.    But here is the thing.   This is Canada and we have a completely different system of doing things than the States.

What does that mean in realspeak?    Simply that rescue and shelter statistics only paint a small part of the picture.     Why would I say that?     Because there are not enough rescue slots for all of the pets in need in this province.  

So there is no possible way to determine how many treatable and adoptable pets are killed in this province.    Why?   For starters, no animal clinic in this province is ever going publicly publish the number of treatable and adoptable pets that get the short end of the long needle.   Nor can anyone track how many abandoned pets become road kill or part of the food chain.   Saddest of all of course is that there is no registry for the unwanted ones that are drowned or shot 🙁

What does this mean in realspeak?    Simply that this is just another ‘alternative fact’ that is used to justify importing homeless dogs into this province.    At best, rescues spreading this misinformation have not done their due diligence.   At worst, those importing dogs have simply placed the lives of homeless Nova Scotia dogs at the bottom of their priority list.

Fallacy #3.   It is commonly believed that all pets imported into Canada meet the same health standards required of  locally adopted or sold pets in Nova Scotia.      Actually, the only thing that imported pets require is proof of a rabies vaccine.   Any other possible inspections are usually sidestepped by claiming the dogs are personal pets.

The whole problem is summed up very nicely in this report by a working group of Canadian Veterinarians.

Does this mean that kind hearts who are moved by the plight of southern dogs in high kill shelters cannot do anything to help?   Of course not.   Even though Canadians cannot claim donations to American rescues on their taxes, cash donations to supporting rescues there would always be helpful.

There is of course the dodgy issue that there is no way to determine how helpful importing dogs actually is.    Lets face it .. there is a fine line between helping and enabling, eh?   Without meaningful measures such as low cost spay neuter at the source, pulling dogs out of high kill shelters simply creates a vacuum that will quickly be filled.

What is the bottom line?   As far as I am concerned, it is really quite simple.  It is not my job to think for everybody else.   Who am I to scold a rescue for the choices they make?

That being said, any group that takes donations from the public has an obligation to be transparent with donors and supporters.

Of course, it would be slim pickings for any group with enough balls to admit that the lives of homeless dogs here in Nova Scotia don’t really matter to them.   Or that they were not experienced enough to understand the implications of importing more homeless dogs into a little province like this.     Very slim pickings indeed.

According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute, there were an estimated 7.6 million dog owners in Canada in 2016.    Wow!    Seven point six million tax paying voters who care about the health and well being of their companions.    7.6 million people who are going to pretty darned upset if they wind up paying big vet bills for diseases that were actually imported into this country by starry eyed, well meaning rescuers.

What time is it?    Instead of advocating for regulations for rescue, perhaps it is time to focus on the need for stricter Federal rules for importing all dogs, including owned personal pets.    It would be a simple step that would protect the health and well being .. and financial security of 7.6 million dog owners.   What better win/ win for our Federal MP’s could there be than that?

A little drizzly day chat

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I love going through my mother’s old photo albums.   What is not to love?    It is such a sentimental journey to revisit our family history.    Even better, the albums that were so carefully saved from her mother’s and grandmother’s day provide a real life window of those times.   Best of all of course is that those precious older pictures allow me to put faces to all those names on our family tree.

Really it is just frosting on the cake that there are pictures in there from the early nineties when I moved my mini home out here.    What a difference all those years of planting have made!

It has been nine years since the disgraceful AGM followed in the wake of the infamous Celtic Pets seizure.     There is no question that Celtic Pets was the catalyst that brought all the issues with the society bubbling up to the surface.    Yet in spite of a new board and the very best good intentions, it seemed that very little had changed.

Cruelty complaints were still being ignored.   Those who complained about the inaction were blackballed and discredited.   And of course, in spite of paying lip service to No Kill, one branch was still hauling dead animals out by the truck load.

It is a different world now to be sure.     Cruelty complaints are being investigated.   Charges are actually being laid.   And convictions are now regularly popping up in the news.

There are low cost spay neuter clinics.   TNR is actually supported in a practical way with a Mobile Spay Neuter Van!     And it is nice to see that after so much secrecy in recent years,  that the society is once again publishing the minutes of its Board meetings and its statistics online!

Really, it would just be nitpicking to complain about the fact that the society only has nine of their adoptable dogs and sixty-five of their adoptable cats province wide listed on their site.

No question about it, the society has done a pretty good job of rebranding itself since the new regulations to The Animal Protection Act came into force.   According to the ‘vision’ of their current Strategic Plan, The Nova Scotia SPCA is recognized as the leader in the areas of companion animal advocacy and protection. The Nova Scotia SPCA operates with a philosophy of zero tolerance for animal cruelty and sets the standard of animal care for the province of Nova Scotia.

I have always said that the society would be best served by fulfilling its mandate to prevent cruelty instead of trying to pretend it was a rescue.

The society is looking for five rescues to partner with them .. which I think is a fabulous idea.   (  Ever so much better than memorandums cautioning branches to be wary about transferring animals to a rescue, eh? )

In theory it is a wonderful idea.   I do have to wonder whether it is is a sneak preview or simply wishful thinking that qualified applicants must ” Have all appropriate licenses and registrations required by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Does that mean that the rescue regulations have already been written?   Should we be expecting a press release any day?   Perhaps not.    If one goes further and looks at the agreement, it is clear that rescue partners must be willing to have an inspection of all housing facilities by the SPCA.

Not to be mean, but it is hard enough to find fosters on a good day.    But of course, the society is only looking for five partners so perhaps that won’t have too big an impact on the rest of the rescue world.

Here’s the thing.    Anyone who has been rescuing in the past decade can well remember numerous instances where some society branches were providing shoddy, substandard care.

So this is what I think:

  • Of course the SPCA is well within their rights now to ask that their partners be willing and able to provide the proper standards of care, evaluation, treatment and placement for pets transferred into their care.
  •  And yes, the Society is definitely within their rights to insist on proof of spay or neuter for any intact animals that they transfer to a rescue partner

But …..

  • in a province where there is so much need …. particularly in light of the starry eyed souls who persist in dragging dogs up from the States as if this was some sort of magical fairy tale No Kill land with plenty of homes to spare,
  • and in a world where many cat rescuers are long on heart and so short on admin skills that some of the best ones never get around to applying for CRA charitable status,
  • and when finding fosters is a universal challenge for rescues,
  • and of course when accountable rescues both screen and monitor their own fosters

So ….

… the society is limiting its options by only asking for five applicants.   Even worse ….in the absence of any rescue regulations .. such partnerships will not address the difficulties caused by irresponsible rescuers.     Saddest of all of course is that this represents a missed opportunity for the type of bridge building that would restore confidence and provide a road map for the way forward.

What time is it?   It is always, always time to remember that trust is a two way street.

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.    Samuel Johnson