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?

On swimming upstream


Forty-three years ago today,  my father put on his best bib and tucker and we drove down to the Legion in Chatham so that I could be sworn into the military.     It is hard to imagine now that I would be swimming upstream simply following the family tradition of military service.

That was  a big year of change for the Canadian military.    Prior to that time, there was a very short list of “ladylike’ trades that were open for women recruits.    Women did a more genteel … and much shorter …. version  of basic training.     Nor had it been all that long since women even had their own .. more modest .. pay scale!

Even that was a tremendous improvement from the vestal virgin days in my mother’s time.   All those idiots babbling on about how they support equal rights but really don’t call themselves feminists should hop in a time machine back to 1952 … when my mother’s wedding day did double duty as her compulsory  release date from the RCAF.     Or to the swinging sixties, when married women were automatically released when they became pregnant.

Let me be perfectly clear .. thirty-nine years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter, the ink was still wet on the human rights legislation that made it illegal for any employer to terminate a woman’s employment for pregnancy.   Thirty-nine years … not centuries and centuries!

Of course, swimming upstream stood me in much better stead in my sixties than the many, many women who filled the more traditional roles so widely expected of a wife and mother.   As a sidebar note to that .. how on earth is ramping up CPP deductions going to protect the many women who still choose to be stay at home moms?     A contemporary of mine who went down that road now gets a whopping thirty-five dollars a month from CPP.   Thirty-five fawking dollars!

Not to be mean, but as these conventional stay at home mothers and wives age, they are more likely to be living under the poverty line that they would need a slingshot to reach the most modest standard of living.   Clearly the concern that our current government carries for the middle class does not extend itself to the elderly women who followed the traditional path that was expected of them.

But I am wandering afield as I am often wont to do in my meandering way.     Such stark realities are already  better served on blogs with a different focus than mine.

It is no secret that pets are good for our health and well being at any age.  Scientists are only beginning to find out what pet owners have known all along, eh?

It is also a fact of life that it can be very difficult for seniors to manage even the basic costs of pet care.   Now before the keyboards catch on fire, I am not suggesting that it is possible to fix every health issue by throwing a cat or dog at it.    But … in a world where people are living longer lives … investing modest amounts to help seniors keep their pets just makes sound fiscal sense.

Why am I thinking about that?    Well … as well as being a sentimental day on my calendar, today was also Miss Ruby’s annual checkup.       So while I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, this was one of those days that I am very grateful that  I did swim upstream.   That I have an income of my own and can afford to take care of my pets properly.

But what about all those seniors who can’t?    Should they have to forgo the comfort of a pet?    Would it not be a good investment in health care to provide low cost / no cost spay neuter and emergency care for low income seniors?      And before the keyboards catch on fire .. yes i know that there are some fabulous things being done right now in the city by Spay Day and at the SPCA Hospitals in Dartmouth and Sydney.   And yes .. there are lovely little pockets around the province where some spay neuter help is available.

But the problem as I see it is twofold.    First and foremost is of course that help is not consistently available throughout the province.   Secondly .. and in my not so humble opinion … more importantly … when help is available, it is not widely advertised.    As difficult as it may be for anyone who is knee deep in the rescue world to imagine, there is a whole world out there that is still pretty oblivious to any and all existing rescue options and help.

Here in King’s County, we get an annual newsletter with our tax bills.    How difficult would it be to include a rescue contact list in such a widely read bit?     Even better, it would be such a useful ounce for prevention for municipalities to pony up a bit of spay neuter money.    Best of all of course would be for the provincial Department of Seniors to find room in that Action Plan for an Aging Population to support low income seniors’ spay neuter and emergency care.

And before the keyboards catch on fire .. here in the real world people lead with their hearts not their heads when they get a pet.     To say that people shouldn’t get pets they cannot afford is akin to believing that poor people could pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they only wanted to.

What time is it?   If we already recognize how good pets are for our health, then it is time to put our money where our mouth is.