Friday, February 5, 2016

Heads up to local dog rescues - you have to licence your rescue dogs

So it has come to light that because of the recently passed A700 in the Halifax Regional Municipality that dogs coming into foster who are going to be in foster for longer than 20 days now have to be licenced with the Municipality in order to be in compliance with the bylaw.  This also applies to any puppy being born within the municipality, whether the puppy is born from a backyard breeder or a CKC kennel.

Under the old A300 you had 60 days before you had to licence your dog - what it used to say was:

Licensing Of Dogs 3
(1) No person shall own a dog within the Municipality without having obtained a license from the License Administrator within ten (10) days after the person becomes the owner of the dog, brings the dog into the Municipality or annually before the expiration of any current license.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a person who possesses, has the care of, has the control of or harbours a dog for less than sixty (60) days is not required to license the dog.

What A700 now says is:

Licensing Of Dogs
5. (1) No person shall own a dog within the Municipality without having obtained a license from the License Administrator:
(a) within twenty (20) calendar days after the person becomes the owner of the dog or brings the dog into the Municipality; or
(b) an annual license, before the expiration of any current license; or
(c) a lifetime license for the dog.

It has come to light because a local rescue's foster dog got out of a backyard and went for a very short walkabout and Animal Control got involved and the local rescue got issued a summary offence ticket for harbouring a dog without a licence - they had the dog in foster for longer than 20 days and hadn't got a tag for him.

I can say with pretty much utmost confidence that no one in rescue knew about this law.

Rescue's budgets are pushed to the limit now - and now we have to add this cost to our bottom line - pretty much unacceptable as far as I'm concerned because most responsible rescues have dogs in foster for longer than 20 days.

When a dog comes into rescue they take a few days to destress - then they go to the vet to be vaccinated. Most veterinarians require at least a week to 10 days between vaccination and spay/neuter - so you are now at 14 days - and then another 10 days waiting for the stitches to come out - and now you are at 24 days before the dog is even available for adoption - and if the dog requires more intensive vet or rehabilitation it could be a couple of months before they are available for adoption - I have personally had dogs in foster for 6 months before they are available for adoption - and then it could be a couple of months before the perfect forever home is found.

So 20 days is really a un-workable number.

I emailed Andrea MacDonald who oversees questions about bylaw A700 at the city asking her if there was some exemption or some answers that could be had with this problem - and her answer was:

"Our licensing system is set up to accommodate such situations. For example, when a dog comes into your care a license can be purchased with you as the primary owner. When the dog is fostered or adopted a secondary owner can be placed on the license. The license record can always contain the rescue contact information and the foster/adopted contact information. This can be very beneficially should the dog potentially get loose at any time, Animal Service will attempt to contact all individuals that are listed on the license record.

In addition, the cost to have the dog licensed can then be recovered through your adoption fee."

So now rescues have to do the extra paperwork of licencing every dog that comes into our rescue - and then when the dog is adopted - have the new owners added on to the tag - what about the next year, and subsequent years when the tag needs to be renewed - does the rescue have to keep renewing the tag? Does the owner do that or the rescue?

And adding another fee on top of our adoption fee? Most people looking for dogs already think our adoption fees are too high - so what are they going to think when we all have to raise our prices?

We all had an increase last year when we had to get Health Certificates added to our cost with the new regulations - which cost anywhere from $40 to $80 depending on the vet you go to - so now we are using our hard fought for fundraising dollars paying municipal fees and provincial fees - soon the government is going to add HST to adoption fees - that's going to be the next thing that's going to happen I think.

If we don't comply with this we are going to turn all of our foster homes into criminals - and what foster home is going to want to be a criminal - we are going to lose all our foster homes over this - and we all know - without foster homes a rescue cannot exist

If you have a concern over this I suggest as a person running a rescue inside the HRM you contact your Municipal Councillor to give your opinion - another fallout from A700.

If you do want to comply - most veterinarians take applications for city tags - so when you take your dogs in for their initial veterinary consultation - you can get their tags then.

Like as if we don't already have to deal with enough with our rescue organizations.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What to do when you find a stray dog in Nova Scotia

In the last week there has been a lot of news about a dog that was found in Hant's county named George.  He was found by a couple of very compassionate people who took him into their home and he had very obviously been seriously abused by some terribly awful people.  He had life threatening injuries to his body that could only be explained as having been done by long standing abuse. I'm not going to post the pictures that have been circulating facebook because they're just too raw. Suffice it to say they are severe.

The finders took him in last Wednesday, and they had the best of intentions but there were a few things that weren't done right away so I think it needs to get out there what needs to be done if you find a stray dog or you think a dog's been abandoned in Nova Scotia - or you find a dog that's been lost so that he can get back to his loving owners.

In 2010 I wrote a post called "Think Lost, not Stray" - at that time there was a movement in the States to start thinking about lost dogs as not stray dogs - but just dogs who were lost and trying to find their way home - it was a new concept and one that was growing.  And then in 2011 - I wrote a post called "Reuniting Lost Dogs with their Owners could be a Paradigm Shift in the Humane Movement" - and it was about the newly formed group "Nova Scotia Lost Dogs Network" here in Nova Scotia and how they were reuniting lost dogs with their owners.

Since then NSLDN has reunited literally thousands of dogs with their owners, (they have over 21,000 members) - saving the shelter system from having to take them on and saving tax payers untold amounts of money from having to house and try to figure out who the dogs belong to.  It truly has been a paradigm shift in the humane movement.  In 2008 the NS SPCA said that 75% of the dogs they took in were stray dogs - I don't imagine they'd say that statistic still holds true today.

So what should you do when you find a stray dog in Nova Scotia?

A couple things, and a couple things you should know -

#1 is that you don't own the stray dog that you've just found. Finders are not keepers.  Really, the original owner is still the owner - and it is your local animal control is the interim owner - the dog may have a microchip in him that can bring the dog home immediately - and there's no way you can know that.

#2 If the dog has been severely abused like the dog George was - the NS SPCA should be contacted immediately along with your local Animal Control and the NSLDN - because the dog is not only a dog - but he is also the lone piece of evidence in an animal cruelty case and he needs to be properly and completely documented in his current condition that you found him in - if he isn't the whole cruelty case could be completely compromised and any chance a conviction of animal cruelty for the original owner could be totally lost.

In the case of poor George - according to Facebook posts - the NS SPCA was not contacted until Saturday - so there 4 days that went before George's condition wasn't properly documented - which is a huge time lag.

So there are a few things you should do when you find a stray dog - you've either seen it, or you've been able to catch it - you call your local animal control to come pick him up, and you contact the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network so they can put the word out that he's been found - the owners may have already contacted them to say that their dog has been lost and they will come directly to your house to pick him up and bypass Animal Control altogether.

And if the dog shows signs of obvious abuse - also contact the NS SPCA so that they can liaise with the Animal Control department to start a case file on the dog.

If you decide that you love this dog you've just found - if the owner is never found - you can apply either to the Animal Control department or the SPCA - wherever he ultimately ends up - to adopt the dog - and then he's rightfully yours to own.

I run a dog rescue here in Nova Scotia - I rescue dogs that have been chained up their whole lives and I've received several emails from people who believe that their neighbours have abandoned their dogs after they've moved away - and they want me to come get the dog immediately - but I have told them I can't do that - because to just come get the dog is theft - I have always had to investigate further, and there's always been a story behind it.

Either the owners have been coming to feed the dog everyday and ultimately came and gotten the dog - or in one case the owner thought that the dog had been fed by someone, and when they found out the dog wasn't being fed - they agreed to let me have the dog - but it was with the owners agreement (who was living out west) that I took the dog - I would never just go and take a dog that looked abandoned without trying to find out why he was there - unless of course it was in the middle of the woods - and then I would call the proper authorities - because that would be a case for the SPCA because that is cruelty.

So hopefully this clears things up a bit about what to do if you find a stray dog - the best case scenario is that he's going to have a microchip in him and he'll be able to get home immediately - and if not, the next best thing is that he's already listed as being lost on NSLDN - but you should contact your local Animal Control department so that if his owners are looking for him they'll be able to find him there - and if he's obviously been abused - that is a case that the NS SPCA should be contacted about so that when his owners are found they can be charged with animal cruelty.

That is how things should be done so that justice is done for the dog and the dog can find his way home.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Crystal Crescent on a beautiful Sunday afternoon

This is what living in Nova Scotia is all about - you can drive 20 minutes from the biggest city on the east coast of Canada and arrive at a beach and you are completely alone with your dog.

It was so beautiful at Crystal Crescent beach today - such a nice day to get out with the dog and have a nice long walk, with nobody around but the dog - Tia had such a great time running around the rocks - she's really in great shape for being a 13 year old dog - she loved it there.

I have to say that Crystal Crescent has always been my favourite place for walking the dogs because it's so barren - the part I go to is on private property and has a sign saying that that the owner says "enjoy the beach, please pick up your garbage and leave nothing behind" - so people are allowed to be there - it's a secret little treasure for the few people who go there - it's a totally awesome place.

I saw this sneaker on the rocks today - it made me wonder if it might belong to one of the unfortunate men who went overboard this week on dumping day - it was on the same beach that I saw several wrecked lobster traps :(

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What is the difference between Animal Control Departments and the SPCA?

There is a very clear distinction drawn between Animal Control departments and SPCA's that I don't think a lot of people know about or that they find confusing. So I'm going to let you know what the differences are so that we no longer have to call the wrong department anymore when a dog is either causing a problem or when a dog is in danger.

Animal Control departments exist to protect people from dogs. If a dog is causing a problem in your neighbourhood - barking incessently, running at large and causing a nuisance, if you feel afraid that a dog is going to escape his back yard and come to attack you while you're walking down your street and you feel afraid in your own neighbourhood because of that dog. If you believe a dog fighting organization is running in your neighbourhood - those are all calls you should make to your animal control department by calling 311 in the hrm

If a dog is running loose in the neighbourhood and no one can catch him - you call Animal Control and they will come and catch him and impound him - hopefully he is microchipped, or been listed on the Nova Scotia Lost dog Neightwork and can be reuinited quickly.

The NS SPCA is the only organization in Nova Scotia "empowered under the provincial Animal Protection Act to investigate complaints of animal cruelty; help secure the arrest, conviction and punishment of all persons violating the Act; and, when necessary, seize animals from situations of cruelty or neglect."

So if you see a dog has been living on your street and is tethered regularly for more than 12 hours at a time and you have documented that and you can see him suffereing - this is not a case for Animal Control - they don't deal with those call.

So if you see a dog suffering in some way - you contact the SPCA - they protect dogs from people - which is the opposite of what Animal Control does - and a lot people get this confused.

If you can figure out the different responsibilities of the SPCA and Animal Control - you have learned a lot.

Anial Control doesn't really care about the situation of the dog - they just to make sure that the dog is not hurting people.

When the SPCA is involved they want to make sure that people are not hurting dogs.

It's as simple as that.

The HRM has made this distinction very clear in their bylaw - more clear than just about every city in the country - there is almost care about cats or dogs in their bylaw - there are other bylaws across the country - and the HRM compared their bylaw to 17 other bylaws when they were doing their research to update the bylaw from A300 to A700 - and some of those bylaws do have sections in them that take into consideration the health, safety and comfort of dogs and cats - but the HRM chose to leave all of those qualities from our bylaw for some reason. There is nothing positive in our bylaw - it is all reactive and directed at charging people for offences.

One could say that the HRM has a culture of not caring for dogs and cats at all - you could lead yourself to that to that decision, but that's not my allusion to draw.

For instance -the city of Hamilton, Ontario has a zero tolerance for licences and sends people door to door to check for proper licencing, as well they have a section of their bylaw relating to proper care for dogs being kept out doors:

Every owner of an animal shall ensure that the place where the animal is kept is such that:
(a) the animal may extend its legs, wings or body to their full natural extent;
(b) the animal may stand, sit or perch, or the place is otherwise adequate for the needs of the animal;
(c) the animal may be readily observed, unless the natural habits of the animal require otherwise; and
(d) the place is in a clean and sanitary condition.
In addition to complying with section 7.10, every owner of an animal shall ensure that any structure located in a yard where the animal is kept is:
a in the rear yard;
b located not less than 1 metre from the boundary line between the owner's premises and any abutting premises;
c soundly constructed of hard, durable materials;
d impervious to water;
e constructed of materials that may be readily sanitized;
f maintained in a good state of repair free from cracks, holes, rust and other damage;
g kept in a way that minimizes as nearly as practicable the transfer of pathogenic agents; and
(h) adequately ventilated for the health and comfort of the animal enclosed.

That's in a municipal bylaw - not a provincial law

Mississauga has an awesome animal bylaw -
Mississauga says this about keeping animals outside:

13) Every owner of an animal shall treat the animal in a humane manner, including but not limited to the provision of :
1) a shelter for the animal that is waterproof and that protects it from exposure to the elements;
 2) a shelter for the animal that is adequate for its size and breed; (230-14)
 3) adequate food and water for the animal;
4) access to shade during warm weather which does not include shade provided by an Animal Enclosure; (230-14) 8
5) sanitary conditions for the animal; and (230-14) 6) adequate veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to relieve the animal from distress caused by injury, neglect or disease. (230-14)
14) No person shall allow an animal to remain outdoors during Extreme Weather, except for brief walks or brief periods of exercise, unless the animal has access to an Animal Enclosure that will adequately protect the animal from the elements. (230-14, 277-14)
As well:
6) no person shall tether an animal for more than four (4) consecutive hours in a 24 hour period. This time restriction shall not apply where a dog is subject to: (i) a Muzzle Order under section 35 of this By-law or (ii) a provincial court order, should either provide for tethering restrictions. (230-14) 7) any person can apply for an exemption to the tethering requirement of subsection 20.1(6) of this By-law by filing an application with the Commissioner as further outlined in Schedule “D” to this By-law. (230-14)
As well:
2) Notwithstanding subsection 20.2(1) of this By-law, no person shall leave an animal unattended in a motor vehicle if the weather conditions are not suitable for the animal to remain free from distress or injury.
 3) Notwithstanding subsection 20.2(1) of this By-law, no person shall transport an animal outside the passenger compartment of any motor vehicle unless the animal is contained in a kennel or similar device that provides adequate ventilation, adequate space, protects the animal from the elements and is securely fastened in such a manner to prevent distress or injury to the animal.  
So you can see other municipalities across the country take the dog's health and well being into consideration - not just whether or not the dog is running at large, trying to kill us, barking out of control or shitting everywhere, or their owners paying a yearly fee in order to own our dogs.

We have to ask ourselves - why is the HRM so focused on finding ways to micro-manage dog owneres - a demographic that is very easy to find and very easy to legislate so tightly that it can make it very difficult for us even to leave our house with our dogs and not do something wrong.

It's becoming very difficult for our dogs to exhibit normal dog behaviour like barking for 5 minutes and yet our neighbours can have in home child daycares and the children scream all day and nothing can be done about it - our neighbours can mow their lawn at 7am on Saturday mornings or go with their leaf blowers and we are helpless - Tim Horton's coffee cups are a blight on our streets, people think nothing about all the garbage that's everywhere - but the places we can take our dogs become less and less everyday because of some misplaced paranoia and it begins with things like the legislation that's been placed upon us by the HRM staff, and I think a lot of people agree with me.

If you've read A700 and you don't think it's good legislation - then you should do something about it.

You should contact your councillor - or contact all the Councillors and say that you were unhappy that there was no public consultation before it was enacted, and you'd like it to come back to Council to see some amendments made

The Running at large section is far too vague - the only other bylaw in Canada that has legislation like that is Calgary, and what Calgary's bylaw says in relation to that reads:
- an Animal or Animals which are under the control of a person responsible by means of a Leash and which cause damage to persons, property or other Animals;

A700 says in relation to the same topic:
- on a leash but not under the control of a person

Do you see what I mean by A700 being too vague?

Calgary says that the dog is on a leash, but it's causing damage to persons, property or other animals - A700 just says "not being under control" - so it's completely up to the "Compliance Officer" to decide what is considered to be "not under control".

That is not what good legislation is called - that is what is called "bad legislation".  And it's legislation like that that hurts people having dogs doing normal dog behaviour and "Compliance officers" being assholes.  In my opinion.

I have listed below all the animal control departments all across the country that the hrm sought advice in building the bylaw - and they cherry pick some amazing things.

Brampton Ontario:

Caledon Ontario:

Calgary Alberta:

Edmonton Alberta:


- allow hens
- zero tolerance for licences - send officers door to door

London Ontario:

London has an off leash dog park bylaw -
As part of the Enforcement Division, Animal Services encourages safe and enjoyable communities for both people and pets. The Animal Care and Control Bylaw has been established to reflect Mississauga's community values.

Our philosophy is to promote responsible pet ownership. Our goal is to encourage voluntary bylaw compliance by first educating then enforcing the bylaw.

Moncton New Brunwick Pet owner bylaw -
Do not allow your dog to cause a disturbance by barking or howling for more than five minutes between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Oshawa Ontario dog bylaw -

Ottawa Ontario -
Has a section on keeping dogs in sanitary environments and a section on tethering and responsibility to care for animals

Saint Johns Newfoundland -
Talks about leaving dogs out in unsanitary conditions

Toronto Ontario -
Talks about appropriate treatment of dogs and cats

Winnipeg Manitoba -
Talks about regulating rescues

Vancouver Britis Columbia -
Has a whole section on the basic keeping of dog
Also allows chickens

Wolfville Nova Scotia -
Is the only other bylaw provided by the HRM that also includes a section that allows officer to shoot animals on sight

Monday, November 30, 2015

Should Responsible Dog Owners be worried about Bylaw A700 in the HRM?

It was suggested to me that responsible dog owners shouldn't have to worry about the changes that have been made to the dog bylaw here in the HRM - that if we take our dog ownership seriously, and do things correctly - we aren't going to get into trouble because the laws as they are written will not bring us into conflict with Animal Control.

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with that statement - it's responsible dog owners who have to worry about the new bylaw the most, because we are the ones who actually try to follow the rules, and it is irresonsible dogowners who don't care about any rules at all and just continue to do what they want - so the new bylaw isn't going to affect their lives whatsoever.

If you are like me I have more than one dog - I've got five dogs - all rescue dogs - so that's five dogs worth of barking - I have never let them bark for more than 20 minutes at a time - I don't even let them bark for 5 minutes - but there have been times when they've needed to go out at 2 in the morning to pee and poop - and sometimes during those times they pee.

According to the new bylaw and people's comments about it - that's why the bylaw was changed - because people are pissed off that dog owners let their dogs pee at certain times of the day - not for 20 minutes necessarily - but it's a hassle for the neighbours to be woken up.

A person on facebook - who believed she had all the anwers said "there were complaints such as dogs that were let out at 5 am *every* morning and barked – but because it was only for 15 minutes each time, there was no violation. There were dogs that barked early in the morning and late at night but because it was less than 20 minutes at a time (even if the time in between barking was only 5 minutes so the dog was actually barking most of the time) there was nothing that could be done."

Things like this should be handled on a neighbour to neighbour basis - the dog owner probably doesn't realize he's being a nuisance

So now I have to not let my dogs out to pee in the middle of the night anymore for fear of people contacted by Animal Control? Because I'm a responsible dog owner and I don't want any negative interactions with animal control.

There are other dog bylaws across Nova Scotia that have better legislation regarding barking that I think would work better than what the HRM just passed. Amherst - just in November 2015 released a new "Companion Animal Bylaw" - and what they say about barking is -

7. No dog shall be permitted to consistently disturb the quiet of a neighborhood by barking, howling, or otherwise making noise to a degree beyond what the Animal Control Officer determines to be normal.
7.1 In determining what is “normal” in the context of this section, the ACO shall consider one or more, but not limited too, the following factors:
a) the time of day that the dog is reported as disruptive;
b) the frequency and duration of the reported disruptive behavior;
c) the proximity of neighbors and population density of the neighborhood.
7.2 If the ACO determines, upon reasonable grounds, that a dog is being disruptive, as defined in this section, the ACO shall give a written warning to the dog owner before taking any other action under this by-law.

This sounds much better than the threatening legislation than the HRM passed.

I had a couple more thoughts on the HRM's ability to destroy on sight an animal -

This morning my Councillor sent me a comparison of what was in A300 and what has been changed in A700

A-300 Version
Powers of Animal Control Officer
14 (2) If any animal is at large and cannot be seized safely, an Animal Control Officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that the animal poses a danger to a person or another animal and the owner is not readily able to be found, may immediately, without notice to the owner, destroy the animal, in a humane manner.

A-700 Version:
Powers of a Peace Officer
17(3) If any animal that is not a cat is running at large and cannot be apprehended safely, a Peace Officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that the animal poses a serious danger to the health or safety of a person or another animal, may immediately, without notice to the owner, destroy the animal, in a humane manner.

So, what has changed?
#1 is that it's changed from an "animal control officer" to a "peace officer". A peace officer as stated in the bylaw is - "“Peace Officer” means a police officer, by-law enforcement officer or a special constable appointed pursuant to the Police Act, S.N.S. 2004, c.31;

I think the only one of those noted that carries a gun is a police officer - so my next question is - and one I would question because in the previous A300 animal control officers could also "may immediately without notice to the owner, destroy the animal in a humane way" - and my question is - how are the animal control officers humanely killing dogs without using a gun?

What is the method they are using?

The next thing is about the running at large - and the part about how a dog being leashed and tethered to you could still be charged with running at large - even though he's really not because he is leashed to you.

It turns out that the city didn't have any way to charge these people who had dogs that were jumping on people and being rude - so they created this section just for that - so in other words - all of these new additions and changes were made in a completely reactionary way.

They weren't made to improve the lives of dogs and their humans and to make a better city for dogs, their owners and the city at large - it was simply to create more laws so that they could people for specific things that they've been having trouble with.

I'm not a lawyer or a rocket scientist, but in my education on these things in the last 15 years, I don't think that's the way you write good legislation.

Another thing is about the new leash law and how it can't be any more than 3 metres or 10 feet. a lot of people use "long leads" or "drag leads" when they are training their dogs - and this will no longer be allowed - they are using it for the safety of their dogs - so that if the dog starts to look like he's going to run - they can step on the lead and catch the dog - it's a vital tool that is now no longer available.

There has been a culture at city hall for many years - as long as I've been involved with dog politics - and that's almost 15 years - that there is no wish for public consultation - it's only staff who make policy, and the policy that they write rarely is positive for dogs and dog owners - it's always a losing situation for us. We have done nothing but lose services in the last 15 years, and that is a shame because we are an exploding community - I wish they'd come to their senses and stop trying to make us disappear and start giving us the services we so desperately need and deserve because after all - we pay the same taxes as everyone else.

To end off - I'm thinking about moving to East Hants, it's not that far from Halifax, and they have a much better bylaw than us.

Friday, November 27, 2015

HRM's Bylaw A700 has set animal welfare back in Nova Scotia by 20 years - REVISED with new information

The Halifax Regional Municipality today released news that a new animal bylaw is coming into force tomorrow - A300 is not going to exist anymore, it's being amalgamated with A700 which previously just dealt with livestock - and what we are going to have now is by far the WORST ANIMAL BYLAW in Nova Scotia. (It's very interesting to note that we can't compare A700 to A300 - HRM has removed all traces of A300 from the municipality's website)

I'm going to go through piece by piece why I believe this - and I think by the end you'll agree with me - and I hope you will write your Councillor and ask why there was no public consultation on the bylaw - and if there was - why it wasn't on the news, or why no dog owner heard about the new bylaw until today!

So here we go -

You can read the bylaw in it's entirety at

The first thing is about "running at large" -

(v) “running at large” means to be off the property of its owner and:
(i) without a leash;
(ii) on a leash that is not held by a person; or
(iii) on a leash but not under the control of a person;

You can now be charged for your dog running at large if the "peace officer" doesn't believe that you have control of your dog! That's kind of subtle, isn't it? I have my dog on-leash, he is tethered to me - but the "peace officer" doesn't think that I have him under control - so he's going to charge me with something - and now he's got something he can charge me with! Isn't that wonderful! It's like "I'm going to charge you with something, so this is what I'm going to get you for!"  And just to note - it's a $200 fine - up to $5,000.

The second thing relates to noise - in A300 a dog could bark for 20 minutes before it was considered a nuisance, and the person being bothered had to fill out a "barking log" before they could contact animal control - it was also under the "nuisance bylaw", not the animal control bylaw - now it's under A700 and under section 12.2 it says:
(2) For the purposes of this section, evidence that one neighbour was unreasonably disturbed by the barking, howling or by the making of noise by the dog is prima facie evidence that the neighbourhood was unreasonably disturbed by such barking, howling or noise.
That means that if your neighbour is pissed off after FIVE MINUTES of your dog barking - they can call Animal Control - and it's considered a valid call. That is a HUGE CHANGE in the bylaw.

If you've got more than one dog - you've got a problem - if you've got 3 dogs, say - and one dog goes out and barks for 3 minutes, then goes in and your second dog runs out and barks for 3 minutes and then your 3rd dog goes out and runs around for 3 minutes - you've got yourself a barking problem - because that's now 9 minutes of barking. And if you've got a doggy day care in the HRM - you've got yourself a BIG PROBLEM now if you've got neighbours who are unhappy with you.

A new things relates to leash length:

(h) “leash” means a device made of rope, cord or similar material:
(i) used by a person to restrict the movement of an animal;
(ii) that is adequate for the purpose of restricting the animal; and
(iii) that does not exceed 3 meters in length;

No more retractable leashes - leashes can be no more than 10 feet in length - and most retractable leashes are 16 feet - so throw out your retractable leashes, they are now illegal

This is not new, but they've made it much worse -
17 (3) If any animal that is not a cat is running at large and cannot be apprehended safely, a Peace Officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that the animal poses a serious danger to the health or safety of a person or another animal, may immediately, without notice to the owner, destroy the animal, in a humane manner.

It used to say - "If any animal is at large and cannot be seized safely, an Animal Control Officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that the animal poses a danger to a person or another animal and the owner is not readily able to be found, may immediately, without notice to the owner, destroy the animal, in a humane manner"

So it used to say basically that animal control officers, NOT "peace officers" could shoot your dogs. We know that animal control officers don't carry guns - so really the point was useless. As well - it used to say that "the owner is not readily able to be found" - but that part has been taken away - so now the "peace officer can shoot your dog right in front of you.

So say you are in a park, and your dog is leashed to you - but he's growling and barking at a "peace officer", and the officer feels threatened - he can now legally shoot your dog.

Or if your dog is running at large, and the "Peace Officer" - and what is that? It could be a police officer, or an animal control officer - I don't know what that is - is chasing your dog - and it's running through a playground, and there's a couple kids there - and it's a pit bull say, and that "peace officer" has a certain disposition towards pit bulls - they can SHOOT YOUR DOG ON SIGHT now.

It has been in lots of animal bylaws across Nova Scotia - but as every bylaw across the province has been updated - it's been REMOVED from almost every one because it's an old and antiquated idea.

In 2011 I wrote a blog post about Yarmouth's potential dog bylaw and I addressed this very topic, in that post I said:

"The ability for Town Staff to shoot a dog on sight (or after capture) without notice to or complaint against the owner for infractions such as running at large, or eluding capture – and town staff being able to shoot on sight any dog is rabid or exhibits symptoms of canine madness: 
We do not have rabies in Nova Scotia yet in any number to be aware of – about 3 or 4 cases in the last 10 years – and only 1 or 2 of those (maybe) have been in a dog – to allow the shooting on sight of any dog for the perceived case of rabies based on those statistics – is not a reasonable argument.

On page 27 and 28 of the Westville Nova Scotia dog bylaw - - you will find an explanation as to why “shoot on sight” statutes are in dog bylaws – it is because at one time more rural areas inserted them into bylaws for their ability to be able to shoot dogs that were being a nuisance to wildlife – it chasing wildlife – indeed, the Nova Scotia Wildlife Act still has a section allowing the shooting of dogs running at large in their statutes when unattended by their humans. 
It is perhaps appropriate when they are running at large in the woods after a deer – but not in the middle of a town when they are running down the middle of Main Street. If they are menacing and attacking a human – Police officers or another designated (armed) town official will obviously still be empowered through their other duties to shoot the dog – but a bylaw enforcement officer should not have the ability to shoot a dog on sight simply for a dog running at large in the 21st century."
PLEASE, Halifax Regional Municipality staff who write bylaws - THIS IS 2015! Things like this don't belong in animal bylaws! Things like this are being removed from bylaws. Give me a fucking break.

Okay, I'm going to calm down a little bit and move on to the next item.

Another problem is that the "licence administrator" seems to have a lot more power than they did in A300 -

They are empowered to:
4(b) issue an Order to comply with this By-law.
Under Section - "Duties of an animal owner" - it sets out the offences for when you own a dog or a cat, and in section 8.3 it says:

(3) The owner of an animal that is livestock shall build and maintain an enclosure sufficient to prevent escape.

Section 9 references section 8.3 and says
9. (1) Where the License Administrator has determined that the owner of an animal is not in compliance with clause 8(3), he or she may issue an Order to the owner that the owner shall, at the owner’s sole expense, build or maintain an enclosure.
But then section 9.3 says:

(3) (a) An owner may, within seven (7) calendar days of being served with an Order that was issued pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, appeal the Order of the License Administrator to the Committee.

What is this COMMITTEE? Who is on this committee? How does one get on this committee? We've never had a committee before? Where did this committee come from?

Cats don't get away with anything in this bylaw either - they have their own section now, and it's now illegal for them to shit on your neighbour's property -

Duties of A Cat Owner
10. It shall be an offence to own a cat that:
(a) damages public or private property; or
(b) defecates on any public or private property, other than the property of its owner, without the owner of the cat immediately removing the defecation.

So you better bring all your cats inside - because they are only allowed to shit on your own lawn now.

The last bad thing - and this was in A300 - but it needs to be removed, is 6c
(c) the description, including its sex, breed, and known or approximate age; 
The HRM wants to know the description of your dog - down to what breed your dog is.  I don't have to tell you - this is the first step towards breed discrimination - or more popularly known as BSL.

The city will now know where every registered pit bull is in the city - so if they decide that they don't want any more pit bulls - or they want to round up every pit bull type dog and kill them - they now have that information.  I would suggest to you that if you do register your dog and you have a pit bull - register him or her as a lab mix.  I know when I had a rottweiller I always registered her as a "doberman mix".  Beware.

So what do we do from here?

Contact your councillor and tell them that you are very unhappy that this bylaw has changed and you were not consulted and you want these things changed so that your dog is not in danger - because I can tell you - your dog is in DANGER right now.

Tell them that if these things in the current A700 are not changed - you may move out of the Halifax Regional Municipality - they may lose your tax dollars - because you love your dog(s) that much.

This is very serious.  We have been seriously had the rug pulled out from under us by this bylaw.

It is very obvious that the staff of the Halifax Regional Municipality HATES dogs - for what reason I have no idea but this has been building up to today for many years - and it has to stop today.

PLEASE, do not let this continue - A700 has to be repealed - for the love of your dog(s) - do something about this very dangerous bylaw.  The life of your dog(s) is at stake.  I am not kidding about this.  Read the bylaw and choose for yourself.

You can find out the contact information for your councillor here -

The press release that was posted today is here -

You'll notice that I didn't post any of the good things that were passed in the new bylaw - that's because the bad things in the new bylaw far outweigh anything that was passed that heinous and dangerous.

Revision added at 10:24 pm November 27, 2015
I have been in contact with my Councillor - Stephen Adams, and he informed me that the Bylaw went before HRM Council for a public hearing on November, 10, 2015

You can watch the council meeting on video at - skip foward to section 9.2 to just hear the section about A700 - you'll hear the presentation by Andrea MacDonald.

She gave a presentation which you can see at

Their report - which will absolutely blow you away - is at

Andrea MacDonald, during the question and answer period with the Councillors, was asked a question by David Hendsbee - he asked her

"In regards to consultation with the general public there's some comments we received about some people feel that not enough public consultation has been done on this, so if this gets passed tonight in this forum what kind of communication strategy will we advise the public of these changes and if there should be any outcry for changes within the proposed bylaw would that be a simple amendment
Andrea MacDonald:  We would work with Corporate Communications to come up with a strategy to communicate the changes and I didn't get the second part, sorry.
David Hendsbee:  And if there's any outcry for possible adjustments within the bylaw would there be an opportunity to amend those within any reasonable time?
Andrea MacDonald:  I would assume they'd have to come back to Council

And that's all she said.

So I guess we need to contact our Councillors and demand that the Bylaw come back to Council for amendments.

What followed after this report was a Public Hearing.

And guess what - NOBODY SHOWED UP.


Because no dog owner in the HRM knew about it.

And the only people consulted about the bylaw was the NS SPCA, The NS VMA and the shelter keeper ie Homeward Bound - I can tell you that those 3 organizations don't speak for me.


Contact your Councillor and demand amendments to this horrible bylaw.

Further posts on this topic:

Should responsible dog owners be worried about Bylaw a700 in the HRM?

What's the difference between Animal Control and the SPCA?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Losing Buttercup

After being together for 4,446 days I have lost Buttercup.  She was the love of my life.

Most people say that about humans, but I say that about a dog.  She understood me. She never left my side.
Every night when we slept she was by my head.  She was my constant companion.  When I had anxiety she calmed me down. When I was sad she made me happy.

When I needed to get out she took me to the beach.  When I needed to eat we shared a bowl of oatmeal.

When I needed warmth she snuggled up next to me.

When I needed protection she put her body in front of my face.

It is so unfortunate that when I got Buttercup from the SPCA she was already a senior. The vet thought she was about 9 years old, and that was in August 2003.  As the years went on though she seemed to get younger as time went on.

She could go anywhere and do anything - climb any rock, and keep up with the big dogs Charlie and Daisy - we went somewhere everyday off leash for at least an hour - a new adventure every day 365 days a year, we had such a great life.  That went on for years - I took her shopping with me, we had so may fun times.

But then everyone started to get older, Buttercup's knees started to give out - and she spent most of her time on my Dad's lap, but that was okay - she had new job - taking care of my Dad.  And he loved her so much - she'd stay on his bed when they had a nap - he loved her as much as I loved her - that went on for about 4 years. She made him so happy.

And in 2012 my Dad died.  And Buttercup took on a new job - one that she didn't like at all - hanging from the jowels of all the foster dogs that started coming through the house - almost 40 dogs moved through the house from 2012 to now - and she hated every one of them, and tried to kill all of them.  And we are very lucky that not one of them tried to kill her - it's a testament to the fact that former chained dogs tend not to be dog aggressive.

But Buttercup continued to be the boss and continued to keep all dogs away from me - and also got as much dehydrated liver as she wanted - sometimes I think that her love of dehydrated liver was the only thing that kept her alive.

She had a heart murmur, low thyroid, her knees weren't in their sockets at all, they were just floating in them, she was 5 pounds less than she was at the height of her life - but still she walked as far as I asked her to, she went outside to use the washroom, and she did whatever she wanted - right up until her 21st birthday this past August.

But even in August, I could tell that she wasn't feeling well, I knew the end was coming but I just couldn't handle it.

And today the end came.  Now I have to live my life without her smacking my leg at 7pm to tell me that it's time to go out to the kitchen to get some liver.  There is no boss of this crew anymore.  I am alone, even though I still have 5 dogs left in the room with me.

I am without my Buttercup.The animal I would pick up and press to my neck and give kisses to and hope that everything would be okay in the world, now I have no reassurances at all. I have no little dog to lay on my head to dissapate the thoughts that swirled in my head.

Buttercup made me feel special.  I was so lucky to have her, I didn't deserve her, but I had her and she was mine. And now she's gone. And I am no longer special.  I don't know what I'm going to do without her. Now I am just me, and I am no one.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pat Lee Speech about State of the Cats in Nova Scotia Today

Last night I went to a cat event - the Spay-Getti Gala Dinner hosted by Spay Day Nova Scotia and Pick of the Litter Society, and it was a lot of fun - they had a lot of silent auction items and I of course bid on a dog basket (which I won) and the spaghetti was awesome - but Pat Lee - local writer and bon vivant gave a speech that I didn't want to escape into the ether, so I thought I'd publish it here with her permission - so I'm having my first guest post ever on this blog - written by Pat Lee - who publishes a column weekly in the Chronicle Herald Called "Pat Lee's Pet Corner" - here is the speech she gave last night:


Awhile back I wrote something in my Pet Corner column that annoyed the heck out of a dog lover, sparking the comment: “Stick to writing about fluffy kittens”

The column that ticked her off so much was my take on Halifax's decision to relocate a dog park. At the time I recall thinking, “wow, if cats only had the equivalent of a park, paid for by the city, that their owners could get up on their hind legs about. Wouldn't that be nice?”

Because, of course, cats don't have that level of municipal support or anything close to it.

In fact, cats, especially free roaming cats, are for the most part left to fend for themselves unless they're lucky enough to be cared for by a kindhearted person or volunteers from a rescue group who might be able to provide a shelter and food, or, if they're lucky, get a trip to the vet if they become sick or injured.

A recent case in the news about an owned cat, who nonetheless looked, and it turns out was, very ill, further highlights the problem. When the owner couldn't be found, the elderly and sickly cat was humanely euthanized instead of being left to fend for itself in that condition. In fact, Halifax's Animal Services had seen the cat previously, but it was not deemed "critically" ill or injured and it was not taken off the streets.

As a society, we undervalue cats, which is ironic given that they are the No. 1 household pet in Canada. Most people love their own cats to bits – I know I sure do my Ollie and Buddy -- but in society they are still given second-class standing.

Here's a quiz for you: Can you guess when the Nova Scotia government included the word “cat” in its Animal Protection Act? It was just last year. We can thank our friends from the Tuxedo Party for lobbying the minister to
make that change. Up until then, the Act only mentioned dogs. Cats truly are the underdogs.

Here's a few more examples.

Just before Christmas, my friend Inge Sadler of Pick of the Litter took in six pups who had been found tied in a garbage bag and thrown in a watery ditch. One had already died and the rest of the litter was doomed too if not for some young girls who came upon them. As is her speciality, she bottle fed them, stayed up through the night in the first few days when their survival wasn't certain, and got them to the point where they were healthy and eventually adopted.

While she had the puppies, my brethren in the media, print and broadcast, beat a path to her door, wanting to tell the story of the wonderful – and it truly was wonderful – rescue of these dear, sweet pups. In fact, many media outlets wanted to come more than once to track their progress.

Inge, who's prime mission is rescuing orphan kittens – having hundreds of them go through her home a year – mentioned to members of the media that she continually takes in kittens who are found in equally deplorable
situations. She said they would be welcome to document their stories as well. In fact, not long afterwards she got a little of kittens delivered to her door, found in a bag in a ditch. Sound familiar? But there was no interest.

This is Angel. She was found this winter, frozen and half dead in the middle of a highway outside of Halifax. I shudder to think how many drove by her before someone stopped, pulled a blanket out of their vehicle, and scooped Angel off the road, taking her to a friend who does cat rescue. Would a dog have been left in that condition? Would a dog be outside long enough to GET in that condition? After hearing about Angel, I spread this story far and wide on social media and included it in a column, but the rescue – Sympathetic Ear – never heard from any other media about this. What's newsworthy about a half-dead cat in the road? But say the same sentence with the word dog in it. I think there would have been a different response.

Last year when Halifax announced that it was closing a popular off-leash dog park – remember? Fluffy kittens? -- there was a hue and cry throughout the land, with again the media all over the issue. Public meetings were held to hear dog owners' concerns and to find a replacement – which the city did. Other than perhaps dealing with an issue before council, when was the last time you heard about a municipality holding a special public meeting to address cat issues? Nothing comes to mind for me.

Again in Halifax, a few months ago the city rubber-stamped its new, fiveyear, $2.4-million animal services contract, awarding it once again to Homeward Bound City Pound. Sadly, there are no provisions for cats in this hefty contract, unlike the SPCA's lower bid, which did include programs to address the needs of cats. But instead, council chose to stay with the non-feline-friendly status quo.

So what's the result of society's systemic neglect of cats?

Well, as I don't have to tell some of you, it's an epidemic of feral and stray cats, primarily in dense urban areas, or outside cities where they find refuge and food around farms and wharves. Many of these cats are sick, spreading disease among their colonies and dying horrible and early deaths. And because they're not spayed or neutered, the cycle just continues. We are just coming out of what rescuers call “kitten season” and it's not a
time to celebrate.

Because many municipalities do not support cat rescues even just a little bit, it's left to the hard work of individual rescuers, most doing it on their own time, on their own dime, and working literally to exhaustion. Burnout among cat rescuers is, not surprisingly, very high.

But there are a few bright lights out there.

At his invitation, Inge Sadler and I met with Halifax Mayor John Savage to talk about cat issues and he seemed receptive. There have also been other meetings with city representatives by members of Spay Day HRM. The city
is also currently establishing an advisory committee to address cat-related issues, which could go a long way to bringing forth programs to battle a feral and stray cat problem and heighten education among cat owners. We're all anxious to see what this committee will look like and how the city will implement its recommendations sometime in the future. I remain cautiously optimistic.

A few years ago Cape Breton Regional Municipality began giviing a $25,000 annual grant to the Cape Breton Feral and Abandoned Cat Society, a coalition that has been aggressively tackling the feral cat problem in the Sydney area. While that money goes nowhere near covering the cost of such a program, it set the ball in motion to begin the work they're doing.

Rescues around the province are working to come up with ways to help cat owners spay or neuter their pets, including the SPCA which has two clinics – one in Dartmouth and its new one in Sydney – to help rescuers and low income households to fix their cats at an affordable rate.

But those programs and others are just a drop in the bucket until cats are put on a level playing field with dogs when it comes to increased care and concern, not only by pet owners, who would abandon their cat or let their unspayed or unneutered cat roam the neighbourhood, but also by our elected officials.

If a town is willing to spend money on staff to catch lost dogs, provide pound services and dog parks, they should also be willing to pony up the cash to help spay and neuter cats for humane population control, provide educational programs to deter abandonment and abuse, and generally promote goodwill toward the No. 1 household pet in Canada.

So next time you hear your community express support for dog initiatives, don't be afraid to stand up and ask for the equivalent for our feline friends. Or next time you hear of a cat-related story worthy of media attention, don't be afraid to pester your local news outlet for equal time. And, of course, -- which probably needs not be emphasized in this room – donate your time, money or supplies if you can – to organizations like the SPCA or cat rescues like Spay Day HRM or Pick of the Litter doing this lifesaving work with little or no governmental support.

While we all love dogs and only wish the best for them, it's time for us all to become cat advocates.

Thank you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sled dog people are full of hooey when it comes to chaining out dogs

A sled dog yard in Quebec

The Montreal SPCA is asking the Quebec government to ban keeping dogs chained around the clock as part of an upcoming overhaul of the province's animal-rights legislation.

There is an article on the CTV News website that interviews both the Montreal SPCA and Bernard Saucier, president of Quebec's Sled Dog Club - who gives us some very choice quotes on what he thinks about chaining dogs out. It's quite unbelievable really, what he says.

He "says anti-tethering campaigns are based on a lack of understanding, and maintains that his dogs are happier and healthier tied outside near their friends than stuck in a house all day."

"My dogs are in a park, they each have their territory, they socialize with their friends, run around their houses, go take a nap, they can urinate when they need," he said. "They get more exercise outside than lying around a house all day."

If that isn't the biggest load of hooey you've ever heard in your life - I don't know what rock you're living under.

What are the reasons that companion dogs exist in today's world?  Is it soo that they can run around a dog house continually, bark at the air and lay down next to their own feces and urine and live in a 6 foot perimeter with a chain hanging off of them their whole life - "near" their "friends" - but never able to actually touch them, interact with them or play with them?

My dogs, and all companion dogs, live inside a house - have access to water that's not been tipped over because the chain has knocked it over, usually have a plethora of toys to choose from to play with - have a soft bed - or a couch, or a soft chair to sleep on - have soft music or the tv in the background - a lot of times have a dog brother or sister that they can cuddle with and actually interact with through the day while their owner is at work - they also have the freedom to bark at any time they want to - they have access to water any time they want, and because they are trained and socialized - they hold their pee and poop inside until their owners get home.

They just hang out and relax all day and then when their owners get home they have alot of fun for a few hours, and then they have the best time of all - they get to sleep with their owners all night long - the piece de la resistance.  The best part of their day as far as the dog is concerned.

What part of this does a sled dog get?


What part of a sled dog's life could possibly make them happy?  The 30 seconds that the human is in the yard feeding them once a day?  Give me a break.

And they call that "responsible tethering".

That is no life for any animal - any predator can come into that yard and in half-an-hour kill every dog in the yard - a companion dog is safe inside a home.  A storm could come and kill every dog in a sled dog yard - no storm can kill a companion dog inside a home.  Chained dogs are not safe in SO MANY ways.

They are prey to passing transiant dogs - none of them are ever spayed or neutered, so any dog that passes by can have their way with them - they are trapped.  Any human that wants to come by can abuse and tease them.  They are marked targets.

So all of this added up makes permanently chained dogs - sled dogs, not "happier and healthier" - but in fact sad and marked targets that you can do nothing but feel sorry for - and hopefully the Quebec government will enact legislation that will do a better job of protecting them in the future.

Here is the CTV News article -

MONTREAL - The Montreal SPCA is asking the Quebec government to ban keeping dogs chained around the clock as part of an upcoming overhaul of the province's animal-rights legislation.
The animal welfare organization is launching a campaign Tuesday to raise awareness about tethered dogs, which they say are more likely to be injured or neglected, are exposed to the elements, and suffer psychological damage as a result of being constantly tied.

"Dogs are social animals. They need to be in contact with other dogs, with other animals, with people," said Sophie Gaillard, the SPCA's lawyer and animal advocacy campaigns manager.

"When they're kept isolated and deprived of the ability to play or exercise they develop very severe behavioural frustration, boredom and psychological distress," she continued.

Gaillard said approximately one-third of the complaints received by the Montreal SPCA's cruelty investigation unit concerns chained dogs.

Quebec introduced a bill earlier this year that, if passed, would see the status of animals upgraded from "movable property" to "sentient beings."

The SPCA is hoping to get a ban on round-the-clock dog tethering included in the bill or accompanying regulations, which will be debated this fall.

Gaillard said the bill would not focus on people who walk their dogs on leashes or tie them up for a short time, but rather on dogs who spend every day on a chain.

Both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have recently passed legislation banning 24/7 tethering, as have some municipalities across Canada.

Gaillard says that in addition to welfare concerns, tethering of dogs is a "public safety issue" since dogs who are tied are more likely to attack humans or be involved in dogfights since they are less well socialized and cannot flee from perceived threats.

The SPCA's proposal may face opposition from some groups including the province's sled dog community, who commonly keep dogs outside on tethers.

Bernard Saucier, president of Quebec's Sled Dog Club, says anti-tethering campaigns are based on a lack of understanding, and maintains that his dogs are happier and healthier tied outside near their friends than stuck in a house all day.

"My dogs are in a park, they each have their territory, they socialize with their friends, run around their houses, go take a nap, they can urinate when they need," he said. "They get more exercise outside than lying around a house all day."

Gaillard maintains that sled dogs are still deprived of social interaction because they cannot touch each other and are rarely let free.

Saucier said his dogs cannot touch but are let off their tethers to play in small groups at times.

He said anti-tethering campaigns are the result of well-meaning people who want to ascribe human characteristics to their pets.

"There's not a dog kept in a house that's as healthy as ours," he said.

The SPCA is launching a website,, to raise awareness about the campaign.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare

The "Five freedoms of animal welfare" is something that I've been thinking about lately.

They were developed in 1965 from a UK report on livestock and have been used by then by groups and government around the world as a standard of how to treat animals - domestic and factory - properly, and with compassion.

The Five Freedoms are -

1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
4. Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

When we think about our own companion animals - our dogs, it is an interesting list, and it wouldn't seem to be too difficult to follow all the things that it asks of us.

For number one - all we have to do is to properly feed our dogs and give them access to potable water at all times - which is something that we all do as responsible dog owners.

Number two is a given - anyone who reads this blog keeps their dogs inside with them, and lets them sleep wherever they like - on our beds, on the couch - wherever they want to sleep or hang out - no problem

Number three - we all take our dogs to the vet at the slightest hint that something may be wrong - I know that I totally micro-manage the health of all of my dogs - my vet's receptionists know my voice whenever I call them - I don't even have to say - "this is Joan calling" - they know exactly who I am whenever I say hello - that's how often I call them!

Number four is where it starts to get tricky though. What is normal behaviour? Would that be something like barking? Growling? Humping other dogs? Humping the cat? Running up into the woods behind your house and going for a bit of a walk-about? What is normal behaviour?

And how much normal behaviour does a 6 pound yorkie get to express when he has more clothing than a typical factory worker?

And then there's freedom number five - "freedom from fear and distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering" - that is a whole can of worms that a lot of dog owners who really believe that they love their dogs - really would rather not think about that - and that relates to controlling that so-called "normal behaviour" that our dogs like to express - like barking too much, and not wanting to come to us the second we call them to us, and growling at other dogs - and a whole host of inappropriate things that our dogs can get up to.

We as dog loving people, and responsible dog owners - really have to think of our dogs first - and what is best for them - and not - what is easiest for us - when it comes to making it easy to live with the canine life companions that we have chosen for ourselves.

We have chosen them to live with us - not the other way around - and I don't think that we should use things that cause fear and intimidation in order to make them obey and immediately bow down to us.

That's not the kind of relationship I want to have with my dogs - I don't need them to turn on a dime, and when I'm out with them - the only time I ask them to come is when I actually need them to come to me - and guess what - they usually do. And I'm happy with that. And so are they.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pat Lee and Tristan Flynn weigh in on the subject of shock collars

Local dog trainer Tristan Flynn talked about shock collars on his radio show K9 Connection today on 95.7

Here is some of what Tristan said in his podcast - you can listen to it in it's entirety here: 

Tristan said his opinion on shock collars is that he's never met a dog in the 8 or so years he's been training dogs he's never met an animal that he thought that putting a shock collar on them would improve his relationship with that animal - it comes down to your ethics - if you think it's okay to smack your child, then it's the same thing with shock collars - it can come down to the ethics of the country and what's legal in that country - shock collars are illegal in many countries - and is also illegal in Quebec - it's legal to sell shock collars, but illegal to use them in Quebec.

There's no doubt that shock collars work to change behaviour - but do we think that it's ethically okay to do that - if you put a shock collar on your 2 year old child, you'd be thrown in jail because ethically that's unacceptable but we're still at a point where it's ethically acceptable for dogs and one of the reasons is we're not legislated to do good proper training so when people run into problems, they don't know how to fix it so they look for an immediate fix, because that's what you want... and using that tool can get you the immediate results that some people are looking for because proper training, and really listening to the animal and building a relationship takes time and it takes a lot of expertise - so if you can't find a good trainer, a lot of people are turning to these tools because they want the quick fix.

So many organizations are against these that he doesn't know how an average person could not agree with the overwhelming amount of professionals who are against these devices -
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Society says the use of shock collars is associated with short term, long term negative consequences including fear and anxiety. Training methods including pain, fear, distress or anxiety including the violent use of shock collars are to be condemned
- American Humane Society
- American Society of Veterinary Behaviourists
- UK Kennel Club

Tristan said that he has never seen anyone with any credentials argue for the use of these tools - these are just people who consider themselves experts, or consider themselves good dog trainers but no one who is an actual veterinarian professional or an actual PhD behaviourist is arguing to use these tools.

He then goes on to explain how a shock collar actually works - explaining how a shock collar is used to teach how a dog is trained to learn how to "sit" - and it's very interesting to listen to - I would recommend that you do listen to the entire podcast.

As well, in Monday's Chronicle Herald - Pat Lee covered the topic in her weekly "Pat Lee Pet Corner" column - "E-collars put to the Test" - you can read her column below - she took me up on my challenge and got herself shocked, and didn't like the feeling very much.

So the word about shock collars is getting out there - there are a lot of people out there who have negative opinions about shock collars in Nova Scotia - I'd say that pro-shock collar people are in the minority.  And that's a good thing - it's just that the pro-shock collar people are very loud and aggressive - just like the dogs that they think they are trying to control.

A fun event took place Saturday in central Halifax with people and dogs mingling under beautiful sunny skies.

But unbeknownst to probably most attending the annual Pet Valu-organized doggie event held in Victoria Park, warring factions on the use of electronic training collars were warily eying each other from their respective information booths.

My friend Joan Sinden, who has been a vocal opponent of the collars for years, and never one to approach an issue related to animals with subtlety, had a table at the event that invited people to try out one of the collars on themselves.

And just down the way was dog trainer Guy Lapierre of Unleashed Potential, a proponent of using the device.

Mixed in there as well was a rep for Invisible Fence, which works on the same principle as the collars, but she seemed to stay out of the fray.
The world of dog training is an interesting one where there are many camps and battlegrounds, with trainers — some well trained themselves and others not — having differing and sometimes diametrically opposed views on how to handle woman’s best friend.

Use treats or not? Alpha roll your dog or not? Clickers? Prong collars? Head halters? You name it and there are varying views on techniques and tools to use.

Enter the e-collar, as proponents call them, or shock collars for those opposed, which can be found online or in many pet stores.

The collars are used to deter barking or remotely give corrections or get the dog’s attention by sending an electronic zap — my word — from the handheld controller through to the collar.

The level of the electronic tap is set by the person with the remote. I’m told the collars used by trainers are much more nuanced and can be set very low while the ones in pet stores don’t offer the same choices.

I took Sinden up on her offer and placed a collar, the type used by trainers, on my wrist to see what it felt like. I started off at 10 (out of 100) and didn’t feel much and slowly worked my way to 30 where it wasn’t unbearable but it also wasn’t pleasant.

I was told later that trainers would never dial it up to 30, which then begs the question why do the gizmos go up to level 100 or higher?

Opponents like Sinden believe the tool is cruel at any level, especially in the hands of an inexperienced dog owner.

Lapierre, on the other hand, says used properly the collars are not painful for your pet.

“I think it’s a wonderful tool that’s really misunderstood because most people think it’s a punishment tool, but that’s not how we use it,” he said Saturday.

Lapierre says the collar is instead meant to be a “tap on the shoulder, saying ‘hey, pay attention to me.’

“They’re taught, ’when you feel this sensation, come to me.’ I don’t actually teach with the e-collar. They learn all their obedience through positive re-enforcement.”

While Sinden and Lapierre disagree on the use of the collars, one thing they do agree on is that they should not be sold in pet stores.

Along with stores selling an inferior product, the trainer said the collars should not be in the hands of folks who don’t know what they’re doing.

Like journalists inclined to crank it to 30.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Halifax Magazine features article on dog friendliness in the HRM

I was really happy to see that "Halifax Magazine" currently has a cover story about dog friendliness in the HRM.

I remember the author interviewing me for the story, but I didn't think it was going to be a cover story - I am really happy that they put such a priority on the subject matter - it shows how important the topic has become here locally.

As to my shutting down the Charlie Loves Halifax website, I'm thinking it might be a temporary thing - I was at a dog function this past Saturday with Tia - and it turns out she's hugely dog friendly and had a great time there - so I may have a new "going out to town" dog in her - she may be my new Charlie.  I thought those days were long past - but I may be able to go places with her - and that is a very good thing!

Here is the article from Halifax Magazine -

Pet projects

Halifax now has its first 24-hour veterinarian clinic, part of a wave of businesses and municipal services focusing more on pet owners

By Jon Tattrie | June 12, 2015
Halifax now has its first 24-hour veterinarian clinic, part of a wave of businesses and municipal services focusing more on the city’s pet owners.

But what about the shortage of public garbage cans to dump your dog’s poop in? And, even worse, what about those few trashcans we have overflowing with neatly tied stink bombs sweltering on hot summer days?

First, to the new round-the-clock clinic. It’s called 4 Paws 24-Hour Veterinary Hospital and it’s located on Lady Hammond Road in Halifax’s North End. As owner Dr. Emma Slater points out, it’s actually the first and only such clinic in all of Nova Scotia.

“I’ve been a vet in the city for about 10 years and I’ve dealt with client frustrations over the limited options for overnight care for pets that we had before we opened,” she says. “I’ve dealt with being the one who did the surgery at nine o’clock at night, and then the pet has to be moved right after the surgery practice over to the emergency hospital in Burnside.”

That would be the Metro Animal Emergency Clinic, which opened in 1997. It improved options for pet owners, as they didn’t have to take their pets home overnight. It’s run by a group of vets and offers round-the-clock emergency pet care when your regular vet is closed. The downside is that pets get shuttled back and forth from their regular vet clinic to the emergency facility.

Slater’s 4 Paws treats the hurting animals and keeps them in the same facility during recovery. “It’s a service that’s available in most of the other major cities in Canada,” she says. “We just didn’t have one here. I thought there was a real need for it.”

Slater also does house calls, like many other vets. She delivers home care daily in a customized minivan stocked with equipment.
“I think frustrations with the existing system have been there the whole 10 years I’ve been practicing in the city,” she says. After 10 years, she’d built up a client base and reputation that she hopes will sustain the new venture.

Slater owns three dogs, one cat, five chickens, a gecko and a well-populated fish tank. An animal lover herself, she’s seen a cultural change from her professional and personal perspective.

“There’s definitely been a shift in the last 15, 20 years in how we perceive pets,” she says. “A lot of us consider pets to be family members now and so the demand is there for better and more accessible pet care. We put a lot more thought into how our pets are feeling and how their lives could be improved compared to what was normal 30 years ago.”

If you’ve searched online for pet-friendly places in Halifax over the last decade, you’ve probably landed on the treasure chest of resources that is It shared information on what shops catered to what pets, connected you to pet groups in your part of the city, and listed pet-friendly parks.

The website has drawn more than one million hits since its 2002 launch, but then it went dark this spring. Joan Sinden ran the whole thing for fun. In the disclaimer at the bottom of pages, she notes that it’s “the opinion and beliefs of one person. If you believe them to be anything more than that, you have been misinformed and given me an importance anyone would lust after, but I certainly do not covet.”

It’s a reflection of how big the site became; people assumed it was created by an official organization of some kind. But it was the work of one woman, dedicated to her dog, Charlie, and their mutual love of Halifax.

Charlie died in 2011. Sinden’s five new dogs are all rescues and aren’t friendly with other dogs. “I can’t really go on adventures with them,” she says. “It made it difficult to keep the site up to date.”

So after 12 years, she let it go. Sort of. The old site still lives online, offering many resources for searching pet owners.

She’s seen the city become more pet friendly over the years. “We have legislation in place now that helps dogs a lot more and people in general are more pet friendly,” she says. “There’s really a niche community that caters to dogs. There are a lot more doggy daycares and groomers, things like that.”

More stores invite dogs inside and leave bowls of water out for passing pets. Sinden says that’s smart for business, because pets bring owners eager to spend. Many storeowners sought her out to spread the word that they were pet friendly.

She’s seen Facebook pages take on some of the work of sharing pet-friendly tips in the city, but they tend to be fragmented communities. Plus, Facebook doesn’t turn up much in online searches, so you have to know which groups to join. She’s seen other websites start up, try to make a profit, and then flop. Her hobby outlasted them all.

Sinden still runs, updating people on legal changes, plans for pet-friendly parks, and warning people about bad pet dealers selling animals online.

Halifax looked headed for a classic Dog People vs. The Others showdown in late 2014, as the decades-long battle over Seaview Park (now Africville Park) snarled to a conclusion. The park got a replica Africville church, and school groups and visitors were often heading into one of the city’s best-loved off-leash dog parks. The site’s dual identity as an important cultural location clashed with its identity as a beautiful and popular off-leash park.

Get Haligonians talking about race and dogs, and conflict seems inevitable.

“There was a lot of concern about the impact of the potential closure on the part of dog owners,” says Jennifer Watts, the Councillor whose District 8 includes the park. “The motion [to close it] that came forward at Council clearly signalled that this was important for the African Nova Scotian community.”

Instead of conflict, most people were reasonable and Halifax found a solution that improved life for most people concerned about the park’s future. Watts says the dog owner community and the Africville community got together, explained their concerns to each other, and sought a common way forward. Council voted to make Africville a leashed park, but to first open a new park in a more suitable location.

On January 1, Africville became a leashed park, and a spiffy new off-leash space opened at the Halifax Mainland Common in Clayton Park. The city plans to add wooded trails to the new site.

Watts thinks she knows how we avoided a painful confrontation over the park. “One, there was clear affirmation and direction from Council about the decommissioning [of Africville Park],” she says. “Two, people spoke with one another and talked about what they wanted and what they hoped would happen. I think that really helped the communities. It wasn’t us versus them. We can understand one another’s positions.”

Watts says Halifax hasn’t historically supported off-leash dog parks, but plans to now. First up is finding a new home for the small fenced-in park used by service dogs for visually impaired people. The North Park-Cogswell Street dog run must move to make way for the roundabout, and the city is looking for a new location.

Anyone who’s tried to figure out when and where they can walk their dog off leash at Point Pleasant Park will be familiar with the tangled array of rules about park usage. Council knows this can be confusing, Watts says, and is seeking better sharing arrangements.

In general, the city is looking at having more “pocket parks” in the downtown area, complemented by bigger parks further out where land is available.

Oh, and about that shortage of public garbage cans for dumping dogs’ dumps? Watts says it’s about money. “For every can that goes up, it has to be serviced on a regular basis,” she says. “If people are using them to constantly drop off dog feces in the summer, they begin to smell.”

One of her constituents runs a convenience store, and people stuff the trashcan out front full of dog poop. “It’s been overflowing with dog feces on hot days, and we just cannot service that every day,” she says. “Take your dog feces home with you and dispose of it. That may not be popular, but I think people need to.”

If Halifax navigated dog lovers versus Africville, surely we can handle trashcans.

Lacking a central website or Facebook group, pet lovers in Halifax tend to congregate around pet businesses. focuses on healthy pet food, and their Facebook group (Planet Paws Pet Essentials) regularly posts pet news.

The Canine Agility Association of Nova Scotia ( deals in dog obedience, and connects its 80-plus members to the wider dog owner community.

Sublime Canine Services offers obedience, life skills and private training. Jollytails dog daycare ( runs a pet store, daycare, training, grooming and more, and regularly posts to its Facebook page.

The Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada boasts 1,400 members on its Facebook page and while obviously focusing on greyhounds, its members also update pet owners on local sales and events.