Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Head of N.S. SPCA won’t resign

From today's Chronicle Herald:

Head of N.S. SPCA won’t resign

By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton Bureau Tue. Apr 15 - 5:44 AM

SYDNEY — The president of the Nova Scotia SPCA says she will not step down despite calls for her resignation from some members of the animal rescue community.

A letter went out to the society’s board of directors on March 5 asking for Pamela Keddy’s resignation, alleging she and past president Judith Gass damaged the SPCA’s reputation by taking too long to seize animals from an allegedly negligent shelter owner in Cape Breton.

"Their allegations are unfounded," Ms. Keddy said Monday. "The investigation was one by the book."

A probe into the Celtic Pets Rescue shelter started last October after The Chronicle Herald alerted SPCA officials to the possibility of neglect. In February, the SPCA seized more than 100 feces-encrusted animals from Zonda MacIsaac’s shelter in two separate raids. Another 25 animals were seized from her mother’s home about a week later.

The investigation was prompt, Ms. Keddy argues, adding that the SPCA had to gather evidence against Ms. MacIsaac before it could obtain a warrant. The animal protection agency staked out the shelter in January for several weeks after Ms. MacIsaac refused to co-operate with the investigation.

"It’s very frustrating when people say we have not acted appropriately, because we most certainly have," Ms. Keddy said.

Joan Murray and Janet Chernin disagree.

"We have concerns about the delays and inaction prior to the seizure of animals at Celtic Pets . . . (and) the perceived ineffectualness of the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," the women wrote in their March letter to the society’s board.

Ms. Murray said they wrote the letter on behalf of about 15 people who feel that Ms. Keddy and Ms. Gass should resign.

She said there is evidence that at least one previous complaint was also mishandled.

"This is nothing new," she said.

Ms. Murray is a former member of the SPCA. Her membership was recently revoked because of an internal disagreement with Ms. Keddy, she said. The president said Ms. Murray made a previous dispute public, jeopardizing the society’s donations.

Ms. Murray and Ms. Chernin asked in their letter that a non-confidence vote be held at the society’s annual general meeting on April 26 if Ms. Keddy and Ms. Gass do not resign.

Ms. Keddy responded that the board of directors voted unanimously at its March meeting not to put the vote on the April meeting’s agenda.



First off, I'd like to say that I'm not one of the people who were deemed "special" enough to be one of those "15 people" included in the letter sent to the Executive of the NS SPCA asking for the vote of non-confidence - so I personally have nothing to do with Joan Murray's and Janet Chernin's letter.

There IS an interesting line in the article though -

"The president said Ms. Murray made a previous dispute public, jeopardizing the society’s donations."

Is all Pam Keddy worried about is the Society's donations? She's not worried about the welfare of the homeless and abandoned animals anymore? If a member of the Society speaks out about an aspect of the SPCA that they believe is not being handled right - and it's picked up by the media - and it might somehow impact people giving donations to the Society - that then falls under the Bylaws 12 a) and b) - thereby giving the Board of Directors cause to revoke their membership? That makes them an enemy of the Society?

It all comes down to money? And not the welfare of the animals?

That is pretty sad, I'd say.

As well - another line is bothering me - the line "Ms. Keddy responded that the board of directors voted unanimously at its March meeting not to put the vote on the April meeting’s agenda". I know the names of every member of the Board of Directors of the NS SPCA - and I KNOW that not every member is in agreement with the management of the Board and its Executive - especially since the Executive is trying to dismantle one of the branches that the Board members currently runs (that doesn't make for happy Board members if you know what I mean). So for the life of me - I can't understand how ANY vote could be unanimous at this most delicate time in the history of the Board of the NS SPCA.

Look before you leap.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Shame on NS SPCA. they place their pride and the bottom line ahead of the welfare of animals. Shame. Disgrace.

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  2. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Great post Joan and right on the "money" as usual.

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  3. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Dear Rick, Patricia and Laura,

    As member of the newly formed NS RESCUE CRUSADE which is comprised of a group of concerned citizens whose objective is to ensure that all agencies, shelters, and rescues are run in a beneficial manner for the animals we have grave concerns over the operational ability of the NS SPCA to properly monitor said facilities in the province INCLUDING their own, Metro Shelter.

    That the current administration has had no VP for a year is more than disquieting. Further the current President, Pamela Keddy, is also the Director of the Metro Shelter and has further appointed herself to do all home checks for suitable fosters. This is too much for any one person to accomplish effectively while holding a fulltime job. There is also the issue that at the upcoming AGM no mention has been made as to the election of a President. Ms. Keddy assumed the position of President when Ms. Lisa J Murphy resigned. Under Roberts Rules this upcoming AGM should include a nomination and vote for a President ELECT. Though Ms. Murphy’s tenure as President of the NS SPCA was to be till 2009 – this is irrelevant in this situation as Ms. Keddy ASSUMED her position and ergo was not voted on by the membership.

    It is our belief that the Metro Shelter should be operated by an independent management board to oversee its operation. Currently there is the issue of conflict in how or where paid employees of the Metro Shelter or volunteers would go for recourse if they have a grievance. Staff have no one to advocate on their behalf and the NS SPCA Board as no committee set up to deal with grievances of paid employees or concerns from volunteers. Further unlike other SPCA’s if a members ‘loyalty’ is being questioned by the BOD and a process to revoke their membership is in place, the said member is given the right and ability to address the BOD – this is NOT the case with the NS SPCA. Members are having their memberships revoked without a disciplinary committee to address the issues in each case.

    The upcoming AGM is now being held for MEMBERS only – since when does a PUBLICALLY funded Non-Profit Organization ban the public from attending an AGM? Even banks allow the public at large to attend AGM’s; of course non members cannot vote. It has now been decided that Terry Degen will be chairing this AGM, he has done this in the past when Ms. Judith Gass was the President. It is rumoured that this decision was made by the BOD so that they could have an impartial person at the helm. Impartial is not the term I would use considering the close relationship of Mr. Degen and Ms. Gass as he acted as her campaign manager for her failed run to become a Conservative MLA … should not the President of the NS SPCA be the chair of the AGM? I do understand that Mr. Degen is being recompensed for his time by the NS SPCA. Query - is Terry Degen even a member of the SPCA?

    It is interesting to note today’s article where Ms. Keddy states "It’s very frustrating when people say we have not acted appropriately, because we most certainly have," Ms. Keddy said.
    Was it appropriate for the President of the NS SPCA on a PRIVATE members only BOD forum to chastise a BOD member for respectfully saying that they were disappointed that no official representation by the NS SPCA was present at the Animal Control Bylaw hearings? Pamela Keddy stated that this not the place to discuss this issue! This is when I tendered my resignation from the BOD and as of yet I have not received an offical confirmation from the NS SPCA.
    Is it appropriate for a BOD member and Chair of the Fundraising Committee to summarily deny participation in fundraising to a member in good standing (then again I have yet to hear if my membership has been revoked).
    Is it appropriate that NOTED EVIDENCE on an ongoing FOUR year investigation be somehow LOST? How come these cattle are still languishing and are continuing to die under the care of the owner? Is this appropriate care and concern for animals on the part of the NS SPCA and the self appointed chief investigator of the NS SPCA, Judith Gass?
    Is it appropriate for the BOD to first offer a verbal warning to the then Shelter Manager for personal conduct and then to vote to increase her salary, then out of the blue FIRE the Manager? I have yet to obtain confirmation that a vote on this issue was held at any BOD meeting.
    These and other issues are the reason that change must happen within the structure of the NS SPCA to ensure that the NS SPCA is fulfilling its mandate. Query – who or what agency over sees the running of this publicly funded Non Profit Organization? Who are they accountable to? The Government or the public at large? Why are those that are willing to ask for change being sanctioned as adversaries – is the NS SPCA now the Society for the Prevention of Criticism of the Administration?
    Sincerely,
    Janet Chernin

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  4. Anonymous10:10 AM

    I am a concerned member of the NS SPCA. I find it disturbing that the board will not let this motion through if not just to clear the minds of the members and the general public so this issue can be put behind and the Society can move forward with it's mandate. I am still trying to figure out why this Board has not publicly raised awareness or tried to raise awareness on Bill S203 or Bill S373. Where has there been any education on the "Ban the Breed" Legislation? Were they present for the debates and available to provide solid information and education in the drafting of the new Cat By-Law? What took so long with the handling of Celtic Pets? Other areas across Canada had incidents where charges were laid within weeks. Those animals have had to stay in limbo for far too long instead of possibly recovering in loving forever homes. It almost seems like another form of cruelty. I tried to remain unbiased about this issue but when you read about memberships being revoked for "cause" and "cause" being defined by Judith Gass (Past President, ETC.)in a CTV interview as criticism that "crosses the line". What does that mean? It seems the by-law in place effectively gives board members the possibility of removing members who are critical of actions of the current board. In essence, if this is so, this gives the current board a position of absolute rule and in contradiciton of democratic due process. Recently it seems changes have been made to review individual membership applications at board meetings. In combination with the above mentioned by-law this becomes cause for concern. In my opinion this board should be fully transparent to the public and it's membership. The society is a registered charity and is entrusted with funding from both public and private funds. The above actions put in jeopardy the transparency that should be in place to assure members and the public that the Board of Directors is effectively serving and achieving the mandate of the society. Other issues that cause question of the activities of this Board are that the President is also the Shelter Director as far as I know at Metro Shelter (Metro use to have it's own board)therefore having full control over the all shelter business. I would think this is a conflict of interest in relationships with other shelters under the umbrella of the SPCA NS. To me this is about the animals and how we can best serve them. If we have a board that appears it is not speaking out about legislation that is on the table at both the provincial and federal level, that has dragged it's heels over educating the public over "Ban the Breed" Legislation, that appeared not to have a clear and vocal viewpoint on the recent Cat By-Law debates and the call for "off leash areas",that has not made the public feel confident in their handling of a substantial cruelty case and continues to give the impression of gagging it's members with an unconventional by-law why should they not stand up to the scrutiny of their membership and the public? Why would they not want to explain themselves to prove to the membership and the public that they are speaking "for those who cannot speak for themselves". The silence of the board and the refusal to allow this motion on the floor only adds to the foggy dirth of suspicion regarding the actions of this board. If they truly stood behind their actions they would be willing to publically stand up to them and face them with a vote. If they are so confident in thier roles and positions they should not appear to fear public scrutiny. Why would they not want to publically assure it's members and the public that the strategies they have in place are the proper ones at this time for the Society to meet and exceed its objectives and mandate instead of breeding suspicion and dissent in the membership and the public eye? I cannot support a board like this. I want to be able to know that the monies entrusted to this society and it's board are being used both wisely and within the truest sense of preventing cruelty for animals. I have no confidence in this board. I would like the public and membership to understand that I have not lost faith in the Society itself just in the few that govern it at this time. I think that one of the only things that might save confidence in this board for me is a forensic audit.

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  5. Anonymous10:13 AM

    WITHOUT PREJUDICE

    April 14, 2008

    ATTN: Board of Directors:NSSPCA

    Dear Board Members,

    It is in regards to recent comments made in the press that we write
    this letter

    As members of the SPCA and supporters of its mandate we have concerns
    that we would like addressed.

    It is our understanding that the Nova Scotia SPCA is a legal society
    with registered charity status. In accordance with the CRA who states:

    "In exchange for their privileged status of being exempt from paying
    tax, registered charities are accountable to the government and the
    public for the money they raise and how they use their resources."

    We do not feel the membership or members notwithstanding the general
    taxpaying public are wrong assuming that the society is accountable
    to the public.

    We are members and taxpayers. We have questions we would like
    answered.

    How, as members of the society, can we be kept informed of the
    workings of the Board of Directors to ensure they are accountable to
    mandate of the society? Why copies of the minutes of Board of
    Directors Meetings are not made available to the membership? This
    could even be done with sensitive investigative material blocked out.
    It could be done on a "Members only" section on the website besides
    by request through the office.

    As members how can we find out when and what changes to the by-laws,
    constitution and Code of Ethics have been made and by whom? If a vote
    was taken what Board members were present for the vote and how they
    voted?

    Our concerns in regards to the by-laws comes after watching an
    interview on CTV news which brought to light controversy over "cause"
    for the revoking of membership of a society member.

    In the by-laws "cause" as defined in paragraph 12(a) is intended to
    mean a person who in the opinion of the Board is no longer supportive
    of the objects of the Society, or in the opinion of the Board is so
    critical of the Society itself, and/or the work being performed by
    the Society, as to have become an adversary to the Society.

    In the interview on CTV Judith Gass states that "cause" is criticism
    that "crosses the line". Could criticism that crosses the line be
    defined please? This is a very vague statement and we think revoking
    membership of members who have in the past been highly supportive and
    generous with their time and energies for the Society suspect and
    questionable.

    The causes for membership being revoked should be documented in Board
    Meetings and made available to members and to the person whose
    membership has been revoked. Are these people being given opportunity
    to defend their position or rescind their comments or position to
    maintain their membership? Will they be given opportunity in the
    future to regain membership by applying to the board for appeal or
    repeal of their membership ban?

    This whole process and by-law is very concerning because of the
    possible perception of its usage by the membership at large and the
    general public. Without just "cause" given and clear definition
    of "cause" this by-law effectively gives board members the
    possibility of removing members who are critical of the actions of
    the current board. This would give the board the possibility of
    absolute rule and be in contradiction of democratic due process.

    As a registered charity and a society required to be accountable to
    the general public, a by-law in place that has the ability of
    silencing it's members is harmful to the society as a whole. It puts
    in jeopardy the transparency that should be in place to assure
    members and the public that the Board of Directors is effectively
    serving and achieving the mandate of the Society.

    On a more basic point we find it discouraging that the Board is
    giving the impression it is gagging its members and trying to deflect
    any criticism. In our mind, the board should be welcoming the
    opportunity to engage in debate amongst members and the public. In
    doing so the board can assure its members and the public that the
    strategies they have in place are the proper ones at this time for
    the Society to meet and exceed its objectives and mandate instead of
    breeding suspicion and dissent in the membership and the public eye.

    We feel that by making the membership fear being able to bring
    concerns to the Board of Directors in case their concerns or
    criticism could be "cause" for their memberships to be revoked,
    members who are concerned are looking for other platforms and venues
    to voice their concerns including blogs, forums and the press. We
    understand these members concerns and it is why we have come to you
    to address these issues.

    By making members feel this way here are some of the comments and
    questions we have seen in "public domain". They may be rumours or
    unfounded but by making people feel they have no other option than to
    operate in those formats these questions must be addressed in public
    as they were presented.

    1. Why is Board of Director minutes not made public or available
    to the public?

    2. Knowing the current legislation was ineffective why has it
    taken so long for the Board of Directors to lobby the government for
    changes?

    3. Why have changes been made recently that have membership
    applications being reviewed individually at board meetings?

    4. Why, when a membership is being revoked is the member not
    given opportunity to speak to the concerns of the board or be given
    written reason and a copy of the minutes, date and vote for their
    removal of membership?

    5. Are minutes kept and available regarding the firing of SPCA
    staff?

    6. In the 2006 tax return there seems to be no expenditure on
    the training and upgrading of staff. Is this done and what is the
    process in regards to hiring and dismissal of SPCA employees?

    7. How does one get a hold of the Code of Ethics for the society?

    We understand that some of these questions will seem disturbing and
    possibly inappropriate but when you stifle the transparency of the
    society you invoke this type of scrutiny and speculation.

    With consideration and recent events we have decided to forward this
    letter to the board, others we feel are concerned, the press, etc. to
    help bring about open dialogue to address and amend the concerns we
    bring forward as we are aware our views are not ours alone.

    We wish that they be spoken to at the AGM if time permits if they are
    not dealt with in the meantime.

    It is not with admonition but with concern that we have taken the
    time to write you.

    Respectfully yours,
    Heather and Ann Morrison

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  6. rottnmom11:10 AM

    An excerpt from CTV's article posted Feb.6/08 quoting Pamela Keddy.....

    "A lot of it plays back to people just not getting along," she said. "There are a lot of very passionate people involved in our industry and we try to work with everybody."

    ???

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  7. Anonymous12:27 PM

    NS Rescue Crusade: I have not heard of you before! What is your purpose, goals? I would love more information!

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  8. SPCA Supporter8:10 PM

    An excerpt from CTV's article posted Feb.6/08 quoting Pamela Keddy.....

    "A lot of it plays back to people just not getting along," she said. "There are a lot of very passionate people involved in our industry and we try to work with everybody."

    Holy crap, that is about the best laugh I have had in a long time, I could not believe my ears. I can't believe she said this, she is the most passive/aggressive person I have ever dealt with and makes ZERO effort to work with people (unless, of course, they kiss her feet and don't open their mouth). Pathetic. She just keeps getting more and more pathetic.

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  9. Anonymous2:58 PM

    NS Rescue Crusade is comprised of people who 100% trust each other. We had to do that group that way. Unfortunately because of certain things that are posted in your blog, a few people don't trust that what they say/do will not be posted if you are upset. It was never anything about anything other than that.

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  10. Anonymous8:40 PM

    Crusade:
    From the French croisade, meaning “Marked by the Cross.” It is derived from the Latin word crux (cross).=Wiktionary

    Prior restraint:
    a legal term referring to a government's actions that prevent materials from being published. prior restraint came to be looked upon with a particular horror, and Anglo-American courts became particularly unwilling to approve it, when they might approve other forms of press restriction.-Wikipedia

    "NS Rescue Crusade is comprised of people who 100% trust each other. We had to do that group that way. Unfortunately because of certain things that are posted in your blog, a few people don't trust that what they say/do will not be posted if you are upset. It was never anything about anything other than that." -from above comment


    Having it both ways:
    see most of the above comments.

    This blog seems truly appropriate for the dissemination of the longer of the above letters, no?

    Ironic:
    "...is the NS SPCA now the Society for the Prevention of Criticism of the Administration?"

    Every Crusade creates martyrs. Every Martyr learns you can never get the last nail in by yourself.
    Good to see you all working together.

    "Meet he new boss, same as the old boss."
    -Pete Townshend

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  11. Anonymous3:59 PM

    I had thought , that when jessica hunt got ousted, all would be well at nspca..maybe the troubles are even deeper seated .

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