So I guess the time has come for me to write the post I didn't want to write. I've had this in my draft box for over a month, because I didn't want to be the one to be saying this stuff - and what makes me qualified to say it? Unmitigated gall. That's about it. And a few years of hanging out in the rescue community in our province and seeing what's been going on and seeing what happens in other places.
And the thing I didn't want to write about is - how government, at every level - and the NS SPCA - are failing the companion animals in Nova Scotia - and how it's really completely unnecessary - because there are answers to the problems. Animals do NOT need to be turned away at shelters everyday like they are now - if only the proper people/organizations would be taking responsibility for them - and there ARE people who should be responsible for those animals.
The reason I feel compelled to write this post is because of Scott Millar's editorial this week in the Chronicle Herald - it really showed to me that the people at the top of the NS SPCA really don't seem to(in my view) have what I would consider should be their top priorities are - and (to me) - that is to advocate for the companion animal population in Nova Scotia.
Currently they're having problems with that - so why take on the rodeo - when that show comes to town the NS SPCA can't even do anything about any infractions because as of last year - the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture took over livestock cruelty cases - so the NS SPCA doesn't have jurisdiction over rodeo animals - so cruelty amongst rodeo animals is a moot point.
It almost seems like the organization is allowing personal agendas to rule at the NS SPCA - which doesn't sit right. Especially when the ideas that are being put forward may or may not be true - there was another opposing editorial in today's Chronicle Herald that was very compelling - which I'll paste at the end of this post - you can judge for yourself which one you find more reasonable.
So on to why I think Nova Scotia government and the NS SPCA are failing the lost and abandoned animals in Nova Scotia.
And I want to interject here that this is not at the shelter level, on the day to day - taking care of the animals level. The people who work in the shelters are amazing people who deserve a ton of credit for what they do and cannot be thanked enough. They have incredibly difficult and stressful jobs and there's not a day that goes by that they don't save more than several lives. This post has nothing to do with the NS SPCA at that level - although if the ideas that I am talking about were implemented - their jobs would a ton easier, and a lot more enjoyable.
It is very well reported that NS SPCA shelters - and every privately run shelter - turns away cats and dogs every day because they don't have space to take them in, and the question is - what happens to those animals? Are they then being abandoned by the side of the road? Are they being inhumanely killed? Are they being given away to people who abuse them?
In an article at the end of August the Dartmouth SPCA was turning away more than 30 cats a day - that's 210 cats a week. What is happening to those cats? That's 840 cats a month. And that's just one shelter.
In the same article, Sean Kelly said - "We’re not just a place to drop off unwanted animals. Our main reasons for being are investigation of cruelty complaints and education."
Somehow over the years there has been a public perception that has grown that the SPCA is a "rescue" - that they take care of all the animals that need helping - but they don't. What they actually do is to enforce the Animal Cruelty legislation that we have - and any animals that they seize through cruelty or neglect that's deemed adoptable - is put up for adoption, and that's pretty much it. Anything else is gravy. And I think the SPCA needs to realize that too.
In order to generate income they take on animal control contracts in places where they have physical buildings where they can house animals - like Halifax, and Sydney - and in those municipalities they adopt out the animals that are deemed adoptable who come in through their animal control contract. So that's a second stream that they receive animals.
And because sometimes they have extra cages - if someone brings in an animal they want to dump - they'll take that animal, but only if they have the space, which is rarely.
So that's the extent of what the NS SPCA does for homeless and abandoned animals in Nova Scotia.
Of course - they do a ton more than that - but that is really all they are mandated to do.
Towns and municipalities hire contractors (usually) to take care of their animal control functions. Sometimes it's the SPCA, sometimes it's one person, sometimes it's a company. And the extent to what level of care they give to animals in their community is varied. Sometimes they deal with cats and dogs, sometimes they only deal with dogs, sometimes they only deal with stray dogs and no cats - there's varying levels of animals that they'll spend their tax payers money on.
Provincially - money is spent to enforce the Animal Cruelty Act, and money is spent through the department of Agriculture.
Some of the questions we could ask are - how do animals need protection in Nova Scotia?
They need protection from owners who abuse them, they need protection from being abused in puppy mills, they need help when they are abandoned and homeless, and they need a dignified and painless death when there's no where to turn and/or it's the end of their life and they have no home.
And then there's the animals who just have owners who don't want them anymore and want to dump them - those are hardest ones for the "system" to manage - but they still need to be dealt with - and they are also the most controversial, because most people would say that it's the owner who should have to deal with them - but when that "owner" is turned away from the shelter - that animal could quickly turn into another demographic - abused, abandoned, or road kill - and who's fault is that? The owner, or the system who tossed him out there?
Okay, drum roll - I do have an answer for all of this hyperbole - especially for everybody who's totally pissed off by now. Can you guess who's job it is to be taking care of the abandoned and homeless animals in our province - financially?
I have figured it out. It's the municipalities and towns. They are the ones who should be paying for open admission shelters. There's no question that it is their jobs - and they should be paying for open admission shelters - and it should be nothing less than that. They should be paying for facilities that accept any animal that comes to their door - because those animals are going to show up somewhere else - and it's going to cost money at that other place. And it'll end up costing more in the long run.
So whoever it is that gets those contracts municipally and in the towns to operate the animal control contracts - it then becomes their responsibility to take in all the dogs and cats who need help - none will be turned away. And as Nathan Winograd says - it doesn't matter if they're brought in the door and immediately killed - it's better than operating a shelter that doesn't accept owner surrenders.
Until shelters are open admission - they are not no kill.
So every animal control contract in the province would accept owner surrenders - that is taken care of now - it's the municipal government level that's taking care of - as they should be!
On the television tonight there was a documentary about the cat overpopulation problem in Canada and it said that 400,000 animals are killed every year in shelters across Canada and 2/3 of those animals are cats. On the show Bill Bruce said you can't build your way to fixing the overpopulation probem, which is an interesting statement. He's going to be at the No More Homeless Pets conference in Las Vegas that I'm going to in a little over a week, so he'll be interesting to listen to.
Now on to the provincial government - they should be taking care of the farm animals and enforcing the Animal Cruelty Act - and the dogs in puppy mills - through the NS SPCA - and doing it properly - Nova Scotia currently has the lowest per capita ratio of Animal Cruelty officers per person in the whole of Canada - so it's no wonder that puppy mills are popping up all over the province currently, and people are feeling like there's no one out there enforcing people who abuse animals.
So long story short, Scott Millar`s editorial really brought to my mind the idea that the NS SPCA should really be focusing on things that it knows it can do something about, something that is going to have a positive effect on the lives of animals here in Nova Scotia, something that is going to build the bruised trust of the people here in Nova Scotia, something that is actually really needed, somthing that they do have jurisdiction over, something that is a good value for the donations that Nova Scotians give them - and that is the care of lost and abandoned animals here in Nova Scotia. It does not include trying to "inform" the "backwards" Nova Scotian populations about the horror of what rodeo is really all about, when in fact Mr. Millar's version of the rodeo may be just like what Peta's version of the seal hunt is to reality. Now THAT allusion is really going to piss some people off, but I'm just being coy.