You may have noticed there haven't been any blog posts in the last little while. I've been watching tv instead. Last week, my wonderful father bought us a 32" HD TV - and I've been watching trashy tv and a HD TV network called "Oasis TV" - and I have to admit that this is why I wanted my father to buy us an HD TV - so that I could watch a certain show that's on the Oasis television station. It's a show called "Hope for Wildlife" - and it features the Hope for Wildlife Society and Hope Swinimer located over in Seaforth Nova Scotia. I went and visited the place last summer during their yearly open house.
I really wanted to watch it because Hope Swinimer also runs the Homeward Bound Pound which has the animal control contract for the HRM and I wanted to see if I could get any nuggets about Homeward Bound from watching the show about Hope for Wildlife - and I think I have - and that's another reason why I haven't posted - because I have become seriously conflicted.
Sometimes I feel like I am nothing more than just a whiny dog owner who has no control over her use of exclamation points and shouldn't be polluting the world wide web with her vitriole because in the end it doesn't make any difference anyway - so I might as well just spend my evenings watching tv like the rest of the world. The last thing the world needs is more political commentary from someone who's got everything wrong.
Which brings me back to Hope Swinimer, her rehabilitation facility, her tv show, what was promised for the Homeward Bound Pound - and what is actually operating and happening at the animal control facility. I don't think there is anyone in Nova Scotia who has more credibility, sway, pull, or power than Hope Swinimer. She is univerally loved, respected, and revered by everyone - the public, her volunteers, her staff, by people in government - by everyone who she comes in contact with - everyone agrees she's a great lady - so I am definitely not going to make any friends, and would probably in fact lose friends and create enemies if I was to disparage her or criticize her in any way.
Hope Swinimer has done a lot of amazing things with wildlife for the province of Nova Scotia since she began rehabilitating animals with a robin who was attacked by a cat in 1995 - and I think the first animal she rehabbed was very telling - a wild animal attacked by a domestic animal. A lot of the animals that she has the greatest love for - are animals who have come into conflict with domestic animals - and have been injured or attacked by cats and dogs - and have made their way to her facility somehow - and she lovingly brings them back to health. But it was cats and dogs that caused their injuries.
There are things in the voice-overs of her show that I pick-up that people who are not involved with rescue might not really think too much about - like when she says
"Hope for Wildlife take in over 1,100 orphaned and injured wildlife every year. We're successful up to 70% of the time".
A 70% success rate means that you have a 30% death rate. For a wildlife rehab centre - that statistic may be okay and realistic, because you are getting in a lot of animals with severe injuries that are very hard to treat - so you've got a mindset that accepts that 70% is okay - and then you move that mindset over to an animal control facility - and STILL BELIEVE that a 70% live release rate is okay.
Well - then you have a problem, because 70% makes you a HIGH KILL facility.
And that today is what Homeward Bound pound is.
And it is being run by Hope Swinimer - the most highly respected woman in the humane community in Nova Scotia.
We should have known, really - that HRM wanted to have the animal control contract go private so that they could completely squelch any public knowledge of what was going on behind closed doors - and they could kill dogs and cats at random as they saw fit - they even said so at the HRM council meeting in January 2010 when asked about it -
Dawn Sloane asks - "do they have a no kill policy?"
Bill Moore answers - "No, we don't have a no kill policy - there would be times when euthanasia may be required, but their mission is to minimize that to the greatest degree possible including the adoption, the redemption of animals that can be redeemed, the adoption of animals that can be redeemed, (?) - and we will have an animal behaviourist that will assess any animal to see whether or not they do meet - unfortunately we do come across animals from time to time that putting them back out is just not the appropriate thing, so ..."
That was such double-speak, that at the time - we thought he was saying that Homeward Bound was going to be no-kill - but we've recently learned that they are in fact very far from being no-kill.
Today - November 26th, 2010 - the Homeward Bound Pound sent out an email to members of the their Facebook group that they're looking for used crates for people to donate to them. Why would a private money making company be asking for donations?
This is one of the problems that people in the humane community are having with Homeward Bound - they are trying to blur the line between a money making operation - and a shelter that is actually trying to save animals lives - which Homeward Bound is obviously not. Hope Swinimer herself said so last April.
In a video that you can see for herself - she was interviewed by Breakfast Television, and she said -
Buddy says "there's a lot of strays out there" - and Hope jumps in to correct him - she says -
"well I think too that people need to understand the difference between the City Pound and a "shelter" and we are definitely the City Pound, we are here for HRM and Animal Control, so it's what they pick up - uh, animals that have been reported and they'll be brought here and our job is pretty simple - we have 4 things to do - I have to give them tender loving care and to give them veterinary care if they need it and 3 is to get them back with their owners if at all possible within the 72 hours and 4 and most important is our adoption program..."
Someone called Homeward Bound this morning asking about why they're asking for donations of the crates - and the reply they got back was "that they accept donations because they are like any other shelter - they need the kennels for their van"
I do not accept that. They are NOT a shelter like any other. They are an animal control facility that is not in any way accountable to the public, they exist solely to service the HRM, and they can kill any animal they want after 72 hours if that's what they want to do.
What about the transfers that were supposed to happen of animals that came in - and working with local rescues to move dogs out of the Pound? Since April of this year when the Pound opened - has that been happening?
When I was talking to one of the managers in the summertime she said "oh yes, we are working with local rescues - chihuaua rescue, german shepherd rescue, husky rescue - and we gave 2 border collies to Atlantic All dog rescue".
Chihauaua rescue is Pam Keddy - disgraced former president of the NS SPCA who has inculcated herself into the inner circle of Homeward Bound Pound, and the owners of both german shepherd rescue and husky rescue are also animal control officers with HRM - so the Pound turning over dogs to them are sort of the same thing as "keeping it in the family" - so in other words - in 6 months they had turned over 2 dogs to local rescue, approximately. Now THAT'S what I call working with the local rescue community to save dogs' lives.
I don't imagine we'll ever get any answers we want while the company that runs Homeward Bound Pound has the contract for animal control currently is running the pound - there will never be any transparency or access to any kind of statistics of what's going on behind closed doors.
In some senses I think it was very brave of Hope to show them actually killing the raccoon's on the show, it showed what they actually have to go through at the Centre, the life and death struggles every day that go on - but it was a very strange dichotomy to other sections where she says that every life is worthwhile - and if that IS the case - then why doesn't that carry over to the dogs and cats at the Homeward Bound pound?
Why do they seem to be so willing to kill at the pound?
And there is nothing that you or I can do about it.
Except maybe write to your Municipal Councillor and ask them to look into what is going on at the Pound. See if they can have the statistics pulled - because Homeward Bound DOES have to report to HRM. You can find your Councillor on the HRM's website at http://eservices.halifax.ca/districtLookup/ and send them an email.