Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is the NS SPCA Imploding, or What?

The NS SPCA has been in the news in the last couple weeks, and it seems like it's been there for not a good reason.

At the end of June 9 out of 11 members of the Yarmouth SPCA's Board suddenly resigned - because they disagreed with the direction that the Provincial Board of the SPCA was trying to take them - and they were saying things like they didn't agree with the new "governance model" that was being presented to them, that money they raised at their own branch was going to have be sent to Provincial - and then sent back to them before it could be spent - basically that the Provincial Board has become a very tough task master and very onerous and on their backs all the time.

At the same time - the Provincial Board has suspended the president of the Pictou Branch -

Ms. Garland seems to have the same problem as the folks in Yarmouth - but she's got a couple extra complaints about what Provincial is trying to impose upon her shelter in Pictou - like oh my dog - horror of horrors! Continuing to adopt out animals over the holidays!

"She said they asked them to change adoption papers, requested the shelter’s hours of operation be extended and are dictating how things are run at the shelter.

Garland said the Pictou County shelter was asked to renovate its building after an audit was conducted, and is doing so now. They have been asked to open on Good Friday and near Christmas for adoptions.

“That is not the day to adopt animals,” said Garland. “It’s a last-minute thought for people to get an animal for Easter and it comes back the next week."

In April when I went to the SPCA's AGM - I knew something was up. When the Executive Director was talking about what their plans were for the coming year - she was talking about what they were going to be doing with the different branches around the province - and it really sounded to me that what she was planning on doing - (and let's face it - I'm going to use the term "she" from now on - because it's Kristen Williams who runs the NS SPCA now, and not the Provincial Board or anyone else, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that - because I personally think that what's going in, for the most part is fabulous) - was to strip all the branches of any meaningful power that they had - they were going to lose any voting power that they had at Provincial Board meetings almost immediately after the AGM - that was the only thing members voted on at the AGM - an "endorsement to reduce board size and composition" - as well as "an edorsement to accept new directors between elections" - thereby nullifying the reaons for ever having an AGM or voting members in one fell swoop.

So what is happening in the NS SPCA? Is it good, or is it bad?

First I will say what I think is happening. The person who is the Executive Director - Kristin Williams, who is a super brilliant individual - is trying to take the NS SPCA into the 21st century.

She is trying to build the organization into one that she envisions it - if you go and read their Strategic Plan for 2011 - 2013 - it's all there.

Kristin has not hidden anything that she wants to do.

She has many goals that are between 3 and 5 years that include strengthening and changing the governence of the branches of the SPCA across the province;
- To making Nova Scotia a no-kill province through the development of pet retention programs, trap-neuter release, low cost spay-neuter, etc.

It's a 3 page document and well worth the read - it's at http://www.spcans.ca/about/documents/StrategicPlan2011.pdf and you should go check it out - especially page 3 where she talks about the "No Kill Equation" and she says that part of it is -

10. Pro-active owner redemptions - One of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in most animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Shifting from a passive to a more proactive approach has proven to have a significant impact on lifesaving and allow shelters to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families.

When Bill Bruce came here to talk about animal control that was one of the things that blew me away about his city - the fact that they go so far to reunite lost pets with their owners - they consider animals LOST, not STRAY.

So why is everyone at the branch level so pissed off with the Provincial branch? It's about control - the Provincial branch is taking away control - and I actually think that you are going to see the district boards around the province disappearing - they are definitely not going to have a seat on the Provincial board in the near future I don't think.

Also - the SPCA is getting out of the Animal Control game as well, which I think is fabulous - I have said tons of times that animal control should be a function of the municipality or town - and never contracted out - not to an SPCA, or a private company - so I am blissfully happy that finally the SPCA agrees with me - it has been brought up at the last 2 SPCA board meetings. So we'll see what happens with that.

So long story short - can a bunch of pencil pushers in Halifax run a charity all across Nova Scotia?

Today they put out a press release asking for volunteers to help run the SPCA down in Yarmouth. At the end of the day they still need bodies on the ground to run the organization.

My biggest fear is that all of these reforms, all of these paradigm changes are being handled and managed by one fantasmagoric dynamo of one person - Kristin Williams - and there is no one else on earth like her.

What if some company in Ontario sees what she's doing here and offers her a $150,000 job starting in 2 weeks? How could she refuse that?

And where would that leave the NS SPCA? Who could possibly fill the shoes that she's been wearing and that she created?

I am quite sure that the organization would crumble almost immediaitely. That is my worry. I hope it doesn't happen.

I don't know that there's anyone in Nova Scotia who understands the "Carver Model" who'd be willing to fill her shoes and take the shit, and implement what needs to be done, and do 50 other tasks in a day - and have 20 other fires going.

So is the NS SPCA imploding? Not if everybody would follow the company line.

But when you have volunteers who've been there for 28 years and think they have everything figured out - that is a really hard objection to overcome. I don't envy anyone that.

But I do love that there is someone trying to move the NS SPCA organiztion into the 21st century - their strategic plan is a thing of beauty, the fact that Kristin gets out there and goes and speaks to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, and the different town's Councils about their bylaws - and how the SPCA can help them - and that they've realize that their organization was created to shelter animals, not impound them - is all amazing.

But that's airy-fairy - and you have the staff and volunteers who are collecting bottles, having barbecues to raise $50 - so that the kittens they're fostering can get their vaccinations - and they don't understand why that money has to take such a long trip.

So I guess we'll see how it all shakes out in the wash. I hope it's the animals who win out in the end.

Don't be hatin'


  1. Anonymous11:28 PM

    Perhaps the money going to the Provincial from the branches will just go to pay Kristins big fat pay cheque.

  2. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Nova Scotia (July 11) –– It is no secret that the Yarmouth Branch of the SPCA has had a challenging year. Following recent resignations of 9 of 11 regional board members, the Provincial Society has taken up direct operational control of the struggling Branch. The resignations were said to be with respect to models of governance being explored by the Provincial Society, which is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of elected members and Branch representatives, with operations managed by an Executive Director.

    “Governance discussions are ongoing and remain focused on achieving greater alignment and consistency in operations between Branches, along with compliance with elevated standards of care and policy, and greater participation and engagement with our communities,” says Executive Director, Kristin Williams.

    Williams added that “the Branch is strained financially. The Branch is operating with a projected deficit of $24,000 which presumes the success of fundraising events that have not been planned and in which the Branch may not have the resources to carry out. The Provincial Society is currently funding Yarmouth’s deficit in the short term until it can re-establish itself and become sustainable. As a result, we are appealing to interested community members who want to help the animals of Yarmouth and the surrounding communities to come forward and apply for the new Board of Directors.”

    Reports earlier this month suggested that the Provincial Society, as a result of governance reform, was entertaining proposals to transfer funds from its Branches to the Provincial Society. Management at the SPCA confirmed that no such proposals were ever proposed or entertained. “Funds that are raised in our communities, stay within those communities and are put towards initiatives that support our mission and mandate. The Provincial Society has and would continue to ensure compliance and support to its network of Branches in that endeavour,” said Williams.

    Williams added that the operations of the Branch also received a thorough audit. There were several concerns regarding quality of care that have been addressed, including training deficiencies, cleanliness, disease control, and improper accommodation and environmental management. The Branch is being visited bi-monthly to ensure and support the maintenance of increased standards of care and to ensure that flow and capacity challenges are addressed. Williams noted that the staff are responding well the changes and are happy to be focused on animal care.

    “The Society is looking forward to getting back on track in Yarmouth. The dramatic and surprising resignations have resulted in an opportunity for new leadership of the Yarmouth Branch with a returned focus on improved standards of care.” Williams concluded.

    The Society is currently recruiting for new Board members and a shelter manager. Profiles are posted on www.spcans.ca and www.yarmouthspca.com.

  3. I can tell you that its well on its way to crumbling now...the fact is that this person forgets there more to animal shelters than money, animals and people to clean cages. they blacj list anyone with a opinion that isn't wrote in THIER note book. lets except the fact that now 2 communities in Nova Scotia do NOT have people to run their shelters...because of Provincal SPCA policy.

  4. Anonymous8:33 AM

    I sent in a post asking do you know MS Garland. and you didnt post it. No where did she say she "had it all figured out". She is very worried about what will happen to the animals in NS when Kristen Williams gets full control of the society. It will be her way or no way and more heads will roll. 28 yrs of working FOR the animals and this is how she is treated because she stood up to them and they didnt like it. Soon to be 3 because the Antigonish Pres is also suspended and oh yes Queens has lost their voting rights so that will be 4. Sad days ahead for the animals in NS who already have suffered more than they should have.

  5. Anonymous9:20 AM

    To anonymous - I never received your post where you asked if I knew MS Garland - so that's why it wasn't posted - if I had received it, I would have posted it - I post almost all the comments I receive - the only ones I don't post are the ones that defame either me or someone else - all others I post. So there must have been a problem when you tried to post it and you just didn't realize it when you thought it had gone through and it didn't.


  6. Anonymous8:45 PM

    Queens lost their voting rights because they missed too many meetings. And all they had to do to "attend" was phone in. Why would any organization allow those who can't even be bothered to pick up a phone once a month have important voting rights?

  7. Anonymous8:48 PM

    Oh, and Pictou got their voting rights yanked for the same reason. Moving forward is scary for some, but it so needs to be done.

  8. Anonymous9:21 PM

    you never did answer the questions I posted. why is the Antigonish President suspended? do you know Ms Garland?

  9. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I didn't really think that you were asking me if I knew Ms. Garland - I don't know her, but I have no doubt that she is as passionate and sincere as the 99.9% of the other people involved with volunteering with the SPCA, myself included - that's why we do it.

    I have no idea why the Antigonish president was suspended, or if she was - I have no information on any SPCA business other than what's available in the public minute's posted on the SPCA's website.

    What it does seem to me right now is that there is a difference in philosphy between the provincial board and just about every other board in the province - only time will tell which philosophy and which boards will win the fight.

    I personally hope it's the Board who believes that adopting out animals during holidays is a good idea; that no kill policies are the way to go; that animal control should be run by municipalities - that SPCA's are meant to protect animals from people, not the other way around, and that you don't need a 10 page adoption application in order to find suitable homes.

    That's what I think.