Sunday, April 27, 2008

A couple of articles covering yesterday's SPCA meeting

I'll add some comments to the post tonight - I woke up with the worst cold this morning. I am just sick as the proverbial dog this morning. I don't think I've had a cold in 10 years. I don't know how people who regularly get colds can handle it. I feel like death warmed over it's so gross.

from the Canadian Press:

Nova Scotia SPCA board unchanged after confidence motionMelanie Patten, THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian Press

April 26, 2008

- The embattled board of the Nova Scotia SPCA, which has been
chastised for its handling of an alleged animal cruelty case in Cape
Breton, remained intact Saturday after a confidence motion was passed
at a private meeting.

The vote was 81 to 47 in favour of the board, capping the closed-door
meeting at a Halifax hotel that some of those who attended described
as tense and acrimonious.

Some former and current members have openly criticized the
animal-welfare group's administration for not acting sooner to rescue
more than 100 animals from a Port Hawkesbury shelter in February.

A handful of former members of the non-profit agency have also raised
concerns about accountability within the society, and say their
memberships were revoked after they spoke out against the

"It's supposed to be a democracy, it's supposed to be transparent,"
said Maureen Tate, a former member who was not permitted inside the
members-only meeting.

"They have an obligation to the public because it's the public who
supports (the SPCA) with donations and volunteers."

Tate, whose membership was recently rescinded, stood in the hotel's
lobby and handed out pamphlets detailing reasons the three-person
executive should be replaced, arguing the society hasn't taken a clear
stance on animal bylaws in Halifax and has failed to fill two vacant
executive positions.

Several former and current members gathered in a hallway outside the
meeting and complained loudly as two security guards looked on.

Some criticized the method of voting, saying paid shelter staff likely
did not feel comfortable voting against the confidence motion while
their employers were in the same room.

"This is probably our last AGM, we will probably be
severelydisciplined for saying these things," Peggy Cameron,
vice-president of the society's Antigonish branch, said after the

"It's very dysfunctional."

After being approached by reporters following the meeting, Judith
Gass, a board member and past president, declined to be interviewed
and swung open a door to the room, striking a reporter.

When asked to explain what happened with the door, Gass apologized.

"I'm not usually like that, I'm just under a lot of pressure probably
today," she said.

Gass later said infighting is not uncommon in the society because
members are passionate about their work and animals.

"It pops up every few years, and the board does try to deal with it at
the time," she said.

Gass would not discuss why certain memberships were revoked, but she
insisted the society and its volunteers are doing a good job,
especially given the high number of animal abuse complaints received
each month.

The SPCA has come under fire since early February, when critics of the
society alleged it did not move quickly enough to remove more than 100
cats and dogs from Celtic Pets Rescue in Port Hawkesbury following a

The society also took two dozen dogs, believed to be an overflow from
the shelter, after executing a warrant at the home of Alice MacIsaac,
a former special constable with the society.

Several cats had to be euthanized and critics said the society took
too long to respond.

MacIsaac, vice-president of Celtic Pets Rescue, and Zonda Lee
MacIsaac, the owner of the shelter, each face two charges under the
Criminal Code and two charges under the Animal Cruelty Act.

Both are due in court May 21.

Sean Kelly, a society member who voted against the confidence motion,
said he presented 300 letters from Nova Scotians he said are "looking
for change within the society."

"I think there are a lot of problems with our public perception right
now, and I really hope the board listens to the people who are
dissenting and are going to make immediate changes," said Kelly, a
special constable with the society.

"A little revolution every now and then is a good thing. I'm hoping we
can grow from here."


SPCA meeting unruly
Media banned, reporter bumped, yelling carried over into lobby
By JUDY MYRDEN Staff Reporter
Sun. Apr 27 - 7:08 AM

The annual meeting of the provincial SPCA descended into bizarre behaviour Saturday morning at a Halifax hotel.

The three-hour closed-door session, attended by about 120 members, was followed by name-calling and yelling at the meeting’s chairman in the hotel lobby. As well, the past president of the society bumped a Chronicle Herald reporter with a door, and an unidentified member shoved the reporter out of the meeting room.

Inside that room, the SPCA board of directors survived a confidence motion proposed by a group of members upset with the direction that the executive of the society has taken in recent months regarding the mistreatment of 100 animals at a Port Hawkesbury animal shelter.

Members of the animal welfare group voted 81-47 to support the current leadership of the society, a charitable organization under the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act.

After the meeting, board member Judith Gass, past president of the SPCA, refused to talk to reporters and then banged a door against The Chronicle Herald reporter.

Ms. Gass then returned to the meeting room, where she agreed to talk to reporters.

Jean-Albert Maire, a TV reporter for Radio-Canada Halifax, said to her: "You said the media is welcome; you need the media: Why did you swing that door right into the media lady who was talking to you so kindly five minutes ago? What’s wrong?"

Ms. Gass answered: "I just felt blocked at that time, and for that I do apologize. That was wrong. You know. . . . That was wrong and I’m not usually like that, but I’m under a lot of pressure probably today."

Later, at suppertime, Ms. Gass sent an e-mail to The Chronicle Herald reporter. She wrote: "The motion was a vote of confidence in the board of directors, specifically stating that they were doing a good job, moved by Kirsteen Thompson from Amherst and seconded by Teresa MacDonald of Dartmouth. . . . Further, to be fair, the reason you were bumped by the door was because you were trying to block my exit. In fact, when I attempted to open the door to leave, you banged the door shut with your hand in an attempt to stop me from doing so."

The meeting itself was a matter of concern for three SPCA members, who told reporters they were upset with comments made by the chairman, Dartmouth lawyer Terry Degen. They said he referred to the women at the meeting as "Chatty Cathys" and that he said there was so much "estrogen in the room I want to neuter myself."

Mr. Degen refused to respond and quickly left the hotel as some of the women heckled him in the lobby.

SPCA member Al Murray of Prospect said he was furious with Mr. Degen’s comments, calling them "sexist," and added he will oppose hiring him again as chairman.

But Ms. Gass defended him.

"I think with a group like this, it is important to have a strong chair," she told reporters. "I don’t think he was targeting women; he was just using a typical Nova Scotia expression, and I think that’s all he meant by it."

Sean Kelly, a volunteer special constable with the SPCA who investigated the case involving Celtic Pets in Port Hawkesbury, said he wants to see change in the way the society operates.

"I believe that we need a lot more changes within the society," he said. "We need to become more accountable to the people; we need to become accountable to the membership. I feel we’re not fulfilling that role, as people who are supposed to be speaking for the animals, when the board isn’t really speaking for the membership."

Mr. Kelly, who spoke at the meeting, presented more than 300 letters from people across Nova Scotia asking for a change in the leadership of the society.

Ms. Gass dismissed the criticism, saying the society has always had internal feuds because people are "passionate" about animals and because people in the "animal world" have never got along particularly well.

"This is a problem the SPCA has always had," Ms. Gass told reporters. "There have been, on several occasions, cases where we’ve brought in consultants to help the board get along with its members and help the board get along with one another. It has not been uncommon for that to occur."

She said the society has promptly responded to all complaints of animal cruelty. "I have a problem when people, without cause, start name-calling me."

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