Friday, October 17, 2008

Tomorrow is HRM's Civic Election

So tomorrow we're going to be voting for our HRM City Councilor's - for those of us who have special interests when we go to talk to our local elected officials - it's important to know where they stand on certain issues.

Some of the candidates have been very forthcoming on their views, and others haven't felt the need to let their potential constituents know where they stand about companion animals issues - which is really too bad, because if they are elected - they are going to be dealing with animal issues on a regular basis, because our pets are very important to us - and when something is going wrong - we want our Council person to handle it!

And for some reason - we seem to have voted in a lot of dog haters/non dog savvy people in the last time - so it would be nice to vote in this time at least a few people who know something about dog ownership this time. That would be nice.

In that spirit - I sent out a questionnaire to all 59 candidates - and a few of them answered back.

Generally - Everyone thinks that Halifax is dog friendly, and almost everyone thinks that in the last 4 years Regional Council has spent too much time on animal issues! No one wants to put millions of dollars into a brand new animal shelter, but everyone thinks that dog owners are a very important demographic in our community. They are very concerned about where licencing money for Animal Control and fines are going - and want it to go back into Animal Control coffers - and if there's money left over that it go to animal issues. I got a few impassioned paragraphs from some candidates - so there are some politicians out there who feel pretty strongly about animal issues - so that is a GREAT thing as far as I'm concerned!

If you didn't read my last newsletter, this is what I noted about the comments from respondents -

Almost 40% of the candidates responded to our request for the questionnaire that was sent out – which is actually pretty good – seeing as how it was sent out from someone who they had totally no idea who it was from, and a lot of them didn’t like the questions being asked of them – and really didn’t understand why the questions were being asked, and I’m sure – didn’t even take them seriously. And a couple of the people who DID respond – told us that!

But that was also something we were looking at – how dismissive were the candidates at answering dog owner’s questions? Who DIDN’T want to answer the questions? Because that was important too, as far as I was concerned – and there were a couple people who stood out there too.

I’m sure that some incumbents didn’t answer the questionnaire because they feel fairly certain that their constituents already know how they feel and have previously acted on dog issues – so they didn’t need to fill out any questionnaire like this – which is too bad, because we don’t have anything to compare to their competitors who did complete the questionnaires.

Quite a few candidates had issues with sports fields being used as off-leash areas – maybe they are hearing that from their constituents? But that’s an interesting tidbit that the questionnaire brought up that hadn’t occurred to me before – it seems logical that large flat green spaces speckled throughout the Municipality would be great places for dogs during certain pre-determined times of the day for multi-use areas – if a poop and scoop law was being enforced by the relevant authorities.

One really comical comment I got was in relation to my question about in-home doggy day cares – “I have never heard of the idea! Very interesting. This is similar to in home day care for children? How are they currently run and is there licensing involved etc. I do not know if I would call it essential in the classic sense but look what happened with the hurricanes in the U.S.A… Pets are people's family.”

Isn’t that a hoot? I guess it shows how we as dog owners take the things we use every day for granted and just assume that non-dog owners understand our language and facilities! My use of the term “essential” really riled up the candidates too! Some of them really took umbrage with the term. Those of us who actually use in-home doggy day cares and have the more – how should we say it “socially special” type dogs who can’t handle the institutional type doggy day cares really DO consider in-home doggy day cares “essential” to the quality of our lives and our dogs’ lives – which is what I was inferring – just like a human parent with a special needs child considers special services for their child “essential” – even though not every child needs that service. But I think I might have gone a bit too “deep” with that question! But the question DID get seven yeses!

Comments made by some of the respondents:

John Stoddard, candidate for district 22 – in response to the question: do you think that bylaw A300 puts dogs in danger in the HRM? “Yes and No. It depends on how much the letter of the law is enforced. Like most things coming out of council the language needs to be clearer. I think everyone agrees that owners need to be responsible and that dangerous animals need to be controlled but we can go too far in our diligence to make HRM livable to all. Yes, I think the following part of the law needs to be rewritten.” (which is referring to the dangerous dogs section).

Jennifer Watts, who’s a candidate in District 14, had some great comments at the end of her submission. She said –

“As someone who is not a dog owner I have learned a great deal from talking to people on the doorstep who are dog owners about their concerns. I have grown to appreciate the importance of the dog owner community as a valuable social networking and community builder in our neighbourhoods. Dog owners provide a regular check on parks in our neighbourhoods, they clean up garbage from our parks and walkways (not just cleaning up after their pets), provide security and presence in areas that often do not have high traffic (especially early in the morning and later in the evenings), and they often tend to discuss the neighbourhood and issues pertaining to it which builds a sense of ownership and commitment to neighbourhood betterment. In several conversations with dog owners I have heard about the lack of clarity of where owners can let their pets off leash - I would work to find a neighbourhood solution; for example, a rotational schedule of different parks on different days for set periods of time. I think it is important to move from a position of viewing dog owners and their dog’s needs from a restrictive viewpoint to one that acknowledges the legitimate need for space and consistency and also the valuable contribution that dog owners play in maintaining and promoting an active neighbourhood identity.”

Andrea Hilchie-Pye – also a candidate for District 14, when answering the question about what the mandate of council should be for the next four years, and whether it should keep its focus completely away from animal issues – said: “Yes and no. Our city is faced with significant challenges which we need to address (affordable housing, homelessness population, ensuring our communities are safe, improving our transportation infrastructure, etc). These must be paramount in how council spends its energy.”

Mary Wile, incumbent for District 10 - said something interesting regarding the trap neuter and return programs – she thought that they were a good idea and should be sponsored by the city – but they should be funded through the licensing of cats.

Krista Snow, incumbent for District 2 had a really good idea regarding getting extra income for Animal Services. She said: “I have brought to Council a number of times that we should be hiring or contracting people to enforce the taxation by-law for dogs that is in place now. That alone would accumulate a huge sum of money that would go towards programs to benefit animals.” Now THAT is a great idea, I think. Spend a little money, to make a lot of money – and then the dogs are licensed, so that if they decide to go for a “walk-about” – they can get a free ride home – because Animal Control knows where they live, thus creating a win-win for the owner – the FIRST time, anyway.

Doug Poulton from District 23 said – “I'm a dog lover as well, and they add so much to a person’s life. Responsible dog lovers, should take offense to the way some dogs are treated and cared for by some individuals and something should happen to them. I do sympathize with the people who complain about the messes our friends leave behind and do think it is the responsibility of the owner to clean up after them. I couldn't get at your questionnaire on my computer so I hope this will tell you where I'm coming from. Living in the rural area of H.R.M. gives us the security that our well being is protected by a loved one, who only asks for love and attention in return. Hope this answers your concern from my perspective”

Andrew Younger – who was acclaimed in his district – was very generous with his time on the questionnaire, he gave really detailed answers. There’s probably been no other regional councilor in the last 4 years who’s championed the dog cause more than him – so it’d make sense that he’d have the most to say. You can check out his answers on the pdf file - I’m sure his notes will answer questions that a lot of people will have about some of the issues that they’ve been asking as prospective
Councilors have been coming to their doors.

You can view all the answers of the candidates who responded, and the names of those that didn't - at

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