Saturday, December 5, 2009

Should the dogs and puppies in Westville have been seized by the SPCA?

On October 19th Janice Bingley had 22 dogs and puppies seized from her home by the NS SPCA in Westville - according to a report in the New Glasgow News they seized - four Great Danes, 11 Great Dane puppies, one pomeranian mix with three puppies, two Japanese chins and two medium-sized dogs -
In a Chronicle Herald article from the same time, Janice is referred to at all times as a "Backyard puppy breeder" and a "backyard dog breeder in Westville" - but is she? Or is she just a dog owner who has had misunderstandings with her neighbours, bad dealings with some SPCA special constables, and very bad luck for her and her family - dogs included.

The photos in this blog post were bravely provided by Janice Bingley herself - over on Facebook there has been a huge hulabaloo for the last month about her story - people can keep themselves unbelievable entertained in other people's misery, and this month it's all about this family's tragedy.

Janice has posted 164 photos on her Facebook profile and I think they tell a very interesting story - they tell the story of a family that starts with one or 2 dogs, and then gets another, and then another - and then another dog starts showing up in the photos -

And all of the sudden - your friend loses their job, or you don't think they're taking proper care of their dog - or their dog gets along well with your dog - so they might as well come stay at your house - and all of a sudden you've got 7 or 8 dogs at your house all the time. And if they aren't spayed or neutered - then things happen. And there are a lot of people out there who don't think too much about that - and by that I mean - they have other things on their mind than whether or not their dogs are fixed. There's also different levels of dog ownership - and there's nothing wrong with either, really.
You can see in these photos that Janice's dogs were inside dogs that were loved by their family - are these the dogs of a typical back yard breeder or puppy mill breeder that you would expect the NS SPCA to go after and want to seize all their animals from? I'll be getting into that shortly - but it seems to me that this is the kind of dog home where when the humans were home the dogs were inside, and when the humans were out, the dogs were outside - and by the looks of the prodigious amount of photos on Facebook - they were all tied to dog houses outside the owner's home. And a lot of people have a problem with that - and it would seem that maybe Janice's neighbours had a problem with that.

We have to be completely honest here when we say that when all of Janice's animals were seized in October - it was not her first interaction with the SPCA - last week she sent out a 31 page background of what has gone on between her and the SPCA, and she talked about the times that Animal Control, the SPCA and the Westville Police had been to her home.
She'd had neighbhour problems so bad that she'd moved, and was having more neighbour problems, from what I can tell - so that is what I call a lot of bad luck - if I could give her any advice - I would tell her to move to a house with a fence - there's nothing like a good strong fence when you have dogs to make good neighbours - and the higher the fence, the better!
So the SPCA felt they had lots of previous paperwork to fall back on when they seized all the dogs probably - they had warned her to buy non-tipping water dishes, replace a dog house, and to remove the dogs from a muddy area - and maybe each of those things were done on separate visits - I don't know.
But you've got dogs being loved on the inside - and dog houses on the outside - and that's what the world sees - which one is the reality? And should a dog owner not be allowed to tie their dogs out at all? That is a HUGE question.

And that ostensibly isn't even the reason that Janice had her dogs seized - she had them seized because of the emaciated condition of one dog - the mother of the great dane puppies.

And here we have to look at a chart that used to be in, and I'm sure is probably still in - the investigations manual for the Special Constables for the SPCA - and probably in every manual for Special Constable. And it charts healthy weights for dogs - and probably Janice's great dane fell into the emaciated category. For whatever reason.

So according to this chart - the Constables may have felt justified in seizing Shadow the great dane - because she was emaciated, indeed they have felt like they had to.

There's people over on Facebook who have said that Janice deserved to have her animals seized simply because she fed her dogs Alpo - which to me is absolutely ridiculous. Some parents feed their human children McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken but they don't have their children taken by Family Services - you cannot impose your own beliefs on other people simply because you believe you know better than they do. I personally disagree with tying a dog out for any amount of time, and if you ask me my opinion I will give it to you, and if you ask me for options on how to not have to tie your own dog out anymore - I'll move heaven and earth to do that - but I can't MAKE you stop tying your dog out.

Unless of course you are starving your dog or not providing water - then that is abuse, and that's a different story - then that IS a job for the SPCA.

Talking about the ridiculous of other people imposing their ideas about dogs onto you - Charlie has had a life long weight problem because of allergies - and his top weight was 120 pounds, and there was a picture on one page of my Charlie loves Halifax page where he looked particularly fat - and I got an email from a guy in California about 7 years ago who said "keeping a dog overweight is a form of abuse and you shouldn't have this dog if you keep him overweight" - I emailed him back a very polite email explaining Charlie's health problems - but I didn't need someone I had no idea who he was from California telling me that my dog was overweight - I could see it right in front of me! Charlie is now about 72-73 pounds. And he still looks exactly the same. He's a lab - they all look fat. But that's the beauty - and the stupidity of the internet.
So on to the back yard breeder, puppy miller thing - and actually - I have to be honest, even calling this a "planned breeding" - does not make this a non back yard breeding. I am not against responsible breeders - I am PRO responsible breeders - in my perfect world I think every dog should come from responsible breeders and I've written many posts about just that, and I also think that "oops" breedings like her little dog breeding is okay too - because the world needs those too for genetic variety and cute little dogs - but just because Shadow should not have been bred doesn't mean she should have been seized by the SPCA.

Of course I am not privy to the files of the Special Constables and the SPCA - I only know what everyone else knows - but it does seem like simply because she was living the life of a pet owner who it didn't occur to her to hide what she was doing - she had ALL her animals taken. And it's because of what I'm going to write below that I'm saying that.

I think there will be things that can be learned from this, it's too bad that children had to lose their dogs and not understand why they were losing them.
And the real kicker of all of this is - the thing I haven't even mentioned yet is - the NS SPCA has issued to Janice Bingley - the owner of the dogs that were seized, a bill for almost $16,000 - which includes costs for the cube van that took away her dogs to drive them to the Dartmouth shelter, the cost of wages for the Special Constables who worked up the paperwork to seize her dogs, and the cost of boarding the dogs that were seized - and if she doesn't pay that bill - the dogs will become the property of the NS SPCA on December 18th, 2009.

Can you imagine if the SPCA would have submitted a bill to Gail Benoit after they seized her puppies in late 2007 for cruelty (of which she was convicted)? I'd imagine she would've made a stink about it. We would've heard that they'd done something like that - so I think this is something new that they've started - so why are they doing that. I have no idea. Cube van rental and wages really do seem like a cost of doing business - and I am an SPCA supporter most of the time.

Imagine if you had your car impounded - and before you could get it back you had to pay the guys wages who sits behind the desk in the office. You'd be outraged.

And another thing is - Janice hasn't even been charged with anything yet - the nearest I can find is a Chronicle Herald article from right after the seizure where Sean Kelly is quoted as saying that charges "may" be laid by the middle of December - which is when the $16,000 is due.

So on to the 2nd part of this post - and what really ARE pictures of a puppy miller and back yard breeder in Nova Scotia. These are pictures taken at what is so prettily called "Joe and Nan's Pups" - I was first alerted to the place by what I didn't know was actually a Board member of the NS SPCA - who knew she was powerless to do anything about the place in her position at the SPCA - and was hoping that by telling people in the Humane community about the place, that somehow the place of horrors could be shut down.
Unfortunately, she was wrong. Places like this exist everywhere. And they don't really hide too much, they just exist slightly below the surface. There's another lady named Donna Boyd who lives in Whispering Pines Subdivision in Wilmot Nova Scotia who keeps dogs imprisoned in her basement.
Another brave lady named Janice went there to try and expose her and wrote a very moving account of her visit -

"She has 24 dogs in her basement — I was not allowed in the basement. She said she has had problems with contamination before, and parvo. She said she keeps her kennels clean and bleaches them once a day and the dogs are fed and watered twice a day. She said the SPCA is onto her all the time so she has to make sure she does things up to snuff because they won’t let you get away with anything they think is unacceptable. She said she didn’t have much time for the SPCA and they were in a mess right now. She said Darlene Millet had paid her a few visits but that her kennels are up to snuff, so she is good to operate, and they can’t shut her down. She said her dogs are kept 2 or 3 per cage. They wanted her to have them in 10 by 10 foot individual cages and she said that was crazy and she would need an acre of land to keep dogs in cages that size. She said a few dogs should be caged together because they need company. They are kept in 4 by 6 foot cages or something close to those dementions. I asked if they got out for exercise and she said they can’t go outside because of “bylaws” restricting her.

These dogs do not get out of the cages and are just her breeding stock. She said she is trying to downsize and get rid of the shitzu stock but will only sell them as a group to someone who wants all of them. I said maybe someone would like them as pets, and she said — oh no, they are not trained, they are breeding stock and not house trained etc. she has King Charles stock as well. She wants all the shitzus to go to one place because in Nova Scotia everyone is breeding shitzus with everything else and coming up with designer dogs. She does not agree with this and wants the line kept as shitzus only, not mixed breeds and there are far too many people mixing shitzus.

She brought up the mother and held her in her arms. She said her hair had fallen out because she just had a litter. The mother wagged her tail at me and looked into my eyes. This is the most upsetting memory I went away with. She seemed well fed, clean. I asked her to put her on the floor, she did and the dog walked in a little circle and she said — I don’t like to put them down because she might pee on the floor. She brought her back down in the basement and brought up a black and white shitzu. I went to pat the dog and it was vacant, completely unresponsive. Did not change it’s expression as I moved my hand to its head. It’s eyes were unresponsive. I asked her to put it down. This one had splayed turned out feet. It did not move but sat on the floor. I called to it and it did not move. She said—no, she won’t come to you, she is scared/shy—doesn’t know what is going on.

She brought up the 2 remaining king Charles puppies. they were 1000 dollars each, healthy lovely and playful — of course. I told her I will get back to her on the puppy.

Her house was RELATIVELY clean, a bit shabby – in a nice neighborhood — also there was no obvious dog smell when I went in. You could hear all the dogs barking from downstairs. I was surprised there was not more bad odour with that many dogs, but she says she cleans it and bleaches it well. She has been doing this for 30 years.

I said $1000 is pretty good – if you go to a pet store you could pay more. She said—oh no no dear, don’t EVER by a puppy from a pet store. They get their puppies from a puppy mill. My husband played stupid and asked what that was and she said the pet stores buy them for 200 dollars then turn around and sell for $1200, the puppies could be sick and you don’t know what you are getting. She said all her puppies are needled and dewormed and vet checked before they go, by her vet Dr. Blithe.

I said—yes-I heard of puppy mills, that is why I want to see your kennel because a good breeder is supposed to show you. She said, I won’t let you down to the kennel because I had a contamination problem and anyone who went down had to be sanitized, have plastic bags on their feet, gloves—etc. I said lots of dogs are bred in barns and outside and you can see them. She repeated the contamination issue.

She had one dog upstairs with her. It was a $4000 red coat sharpie puppy. She got it from the States. She may or may not breed it. it seemed like her “pet”. But yet there were 25 dogs in her basement. (???)

She said ---look---I am following all the rules, I do everything they tell me, I get inspected.

This woman did not lie to me I feel, about anything. She was very willing to talk about the spca, her basement conditions and how the dogs were kept, and why I wasn’t allowed in.

I am very confused by this all. She clearly sees this as a business and sees the dogs as breeding stock."

So that is a clear and quite rivetting description of what an abusive and imprisoning back yard breeder and puppy mill is like RIGHT HERE IN NOVA SCOTIA - and these photos also depict the same situation - right here in our province.And currently - our legislation can do nothing about these two very active, and very legal operations - that sell their product on the same Kijiji website that Janice Bingley went on to in October and put her great dane puppies up for sale - and seemingly, led to the very quick seizure of all her dogs.
Is this right? Is this what cruelty legislation, what the NS SPCA, what our humane community, what the online Facebook community - is here for? Or is it here to try and free the dogs and puppies who are suffering right now in prisons in cages in basements - and the Nova Scotia SPCA's special constables and Executives can do nothing about it - even though they see it everyday - because our legislation, and the thinking of our legislators - isn't "humane" enough - or powerful - to free these animals - because the agriculture business, and the business community - think that by freeing these animals, we'll also be freeing cows and pigs - ridiculous, don't you think?I think any one of these dogs that live in Donna Boyd's basement of Joe and Nan's cages would KILL to live in Janice Bingley's house. That's my opinion. Take it or leave it.

And I'd bet, maybe that some people at the SPCA would agree with me too - pretty sure, anyway.


  1. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Thanks Joan :-)

  2. Donna Boyd actually lied--she has over 70 dogs in her basement. When i first called the SPCA they said they couldn't investigate because i didn't "go in and see for myself"

    so i went in and "saw for my self" and reported my story. Donna Boyd still breeds those puppies in her basement.

    there is a man in the Lawrencetown area that breeds border collies. i saw him beat one of his dogs and punch it repeatedly. i approached him and he swore at me and gave me the finger. he breeds them in a windowless shed in his ramshackled house on the #1 highway

  3. ...oh yes--and i did report him to the police--not sure if he was ever fined or not.

  4. Is this among the worst pet homes this SPCA has in their district? If so, my god, how incredibly lucky all the pets in this area are! If not, why are they wasting their time with someone like this when there are dogs who are tied out 24/7 in rain and snow w/improper shelter, etc? Shouldn't they focus their resources on dogs who don't have kids and other pets to snuggle with on couches?

  5. I followed the discussions on Facebook as well for awhile but found the mud throwing and name calling of the two opposed groups very childish, so stopped reading.
    Yours is an excellent post that gives a lot of clarity to thoughts that were going through my mind.
    I don't feel the dogs should have been seized, but at the same time, Shadow does look emaciated and that she was bred in the first place also concerns me. Great Danes are a breed that can be prone to many genetic health problems and responsible breeders ensure both physical and temperamental soundness before they breed. Was that done? If not, Janice, although not a miller, is in my opinion an irresponsible breeder. Not a reason to seize her dogs, but a reason to educate and keep a watchful eye.
    I feel sorry for her children that are saddened losing their dogs. But what about other people's children who fall in love with their Great Dane puppy and it turns out to be sick, cause proper screening hasn't been done?

    If the SPCA felt that had ground to intervene, and if they had the best interest of the dogs in mind, maybe they could have helped while leaving the dogs in Janice's home? Food, spay and neuter, education? Likely that would have been a whole lot cheaper than the 16.000 dollars they feel the seizure cost them.

    I agree with you that dogs should not be tied outside for any length of time and there should be a law against that. I am wondering why some owners seem to have ongoing problems with neighbors and SPCA, while others have dogs their whole life and don't. Don't think the reason is that some are just luckier than others - it's that some are more responsible than others.

  6. My problem with laws to try and stop tying dogs out - and as a long time, and dedicated volunteer and member of Dogs Deserve Better and owner of a former dog who was chained out for the first 3 years of her life - is that those kinds of laws are almost impossible to enforce - it's the same with mandatory spay and neuter laws - so the only ones who benefit from the laws are the people who have agendas - ie groups who want to eradicate certain breeds - ie pit bulls - a lot of pit bulls tend to be tied out - so animal control officers will seize pit bulls tied out in order to "save them", and then kill them because they turn out to be unadoptable - and the same with mandatory spay neuter laws - if the dog isn't fixed by a certain age - they're seized - but only certain breeds get seized.

    We have enough dog laws now that aren't enforced - let's work on legislation that will actually help animals that are in true distress - like animals trapped in cages being treated 100 times worse than cows and chickens, simply because they're dogs. At least cows get to get out and graze, generally.

  7. Hm, I'm not sure about not having enough laws. Even though many are not enforceable, in time it causes a shift how society at large thinks - laws are the first step to behaviors becoming unpopular and unacceptable. There are people that still drive while talking on a cell phone and smoke with kids in the car, but I also see cars pulled over and people smoking outside their car. It's unpopular now to spank a child in public and hitting children has become socially unacceptable, or driving drunk.
    So why can't we do that regarding dogs tied outside - or dogs choked and kicked for that matter.
    The shift might be very slow, but better than nothing - and nothing might happen as long irresponsible dog owners have the law on their side.

  8. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Its nice to see that people have not forgotten about the puppy mill industry in N.S. It is out of control and making thousands of dollars each week for the cruel people who operate such selfish places.

    It's time that the SPCA gets an action plan together to shut down the mills, even if there is food, water and shelter - does that mean its okay? C'mon !

  9. Anonymous3:43 PM

    The 'splorin' Wolfies : Can you provide more information on the gentleman on Hwy 1 in the Valley ?

    I'd be interested in knowing the location, and when and if he has any puppies forsale.


  10. there is no gentleman on the 101, but there is an animal abuser asshole breeding /selling /and beating border collies. he walks around with a stick and believes instilling fear in the dogs is the way to train them. his dog ran away from him (surpise) and a parking lot full of people at Pearls in Paradise take-out restaurant witnessed the kicking/beating. at least 3 people (me included)reported it. i will get his name and adress for you, in the meantime, go to my blog and leave your contact info.

  11. Anonymous12:19 AM

    Joan, it's all so sad. Thanks for the balanced report.

    Keep on raising our awareness about this sad situation.


  12. Marjorie5:13 PM

    I don't think I have to read between the lines to figure out that this is an irresponsible dog owner.

    But were any laws broken?

    Personally, I'm glad the dogs have been taken away. Just in the little bit I read about this case (assuming Joan's facts are accurate) demonstrate multiple forms of owner negligence.

    But were any laws broken?

    I read accusations of overturned water dishes and the like. If that's the case, then yes, laws were broken. Dogs have, if nothing else, the "right" to food, water, and shelter. That's nowhere near enough to be called a responsible dog owner. But it's the most basic requirement. If you can't provide that, for whatever reason, you shouldn't have dogs.

    Still, my personal (not legally-biding) opinion is that the dogs are better off away from this person.

    Neighbours have complained about the dogs at this person's last two residences. By comparison, I trained dogs for three decades and specialized in rehabilitating aggressive and dangerous dogs for at least the last decade. (And, for the record, I have never chained dogs and have never come across a legitimate excuse for doing so.) Until just a few years ago, all my properties had been unfenced. My current residence is "fenced" by way of a one foot high garden border on two sides of the backyard, while the front yard is unfenced. Yet I have not had a single complaint lodged against me, nor have I had dogs escape or soil a neighbour's yard, or what have you. In fact, it's quite the opposite. My neighbours have always been quite complimentary about me and my dogs. Being a responsible dog owner will do that.

    If you leave your dogs outside and unsupervised, your neighbours may complain (and you're putting your dogs in multiple forms of peril). If you allow your dogs to bark repeatedly, your neighbours WILL (and have every right to) complain. If you allow your dogs to trespass and otherwise soil private property, your neighbours should complain. If you don't pick-up after your dogs (even on your own property), or your dogs are unruly or dangerous, your neighbours should report you.

    So the neighbour complaints, the lack of supervision, the chaining... It all paints a reasonably clear picture, in my books.

    But were laws actually broken? I guess that's up to the SPCA to prove.

    I will agree that it is unacceptable to arbitrarily enforce the law. The standards that apply to people you know and like should be the same standards for people you don't want to know, or don't like.

    As for the Dane breeding thing, it's unrelated to the seizure (since anyone, anywhere is permitted to breed any two fertile dogs together, no matter how capriciously), but I want to express my disgust. As a Great Dane aficionado going back to the 1970's, I bristle at the notion of irresponsibly breeding Danes.

    The blue in the picture should never have been bred. She's a terrible example of a Great Dane. It ruins the breed when you bring more substandard animals into the world. I'm sure she's a delightful animal. But she's not breeding quality.

    I don't know to which dog she was bred, but I hope it wasn't the fawn in the pictures. The Breeder Code of Ethics and Colour Code are crystal clear: fawns are only to be bred with other fawns or brindles. Blues are only to be bred with other blues, or blacks from black or blue breeding (not blacks from harlequin or mantle breeding).

  13. Anonymous2:01 PM

    Great report - unfortunately it seems like a knee jerk reaction by the SPCA, reacting before proper investigation.

    Now after the initial public outcry, which is expected before people know all of the facts, they are trying to save face and cash in by using loopholes in the law to extort huge sums of money from this poor family.

    They have exorberantly large senior management salaries to cover so must get the finances from somewhere, even if it is a poor family.

  14. Anonymous4:27 PM

    It's been my experience that some females that have just had pups do look imanciated. It doesn't take long for them to gain back their weight though. Someone jumped the gun in the Great Dane case IMO.

  15. Anonymous11:36 PM

    I have a most wonderful dog that came from Donna Boyd's "kennel" she is a rescue as far as I'm concerned, fixed, needled, and vet checked regularly. I dont agree with how she does things and i have rescued mine though i paid 200$ for my Miss Pepper, a mixed mutt and nothing more. Pepper is very shy and scared of most people though i have been working with her for over 3 years. The first 6 months of her life was hell so i let her do some things most wouldnt allow, like being spoonfed her special people food. She gets a pound of cooked liver over three days plus her breaky which she gets along with my four cats. This little animal would have made a wonderful mother as i adopted a three-week old orange kitten (another rescue), Pepper nursed him, bathed him and helped litterbox train him. He is now 3 years old and a very loving cat. I would not trade my time with Pepper for anything. She has taught me patience and a new kind of love. Puppy mills need to be stopped no doubt at all, no living creature deserves to live in such conditions and it makes me very angry. But I have Pepper, a special needs dog that is a bucket full of love, a pure joy, and a wonderful companion for me and my roommate. She may not have a very long life, but i will cherish every minute of her life and she will have the best life i can give her.One little thing...she wont climb the stairs to g to bed nor come back down on her own so i get lots of exercise. I need Miss Pepper as much as she needs me.