I thought I'd take a few minutes and write out what in my own special myopic vision what I think are some of the highlights that happened in 2009 in dog politics in Nova Scotia - and what I hope will happen as this decade passes into the next one here in this end of Canada.
The year 2009 started off well with Gail Benoit being found guilty of animal cruelty - so the year didn't start off too badly - 4 counts of animal cruelty, and 1 count of assault for Ms. Benoit when she assaulted SPCA Special Constable Nancy Noel - charges stemming from a raid carried out in October 2007. She actually went to jail for a couple of days - not for the animal cruelty charges - but for the assault charge, since it was her second conviction for assault - so she did suffer a little bit of punitive punishment.
In 2010 - the Benoit's still have some more litigation to look forward to - they are still facing charges relating to the now famous 27 puppies she and Mr. Bailey bought from Chapman Kennels - and how only about 5 of them lived - and almost all of the puppies they sold to the public, died of parvo. The pre-trial is set for May, 2010 and the trial is set for October, 2010. So we have that to look forward to.
2009 was also the year that I started up a website to gather information about Gail Benoit - so that there was a spot on the internet that if people plugged her name into a search engine - they'd be able to find out who she was - before they bought a puppy from her - just so that they could be fully informed about the type of product that she was selling. Information is power. The website I started is at http://gailbenoit.ca/
There was another positive spot in April when Allan Elliott got 10 months of house arrest for the abuse he meted upon his cows back in 2006.
February brought the horrible archaic court decision up in New Brunswick with the pomeranian breeder - Keith Barton - who was found not guilty of animal abuse, after having bludgeoned his dogs to death, and was only found guilty of injuring one dog - the one dog he was unable to kill because I guess he didn't smash the poor dog's skull hard enough - the little dog in this photo, Ronald.
This story though did spur a whole new group in New Brunswick to form called "The BARK Campaign" - and they're trying to change legislation Canada wide - which really is a good thing. You can click on the link on their name to find out more about them.
In August though - New Brunswick continued on with its horrible trend for dogs when the decision in the animal cruelty case for Chapman Kennels came out. Do you remember them? The people who KILLED 175 of their dogs - and no one cared? Yes, that case. If you don't remember - they were found innocent of animal cruelty - in part - because their vet considered their breeding stock to be WORKING ANIMALS - so therefore they didn't actually need things like TEETH. Dogs in puppy mills can survive with rotting teeth - that is a fact - and you can read all about it in the post I wrote last August. Disgusting. It's not only the public we need to educate about compassion towards animals and puppy mills - it's also the veterinarian community who are making millions of dollars from the puppy mill community.
It was a hard year to be a dog in Nova Scotia - it seemed like there were a lot of people in Nova Scotia who liked to kill them.
In February, 5 puppies were found in the woods in Baddeck Nova Scotia - 2 of them had already died, but 3 of them were still alive - 1 of them had a broken leg that had already healed, 1 of them had a head wound - but all 3 of them are going to be okay and as of today are already in their forever homes - 100's of people came forward wanting to adopt them.
In Waycobah Cape Breton, a woman's german shepherd was barking at some men who were ice fishing - so they called 911 and the local dog catcher came who shot him 10 times - killing him.
And then here just outside of Halifax in Ketch Harbour - a dog was shot dead when it was on a walk-about - and the owners are devastated - I guess the dog regularly ran around at large, and one of the problems with our provincial laws is that it's perfectly legal to shoot a dog if you say you saw it chasing wildlife and it's owner was not around and under his voice control. So in this sad story the only human breaking the law was the grieving dog owner.
Also in February - a dog was found hanged in Brookside here in Halifax
In June - the Celtic Pets animal abusers Zonda and Alice MacIsaac were found guilty of animal cruelty - and were then GIVEN BACK some of the animals they abused. The reason why they were given them back was the rationale "the animals were unadoptable anyway - so the other option was death - so we might as well give them back". To me - giving back an animal so that it can be abused for the rest of it's life is NO OPTION. But that's just my opinion. It's also my opinion that there are very few unadoptable animals out there - only very severe behavioural problems and health problems make animals unadoptable. Any other problem is workable. But now they have their animals back - how many other non animal abusers in this province know their animals are sitting in cages as 2009 comes to a close?
In March, a woman was only fined $5 for killing a kitten
In June the SPCA seized 88 animals from 2 homes in Guysborough - a lot of them were seriously unhealthy and interbred and had to be put down, but some were made healthy and adopted out - and even a couple were given back to the owners in the end - spayed and neutered.
In October 22 dogs were seized in Westville by the SPCA - that case is still unfolding as we go into 2010 - so we'll have to wait and see how that ends - and hopefully it'll be the best ending for the dogs.
In October it seemed like just as we were celebrating one seller of puppy milled dogs shutting down - Bud Wheatley in PEI (with his dogs being seized) - a new pet store that sells puppies opened in Cape Breton, that got a glowing story in the Cape Breton Post - a new Bud Wheatley was born, shiny and clean.
There was also tons of fun stuff that went on too that had to do with dogs -
There were lots of things to do with our dogs this year - every year we always know that the Metro SPCA will have a dog jog,
the Halifax Kennel Club has shows several times a year - and they are such a great way to look for companion animals. You go there, look at all the great breeds, talk to the breeders - fall in love with a breed - find out who's breeding that breed, find a breeder - investigate different breeders - go see their dogs, do your research - and you'll have a great lifetime companion - healthy, happy - you'll also have a friend in your - RESPONSIBLE breeder.
Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada has several events through the year that are always fun to go to -
the pug owners locally are also really active and tons of fun to hang out with, and
the NS SPCA always has a "do" so that we can get dressed up and spend tons of money, and
in May we got to go bowling with our dogs for the SPCA. Of course there are about 100 other things that I didn't go to - Lab Rescue does stuff - every rescue does fund raisers that are fun and also raise money - we have a vibrant local community of dog lovers - I just wish our local government and legislators would catch up with us!
Bill 186 - our new provincial animal cruelty legislation - passed in November 2008 - but still has to receive royal assent. What is holding that up? When that is passed, there will be an appeal process set up for people who feel that they have been dealt a raw deal by the people who enforce the animal cruelty act - and that is a wonderful thing - ombudsmen are never a bad thing anywhere.
In the HRM - local dog owners have been saying since our animal bylaw was first discussed back in 2007 - Bylaw A300 - that it was deeply flawed. In 2009 it came to a head, and as 2009 closes - some of the same local dog owners who made the most noise in 2007 have been approached to sit on a committee to help the City rewrite the bylaw at some indefinite future point. HRM doesn't need to re-invent the wheel - but we can certainly write a bylaw that can kill a lot less dogs, AND keep our community safe. We can only hope that 2010 will bring some movement on both of these pieces of legislation.
We also had a provincial election this year - perhaps the best thing about that election was the fact that dog hater Lloyd Hines from the municipality of the District of Guysborough left his post as Warden of that area to run as a liberal in his riding provincially - and in the end LOST. That was pretty sweet. If he would have won - dogs across the province no doubt would have started dying pretty quickly - so a lot of us worked pretty hard to make sure that as many people as possible knew his feelings - and what he had done in his own riding about dog legislation - so it was quite nice to see him lose. Not to be negative, but it was pretty nice.
We also had a hell of a year in regards to off leash exercise in the HRM - with one of the parks that were opened to dog owners for off leash activities - the Robert Park Ball field over in Dartmouth - permanently closing down - this coming January 10th, 2010. Things are not looking good for the future with the release of the final report coming out in early 2010 for the Off Leash Strategy Implementation - the HRM bureaucrats at City Hall have proven themselves over and over to not like dog owners - and I have been personally baffled as to how to overcome the dichotomy between how dog friendly Halifax is in reality and how dog hating City Hall is - it has over and over blown my mind. And I personally have no idea how to fix it.
Personally, I had not too bad of a year. I got to see my idol - Nathan Winograd - not once, but twice! I got to go to Washington DC to go to the No Kill Advocacy Centre's No Kill Conference at George Washington University in May, and then I also went on a trip of a lifetime in October to Las Vegas Nevada to the Best Friend's Animal Society's No More Homeless Pet's Conference - which also included a one day trip to the Best Friend's Animal Sanctuary - now THAT was awesome.
I also had the pleasure of helping to organize a one day seminar for the best dog trainer in Nova Scotia Silvia Jay - in April - for a seminar called "The Art of Mindful Leadership" - which was awesome. Silvia is not only a great teacher, she's also a gifted speaker. We can only hope that she'll be giving another seminar somewhere in 2010 - and if she does - you should go!
Also in April there was a local seminar called "the Atlantic Region Summit for Urban Animal Strategies" and it was all about a different survey that is done every year by a group out in Banff - and this year it was about pet owners, and it gave some pretty interesting statistics - you can read about it in the blog post I made for the day.
As the year closes if I think about the idea - have I learned anything in 2009?
What comes to my mind is - nothing much changes. Nothing changes. Even if you think you've worked hard to change things - you've changed the people, you've changed the process, you've changed the policies, you've changed the way things look, you've changed the way things work, but when you get to the end result, nothing is different.
Another thing that I've learned is that loyalty means nothing, whether it's misplaced or well placed. In the end, you are still alone. That's why dogs are so much better than humans.
So this is getting to be way too long, so I'll wrap it up - what I would like for 2010 is for some scientist to invent a drink to give to dogs so that 15 year old small dogs and 11 year old large dogs so that they can live at least 10 more years. That's what I would like - and for them to live a life as if they were 3 years old. That would be nice. I would like that a lot. That would a great thing for someone to invent in the next decade - they would make a lot of people happy.
I would also like to see people calm down. Or maybe I should say, be calm.