Saturday, January 23, 2010

Good News! The NS SPCA Loses the HRM's Pound Contract

A lot of people will be unhappy with me over that blog post title.

Yesterday it was announced that the NS SPCA lost the pound contract with the HRM, and a company called "Homeward Bound City Pound" was the successful bidder.
Everyone always has their own spin to every story - the SPCA has theirs, I'm sure that the HRM has theirs, "Homeward Bound" will have their own - and I have mine.

I'll give the SPCA's theirs first.

In their press release they say -

The SPCA is disappointed by this news, as it means that abandoned and stray animals will be at greater risk for euthanasia and less comprehensive care.

That's a highly subjective statement as far as I'm concerned. They don't know how the next company is going to treat the animals coming into their care. We all know that the current SPCA hasn't treated animals all that well in past years - killing Celtic Pets dogs for seemingly reasons other than what they said they did it for. And before 2002 they were still using a gas machine to kill dogs here in Halifax - killing over 50% of the animals that came through their doors - and only in the last several months have they stopped using a gas machine at their Cape Breton branch.

The new company that is taking over has named their president as being Hope Swinamer - who is one of those stainless people in the local humane community - owner and operator of the "Hope for Wildlife" rehabilitation and education centre over on the Eastern Shore. So her organization is going to be coming in with quite a bit of built in good will.

The other things said in the SPCA press release were just as highly subjective - as if their organization is the only one who could take care of the long term behavioural, physical, and medical needs of animals coming into their care from Animal Control - simply because they are an SPCA it seems. I don't buy it. I don't buy their spin.

And here is my spin.

It is my opinion that shelters should shelter. SPCA's should not have pound contracts. Period. It puts them in conflicts of interest. They are supposed to be advocating for animals, and when they are taking money from governments that are taking animals from people - they cannot advocate for those people and their animals. It is wrong.

As well - pounds should be places where any and all animals can be surrendered - and a shelter the size of the Dartmouth SPCA will never be able to fulfill the needs of the HRM as an open admission shelter - especially since it has recently turned itself into the Provincial shelter for the NS SPCA.

So we are definitely at a major crossroads for the NS SPCA. I think the organization is looking at this as a major defeat - but I personally see this as a fabulous opportunity. It is a chance for the organization to become what it was meant to be.

An organization dedicated to enforcing the animal cruelty and prevention act here in Nova Scotia - protecting the animals here from being harmed, providing advocacy for animals, working to bring all the branches together under the umbrella of the Provincial office so that everybody is operating on their own anymore and doing whatever the hell they feel like - but working as one cohesive unit - with the same policies and procedures throughout - having the Dartmouth shelter being the main shelter where animals from across the province come when they require shelter - and adopting them out from there.

I think setting up their low cost spay and neuter clinic is needed more than ever to generate income and they should do it whether the city kicks in funds or not - they now have some space at the Dartmouth shelter that's being vacated by Animal Control and can do some renovations - and they can hire some shelter staff to do some very intense short term fundraising to accomplish that.

And I think that it will be really important for all the rescue community to work together in the coming months so that we can help the new Animal Control facility be a success - if the new company is owned by a positive person such as Hope Swinimer - hopefully the organization will be open to working with local rescues when animals come into their facility - which will make their life a lot easier - they can just turn animals directly over to them - saving a lot of lives in the process.

One thing in the City's document was slightly troubling though - and it had to do with the fact that the successful bidder had a better plan with what it was going to do with animals that had to be kept on a long term basis - and I'm assuming that this means that the City is planning on continuing to keep animals for long periods while it pursues cases through the court system - trying to kill the dogs and their owners try to keep their animals alive. That is not a good thing to hear. I would hope that the City instead would be trying to work on legislation that has time limits on court cases so that the cases work their way through the system faster and justice is meted out quicker - thus saving pain, money, and a dog's very short life. That is too bad to hear.

If you're interested in reading why I don't think that SPCA's should have pound contracts - there's a whole philosophy behind it - and guess what, Nathan Winograd - and the beginning of the whole No Kill Movement is involved. It's in a post I wrote back in 2006. You can read it at -


  1. Anonymous11:32 AM

    You always seem to have so much to say Joan regarding things that you have never actually had hands on experience sit on your comfy couch at home with the couple critters that you own and spew out your insults. You have no idea how much good the SPCA has really done in the past.How much time have you spent in the shelter volunteering? How much money have you donated in the past years? One day you love the SPCA and the next you are shooting them down. HOT AND COLD MUCH JOAN? As far as I am concerned you should be banned from ever walking through their doors or attending any of their events again.You are nothing more than a busy body, negative,NEWS BAG.Can't wait to see if you post this comment!!!!!!!

    1. Anonymous2:30 PM

      It is people like you, all emotion and no reason, that give people who truly care for animals a bad name. Shame!

  2. How much money have I given to the NS SPCA over the years? Literally thousands of dollars. Thousands. How much money have you given, anonymous commenter.

    How much time have I volunteered with the shelter? Look through my archives anonymous commenter. A lot. How much time have you? In a very recent previous post I said I started volunteering with the NS SPCA in 2003 - that was... lets see - SEVEN years ago? How long have you been volunteering with the organization?

    A person doesn't have to actually volunteer at the actual shelter to actually VOLUNTEER with an organization, anonymous commenter.

    It' people like YOU, anonymous commenter that poison and turn the humane community in to a hateful shallow world. As far as I'm concerned, you can just go fuck yourself.

    And see, I did publish your post. Just so I could tell you to go fuck yourself. You don't know what you're talking about. I know exactly what the SPCA has done, what they can do, and if you don't want to read my blog - why in the hell are you here - go away.

  3. Joan,

    Great post and I have like minded views and similar concerns.

    The bottom line is to keep whats best for the animals in focus and continue to work for change...


  4. Joan, I have three concerns about this
    #1 ... this is a tight timeline for a new contractor and a new facilty ...common sense would have the old contract extended by three months to give the new contractor time to properly gear up
    #2 ... traditionally pro wildlife people have opposed tnr and so i have great concerns there, and last but definitely not least,
    #3, who is being referred to with 'Additionally, the staffing structure for Homeward Bound City Pound includes individuals with extensive backgrounds in shelter management and animal care giving." Something tells me we might not like the answer to that, no matter how well Hope herself is regarded

  5. Anonymous9:28 PM

    I am not really happy to see this happen, it doesn't fix the real problem with HRM animal services.

    In fact it won't make any difference who has the pound contract unless there is an appeal process in place for owners whose animals are seized and put on death row. Hope will run into the same problem unless she insists on that. And the appeal panel must be composed of the right kind of people, like trainers, vets, long-time dog owners, and maybe a good lawyer too, if they can find one.
    But you are right that the Metro shelter is too small, as is. Way too small to be any use, and the location in the middle of chemicals-spewing from Burnside,is deadly for animals.
    Obviously if the SPCA had handled the Brindi situation properly from the start, they would not be losing the contract now. It is no coincidence. They made some councilors very mad and they must be regretting it now.

  6. I agree with a couple of your points, and I disagree with a couple of your points.

    I agree with your point that there needs to be an appeal system in place for HRM dog owners whose animals are seized and put on death row. That is a given. Due process has to be given - if we're given that for parking tickets - we must be given that for our dogs.

    Unfortunately, the owner of the new shelter contract won't have any control over that - just like the SPCA had no control over that. And it really is very disingenuous of any us to expect Hope Swinimer or anyone else to think that this is going to change now simply because a new contractor has taken over.

    I personally don't have any problems with Burnside being used as a location - there wouldn't be any noise nuisance laws being broken by asshole neighbours to start giving hassles, and I'm sure there's lots of businesses looking for tenants right now who could use the tenants and they'll be able to get a good price on rent.

    And I don't think it was the "Brindi case" that made the SPCA lose the contract - I'd say it's been a multi-year grinding down from the city that caused them to lose the contract that started long ago - and it's very unfortunate that it has come down to now that they've finally had to pay the piper for many years of mismanagement and bad politics. You could also call it KARMA.

    I call it also - OPPORTUNITY.

    You say tomatoe, I say tomaaatoe.

  7. Janet - in response to your concerns - it's my understanding that the clinic that Hope works at was the former place that the pound contract before the SPCA - so she would know people who had pound experience - I don't know this personally - but I am assuming that she is going to be bringing those same people on board with her now to start up her new company. That is my assumption - but you know what assuming can usually do!

  8. excellent post. i hate when people attack behind the veil of anonymous. grow some balls.

  9. Anonymous10:07 AM

    I am not well-versed on the many issues involved here, I just hope that it might mean that more animals in need of good homes can be matched up with prospective good homes. My limited experience with the SPCA here is that they don't give people who want to adopt a real chance to adopt. I previously wanted to adopt, but the main obstacle to me adopting was the NS-SPCA, ironically enough. And I'm guessing there are others out there like me who were left hanging after submitting application forms without so much as an acknowledgement. I hope this can change in the new dispensation!

  10. As a Corporate sponsor it is scary that the already limited funds donated by Nova Scotians could be split between multiple organizations. I assume the contract price was lower for the City than the current cost and with challenges facing any new organization to generate fundraising awareness, will the new shelter be run as a "Business" first, with expectations to lower costs whenever possible. Will vets be willing to provide services to an unproven organization? We will continue to support the NS SPCA as I believe they are doing a great job considering how few resources they have, volunteers, staff and money. They adopted almost 900 cats and 400 dogs from the Halifax Shelter last year. The problem remain pet owners regardless of who runs the shelter.

  11. I don't know how to break it to you, Brian - but the SPCA itself has said in previous newspaper articles that it has run it's shelter contract with the city has a business first, and a shelter second. So it's no different than any new contractor coming in to take over. It may try to come off as being warm and fuzzy, but make no mistake that it's a business, with staff salaries to pay, and a bottom line to be met.

    I really do think that this is a great opportunity for the SPCA to get some pretty severe monkey's off their back - and a new beginning to forge ahead with - if they choose to take that route.

    It's really not bad news. And as a corporate sponsor - I think it's fantastic that you're willing to stay the course with them - and hopefully everyone who's supported them in the past will stay that way if they continue to believe in the SPCA's mandate. Certainly now is the time to let them know that.

  12. Anonymous3:17 PM

    I was hopping for Karma. The SPCA can be a wonderful organization but with the media the last couple of months with the Brindi case and the Westville dog situation, no wonder this has happened.

    By the way on the NS SPCA site it was recorded that over 500,000 was collected in donations so I don't believe their resources are limited.

    Maybe if the NS SPCA was to admit their wriong doing and try to make right it could prevent further damage.

  13. I am with Joan on that one. Like Heather, I agree with pretty much everything Joan said in her post.
    A municipality as large as the HRM should have a facility where unwanted animals can be surrendered to, and a separate facility that, in my opinion should not be privately contracted out to run like a business, keeps animals that are seized.
    The SPCA protects animals from people and AC people from animals and the two should be separate entities to avoid conflict.

  14. Anonymous10:24 PM

    In my opinion some major things happened for the SPCA in the past months. New director, new white paper, new Act and now the loss of the pound contract. If they truly want to move in a new direction then they need to right some wrongs to the public. The dog that was adopted but really wasn't- was in foster care??? Westville dogs, etc... Adopting dogs publically before charges- come on people...this is brutal and cruel

  15. Anonymous7:51 PM

    There is one point to note about the SPCA operating a business on the side, as it were: Canada Revenue places certain restrictions on charities that operate businesses. The principal restriction is that the nature of the business must not conflict with the charity's activities and purpose.
    In this case there is a clear conflict, as many have noted.
    The call for a separate facility is meaningful in this regard.
    If the SPCA operates a pound and never questions HRM's decisions to impound or euthanize, etc., it is compromising its own mandate. It is a built-in conflict of interest. This could have been resolved, however, with the addition of various safeguards and mechanisms, so that the SPCA could resolve the conflict of interest. As it persistently denied the conflict existed, the SPCA missed an important opportunity to act as a mediator and protector of animals.

  16. Another thing that hasn't been commented on about this is the fact that if the SPCA loses the contract they will still be involved - because they can now inspect the facility to make sure that Homeward Bound City Pound - is up to code on it husbandry practices - and I'd imagine that they'll be crossing their "t's" and dotting their "i's" if you know what I mean.

  17. I love this blog. One thing that concerns me is the fact that the SP
    CA would charge horrendous amounts of money to those wishing to adopt pets. Their process for those wanting to adopt was beyond cautious. By making the adopting of pets an onerous process, I am sure that many dogs were denied the chance to go to excellent homes and many dogs would have ended up being euthanized.
    The SPCA received monies from government, donations and the monies from those who actually could get a pet from them. How was the money being spent, on salaries for staff?
    I would like to throw this out to you Joan, because I am now becoming quite concerned that animals are being used to make some people financially comfortable.
    Animal rescues and their constant calls for donations. When you contact them, they all of a sudden don't have any dogs. Yet their sites have the same dogs over months. Does anyone look into those running the rescues?
    I love your feisty responses.

  18. Hi there Rosalee, I don't think that the SPCA has ever made any money on animals in Nova Scotia. And all the people who I know who are involved with the SPCA don't take a salary from the organization, they're 100% volunteer, but at the same time I've written on this blog before that you've got to spend money to make money - so I don't have any problem with paying people money to fundraise for charitable organizations - and also paying them a living wage too, so that you get a good person in the position. The animals need smart people working for them. I do agree that some SPCA's and rescues make adopting animals a really ridiculously hard process and it seems stupid that dogs could be going to good homes by most people's standards and they're not.

    Another thing is that anyone can set themselves up and call themselves a rescue - which I don't know if that's such a good thing - other places have regulations about that. Maybe we should have that here too.

  19. AfricanSunset9:25 AM

    As much as I know that I'll be shit on for saying this -- BUT I tend to agree with you 100% on this article.

    I share your points of view and appreciate your honesty.

  20. Hello Joan,

    I love the thread, I just wanted to agree with what Rosealee said(and I know this from working at the SPCA in the past) that there are staff, that are ARE being made very financially comfortable by being paid huge salaries paid from by the SPCA, the Executive Director is on approx $79,000 per year and the Shelter Director is on approx $60,000 a year, the nepotism and ego's at the SPCA have got way out of control, (this is not including all the rest of the staff, including admin staff that are all paid, yes there are unpaid volunteers, but the shelter is mostly run by full/part time staff, paid for by kind cash donations by the public and the taxpayers money.
    This money could have been spent in my opinon on updating the heating system, better lighting and ventilation and drainage systems, however the shelter managment team decided that it was better to spend the money on cosmetic repair, like new flooring, and arguing about the color of the wall in reception.
    Trust I have personal experience with working with Hope, and I know the Animal Control Contract will be better in her hands. KARMA!!

  21. GOOD FOR HOPE!!! SPCA has to go >>> SPCA is a joke best describes the organization. After personal experience with adoption and animal recovery its all about the cash!!! Adoption - you beter have 150.00 and if they find your animal and you are lucky to call them before they "house" your animal will cost you about 100.00. Imagine havining your animal taged wit a number and a paid a city licence SPCA finds your animal but keeps it for a day so they can add their checks/food/and care cost!
    These people at SPCA are paid large salarys over 60K and higher + bonus and expenses for what?????? Yah thier place is nice on the outside but they lack the proper updated care equipment for the animals.
    Congrats to the new contractor! Hope will do a fantastic job!!

  22. Anonymous10:21 AM

    just found this article. and i completely agree with you. the spca is disgraceful and i have had many unpleasant dealings with them over the years. subsequently i have also had a chance to work with homeward bound and it is like night and day. better conditions for animals and the people who run the shelter genuinely care for these animals. the SPCA are crooks in my opinion.

  23. Anonymous4:48 PM

    Im an animal lover, I have brought in more stray cats and also fed so many more in my community.
    During this brutal cold winter there was a cat that I had been feeding on a regular basis .then suddenly he didnt meet me for quite awhile.One morning I saw a bunch of kids kicking him and he was already injured or it appeared he was . I naturally scared the kids off and also the kitty too.He did come back I noticed from the distance he was hurt and bleeding. I left his food for him and immediately called spca. They basically said its only a cat and they were busting with kitties. I then called animal control... Someone from Hrm anyway and I asked If I could catch the cat would they have him treated and they said Stop feeding him and he will go away the worst was he said if I caught him he was my problem not hrm.. they dont go around the community picking up injured stray animals. I was so shocked by his bluntness. I have certainly had my run ins with the spca from wanting to adopt from them and stray animals in need of good homes
    . I have driven to other provinces with stray animals and searched for shelters for these speechless creatures. Who only want to be loved and cared for
    .Ive had better luck traveling to different provinces to find friendlier shelters for our furry friends