Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pat Lee Speech about State of the Cats in Nova Scotia Today

Last night I went to a cat event - the Spay-Getti Gala Dinner hosted by Spay Day Nova Scotia and Pick of the Litter Society, and it was a lot of fun - they had a lot of silent auction items and I of course bid on a dog basket (which I won) and the spaghetti was awesome - but Pat Lee - local writer and bon vivant gave a speech that I didn't want to escape into the ether, so I thought I'd publish it here with her permission - so I'm having my first guest post ever on this blog - written by Pat Lee - who publishes a column weekly in the Chronicle Herald Called "Pat Lee's Pet Corner" - here is the speech she gave last night:


Awhile back I wrote something in my Pet Corner column that annoyed the heck out of a dog lover, sparking the comment: “Stick to writing about fluffy kittens”

The column that ticked her off so much was my take on Halifax's decision to relocate a dog park. At the time I recall thinking, “wow, if cats only had the equivalent of a park, paid for by the city, that their owners could get up on their hind legs about. Wouldn't that be nice?”

Because, of course, cats don't have that level of municipal support or anything close to it.

In fact, cats, especially free roaming cats, are for the most part left to fend for themselves unless they're lucky enough to be cared for by a kindhearted person or volunteers from a rescue group who might be able to provide a shelter and food, or, if they're lucky, get a trip to the vet if they become sick or injured.

A recent case in the news about an owned cat, who nonetheless looked, and it turns out was, very ill, further highlights the problem. When the owner couldn't be found, the elderly and sickly cat was humanely euthanized instead of being left to fend for itself in that condition. In fact, Halifax's Animal Services had seen the cat previously, but it was not deemed "critically" ill or injured and it was not taken off the streets.

As a society, we undervalue cats, which is ironic given that they are the No. 1 household pet in Canada. Most people love their own cats to bits – I know I sure do my Ollie and Buddy -- but in society they are still given second-class standing.

Here's a quiz for you: Can you guess when the Nova Scotia government included the word “cat” in its Animal Protection Act? It was just last year. We can thank our friends from the Tuxedo Party for lobbying the minister to
make that change. Up until then, the Act only mentioned dogs. Cats truly are the underdogs.

Here's a few more examples.

Just before Christmas, my friend Inge Sadler of Pick of the Litter took in six pups who had been found tied in a garbage bag and thrown in a watery ditch. One had already died and the rest of the litter was doomed too if not for some young girls who came upon them. As is her speciality, she bottle fed them, stayed up through the night in the first few days when their survival wasn't certain, and got them to the point where they were healthy and eventually adopted.

While she had the puppies, my brethren in the media, print and broadcast, beat a path to her door, wanting to tell the story of the wonderful – and it truly was wonderful – rescue of these dear, sweet pups. In fact, many media outlets wanted to come more than once to track their progress.

Inge, who's prime mission is rescuing orphan kittens – having hundreds of them go through her home a year – mentioned to members of the media that she continually takes in kittens who are found in equally deplorable
situations. She said they would be welcome to document their stories as well. In fact, not long afterwards she got a little of kittens delivered to her door, found in a bag in a ditch. Sound familiar? But there was no interest.

This is Angel. She was found this winter, frozen and half dead in the middle of a highway outside of Halifax. I shudder to think how many drove by her before someone stopped, pulled a blanket out of their vehicle, and scooped Angel off the road, taking her to a friend who does cat rescue. Would a dog have been left in that condition? Would a dog be outside long enough to GET in that condition? After hearing about Angel, I spread this story far and wide on social media and included it in a column, but the rescue – Sympathetic Ear – never heard from any other media about this. What's newsworthy about a half-dead cat in the road? But say the same sentence with the word dog in it. I think there would have been a different response.

Last year when Halifax announced that it was closing a popular off-leash dog park – remember? Fluffy kittens? -- there was a hue and cry throughout the land, with again the media all over the issue. Public meetings were held to hear dog owners' concerns and to find a replacement – which the city did. Other than perhaps dealing with an issue before council, when was the last time you heard about a municipality holding a special public meeting to address cat issues? Nothing comes to mind for me.

Again in Halifax, a few months ago the city rubber-stamped its new, fiveyear, $2.4-million animal services contract, awarding it once again to Homeward Bound City Pound. Sadly, there are no provisions for cats in this hefty contract, unlike the SPCA's lower bid, which did include programs to address the needs of cats. But instead, council chose to stay with the non-feline-friendly status quo.

So what's the result of society's systemic neglect of cats?

Well, as I don't have to tell some of you, it's an epidemic of feral and stray cats, primarily in dense urban areas, or outside cities where they find refuge and food around farms and wharves. Many of these cats are sick, spreading disease among their colonies and dying horrible and early deaths. And because they're not spayed or neutered, the cycle just continues. We are just coming out of what rescuers call “kitten season” and it's not a
time to celebrate.

Because many municipalities do not support cat rescues even just a little bit, it's left to the hard work of individual rescuers, most doing it on their own time, on their own dime, and working literally to exhaustion. Burnout among cat rescuers is, not surprisingly, very high.

But there are a few bright lights out there.

At his invitation, Inge Sadler and I met with Halifax Mayor John Savage to talk about cat issues and he seemed receptive. There have also been other meetings with city representatives by members of Spay Day HRM. The city
is also currently establishing an advisory committee to address cat-related issues, which could go a long way to bringing forth programs to battle a feral and stray cat problem and heighten education among cat owners. We're all anxious to see what this committee will look like and how the city will implement its recommendations sometime in the future. I remain cautiously optimistic.

A few years ago Cape Breton Regional Municipality began giviing a $25,000 annual grant to the Cape Breton Feral and Abandoned Cat Society, a coalition that has been aggressively tackling the feral cat problem in the Sydney area. While that money goes nowhere near covering the cost of such a program, it set the ball in motion to begin the work they're doing.

Rescues around the province are working to come up with ways to help cat owners spay or neuter their pets, including the SPCA which has two clinics – one in Dartmouth and its new one in Sydney – to help rescuers and low income households to fix their cats at an affordable rate.

But those programs and others are just a drop in the bucket until cats are put on a level playing field with dogs when it comes to increased care and concern, not only by pet owners, who would abandon their cat or let their unspayed or unneutered cat roam the neighbourhood, but also by our elected officials.

If a town is willing to spend money on staff to catch lost dogs, provide pound services and dog parks, they should also be willing to pony up the cash to help spay and neuter cats for humane population control, provide educational programs to deter abandonment and abuse, and generally promote goodwill toward the No. 1 household pet in Canada.

So next time you hear your community express support for dog initiatives, don't be afraid to stand up and ask for the equivalent for our feline friends. Or next time you hear of a cat-related story worthy of media attention, don't be afraid to pester your local news outlet for equal time. And, of course, -- which probably needs not be emphasized in this room – donate your time, money or supplies if you can – to organizations like the SPCA or cat rescues like Spay Day HRM or Pick of the Litter doing this lifesaving work with little or no governmental support.

While we all love dogs and only wish the best for them, it's time for us all to become cat advocates.

Thank you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sled dog people are full of hooey when it comes to chaining out dogs

A sled dog yard in Quebec

The Montreal SPCA is asking the Quebec government to ban keeping dogs chained around the clock as part of an upcoming overhaul of the province's animal-rights legislation.

There is an article on the CTV News website that interviews both the Montreal SPCA and Bernard Saucier, president of Quebec's Sled Dog Club - who gives us some very choice quotes on what he thinks about chaining dogs out. It's quite unbelievable really, what he says.

He "says anti-tethering campaigns are based on a lack of understanding, and maintains that his dogs are happier and healthier tied outside near their friends than stuck in a house all day."

"My dogs are in a park, they each have their territory, they socialize with their friends, run around their houses, go take a nap, they can urinate when they need," he said. "They get more exercise outside than lying around a house all day."

If that isn't the biggest load of hooey you've ever heard in your life - I don't know what rock you're living under.

What are the reasons that companion dogs exist in today's world?  Is it soo that they can run around a dog house continually, bark at the air and lay down next to their own feces and urine and live in a 6 foot perimeter with a chain hanging off of them their whole life - "near" their "friends" - but never able to actually touch them, interact with them or play with them?

My dogs, and all companion dogs, live inside a house - have access to water that's not been tipped over because the chain has knocked it over, usually have a plethora of toys to choose from to play with - have a soft bed - or a couch, or a soft chair to sleep on - have soft music or the tv in the background - a lot of times have a dog brother or sister that they can cuddle with and actually interact with through the day while their owner is at work - they also have the freedom to bark at any time they want to - they have access to water any time they want, and because they are trained and socialized - they hold their pee and poop inside until their owners get home.

They just hang out and relax all day and then when their owners get home they have alot of fun for a few hours, and then they have the best time of all - they get to sleep with their owners all night long - the piece de la resistance.  The best part of their day as far as the dog is concerned.

What part of this does a sled dog get?


What part of a sled dog's life could possibly make them happy?  The 30 seconds that the human is in the yard feeding them once a day?  Give me a break.

And they call that "responsible tethering".

That is no life for any animal - any predator can come into that yard and in half-an-hour kill every dog in the yard - a companion dog is safe inside a home.  A storm could come and kill every dog in a sled dog yard - no storm can kill a companion dog inside a home.  Chained dogs are not safe in SO MANY ways.

They are prey to passing transiant dogs - none of them are ever spayed or neutered, so any dog that passes by can have their way with them - they are trapped.  Any human that wants to come by can abuse and tease them.  They are marked targets.

So all of this added up makes permanently chained dogs - sled dogs, not "happier and healthier" - but in fact sad and marked targets that you can do nothing but feel sorry for - and hopefully the Quebec government will enact legislation that will do a better job of protecting them in the future.

Here is the CTV News article -

MONTREAL - The Montreal SPCA is asking the Quebec government to ban keeping dogs chained around the clock as part of an upcoming overhaul of the province's animal-rights legislation.
The animal welfare organization is launching a campaign Tuesday to raise awareness about tethered dogs, which they say are more likely to be injured or neglected, are exposed to the elements, and suffer psychological damage as a result of being constantly tied.

"Dogs are social animals. They need to be in contact with other dogs, with other animals, with people," said Sophie Gaillard, the SPCA's lawyer and animal advocacy campaigns manager.

"When they're kept isolated and deprived of the ability to play or exercise they develop very severe behavioural frustration, boredom and psychological distress," she continued.

Gaillard said approximately one-third of the complaints received by the Montreal SPCA's cruelty investigation unit concerns chained dogs.

Quebec introduced a bill earlier this year that, if passed, would see the status of animals upgraded from "movable property" to "sentient beings."

The SPCA is hoping to get a ban on round-the-clock dog tethering included in the bill or accompanying regulations, which will be debated this fall.

Gaillard said the bill would not focus on people who walk their dogs on leashes or tie them up for a short time, but rather on dogs who spend every day on a chain.

Both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have recently passed legislation banning 24/7 tethering, as have some municipalities across Canada.

Gaillard says that in addition to welfare concerns, tethering of dogs is a "public safety issue" since dogs who are tied are more likely to attack humans or be involved in dogfights since they are less well socialized and cannot flee from perceived threats.

The SPCA's proposal may face opposition from some groups including the province's sled dog community, who commonly keep dogs outside on tethers.

Bernard Saucier, president of Quebec's Sled Dog Club, says anti-tethering campaigns are based on a lack of understanding, and maintains that his dogs are happier and healthier tied outside near their friends than stuck in a house all day.

"My dogs are in a park, they each have their territory, they socialize with their friends, run around their houses, go take a nap, they can urinate when they need," he said. "They get more exercise outside than lying around a house all day."

Gaillard maintains that sled dogs are still deprived of social interaction because they cannot touch each other and are rarely let free.

Saucier said his dogs cannot touch but are let off their tethers to play in small groups at times.

He said anti-tethering campaigns are the result of well-meaning people who want to ascribe human characteristics to their pets.

"There's not a dog kept in a house that's as healthy as ours," he said.

The SPCA is launching a website,, to raise awareness about the campaign.