Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"How to Solve the Cat Crisis" - which crisis exactly are you talking about?

I went to a talk tonight at Saint Mary's University because I was interested in what was going to be talked about. It was advertised as "Responsible pet ownership - how to solve the cat crisis" - but when you read about it in some places it seemed like it was going to be a shit show about cats killing birds and it turns out that that was exactly about - "experts" talking about how many millions of birds cats kill every year in Canada and what could be done about it.

The speakers were the manager of Animal Services for a suburb of Toronto - Vaughaun Ontario, Susan Kelly - she talked the longest and obviously did no research whatsoever on animal welfare in Nova Scotia because she lauded the fact that out west some pet stores were now not selling puppies in their pet stores and were now only offering rescue animals in conjunction with their local rescues.

If she would have done a simple google search she would have found out that Nova Scotia hasn't had animals in pet stores since about 2011 and has only had kittens and cats in pet stores from local rescues.  We are an absolute leader in the country when it comes to animal advocacy.

I went and read their bylaw and they have a definition of a certain type of a dog called an "aggressive breed of a dog" and you can guess which breeds that cover.

It also has a section on tethered animals - and there's no limit on how long the animal can be tethered so it can be out 24/7 365 days a year unobstructed.

As well - a dog can be declared "vicious" based on one bite - and there are pretty heinous conditions that the dogs have to live under once they've been declared this - dogs that are an aggressive breed of dog have to live this way from birth without exception - and if either of these types of dogs get out of their enclosures and are found running at large - neither of them will be returned to their owner - they will automatically be euthanized.

They also have a pet limit law - 3 dogs and 3 cats.  Susan Kelly said that it was decided on that number because it seemed that was a number people could reasonably take care of.

I have a few things to say about that.

Tonight's talk ostensibly was supposed to be about the overpopulation crisis - how is putting a pet limit on the number of cats a person owns going to help the overpopulation of cats? I'm not saying that a person should own 20 cats - but if a person wants to own 6 cats and they have the ability to feed, vet and has the space for that amount of cats - why can't they have that many - especially if they are all indoor cats and aren't being a menace to the community.

A person asked the question tonight - "what if the city found out that a person had more than 3 cats - would they have to get rid of the number of cats that were over the quota of 3?" and Susan Kelly said yes they would.  I think that is just ridiculous.

Another thing that pet limits do - and this is also the same as mandatory spay/neuter laws do - which is why that is also bad - is that it turns normal pet owners into criminals - a person who just has 4 cats drop into their lap over time for whatever reason and we all know that there are a million reasons how we have acquired our animals - and now we have 4 cats - and suddenly we are a criminal in the city of Vaughan Ontario.  Ridiculous don't you think?

2 other speakers - a man named Peter who I didn't get his name and I don't know who he is because his name wasn't on the speakers list talked specifically about how many birds are killed every year in Canada by birds.  He said that 100-350 million birds are killed each year by cats.  He said that cats are the biggest and only predator of birds.

He tiptoed very lightly around what could be some answers to the problem of cats killing birds - the first suggestion is one that everyone can agree on which is to keep cats indoors - every responsible pet owner really does do this already - and for feral cats he suggested "reducing overall size of their population".  In the question and answer section I asked him how he would suggest that we do that reduction and he wouldn't answer that question - he said that up to people in the audience to come up with the answer - so he worked his way out of that problem!

He's a bird person, not a cat person obviously so how the cat people solve the feral cat problem is their problem - just do it!

Hope Swinimer also talked and I'm not going to say too much about that other than I don't understand why she was there - she hates cats because she thinks they are killing all the birds; and she runs Homeward Bound Pound which isn't mandated to accept any cats unless they are grievously injured.

So now let's talk about the Ecology Action Centre - I have known about them for years but I just didn't know anything about them - tonight I went to their website to have a look around.  Did you know they have 40 full and part time employees?  How does a local NGO have that many employees? Where are they getting that much money from?  Think of what an animal rescue could do with that much money?

I found out tonight that they have a staff member who is now dedicated to the cat overpopulation problem which is awesome - they had a handout - and obviously as a person who is new to animal advocacy some of the things in the handout need to be addressed - so I'm going to do that.

"It is estimated that there are 98,000 owned cats in the HRM".  Below this in the facts section it says that 37% of Canadians own one or more cats which is true and if that's true then the 98,000 is wrong because there are 414,129 people in the Halifax Regional Municipality which means there are 153,220 owned cats in HRM which is significantly more than 98,000

In the Facts section it says "cats pose a serious human health scratch disease, intestinal worms."  So what are we talking about again?  Are we talking about cat overpopulation or cat extinction?  If cats posed a serious human health hazard then we would hear about people getting sick from cats - that would be a very newsworthy item - the tv people would love to run with stories like that - but you never hear about stories like that - so I don't believe that cats pose serious human health hazards - in fact I think it's quite the opposite - they help our health and in many cases are one of the few things that keep up sane.

Also in the Facts section it says "One unspayed female...exponential growth of cat populations" - again - if this were true the streets would be filled with cats and kittens.  Note to the person who wrote this briefing note - if you are going to write something as a fact - first, make sure it's true.

In the section about the Application of Municipal Bylaws as Part of the Solution the person who wrote this briefing note obviously does not understand some things about the HRM when it is espousing about Calgary.

Both the NS SPCA and Homeward Bound Pound are No Kill - saving more than 90% of the animals they take in, and that includes cats.  It's my udnerstanding that AC in the HRM does the free drive home for microchipped found animals.

The NS SPCA has a wildly successful spay and neuter clinic in both Dartmouth and Sydney and both offer low cost spay and neuter for people who can't afford it otherwise.

It also says that communities like Vaughan run regular microchip clinics for $45.  Here in the HRM local rescues regularly run microchip clinics - Marley's Hope, Sonya's Healing Animal Society, along with Homeward Bound are always running clinics and the cost has mostly been about $20 and the money goes to the rescue which is awesome.

I've always been a big believer in microchipping your animals and I still am, but I had a conversation tonight with a person I really respect - Linda Felix who runs Spay Day Nova Scotia - and she deals with a big transient population in Spryfield and housing projects because she offers free and low cost spay and neuters for cats so she deals with a certain demographic and she says for people like that microchipping just doesn't work because people in that community move around so much so if their pets get lost and are found and the vet or the pound scan their microchip - it's not good - so for a big segment of society - microchipping is completely useless.

The only way Linda sees to solve the overpopulation crisis is spay and neuter - lower the population - make animals more scarce and you'll solve the problem - and that is the mission of Linda's life with Spay Day Nova Scotia - which is awesome.

So long story short - if the Ecology Action Centre wants to solve the cat crisis - they might want to start talking to some cat people and not bird people - because if they continue on that tack then they will just become like PETA and want the extermination of the species.

Maybe that's what they are looking for - and if that's the case - then just come out and say it right now so the cat people can get back to what they do best - trap cats, get them vetted, spay and neuter them, adopt the friendly ones and return the cats to colonies that are monitored or give the cats to farmers who have barns that need cats - and educate pet owners about keeping their cats indoors.

Cat people are a rare breed - they are the most patient humans when it comes to cats - they'll sit in their cars for 15 hours with a string attached to a box waiting for a feral cat to go in the trap that they've set up so they can catch him, but tell them that they can only own 3 cats - and watch out - you are going to have some problems - and that's pretty fabulous.

Nova Scotia has crazy dog people and crazy cat people - probably unlike anywhere in Canada - and we are making progress when it comes to cats - you just need to ask the right people. Give me 2 minutes and I'll point you in the right direction.

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