Monday, May 13, 2019

Sad things happening - and reasons to hope - about animal advocacy in Nova Scotia

I can't believe I haven't written a post here since last November.  It's not that things haven't been happening with dog politics here in Nova Scotia - it's just that - I have had this blog since 2003 - that's 16 years - and I guess after 2,278 posts a person tires out.  I also have some major health issues, my dogs have major health issues - and people who have been around as long as me - not too many people are still around! LOL.

Anyhoo - I still have a few things to say - and I've got a few things that have stacked up so I'm going to try and get them all out in one post, so here goes.

I'm going to talk about the the David Oakley case in Pictou County, the justice system here in Nova Scotia - the state of animal rescue regulations here in Nova Scotia - and generally across the county, our new Animal Protection Act - and the state of importing animals.  That's not too much to cover, is it?  And a surprise for the end.

I don't know where to start, so maybe I'll start with the shitty stuff - and that's the new Animal Protection Act - you remember that thing from last year that you heard all the crying about from the breeders, and us people in the animal advocate community because there was a part in it that allowed breeders to cut their puppies tails and dew claws off without a veterinarian - and also allowed members of the general public to legally kill their own animals?  And how happy we were when the Act passed exactly as we hoped it would - making it illegal for breeders to practice acts of "animal husbandry" and removed the section that allowed people to kill their animals - and also made it illegal to declaw cats - as well as changes we desperately needed to the Animal Cruelty Appeal Board.  It also added a line allowing for the regulation of animal rescues.

That Act passed last year - it was called "Bill 27" - and you can check it out on the government's website here - "Animal Protection Act - Bill 27" - it had Royal Assent October 11, 2018 and that is when a bill is turned into an Act but if you see it still hasn't had "Proclamation" yet - today as I write this it is May 12, 2019.  An Act doesn't come into force until it passes Proclamation - so everything that I sad above that is awful - is still LEGAL in Nova Scotia.

How did I come to learn all this?  A couple months ago there was a press release from the NS SPCA saying that an Animal Cruelty Appeal Board hearing was coming up - and knowing that the Act had passed - which makes it now legal for the public to attend these hearings - I contacted a person I knew at the SPCA asking for it's location so I could go.

She emailed me back saying she couldn't tell me where it was because the new Act wasn't "ready" yet.  When I queried them on this they didn't provide me on any further details - so I emailed a Director that I've had contact with at the Department of Agriculture who emailed me back and said that it's work with the "Regulations" that is holding back the Act.

One would have thought that the Regulations would have been worked on as the same time as the Act - unless the Government is completely run backwards, but that's not a comment for here :)

So they've had seven months to work on the regulations - and we still have no new Act - and people are still allowed to torture their puppies and kill their pets without repudiation according to our Provincial Legislation.

Which brings us to our next topic - David Oakley in Pictou County - one of the worst cases of animal cruelty our province has ever seen.

On February 14, 2019 David Oakley killed a dog named Moka, seven puppies and severely injured a dog named Meeka.  And admitted to it on Facebook.  He said he'd tried to find a home for the puppies and been unsuccessful.

With the failure of the passage of Bill 27 - what David Oakley did - under our Animal Protection Act - was legal here in Nova Scotia.

So the RCMP were forced to charge Mr. Oakley with federal Animal Cruelty Charges - he was charged with 11 charged under the Federal Criminal Code -

This is what he's been charged with:

Nine charges under 445.1
Causing unnecessary suffering
445.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who
(a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird;
(b) in any manner encourages, aids or assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds;
(c) wilfully, without reasonable excuse, administers a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to a domestic animal or bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is kept in captivity or, being the owner of such an animal or a bird, wilfully permits a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to be administered to it;
(d) promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for or takes part in any meeting, competition, exhibition, pastime, practice, display or event at or in the course of which captive birds are liberated by hand, trap, contrivance or any other means for the purpose of being shot when they are liberated; or
(e) being the owner, occupier or person in charge of any premises, permits the premises or any part thereof to be used for a purpose mentioned in paragraph (d).
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than eighteen months or to both.
Two charges under section 446 of the CCC as follows:
Causing damage or injury
446 (1) Every one commits an offence who
(a) by wilful neglect causes damage or injury to animals or birds while they are being driven or conveyed; or
(b) being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it.
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months or to both.

This should not have had to happen - David Oakley should probably have been tried under the Federal Criminal Code AND the Animal Protection Act - but what he did provincially - was not illegal because of the lead feet of the people in power here in Nova Scotia.

I want to talk about the justice system here generally in Nova Scotia as well.

I hope everybody noticed the dog Diesel and the man who murdered him - Kyle Springer - in New Brunswick.

Kyle Springer received - ONE YEAR IN PRISON for abandoning Diesel in a house to starve to death.

Bethany MacLean received 4 months house arrest here in Nova Scotia in 2017 for starving her dog to death (the second time she'd abandoned dogs in a car for a long period of time).

In Calgary in 2017 - an owner was charged with causing his dog to be in distress when he put him on the flatbed of his truck in traffic - we can't even get the RCMP here to charge a person with a SOT in Nova Scotia.

In 2009 here in Nova Scotia a woman by the name of Susan Keizer received a $5 fine for drowning a litter of kittens - the crown prosecutor felt sorry for her because like Ms. Keizer he also had a problem w ith nuisance cats on his property

In 2004 when the NS SPCA were asking a judge for costs to recoup money spent on a case the judge said "The last thing we want in our society is investigating agencies being funded by the offenders."

Animals have never had a fair shake in our justice system - we only have to point to Gail Benoit to prove that point. I have written post after post about that. And I don't think anyone would disagree with me on that.

She has a prohibition on owning animals until 2022 - she broke that prohibition and was given a $250 fine - both the Crown and Defence agreed on a $250 fine but the Judge dismissed that and instead fined Ms. Benoit a paltry $25 and gave her a year - $2 a month to pay it back.

Does that sound like a fair thing to do to a repetitive breaker of the law - to someone who regularly thumbs her finger at the Justice system? Who doesn't care one bit about abusing animals? It sure doesn't to me.

One really sad case - and one that the NS SPCA was unhappy with the judge with was the case of a shih-tzu that had to be killed due to the neglect of the owner - after it was seized the SPCA had it groomed and one of the poor dog's legs actually FELL OFF! The owner said she had no idea the dog was that sick - and the judge believed her - Charlene Lucas was fined $150 and given a 5 year prohibition - she said she didn't know there was anything wrong with the leg. The problem is that she says she's on a list to get a therapy dog though - so what's going to happen when she comes to the top of the list?

In 2017 a woman was fined $500 for failing to provide her dog with medical attention when he was ill and he had to be killed by the NS SPCA because he was beyond medical intervention by the time he was seized by them. The woman's name was Sunday Wallace and this is a picture of her dog when he was seized - you can pretty much tell that this dog was in dire need of medical intervention.

The first person to ever get a jail sentence for animal abuse happened in 2016 - a man had been hoarding cats in Lower Sackville and was convicted of animal cruelty because of them. Michael Cairns was sentenced to 30 days intermittently in jail (whatever that means?) for hoarding 19 cats in "quite horrific conditions" and it was his second conviction - he had been previously convicted in 2013 and at that time he had received an 18 month prohibition. Along with the 30 days in jail he was handed a lifetime prohibiton this time - so hopefully he will not be hoarding any more animals

So do all of these sound like animals are currently getting justice in Nova Scotia?  When we see a man getting one year in prison in New Brunswick?  I think we need to start looking to other provinces as a benchmark and start asking for more justice for our animals.

As I noted above - for the exact same crime - Kyle Springer got one year in prison - a few months earlier - Bethany MacLean got 4 months house arrest.

Was Bethany MacLean somehow different from Kyle Springer?

Or was it the judge.  Justice Gregory Lenehan oversaw Bethany MacLean's trial - the same judge who said the "drunk girl's can obviously consent" - in a case of sexual assault.

Justice Julian Dickson in New Brunswick gave Kyle Springer twice what the Crown Attorney's suggested - one year in prison, noting that Springer's case was troubling and disturbing.

This is what Linehan said about MacLean's judgement - "I don't think it's necessary that I actually cage her for a period of time as she had her dog caged," he said.

So this is the case of "duelling judges" you could say - two dog deaths by the same means - starvation, torture, abandonment, ultimate negligence - unbelievable mistreatment that you can't believe anyone would do to animals who do nothing but love us.

One judge says it's troubling and disturbing - the other judge doesn't seem to understand that in four months Bethany MacLean's dog ate the interior of the cage he was in, had the liquid in his body vaporize, his muscles slowly atrophied, he cried for help day and night but no one came to help him.  There was a blanket over his cage so no one could see him.  There was a bag of food in the car but it wasn't accessible to him.  The car was unlocked - anyone could have gotten him out of there if they could have seen him or heard him - but Bethany MacLean made sure that didn't happen.

And Justice Linehan - I'm sure he said all of this - didn't think it was necessary to "cage" her for the same length of time as she had "caged" her dog.

So this is the real bottleneck of the justice system for animal companions - it's with the crown attorneys and with the judges.

These are the people we need to work on - to get adequate sentences for the people who abuse their animals - for the people who torture the things we love most in this world.

I don't know how we can do it - but it's got to be done somehow - our laws are obviously not going to do it because the people writing them don't seem to really care - and if they were administered as they were written - they wouldn't need to be stronger anyway.

People like David Oakley need to go to prison.  The people of Nova Scotia are watching this one.  It's a damn shame that the Federal Criminal Code had to be used to arrest him - that is not right .  This should have been done by now - how many other abusers have also slipped through.

I told you this was going to be a long one - the second last thing I wanted to talk about is the state of importing dogs into Nova Scotia.

This topic is why I got out of rescuing animals - really, almost every rescue in Nova Scotia is importing dogs from the States and from around the world.  I guess it's just become the norm now - it's happening everywhere, not just here - the southern States, and California along with all the puppymills everywhere are now the dog generating stations for everywhere that wants to have dogs and they are bringing along their little "friends" - heartworm, brucellis, ehrlichiosis, canine influenza, etc., etc.

The problem is that the rescue locally that you are getting the dog from may seem gung ho and honest - but where is that dog originating from and how up and up are they? And what is the back story on the dog? Is it a stray? So what was their life like? What is their behaviour like? Really? And what bugs do they have inside them? In order to get over the Canadian border all they need is  a rabies certificate.  Really - this is the truth - they don't need a health certificate - all they need is a visual look over and they're good.

So 30 dogs are put in little cages in a little van and drove non-stop here - and how is that a good thing - it's not.  And they're let out and put on leashes and sent to foster homes - and adopted to local people. And what if that adoption doesn't work out - does the rescue have a lifetime guarantee? And what are the health issues? If the dog came from the south  they have different weather down there, if it was a stray - that's a different stress on the body - and what if it starts showing aggression.

I'm getting tired of saying all this stuff, I can't keep saying it.  If you want to read a really good thread about importing dogs - "Air Angels Animal Advocacy Network" wrote one in 2015 and it's really good.

People in rescue have been saying this for years - "what are we going to do about rescues that do nothing but import dogs.  What are we going to do about rescues that start fundraising for animals they haven't actually taken into their rescues yet, what are we going to do about rescues who steal animals and then hide them and refuse to give them back".  These are questions people who run rescues ask - because it's completely unregulated - just like the dog training business.

I belong to a group of people in the animal advocacy community who are invited to meet once a year with the present Minister of Agriculture - Minister Keith Colwell - and at the end of the meetings he always asks "is there anything you'd like to see added to the Act or the regulations" and in 2015 I said that I'd like to see regulations around the regulation of animal rescues.

He thought it was a good idea and suggested I write some regulations and bring them back to the meeting the following year.

So I did that - and attempted to get other people involved, and that's where it died.  These are the regulations I suggested, I thought they sounded okay.

And what we have now is a website of "suggestions" for people when they are looking for their next pet.

I know that someone at the SPCA has poured their heart and soul into the seven pages on this website and I truly appreciate that - it's well written, the pictures are cute - but there are no consequences there.

Even if there would have been a thing where people could have voluntarily bought into regulation system.

It is too bad - we came close to something and missed -we could have been leading the country on this and we failed, I failed. Oh well - I see that British Columbia is working on animal rescuer regulations -good for them.

So that's my long blog post.  We'll see how many people are swearing under their tongues at me for this one.