Who am I

I have always been a dog lover, but I didn't get my first dog until 1996 when my husband and I got our first dog George from the Nova Scotia SPCA.  We only had her for a year and a half until we lost her tragically to a congenital defect in her spine and she became paralyzed and there was nothing medically that could be done and she died on December 21st, 1997.

We were so crushed that we went out the same day and got a puppy from an ad in the newspaper - at that time we didn't know anything about what a puppymill or a back yard breeder was - and we brought home 7 week old puppy Leonard.

My husband bonded with Leonard, but for some reason - maybe I was still grieving George - but I didn't really bond with her - so I started going to the SPCA on Saturday's looking for a 2nd dog - and in February I went there - and sitting in cages were 3 dogs who looked identical to Leonard, along with Leonard's Mom - it turned out that we had gotten her from a backyard breeder - and she had been raided - and all the puppies still left there had been seized - along with the Mom - so I applied for whichever puppy didn't have an application, and a couple days later I brought home Charlie, who would become my first heart dog.

I got Charlie when he was 3 months old and had him until he died at 11 1/2 years old - he was the best dog in the whole world - kind, gentle, loved everyone - he was just the best dog.  He got me through everything and led me on the journey to all the activism that has brought me to today - he allowed me to foster so many dogs - bring so many dogs home - he was great.

It was because of Charlie and Leonard that I started making dog websites - the first one I made was in about 1998 - it was "Charlie and Leonard like to play" - and it was just pictures of Charlie and Leonard around Halifax playing in different places - and that website led to a website that still exists today - "Charlie loves Halifax" - which I started in 2002 - which is all about dog friendly  Halifax - and the byline for that site is "Charlie loves Halifax and he wants it to be dog friendly"

The site is all about places to take your dog in the Municipality - places you can take your dog shopping, all the local parks you can take your dog to, resources for your dog, fun things to do with your dog, and all the local rescues that you can adopt your next dog from.  It is a completely fun site and is a labour of love and makes no money whatsoever - as far as I know there is no other website like it in North America.  It has had well over 3 million hits in the 15 years and is all positive.

In 2003 I started my blog - "Me and my dogs in Halifax, Nova Scotia" and also documented the adventures I went on with my dogs - that had grown to include Daisy, a rottweiller who had previously been chained out, and Buttercup a poodle mix that I got from the SPCA - but it also included posts about local dog politics.

Over the years I have been active in many causes that are important to me and have tried to effect change in a lot of areas that affect dogs in Nova Scotia

The first and probably most constant cause I've been involved with is with chained dogs - I adopted my rottweiller Daisy in 2003 and she had previously been chained out for the past 3 years of her life.

In 2004 I became involved with the organization Dogs Deserve Better and became the moderator for the online Yahoo Volunteer group.  I also wrote a couple articles for them as well

Also in 2004 the New Brunswick government was looking at restricting some breeds of dogs and legislating that if a dog is outside he must be tethered - so I wrote to them and told them about Daisy - luckily the government listened to the people who submitted letters and testified before them - unlike Ontario did a year after that.

In 2005 Lloyd Hines, the then Warden of the district of the Municipality of Guysborough was trying to kill 2 dogs that lived in his Municipality simply because they had the appearance of looking like pit bulls, and their owners were fighting to save them - so I started a website called "Skip Guysborough" - telling people what was going on down there and also suggesting that people not spend any of their tourist dollars in that area of Nova Scotia while they had a ban of certain dogs there - that Municipality banned (and still does) rottweillers and pit bulls.

In 2006 - Zeus and Sandy's owner won their court fight - Judge Stroud said that the legislation in Guysborough was vague and over broad and not enforceable so the dogs were allowed to live - but Lloyd Hines hates dogs so much that his poorly written legislation unfortunately still exists today.

In 2005 the Ontario government enacted heinous bsl - which they still have today, which is very sad.  Before that happened we organized a vigil here in Halifax and I was one of the people who organized it and gave a speech

In 2006 Lloyd Hines was president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities - and in that capacity tried to have his very ill conceived breed specific laws - BSL - passed province wide.  I started talking about it then - trying to warn people that it was going to happen, and in 2008 I started talking about it again - and fought very hard to not let that happen.

If we didn't fight in 2008 to keep Lloyd Hines from having his wish - we would have province wide BSL right now - all you bully lovers out there who hate me because of the work I do around shock collars  - YOU ARE WELCOME.

Also in 2006 I was one of the founding members of a group called "Advocates for Responsible Pet Ownership" - we were working to end the sale of puppies in pet stores - and held protests outside various pet stores around the province.  We were completely successful and in 2011 - there are no pet stores in Nova Scotia that sell puppies anymore - and it was done not by legislation - but because of the power of the consumer - Pet's Unlimited realized they were losing money by selling them - so it was the power of the public - which was the idea we were pushing - that made it happen.

In 2009 - we also as a group made animals a part of the agenda with the provincial elections and sent out questionnaires to the political parties - and it was a very popular subject at the time - we got quite a bit of press out of it.

In 2007 - the beginning of 2008 the Nova Scotia SPCA was very corrupt - it allowed the rescue Celtic Pets to abuse dogs and also abuse dogs in the SPCA's care.  People who became aware of the situation spoke out and were publicly shamed - I was one of those people.  We had our memberships in the NS SPCA revoked, lies were told - it was a very shameful time for the NS SPCA.

The corruption was at the very top of the organization - with the Board of the Provincial SPCA, they were doing horrible things and allowing very bad things to happen - I wrote many many posts about it - and eventually the Board collapsed and a coup happened and good people took over.  Since that time the NS SPCA has flourished and done nothing but get better and better until today when we have a very strong provincial organization that is no kill province wide and is a Society that as a province we can be very proud of.

Here is a sampling of the posts I wrote back in 2008
- Accountability Part I
- Accountability Part II
- Accountability Part III
- The True Story of Jack the Dog

In late 2008 we had municipal elections in the HRM - so I decided to make dogs a political issue and sent out a questionnaire to all candidates asking their opinion on animal issues and then published 3 newsletters and sent them out to hundreds of people around the Municipality - it got quite a bit of play and I hope that it brought the issue of dog politics to the forefront for a few people - you can view the questionnaire, it's results and the newsletters here - http://dogkisser.ca/dwns_past_issues.html

For years people in rescue had been talking about Gail Benoit and the things she'd been doing to puppies - but when you googled her, nothing would come up - so if someone was looking to buy a puppy and they did their research - they wouldn't know there was anything bad about her.

She had been in the news since 2001 - but nothing about it was on the internet, and that bothered me - the first time I wrote a blog post about her was in 2007 - so in 2008 I decided to put all the information I could find about her in one place and put it all on one web page - and the website - Gailbenoit.ca was born.

Since then, hopefully - almost everyone in Nova Scotia now at least knows her name - and she most definitely has an electronic foot print - if you google her - my website is the first thing that comes up - and people can now make an educated decision on whether they want to buy their next canine or kitten companion from her - and hopefully they make the correct decision.

In April of 2014 the advocacy group "People for Stronger Animal Protection" put on a rally in Fredericton in front of their Provincial Legislature to lobby for changes in their Animal Protection laws for chained dogs - and they asked me to go up and speak to the people who attended - it was a great day and I had a lot of fun and was honoured that they asked me to do that - you can read my speech - here

Over the years I have worked with and fostered for many organizations - most notably with the NS SPCA, Animal Rescue Coalitions, Atlantic Small Dog Rescue (now defunct), Marley's Hope - along with many other local rescues - in 2013 I also started my own rescue - No Chains All Love Dog Society - a rescue that takes in dogs who have been chained out their whole lives - I also have done a lot of advocacy for that particular cause.

I have worked long and hard to have the legislation changed so that dogs couldn't be tied out 24 hours a day and in December 2014 the Nova Scotia government changed the regulations so that dogs can now only be tied out for 12 hours at a time and after that have to be brought inside for 12 hours.

Some may say that that's not enough - but I think that's pretty good - it forces the owner to at least interact with their dogs - previously a dog could be tied out and never interacted with - all they had to do was just throw food at it every once in a while and that was good enough - now the dog has to be given attention at least twice a day - when it's brought in and when it's put back outside - that's twice more than he had before.

I have rescued dogs who we had to free them with bolt cutters because their chains were corroded onto them - they hadn't been off their chains in years - this can't happen anymore - and the NS SPCA has really stepped up - if the new legislation isn't followed - they now really have the tools to seize the dogs - which I think is the best thing that has happened.

At one point I was taking in almost a dog a week with my No Chains rescue before the new legislation came into effect - but now I hardly get any calls - so I am now mostly doing advocacy - which is great.

In October of 2017 I decided to close No Chains All Love and move on to other projects - if you want to read why I wrote a blog post about it here - "What is life like for a tethered dog in 2017?"

Having my blog has allowed me to talk about almost everything over the years - it has over 2,200 posts and almost one million hits.  I've covered everything about the politics of dog poop to how temperament tests should never be the reason why a dog is killed or kept alive in a shelter.

I have talked a lot about dog legislation and dog bylaws - good bylaws and bad bylaws and especially how they relate to BSL and dangerous dog legislation.

My passions have been keeping breed specific legislation out of Nova Scotia, off leash exercise for dogs - increasing awareness around dog friendliness and trying to make the city I live in as dog friendly as possible - giving as much access for my dogs to as many places as possible so that they can have as fully flavoured a life as possible - there's no reason why a dog who is well mannered and well socialized can't go with us almost anywhere and it doesn't matter what size the dog is - my dog isn't there to interact with other dogs or to play with you - he's there as my companion and to be with me - so you don't have to worry that he's going to jump up on you and get his smelly feet all over you if you don't like dogs.

My current work is around building regulations that will regulate animal rescues in Nova Scotia - that were presented to the Minister of Agriculture in December, 2016 - I am really hoping that will have a positive effect on the rescue community in the province so that no matter where an animal lands in rescue they will have a safe spot to land in - that they will get immediate veterinary treatment if they need it, that they will be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, microchipped, that the forever home will be properly looked into so that he doesn't go from home to home before a permanent home is found or another rescue has to take him on and that only reputable rescues exist and dog flippers, people who use inhumane techniques on animals misrepresent themselves as rescues.

I'd like to say that this project is nearing completion - but as of the beginning of 2018 - it seems to be stalled with the department of Agriculture - we have submitted what we want to be in the regulations - they agreed that it was a good idea - and that was at the beginning of 2017 - and we haven't heard anything since - hopefully something will happen with this in 2018.

In 2017 I built a website around building awareness about dog training and dog trainers in Nova Scotia called "you would be shocked" - I have talked about shock collars and their use on my dogkisser blog for a long time - and I finally built a website just about that - it is geared about and aimed towards people who are thinking about training their dogs - not at people who already use shock collars - I figure those people are a lost cause - people who use shock collars almost seem like they are part of a cult sometimes they can be so militant about their beliefs and just about every shock collar trainer in Nova Scotia has threatened to sue me at one time or another over the years - and so have their minions who are comletely hateful and love to gaslight people.  It doesn't fizz me though.

2017 and 2018 were busy for getting legislation changed with the provincial government - I wrote quite a few letters to the Minister of Agriculture and asked people to write their MLA's and I think that's why we got the laws changed - people writing to their MLA's is something I personally think makes the most change happen.

In late 2017 I was contacted by the NS SPCA because they had concerns about the Animal Cruelty Appeal Board.  Back in 2008 when the horrible things were going on at the top of the NS SPCA there was no transparency, no where that people could go to complain - so one of the things that the government decided to implement was the Animal Cruelty Appeal Board - where a person could go to if they'd had their animals seized and try to get them back - much sooner than if they waited to go to court on their charges of animal cruelty.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but it had become somewhat of a farce - abusers were getting their animals back simply by crying and saying "I'll try to do better" - the NS SPCA works very hard to get things right, especially when they are doing something as serious as seizing someone's pet.  So they wanted me to go to a hearing to "bear witness" to what was going on.

I went to a hearing and was summarily kicked out - I talk about it in a series of blog posts - and then wrote to the Minister and asked other people to write in too.

And in 2018 - the Animal Protection Act was changed because of that - and I was happy :)

The Appeal Board hearings are now open to the public and the decisions are also now to be made public - two things that did not exist before.

As well - the new animal protection act opens the door to regulations for rescues - which before did not exist -

Section 47 (the Governor in Council may make regulations regarding)
(1) now says - "(h) respecting the licensing and standards of pet establishments, including catteries, kennels, day and overnight care facilities, breeding facilities, animal rescue facilities and retail stores"

Probably the most controversial section was around what breeders have always been able to do - and that was the mutilation of their puppies - and they really wanted to be able to continue to do that - but people like me really wanted it removed, because it was a legal loophole to abuse your animal - and also to be able to kill your animal legally by animal means you deemed necessary and with as much pain as you wanted.  So I really wanted that section removed.  And guess what - no matter how much the breeders cried - normal pet owners realized how ridiculous it was - and the section was removed.

Docking and cropping dogs - by anyone, whether it's a veterinarian or a breeder, or a normal pet owner - is now illegal in Nova Scotia - as well as declawing a cat - and also being able to kill your dog is illegal - it's all around a section of the Animal Protection Act that was called Section 21(4) and it was about what constitutes distress - in the new Act that whole section disappeared.

The breeders and the people who they were able to scare really tried to take the people of Nova Scotia on a ride in the summer of 2018 - but luckily the legislators didn't listen - and the Act passed as the Department of Agriculture had revised it.

So at the end of 2018 - we have the best Animal Protection Act in all of 2018 - cosmetic surgery of any type is not allowed here - we only have 3 small towns who have bsl, tethered dog legislation is in place provincially, we are going to have regulations written for animal rescues in 2019 (hopefully) and we have a very animal friendly provincial government.

So what still needs to be done legislatively?  There are a lot of bylaws that are in dire need of revision.  A ton of towns still have it written that if a dog is at large - it can be shot on sight, which is not good.  Provincially - the Municipal government Act still has a line in it:

Section 175 refers to what can be written into dog bylaws and it says -

(e) defining fierce or dangerous dogs, including defining them by breed, cross-breed, partial breed or type;

That there - if you haven't read it before - is "breed specific legislation" - and any town in Nova Scotia could put that line into their bylaw and bsl tomorrow in your town.  So if you have a dog that has any characteristics that might resemble anything that looks like a bully breed - you should want this line removed from our Municipal Government Act.  I've been talking about this for more than a decade - but so far - no one's listened to me.

As well - in 2014 - we had tethering regulations passed - but if a dog lives in a pen 24 hours a day - their life did not improve very much - if a dog is chained out - they have to come in for 12 hours out of every 24 hours - but if a dog lives in a pen - they only have to come out of that pen for 1 hr a day to exercise - so that needs to change - they need to have the same rights as tethered dogs.

So those are 2 changes I'd like to see happen in 2019 :)

I have also started making doggy stuff to try to pay off some really heavy veterinary bills that I've had - I'm making doggy back packs and dog quilts on a website called "dogkisser creations" - hopefully people will buy them - I personally think they are super cute.

For some reason I'm a person who feels like I have to have meaning in my life, I don't know if I'll succeed, but I will keep trying.

Currently I have 3 dogs - Bubby, Sidney, and Bodhi, in the last year I lost 2 dogs -  Gilmore and Tia

Bubby and Sidney are biological brothers - they are both bichon frises and came from Atlantic Small Dog Rescue - I got Bubby when he was six months old and Sidney when he was nine months old - they both came from the same puppy mill in Cape Breton -I was their second home in each case - they both have problems related to being born in a puppy mill and then living in a cage for the first six months of their life with no human contact but they are wonderful dogs around the house and have great lives - they are awesome little dogs.

I got Tia from Homeward Bound City Pound in January of 2015 - she's a bichon mixed with something - what that is I have no idea - she was 12 when I adopted her.

She's also a great dog and loves to go out on adventures and go for walks and is good offleash so she's a good dog for going out and about.

Unfortunately she died in February of 2017 of kidney failure - I miss her a lot - she was a really good dog.

Gilmore is a husky lab that I rescued through my own rescue - so he was chained out for the first seven years of his life - he had very little interactions with humans and none with other animals - but he doesn't let that bother him too much and he's great for going out - he's also deaf which is probably helpful so he doesn't get scared very often.

I have a harness on him that says "please pet" because there are trainers locally who use aversive type training that have tags on their dogs that say "don't pet" - so I want my formerly chained dog to be known as being really friendly and able to handle positive encounters with everyone.

I unfortunately lost him in December 2018 from health prolems that he acquired from his years of being chained out - laryngeal paralysis and arthritis (spondylosis) so bad my vet said it could get any worse.  He was such a good dog - such an ambassador for chained dogs - I miss him so much

My newest dog is Bodhi - a poodle mix who was born in December 2015 - I wanted to get a puppy and start from the beginning - have a dog with no issues who had never had any negative experiences who I could have for the next 20 years.  He is a sweet little dog and I can't wait to see what kind of an adult he turns into - so far he is  a happy little dog who loves everyone and every situation he encounters.

He is turning out to be a really great little dog.

This is Bodhi now - as of the beginning of 2018 Bodhi is now 2 years old and he is just the perfect little dog - he is good with everybody - sticks right to me - he really is the reincarnation of my poodle Buttercup who I took everywhere with me who passed in October 2015 - he wants to be in my arms all the time when we are out and pretends like he's shy the whole time - he is just the best thing ever - everybody should get a puppy once in their life - rescues are really good and I will always adopt old dogs because I think they are the best and those are the dogs who need us the most - but once - we should get a puppy to love from birth until death who is going to rip us into tiny little pieces at the end.

Here is me and Bodhi in December 2018 - he is 3 years old now such a good dog - I am starting to train him as a psychiatric service dog - he is my everything.

In 2019 I am starting to write a book - the consummate guide to dog friendly Halifax - stay tuned for more of that!

My photography has appeared in a few places - it has appeared in Dogs in Canada in relation to an article about breed specific legislation in Nova Scotia and two dogs named Zeus and Sandy - I took a picture of Zeus

My photo was the cover of a record album in 2020 - the Canadian band Sloan made a tribute album for a friend of mine Matthew Grimson who killed himself in 2018 - they saw a photo I took of him in 1989 and they wanted it on their tribute album - and I said - of course!  So here it is - he was a really good friend of mine so I was gutted when he killed himself.

I also designed and had a picture of my dog Buttercup in an ad for the magazine Dogs Naturally in 2017 - but I can't find it - if I do - I'll put it here....


  1. Nancy Grantham McQuade2:22 PM

    Joan, you're awesome! Not just because of all the hard work you do on behalf of our canine friends, but also because of your fearlessness. In the face of all the bullies and nay-sayers you stand tall and dignified and in your quiet, intelligent and informed way you fight for what you believe is right. You're awesome! Never stop, never give up. What you're doing is important and appreciated.

  2. Joan, you have and continue to make a difference. You were there when I reached out for advice from Ontario. You are a marvellous advocate for our companion animals.