Pawsitive Training

Water changes everything. It looks innocent enough in a glass, but one only needs to notice how quickly furrows can be formed by rain dripping off the roof to catch a hint of its strength.
Sometimes the change is abrupt and dramatic …. such as the strong fall storms that can sculpt entire sections of the rocky Fundy shore in a new and unrecognizable way. Normally its more subtle than that …. every year the spring runoff of melting snow down the South Mountain behind us has steadily reshaped the course of the little Fales River. Bit by bit …. year by year …. the riverbank is gradually shifting to the south.
So it should be no surprise that the rescue community would use water analogy by referring to the annual river of cats and kittens. When the something becomes a predictable annual occurrence …. when the ‘free kittens’ either keep recycling through Kijiji with ‘free kittens’ of their own or wind up fending for themselves on the back roads and byways around the province….. when everyone is ‘up to their ass in alligators’, its easy enough to forget that the original objective was to drain the swamp.
On a good day, there are normally at least eight cats for every dog that is listed on petfinder in NS. That of course does not count the ones with the shelters and groups that do not use Petfinder, the ones who have been scooped up by AC departments around the province and of course the countless ones who have been dumped or drowned or shot.
We already know what is needed to get to No Kill Nova Scotia. We know about TNR and the value of a good SNAP….. about the need for Rescue groups to work with the SPCA and AC …. everyone understands the lifesaving role played by Fosters. …. from mobile adoptions to adoption incentives to pet retention programs …. everyone is brimming with good ideas.
So if we already know what is needed….. what is the holdup? Everyone has been so accustomed to wrestling with the alligators of irresponsible pet ownership that a very important thing has been overlooked. We will never drain the darn swamp without everyone’s help.
Not just the people involved in rescue … not just the folks who already ARE responsible pet owner ….. but everyone in the province. If those darned ‘irresponsible pet owners” aren’t part of the equation, they are simply going to keep on filling up the swamp.
One of the most important things we need to do is be more proactive about getting the right information out there to everyone. Right now in NS there are too many ‘urban legends’ and outright misinformation about animal welfare and animal rescues that are taken as gospel by too many people. We need to recognize that:
1. TNR is only a lifesaving tool when people know how it works and who provides the service. For instance, I’ve lived here in Kings County for 22 years and if I wasn’t interested enough in animal rescue to have done a bit of research, I would never have known that we have TNR groups here or even about TNR at all. Many of my friends live in Annapolis County, and they had no idea who Team TNR were until I told them.
TNR is an ‘easier sell’ for a community BEFORE situations reach a crisis point.
2. Nothing will replace a good SNAP There is no point is getting judgemental about people getting pets that they cannot afford. Just as some people never marry the right partner, when it comes to love, common sense often goes out the window. Twenty five dollar discounts are meaningless for those who cannot afford the remaining hundred plus dollars for the spay or the neuter. The good news is of course that each pet only has to be altered once, instead of producing hundreds and even thousands of progeny which will need to be rescued/TNR’d or killed by AC.
3. Aggressive Adoption Incentives for Cats are not just an adoption tool …. every cat that is adopted from a responsible rescue that alters its adoptees is one more that will not add to the River of Cats.
4. Alienating ‘irresponsible pet owners’ is not the path to success. Its not human nature to respond well to criticism and pet owners are under no legal obligation to be responsible as long as they are meeting the horribly basic bare minimums required by law. In this, as with many other things in life, there is a choice between the moral satisfaction of scolding an idiot, or getting the job done.
5. Don’t depend on Websites and Animal Clinics to get the word out In a province where many well loved pets never see the inside of a vet clinic in their entire lives, its important to remember that Animal Welfare Websites and Vet Clinics are normally ‘preaching to the choir”
What time is it? Its time to use some of those pawsitive training techniques to make better pet owners.

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