The fly in the ointment

I love wading down the river with the dogs.   Sure its a treat on a hot day .. but its also the only shady place that we can go where the horse flies don’t seem to follow.  Being a middle aged granny and not a biologist, I couldn’t begin to explain the why of that …. I only know that we are happy to escape the horseflies in the otherwise lovely ointment that is summer.
Its been a very sad weekend for a good friend of mine because her feisty little friend lost his last battle.  He was one of the Celtic pets survivors and in the midst of mourning for him it is impossible not to think back to the days when she had to fight tooth and nail to keep him from becoming one of the Celtic Six / Seven / Eight ….?
The society has come a long way from that summer when it was circling the drain … doing such a poor job that the (then) new animal protection act included a clause that if they were unwilling or unable to meet their mandate that the government could opt for an alternative.
With a promising new strategic plan, their sights are now set on a timeline for becoming No Kill.   Does that mean we are on the verge of No Kill Nova Scotia?
Of course not.  It means that the society has adopted the philosophy of No Kill and is working to implement it at all of its branches.  We can follow the progress of this in their publicly available statistics that are online for all the world to see.
Do the private rescues and shelters around the province publish their stats?  No … and in most cases they should because they deserve bragging rights for the work that they do.   Whether they are “No Kill” or “Guaranteed Adoption”, animals accepted into their care are generally safe for however long it takes to find a new home.  
Why aren’t we breaking out the champagne then?  At the risk of sounding like a stuck record … too many of the actual numbers are still veiled in secrecy.  Animal Control may be funded by taxpayer dollars, but to the best of my knowledge there is not one single municipality or county in this province that provides AC statistics without a freedom of information request.  Even worse, the wide variety of contractors do not even fall under the requirements to provide such information on request.
For instance .. and before the keyboards catch on fire this is not me being mean, just stating a fact… when Metro had the HRM sheltering contract we at least knew what the numbers were because of the society’s new policy of transparency that provides voluntary disclosure of stats.   If the new contractor, Homeward Bound City Pound, does not wish to provide similar data, the taxpaying voters of HRM will have no access to their numbers.
I’m not pointing a specific finger at HRM … taxpaying voters in NS should not have to put in freedom of information requests for AC stats.  
Why are numbers so darned important?
Because numbers spell things out in undeniable black and white.  Its not about pointing fingers at individual AC departments … its about collecting data to measure the scope of problem.  
If large numbers of cats are being killed every year, would it be cheaper to find more effective and more permanent solutions like low cost / high volume spay neuter programs and assistance for TNR groups?  
If large numbers of dogs are being killed, would it be cheaper to fund free obedience training?  Low cost spay neuter?
If large numbers of senior pets are being abandoned and killed, would it be cheaper to fund short term assistance for blood work, x rays and dental work?
If large numbers of dogs are being seized for nuisance behaviors such as barking, would it not nip things in the bud by developing bylaws to limit the amount of time a dog can be tethered or penned each day?  By banning the practice for all unattended yard dogs?
At the end of the day, statistics are not about pointing fingers and assigning blame, but are a tool to be used for sound fiscal planning. 
If the NDP bobsled team were looking for a low cost way to restore some of the shine, then a very good place to start would be with legislation that would:

  • require all municipalities to publish their animal care and control statistics on their websites
  • obligate all AC departments and contractors to advertise on petfinder
  • insist that all pets be offered to rescues and shelters before choosing an Unhappy Tail,
  • maintain a province wide Lost / Found pet registry,
  • and offer free lifetime licenses for all altered and microchipped pets.

Transparency is a beautiful thing.  It inspires confidence.  It builds trust.  It encourages the search for solutions.  It is never ever the fly in the ointment.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that what is good for the animals also creates safer and healthier communities.  Its just frosting on the cake that it saves taxpayer dollars too.

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