On standing on the (Unhappy) Tail ….

I love being out in the play yard with the dogs!    With three ponds on the property … my physical presence is the best protection I can provide against visiting predators!   Even better, it allows each of them the liberty of following their own noses safely without worrying about wildlife leading them astray.

Best of all of course is that it is very entertaining to share in all the fun!   Lets face it … one should not have dogs if one does not enjoy their company!  It is just really frosting on the cake to be able to give these good dogs a better life than they had before they were rescued!

Of course, after dark, it is always heartbreaking to hear dogs further up and down the road who are tied or penned out 24/7.   Those dogs make no bones about it … they are afraid of the predators!   Even worse … in the winter they are cold and in the summer they have no relief from the bugs.   Saddest of all of course is that they are lonely in ways that only an animal hard-wired to be part of pack can possibly be!

Worst of all of course is that every hour of every day of every week of the year … there is absolutely nothing that can be done about their plight!   Why?   Do people not care?   Has nobody noticed?   Has nobody ever complained?

Of course not!   People DO care!    It has been noticed!   Complaints have been made!   So why has nothing been done?

For the very simple reason that in this country, dogs are legally considered to be property.   As long as there is food, water and some sort of cobbled up shelter when society inspectors show up, there is nothing that can be done at this time.  It would have been helpful if regulations to better define housing standards and distress had at least been submitted by the society, but sadly that simply did not happen.

Does that mean that there is no hope?  Of course not.  Here in the real world, the society is not the only body capable of campaigning for change.   Happily we live in a democracy, eh?   In realspeak that means that any citizen in this country has the right to advocate for change.

(The sorry subject of how often animal advocates seem to wind up in dutch with the very society that should be promoting their work is a testy topic that will get a post of its own on another day, eh? )

Happily there is a group of concerned citizens doing just that!    For some time now, the kind hearts at People for Dogs have been gathering names for both an online and a paper petition for Anti Tethering Legislation.

How is that doing?   Well … let me tell you!   Last week, MLA Leo Glavine presented their petition in the house!    What did the Minister of Agriculture have to say to that?  Well …. read for yourself from the Official Hansard, page 4923

AGRIC.: ANIMAL  PROTECTION ACT – CHANGES

MR. LEO GLAVINE « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the very calm Minister of  Agriculture. In the winter of 2010, a complaint was filed with the Nova Scotia  SPCA, regarding a dog that was permanently chained at a Cape Breton  construction site. The Nova Scotia SPCA did investigate but later stated  nothing could be done under the Animal Protection Act. A few days after the  Nova Scotia SPCA’s visit, the dog was found frozen to death at the end of its  chain. I will table the story for the minister’s ease of reference. Could the  minister please outline what he has done to close the gaps in the Animal  Protection Act so authorities can adequately and humanely address complaints,  like the one that occurred in Cape Breton two years ago?

HON. JOHN MACDONELL « » : Mr. Speaker, for the information of the member and for all  members, the changes in the Act have been significant. As a matter of fact, the  member may be aware that the investigative powers of the SPCA have been  strengthened and actually the Department of Agriculture had taken over  investigations regarding livestock and companion animals that stayed with the  SPCA. So the questions for action really are around identification of distress  in the animal and that’s really all that the SPCA needs in order to act.

MR. GLAVINE « » : Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and that’s exactly where I’m going, Mr.  Minister. Earlier today I tabled a petition on behalf of 439 Nova Scotians  demanding government’s attention around what’s happening around animal welfare  in this province. There are also 1,538 Nova Scotians who have signed an on-line  petition expressing identical concerns. However, due to the antiquated Rules of  this House, their voices are silenced.

Mr.  Speaker, these Nova Scotians are volunteers from all walks of life who are  concerned about the lack of clarity around what constitutes animal distress.  Given that the Animal Protection Act enables the minister to make regulations  prescribing activities that are deemed to cause animals to be in distress and  these regulations don’t exist. Could the minister please tell the 2,000 or so  Nova Scotians who are concerned about animal welfare when he plans to bring  forward specific regulations?

MR. MACDONELL « » : Mr. Speaker, I want the member to be aware that we have a fairly  open dialogue with the SPCA; as a matter of fact I met with them last week.  This has not been an issue that has been raised by the SPCA. The issue that the  member raises is more around whether tethering, I think, is appropriate or not.  The fact that an animal may be tethered does not necessarily mean the animal is  in distress as long as other measures are taken care of as far as shelter,  food, water and so on, but the actual tethering in and of itself doesn’t  necessarily indicate distress for the animal, but in some circumstances it may  be associated with that.

In other words, if one sifts through the political gabblespeak, it is clear that the current Minister of Agriculture sees absolutely nothing wrong with tethering or penning companion animals 24/7!     Clearly he has no intention of acting because “this has not been an issue that has been raised by the SPCA”

What time is it?   It is time to remember indifference like this … particularly on the cusp of an election year!

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the  oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that  you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.    Bishop Desmond Tutu (1931- ), Nobel Prize for Peace 1984

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