Category Archives: Uncategorized

On keeping it real

I love the holiday season!    Why would I say that when celebrations of all stripes seem to have become advertising vehicles for consumer extravaganzas?    Ah the answer to that is so simple that even the toad hibernating under my bridal wreath can understand.

Celebrations in this house are long on good food and cheerful decorations and very short on any wow factor when it comes to gift giving.    Truth be told, by current standards, I am really quite a Scrooge.

In the sixties, we used to refer to this sort of thing as “keeping it real”.     As with anything else in life, there is simply no substitute for common sense.       Does that apply to animal rescue?   Of course it does.

There is a phrase I really like that is gradually superseding the well-worn descriptive “reputable rescue”.      Why?   What is wrong with the idea of a reputable rescue?    Actually nothing at all … except for one teeny tiny little detail.      Like any buzzword, it is often being misused by the very folks who inspired the original movement to regulate rescue.

To be fair, it is not the first time this has happened.    Remember when folks began to realize that the word rescue had tremendous emotional appeal?     It got to the point where even commercial puppy peddlers were referring to themselves as rescuers.

But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way.    The new word that I really like is “accountable” .    Why?    Because it takes more than good intentions to run a rescue properly.      Those who have been ‘in the game’ for any time at all have found out first hand that following proper protocols always involves accountability.

As sidebar note, I believe the phrase was originally coined by The Animal Rescue Coalitions who certainly do more than talk the talk.     In my not so humble opinion, they set the bar for rescue protocols and standards.    No surprise really, when they were rescuing long before rescue and No Kill became ‘fashionable’.

First and foremost, well run rescues understand that they are accountable to their communities.    In this country, in legalspeak, animals are property.    What does that mean in plain english?    Simply that rescues have a legal obligation to ensure that the dogs in their care are properly assessed.

Equally importantly, it means that it is essential to find the appropriate home for each animal that comes into care.     For instance, there is an appealing Rottweiler who has been in care for some time with Misfit Manor Dog Rescue.    It certainly is not for a lack of applications from wonderful homes.    Did I mention how appealing he is?    The short version is that the right for him application simply has not come in yet.

Nor is this a singular situation.   I have seen dogs in care for a year or more.   Much more.   Why?   Because accountable rescues understand that racing to save as many lives as possible without proper placements can cause havoc in communities.

Let me be crystal clear here .. any rescuer who drags hundreds and hundreds of dogs up from the southern states and adopts them out is responsible to the communities where these dogs are adopted.    There are no free passes by blaming the fosters they screened or the adopters that they approved.   The rescue is legally responsible.   Straight, sweet and simple!

Not to be mean .. but there is also the very real probability that the “incidents … or attacks” that arise from rushing the screening and adopting procedures will have another unintended consequence.    What do I mean?   Simply that whenever there are attacks involving “pit bull” or “pit bull type” dogs that there is always a politician waiting in the wings with the promise of a breed ban.

No .. this sort of fly by the seat of your pants rescuing is not at all the life saving activity the participants would like to think it is.   Exactly the opposite actually with the harm that is done to the overall reputation of all rescues.

After all, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, most good homes only ever go looking for a new dog every fifteen or twenty years.    They love their pets for life, eh?      If there is an unhappy ending to their adoption experience, they will normally never, ever apply to adopt again.. from any rescue.    Nor will their friends, families, coworkers or neighbours be disposed to see pet adoption in a favourable light either.

And that boys and girls is only part of why accountability is so important.     There is also the other end of the stick .. so to speak.     What do I mean?    Let me be perfectly clear.   In a world where there are waiting lists for local pets with EVERY rescue and shelter in this province,  rescues are unlikely to gain sustained community support if they are unwilling or unable to help the pets in need in their own community.    Straight, sweet and simple.

Although he seldom used such language at home, my dear departed Dad was as capable of earthy expressions as the next man.     When he would encounter idealistic folks who had little if any common sense, Dad would refer to them as starry eyed assholes.

Here in the real world, it takes more than good intentions to run a rescue properly.    It takes a community.

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A little muggy day musing

I love Henry!   What is not to love?   He is as sweet as the chocolate bar he was named for.   Even better, hands down he has the best listening ears in the house.   Best of all of course is that he is so kind that I call him my cat whisperer.   Really … it is just frosting on the cake that he is so appealing and cute, eh?

This Monday we will celebrate Henry’s eighth Home Coming Day.  Or, as they say in rescuespeak,  his Gotcha Day.   Eight years since I adopted my sweet boy from CAPS.  Eight years later, I no longer leave tempting bits out unattended on the counter.  After eight years,  Henry rarely waters anything now when I go out.     In other words, we have both learned a lot as we settled into our own Happy Tail.

Pet adoption can be such an amazing experience.     Above and beyond the love and devotion, there is the ever so satisfying bit about saving a life.   Two lives actually …. because every adoption clears a foster or shelter slot for the next pet in need.   In our case, when I adopted Henry that meant that CAPS could take another dog into care from the pound in Annapolis County.

Would it be more satisfying to adopt from a “high kill shelter” somewhere else?   Well … before your heart gallops down the road, just what do you think happens to unclaimed dogs in pounds around this province?    What happens to the healthy adoptable dogs in need of new homes who cannot find a rescue or shelter slot?   What happens to unanticipated puppies?   Unwanted kittens?

Before the keyboards catch on fire please consider this one thing.   Here in Nova Scotia there are plenty of No Kill Rescues and shelters BUT there are NO open admission No Kill rescues or shelters.   Not one.   The only time we had an open admission shelter, they needed a gas chamber to keep up with the killing.

But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way.   The point I am trying to make today is that Henry and I have this happy life because Henry was adopted from a reputable Nova Scotia rescue.

Why would I say that?  Why be so mean?

Well … lets look at the facts, shall we?

  • although I met Henry the day he came into CAPS care, he still had to go through the standard CAPS two week quarantine / assessment period.   It did not matter that they knew me.   Nor would there have been any question of me fostering him for that time.
  • When the two week period was up, I put in my application.    Did I get to take him home that day?   Did they claim to have screened my application in two hours time?  Of course not!   It was the longest week of my life waiting to hear back.
  • I did not get to meet Henry again until my application was approved .. but then
  • because they were a local rescue, I was able to bring both my dogs up to meet Henry before CAPS and I committed to the adoption.   AND
  • If, for any reason, things had not been a success, because CAPS was right here in NS, I could have done one of two things.    I could have called them for advice or .. shudder . have taken him back.
  • AND of course, when I brought Henry home that day, I knew that he was health checked, vaccinated and neutered.   Why?   Because I had legitimate, genuine records from a Nova Scotia veterinarian.  In other words, I knew that he would pose no health risks to Miss Ruby and McGuinness.

As a sidebar note to that, one of the unfortunate side effects of bringing dogs in from away is that some of them are bringing health problems into our province.     Just this morning , I saw a post on Facebook outlining the health and dog aggressive behavior problems one woman was having with a dog she adopted from the south.

Does that mean that kind hearts should not try to help those trying to save lives in heartworm endemic areas?   Of course not.   I absolutely love my friend Joan’s suggestion that folks who want to help can donate money to southern rescuers.

Lets face it, we Nova Scotians like to think we are special, but we are not the only ones with kind hearts.  There are more kind hearts throughout the States than the entire population of this province.

But .. here in the real world there are always going to be folks who insist on disregarding the advice of seasoned rescuers about bringing dogs in and adopting them out right off the truck or plane.

And that is why I believe that regulating rescues is not going to be enough.

  • Legislation is needed to to protect adopters and pet owners in this province.   There should be a mandatory quarantine period for all imported pets;
  • Imported pets should require the same certificate of health from a Nova Scotia vet as every other pet sold or adopted in this province; and last but not least
  • Rescues importing dogs should require a special license, along with mandatory  adoption records to provide an auditable trail for all animals.

What time is it?   It is always time to remember that there are plenty of opportunities for kind hearts to help … right here in Nova Scotia.

On pulling blackberry bushes barehanded

We are having a much better April this year.    To be perfectly honest, this month I am like a kid in a candy store.    What should I do next?    Start some more seeds?    Trim more winter foliage?    Tidy up fallen branches?    Or pull up those darned blackberry bushes that are running amok through my daffodils and lilies?

Gardeners and home landscapers are not the only busy ones this time of year.   Animal rescuers are busy, busy, busy.     Along with the ‘ordinary’ owner and vet surrender requests, spring also brings the annual onslaught of puppies and kittens, eh?

Which is why most seasoned rescuers tend to take a dim view of the rescues who are bringing in dogs from away.     It is not as glamorous to help a dog right here in Nova Scotia.    They cannot make dramatic statements about bringing adoptables up from High Kill Shelters in the states.    Nor does anyone on social media seem to understand that “every life counts” for the animals who are already here.

Part of the problem of course is perception.     Unlike our southern neighbours, there are very few municipally funded Animal Control Shelters in this province.    In a province where every municipality makes its own arrangements for Animal Control, the only constant is that there is no constant.    Some places have their own animal control officers and a municipal pound.    Others have an AC officer and contracted sheltering services.    And others simply outsource the whole schmoo.

What does this mean in realspeak?     Why of course that there are no actual numbers about how many animals in this province do not live to tell the tail.   Gosh, there is no way of even knowing how many requests for owner surrenders are refused province wide, eh?

Why would that be?   Do we not have Freedom of information laws in this province?   Of course we do!   But here is the thing … we do not have any open admission shelters or animal control pounds in this province.  None.   Zip.  Nada.

To be brutally honest, most animal control departments never take owner surrenders.    We did have an open admission SPCA shelter in Sydney a few years ago.    But … as regular readers will remember .. they were killing at least four out of five that came in the door.   It was so bad that they needed a gas chamber to keep up.

Please let me be perfectly clear about one thing.     To the best of my knowledge, within my time here we have not had a private shelter in this province killing treatable and adoptable animals.    Matter of fact, most of them have been No Kill for a long time.

As a sidebar note to this, today is not the time to open up a big fat debate as to whether or not our SPCA is actually No Kill.    I will however say this one thing.   Is it possible for them to be everything to everybody?   To shoulder so many roles?  This newfound … or should I say born again .. enthusiasm for Animal Control contracts may not necessarily be helpful for their core mission.

And before the keyboards catch on fire,  I am not suggesting that anyone is ordering gas chambers.     But it is no secret that there are no open admission SPCA shelters either.

That leaves a whole grey area that is never included in any statistics.    When people are unwilling or unable to keep their pets, what do they do if there are no rescue or shelter slots available?

Hmmm!    What do they do?   When some see no alternative, they take their pets into the vet to the short end of the long needle.   THOSE stats will never be publicly available.

Others try to give their pets away.  When all else fails there are several unhappier options available.   Leaving them on a back country road to fend for themselves.    Tossing them in the river in a  bag of rocks.    Shooting them somewhere out in the country.    So THOSE numbers will never wind up in any statistical total either.

Lets face it .. there simply is no way to calculate how many animals are killed in Nova Scotia.   We may never know, eh?    The only thing we do know is that we are nowhere near No Kill Nova Scotia yet.

There has been quite a bit of discussion this week about the dogs that were shot in Kings County.   One can only hope that the people starting dog rescues to specifically drag dogs up from the states are paying attention to this article.

Why?     That answer is so simple a stump could understand.   We are not at No Kill Nova Scotia. Animals are still dying here.   Some humanely.   Some horribly.    It might not sound as glamorous as  the whole ” saved from high kill shelters” bit.

At the end of the day there are not enough rescue and shelter slots for local animals.  It is the worst kind of tunnel vision to focus on those so far away as if the lives here somehow do not matter as much.

Keeping it real

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there were no homeless dogs.   Every impounded dog was reclaimed.   Pet owners around the land understood the value of an ounce of prevention and were responsible about spaying and neutering their personal pets.     People across the land put their heart into pet ownership and loved their pets for life.

Does that mean there was no need for rescue?   Of course not!  Even in the best of all possible worlds, there will always be unanticipated tragedies that the trump even the best laid plans.   But in this magical land, rescues were always able to pick up the slack every time disaster struck.   There were no waiting lists for rescue slots.    Shelters never had to turn away owner surrenders.    And when the worst happened, there was a well funded SPCA ready and able to deter animal cruelty with diligent investigations and vigorous prosecutions.

Where is that magical place?    Maybe this vision of No Kill Nirvana does exist somewhere.    But .. here in the real world .. Nova Scotia is not that place!

And before the keyboards catch on fire, it is not for want of trying.     Even as we speak, hard working volunteer animal rescuers are dancing as fast as they can!     Most shelters are doing their best  with the resources available to them.    And in the absence of appropriate funding, the SPCA tries to do  its best to pursue what cruelty investigations they can.

So why repeat all these well worn facts?    Ah that answer is so simple a stump should be able to understand.     Right here, right now , there has never been a bigger burden on rescues and shelters around this province.   There are many areas where there is absolutely no coverage at all from either private groups or the SPCA.

Saddest of all is that every day, pets in this province become homeless without any available safety net.     In the absence of sufficient local rescue resources, not every pet in need is going to live to tell the tale.

So why go on about this?    Well it still seems that some .. hopefully well meaning .. folks still don’t seem to get the point.  Why would I say that?   Because some people are still scouting around the States for homeless dogs to import into our province.    They are long on dramatic statements about saving dogs in high kill shelters and seemingly very short on any understanding of the impact of their well meaning work!

As we speak there is a new Go Fund Me initiative set up to try to raise the funds to bring more dogs in from away?   What IS it about the whole importing dogs thing that appeals?     Lets face it .. the people in California shelters are not going to worry about Nova Scotia dogs!

And before the keyboards catch on fire .. the one and only time Nova Scotia cat rescuers ever agreed on anything was when cats came up on that first transport from California.  They collectively raised such a furor that noone have ever attempted anything like that again.   Ever.

Does this mean that dog rescues are not upset about the increasing number of dogs being dragged up from the States?   Of course they are!   But for some reason, people simply are not listening.

What time is it?   It is always time to be kind.   It is always time to believe that every life counts.    But it is also high time to remember that this also applies to the dogs that are already here in Nova Scotia.       At the end of the day, good intentions do not always pave the way to a better place.

A little mid week musing

I love seeing bare ground so early in the season.   Is this just a sneak preview of spring?   Or is it the shape of things to come for this month?    Who knows?    Not ever the weatherman … or woman  …. can say for sure which way the wind will blow for the whole month of March.   To be perfectly honest, noone is even sure yet what is waiting in the wings for this weekend, eh?

Why is our weather so hard to predict?   Is is that Nova Scotia is surrounded by water?    Has climate change made traditional patterns less predictable?   Who knows about that either, eh?

There is one thing that we do know for sure.   There will always be a big fat shit storm whenever the animal loving community opens up a dialogue about any animal advocacy issue.

Lets face it ….. social media of all stripes can be a double edged sword for any sort of advocacy.    Why would I say that?    Is it not a Very Good Thing that people can connect in such a personal way?    Ummm …. sometimes.

But here is the thing that any seasoned rescuer already knows …. we really do live in a global village.   What dos that mean in realspeak?   Simply that the number of followers of Facebook does not validate and legitimize a group.   Nor do these numbers always correlate to actual physical and financial support.

At the end of the day, there is simply no substitute for real life, hands on experience with animal rescue.     While social media supporters may mean well,  the animals need a better road instead of one paved with good intentions.

After all, there is a reason that experienced rescuers have been calling for some sort of regulations with respect to rescue organizations.    While social media has been very helpful, there is no way for an adoption “rookie” to safely navigate the waters when all they want is a nice pet.

Does that mean that supporters have no value in animal advocacy?   Of course not?    Without their signatures on petitiions, politicians would never listen to advocates.    Nor would any politician pay attention if there were no letters or  phone calls or emails.

But I am wandering afield as I am often wont to do in my meandering way .   The point I want to make today is that we all know that regulating animal rescues is an important and worthwhile subject for debate.

People who have never adopted before have no way of knowing what to look for in a rescue.  It would be easy for them to assume that thousand of followers would be a good thing.   How would they be expected to know that anyone with basic google research skills can quickly  learn to talk a good game?

In other words, it is important to protect both adopters and adoptables.   Equally important is the need to protect the reputations of the reputable rescues that work so hard every day of the year.     Regulations would at least reduce the odds of them being tarred with the same brush as those well meaning starry eyed sorts who woke up one morning and decided they wanted to save animals.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is my firm belief that there should be regulations within the animal cruelty act governing the importing of rescue dogs.    Honestly, we can’t blame the animal advocates in the south for trying to save lives.   If someone is willing to take dogs off death’s row, they are not going to worry about the impact on homeless dogs in our area.

And before the keyboards catch on fire .. yes I think cats are just and important … but we all know that after that first load came up from California, cat advocates around the province were vocal enough that it never happened again.

So should we ban the import of rescue dogs?   Of course not!   Where would the greyhound people … who have so strongly supported rescue .. be if we did that?    But it would be helpful if imported rescue dogs were required to get the same bill of health that all nova scotia rescues have to provide now

What time is it?    It is always time to remember that most animal cruelty laws do double duty by protecting the people who love them.

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.   Woodrow Wilson

A Rose by any other name

Gosh … has it really been five years since Pets Unlimited decided to stop selling puppies in Atlantic Canada?   Remember how excited everyone was?    Has it already been a couple of years since Kijiji started charging a credit card fee for all puppies and dogs listed for sale?

Yet here we are in 2016 and still seeing puppy mills in the Canadian news.    Hot on the heels of the 66 dogs seized in BC was the closer to home news last week about the puppy mill seizure in Annapolis County of twenty-eight animals.    

Has it been helpful that the pet stores and Kijiji have been trying to do their bit to stem the tide of puppy mills?   Of course it has, even if it has not turned off the tap.

As a sidebar note to that, it has always amazed me that the CKC have never required more of their breeders than an application and a fee.     To the best of my knowledge, as of this writing there is no in house inspection process prior to listing a CKC Breeder.   Nor .. I suspect .. will we ever see such measures as long as the Canadian Kennel Club is so closely allied with PIJAC, the self proclaimed “voice of the Canadian Pet Industry”

Before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I know that there are many well respected CKC breeders who tirelessly toil to maintain and improve the standard of their particular beloved breed.   It is just a mystery to me that these reputable breeders are willing to risk being lumped in the same category as the recent BC puppy mill bust.   At the risk of sounding like a stuck rcord, somethings simply defy explanation.

But I am … as I am often wont to do … wandering afield in my meandering way.   The point I want to make today is that, like anything else in life, legislation is the most effective way to shut down puppy mills.     Here in Nova Scotia, legislation that affects the animals can be found at several different levels.

At the foot of the legislative food chain are the municipal bylaws that deal with the nuts and bolts of everyday life in our municipalities.    That is where animal control bylaws and some kennel licensing bylaws are created.

Next up the ladder are our provincial Houses of Assembly where our MLA’s write laws specific to our individual province.  That is where our Animal Cruelty Act was submitted, for instance.    The regulations that get down to the nitty gritty of specifics are written by, in this case, by the Department of Agriculture civil servants on behalf of the Minister.

At the top of the pinnacle is the Federal Level, where our national Criminal Code resides.   Changes and amendments to the Code can be introduced by our MP’s and sometimes by our Senators.

Why is all this dry dusty stuff important?    Well, if you live in Canada, this month there is a Red Letter Campaign targeting puppy mills.   It is called  Ruby’s Red Letter Legacy and was created by author Mary Guiffre as a tribute to her dog Ruby who was a puppy mill survivor.

Really it is a brilliant and simple concept.     Print off a couple of copies of the  letter on the site.   Buy a couple of red envelopes.   Mail one to your MP and one to the Prime Minister.   What could be easier than that?   How about the fun fact that there is NO COST for Canadian citizens to mail a letter to their MP’s and Prime Minister?

The Ruby’s Red Letter Legacy Page has all the information one needs.   Click on Files to find the letters, in both English and French.   It even includes letters one can send to one’s own MLA!

I will be paying close attention to the new bill that FEDERAL MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith will soon be introducing in the House of Commons.   As a Liberal, it is to be hoped that he will the support of the majority govenment in the House.

What time is it?   It is always, always time to remember that the best bit of living in a democracy is that it is our right .. and our obligation … to let our elected officials know when issues are important to us.

Love is the Answer

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We are at that tipping point in winter.    Will last year’s history repeat itself?    Was this week’s blizzard a stand alone event or the shape of things to come?   Who knows!

Yet we are eternal optimists, grasping at any straws that could herald an early spring.    Is March 27th an early enough Easter to be significant?    Did  Shubenacadie Sam get everyone’s hopes stirred up?    Who really knows about that either, eh?

No matter what the weatherman dishes up for us, this is a very special weekend in this house.    Eight years ago tomorrow, ARC emailed to ask if I would be interested in a dog that had just come into the Colchester pound.     She was everything that I had asked them to find for me.   Lab sized.   Female.   Adult.

They were also quick to point out that she was severely emaciated and that it would take time for her to become healthy enough to be adopted.   After a lengthy phone chat, pictures were promised .. if possible .. the following day.

The short version is .. as most of you well know … that she could have been as ugly as a toad and I would have loved her dearly.   Even as my heart was breaking for how desperately thin she was, it was clear from those clever eyes that she was going to be a smarty pants.

It was a month and more before she was well enough to come here.   How did ARC manage to do that?   Did they not have other dogs waiting in the wings to save?   Of course they did!   But as a reputable rescue, once they commit to an animal in need, they do not hurry them out the door without being properly assessed and treated.

In other words, the reason they were able to take Miss Ruby .. and every other hard case they have had before and since … is that there was a foster available.   In Miss Ruby’s case, she was their first foster actually.  Did they do a good job?   You bet!   I will be forever grateful to them for providing a safe space for Miss Ruby to heal.

All the cliches really are true, you know.    Fosters are that life saving bridge between pets in need and their happy new homes.       All the fundraising in the world would be of no avail without foster homes for adoptable pets.   Straight, sweet and simple.

This is especially true for reputable rescues that take on the hard cases that will not be quickly adopted.   Lets face it, the need for medical attention is one of the primary reasons pets are surrendered.    When owners are unwilling or unable to pay for surgeries or treatments needed, rescues have to make sure that they have a foster home free to take in the pet for a while.

Is it hard to foster a pet …. to love them and nurture them .. and then let them go?    Sure it is.  It does help if one fosters for a reputable rescue.  Why?   Because of course that the fosters can be confident that the adopters will be well screened and well suited to their new pal.

And  …. think of the alternative, eh?

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Fostering is one of the few times in life where ‘all you need is love”.   Reputable rescues buy all the food and supplies.   They take care of all the veterinary bills.     Even the toys and beds are donated or bought.     All the fosters have to add is love and patience.    In return, fosters have the solid satisfaction of knowing that they have both saved lives and brought joy to the world for the kind hearts who adopt!   To borrow a phrase from WordPress, kind of like real life Happiness Engineers!

Valentines is a time for sentimental things .. and one of my favourite bits is a poem by Diane Morgan.

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What time is it?   It is always time to remember these wise words:

Love is the answer and you know that for sure.   John Lennon

REASONS TO FOSTER