Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SPCA Animal Shelter in NS - what an average day is like

The spark of an idea to start my young adult book, Off Leash was my teenager taking a dog walking job. This opened my eyes to dogs in general, their needs, and often the cruelty that happens to these innocent animals daily. To highlight Nova Scotia’s SPCA and the role they play dealing with animal adoption and cruelty I interviewed Kristin Williams, Executive Director, NS SPCA.

Leave a comment on my blog and one lucky person will be randomly picked to receive an e-copy of Off Leash: Bonus Content, which has both endings in one book.


What is your average day like when you come into the office?
It depends on the area of our operations that you are speaking of. With respect to animal care, our volunteers and staff work tirelessly to attend to the needs of thousands of animals currently in our care, either in foster or in shelters. This includes cleaning, laundry, socializing and play, along with feeding, watering and health monitoring. Our shelters are bustling activity centers with the public and volunteers coming and going. At our Provincial Shelter in Dartmouth, we have over 400 active volunteers! Our adoption rates have increased by 63% in just two years and our overall provincial intake has increased by 8% this year. This was accomplished without additional capacity – just by addressing animal flow and adoption promotion.

Our special constables are no less busy. With just two provincial special constables to manage the work load of the entire province, we struggle to address the demand for service. We get over 18,000 calls per year on animal welfare concerns per year and our case load has increased this year by nearly 20%. The most disturbing trends are animal hoarding and abandonment, but we routinely see animals suffering neglect (not provided with food, water and shelter or veterinary care). In the majority of cases, we can resolve the matter through education and voluntary compliance, but there are serious cases of abuse, neglect and cruelty that we see every day. With the volume of calls that we receive, cases are prioritize based on the assessed level of distress of the animal and the potential harm the animal may be in.

In my role as Executive Director, I oversee all aspects of operations, which includes animal care, cruelty investigations, humane education, marketing and communications, public affairs, human resources, finance and administration and fund development. I support the Provincial Society and its network of Branches. In the last year in particular, I have been spending a great deal of time working on engagement with various stakeholders who have a role to play in animal welfare. This list includes, but is not limited to political leaders, municipal units, veterinary associations and police services. I have also been spending a great deal of time working with our Board of Directors on a new governance model to increase compliance and allow for greater standardization across our network of Branches.

How many dogs a week would you say the SPCA processes?
The Nova Scotia SPCA has a relative capacity, which includes both shelters and foster based branches. Our annual intake is close to 8,000. Our hard capacity for dogs at any time is 143 and it is 566 for cats.

How does the volunteer dog-walking program work? Can teens participate?
It depends on the Branch, but generally all of our Branches accept the generous assistance of volunteers who are keen to help give some love and social time to the dogs in our care. Because these activities are generally adhoc in nature, volunteers may be asked to sign in, leave some ID with us and receive some coaching from staff or volunteers in animal care. Many volunteers walk many animals each day, which helps our dogs become socialized. With improved behaviour, their prognosis for a quick adoption also increases. At this time, we accept the assistance of youth under 18 with the help of a guardian/parent.


It’s hard to pick a favorite but can you tell the readers about one special dog that came into the SPCA that captured your heart and why?
There are many wonderful stories and it is hard to pick just one. A recent case we had involving 27 pure bred huskies comes to mind. They were found in deplorable conditions at the hands of an irresponsible breeder. The case took nearly 8 months of hard work by our investigators and resulted in a conviction with a sentence of a prohibition of ownership. The accused also covered all vet costs. The accused actually pled guilty on the first appearance due to the strength of the case. The huskies required a great deal of time in foster care, because they needed to learn to be pets. Absolutely beautiful dogs. They are now in loving forever homes.

The SPCA is an animal shelter and needs funding how can donors donate and what at this time is needed most for the shelter?
Our area of greatest need is actually cruelty investigations. We only receive $3,000 from the provincial government and our budget for province-wide investigations is approximately $500,000. The quiet work that our investigators do behind the scenes is often shadowed by the higher profile of our wonderful shelters. Donors can best support us by visiting on line and donating via Canada Helps. They can target that donation to animal care, cruelty investigations or the area of greatest need. www.spcans.ca.



What is your average day like when you come into the office?
It depends on the area of our operations that you are speaking of.  With respect to animal care, our volunteers and staff work tirelessly to attend to the needs of thousands of animals currently in our care, either in foster or in shelters. This includes cleaning, laundry, socializing and play, along with feeding, watering and health monitoring. Our shelters are bustling activity centers with the public and volunteers coming and going. At our Provincial Shelter in Dartmouth, we have over 400 active volunteers! Our adoption rates have increased by 63% in just two years and our overall provincial intake has increased by 8% this year. This was accomplished without additional capacity – just by addressing animal flow and adoption promotion.

Our special constables are no less busy. With just two provincial special constables to manage the work load of the entire province, we struggle to address the demand for service. We get over 18,000 calls per year on animal welfare concerns per year and our case load has increased this year by nearly 20%. The most disturbing trends are animal hoarding and abandonment, but we routinely see animals suffering neglect (not provided with food, water and shelter or veterinary care). In the majority of cases, we can resolve the matter through education and voluntary compliance, but there are serious cases of abuse, neglect and cruelty that we see every day. With the volume of calls that we receive, cases are prioritize based on the assessed level of distress of the animal and the potential harm the animal may be in.

In my role as Executive Director, I oversee all aspects of operations, which includes animal care, cruelty investigations, humane education, marketing and communications, public affairs, human resources, finance and administration and fund development. I support the Provincial Society and its network of Branches. In the last year in particular, I have been spending a great deal of time working on engagement with various stakeholders who have a role to play in animal welfare. This list includes, but is not limited to political leaders, municipal units, veterinary associations and police services. I have also been spending a great deal of time working with our Board of Directors on a new governance model to increase compliance and allow for greater standardization across our network of Branches.

How many dogs a week would you say the SPCA processes?
The Nova Scotia SPCA has a relative capacity, which includes both shelters and foster based branches. Our annual intake is close to 8,000. Our hard capacity for dogs at any time is 143 and it is 566 for cats.

How does the volunteer dog-walking program work? Can teens participate?
It depends on the Branch, but generally all of our Branches accept the generous assistance of volunteers who are keen to help give some love and social time to the dogs in our care. Because these activities are generally adhoc in nature, volunteers may be asked to sign in, leave some ID with us and receive some coaching from staff or volunteers in animal care. Many volunteers walk many animals each day, which helps our dogs become socialized. With improved behaviour, their prognosis for a quick adoption also increases. At this time, we accept the assistance of youth under 18 with the help of a guardian/parent.

It’s hard to pick a favorite but can you tell the readers about one special dog that came into the SPCA that captured your heart and why?
There are many wonderful stories and it is hard to pick just one. A recent case we had involving 27 pure bred huskies comes to mind. They were found in deplorable conditions at the hands of an irresponsible breeder. The case took nearly 8 months of hard work by our investigators and resulted in a conviction with a sentence of a prohibition of ownership. The accused also covered all vet costs. The accused actually pled guilty on the first appearance due to the strength of the case. The huskies required a great deal of time in foster care, because they needed to learn to be pets. Absolutely beautiful dogs. They are now in loving forever homes.

The SPCA is an animal shelter and needs funding how can donors donate and what at this time is needed most for the shelter?
Our area of greatest need is actually cruelty investigations. We only receive $3,000 from the provincial government and our budget for province-wide investigations is approximately $500,000. The quiet work that our investigators do behind the scenes is often shadowed by the higher profile of our wonderful shelters. Donors can best support us by visiting on line and donating via Canada Helps. They can target that donation to animal care, cruelty investigations or the area of greatest need. www.spcans.ca.




3 comments:

Alysia said...

Renee,

Thank you for sharing information about the plight of shelter animals. My oldest also volunteers at a shelter and we have several rescue pets at our house, so it's an issue near and dear to my heart.

~Alysia

PJ Sharon said...

What a daunting problem and an inspiring group of people. What you do for our furry friends is amazing. My dog, ZAK and I thank you.

Bonnie Staring said...

Great interview, Renee! Wow, I always knew that everyone involved with animal shelters worked hard, but I didn't realize the full scope of all the great work everyone did. So glad the breeder was convicted! All of our pets have always come from shelters (even two hamsters) and we wouldn't have it any other way.