Saturday, November 8, 2008

calling out #2

Once again, I am asking for daily calls to Mayor Kelly and especially to Animal Services. The numbers are (902) 490 4010 and 490 1791, respectively. Email gets deleted. A human voice is harder to ignore, somehow.
Call every day if you can, it doesn't take long, and it can really help. What to say? Please request that they meet with me, and that they let Brindi go, and if they keep listening, ask them to scale back a bit on their interpretation of A300, because a muzzle order is NOT a mandate to automatically euthanize for violations, not under that law - not by any stretch of the imagination. Fortunately so, for other people: Brindi is not wearing a muzzle when she is walked at the SCPA. And she was not wearing a muzzle when they seized her.

The administrative and legal situation is unexpectedly complicated. What's important to understand out of all the details is that Animal Services does not actually have to meet with me or anybody in order to let Brindi go. It has sole authority; it needs no judge to act for it other than provide warrants based on Animal Services' reports. It can review its own decision and the process leading to it, anytime it likes. There is no law or rule or policy or limit on their ability to do this - despite what they may tell the public. It may be hard to accept, but it's a lot easier and simpler than anybody having to testify in court. The system needs changing, agreed. Let's all fix it. I'd prefer it, however, if I could just get my dog back first, please.

Not my job - thankfully

Two different people sent me a job ad recently for what I believe is a new position in the HRM Regional Police for a "Regional Coordinator Animal Services". I hope they weren't thinking I should apply; it sounds like a very difficult job, starting with being available 24/7 to handle emergencies, plus supervising nine employees, and working on legislation. The full list of job duties falls into the three categories of management, customer relations, and operations, and it is impressive to say the least. And this person's boss will be Andrea MacDonald, the manager of Animal Services.

I just can't figure out how somebody with the qualifications requested, if there is such a person, can possibly do a good job with the duties expected of them. That is, a good job in terms of both animals and people. The duties are so wide-ranging, and several have wide-reaching consequences. I really worry about which of them will wind up getting the most emphasis in the final choice of applicant, because the list of "Competencies" already gives the animals the least emphasis.

Just glance at some of the job duties listed under "Management" in the HRM job description:

• ensure veterinarian care of animals in the care of the HRM
• ensure that services are delivered in the most efficient and effective manner
• participates (sic) in setting and recommending benchmarks and performance measures
• responsible for the standardization of case file management practices
• document and address performance deficiencies
Added to this under "Communications" is the duty to: "serve the corporation as the subject matter expert in animal related matters."
Why do I worry? Simple: the job qualifications lack any requirement for actual knowledge of animal behavior, experience in the care and training of animals, or, heaven forbid, certification in animal control, let alone any other animal-related certification.
Without one or more of these, how can anybody serve HRM as an expert in animal-related anything?? How can they set standards, review the work of others, or monitor vet care?
Having a degree in business administration and experience in program management is fine - provided you're in charge of licensing limousines, parking fines, or the like. But it's not enough, if you've got power of life and death over people and animals. This job is full of pitfalls. Failing to prevent a dangerous animal from attacking people is as grave a concern as seizing and killing the wrong animal.
Without basic knowledge and understanding of animals (and by animals, I mean primarily dogs), the poor person walking into this position will surely find he/she truly "continually addresses concerns raised by Regional Councillors and disgruntled citizens" - emphasis on continually - because there are bound to be a whole lot of concerns and loads of disgruntlement.
Given that roughly half of Halifax owns pets, certification and training in animal control is an excellent idea. It so happens that the National Animal Control Association in Kansas City offers workshops and all kinds of resources and assistance. The NACA tells us:
"An effective program is no accident. No program was ever successful without well trained personnel. Personnel cannot be held accountable for making mistakes if they have not been instructed on what they are to do and trained how to do it properly.

The National Animal Control Association (NACA) was formed in 1978 for the express purpose of assisting its members in performing their duties in a professional manner. One method of accomplishing this goal is to make personnel training programs available. This training must be designed to prepare animal control personnel for the challenges of solving the animal/people problems in today's world."
Granted, the NACA is an American organization, geared to the American legal system. And I may not even agree with all of their policies. But I know NACA training would not be wasted on HRM's staff. The NACA Policy Statement states:
All Animal Control personnel should receive minimum training and seek certification in compliance with state law. Training should include ongoing in-service training in animal control.

Training provides Animal Control personnel with the minimum skills necessary to adequately prepare them for the duties they are about to perform.

A certified training program, preferably the NACA 100 Level 1 and Level II Training Academy which would include all aspects of animal handling, disease detection, report writing, constitutional law, and professionalism.
Proper training should be a concern for any municipal government, since, as the NACA wisely points out, "Animal Control Officers make four times the public contact of other law enforcement officers . . . 4 times the exposure = 4 times the liability."
The new Regional Coordinator will manage a budget of $700,000. Implementing a program of certification for animal control officers is a great way to use some of that money. And/or, for a few thousand dollars - less than I've already spent on legal costs!! - the NACA will even come and review the entire HRM animal control program, and make recommendations for improvement.
Seems like a great idea to me. But as Dennis Miller says, that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.