Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ten months, birthdays, outlook

Ten months to the day. Not much to be said about that; how many adjectives are there for hell?

Friday, a dreaded birthday, sad, but lifted up by a wonderful group e-card full of  heartwarming greetings and pictures from over a hundred well-wishers, some I've met in person, some I've spent many hours with on the phone since last summer...
No plans, just took a walk on the beach, for the first time in months. Trying to find a moment of balance. 

Near impossible, without Brindi, of course; knowing she sees the same square footage every day, the same small area where dozens of dogs poop and pee. No sand and surf and wind. Boggles the mind. 

Yesterday a birthday rally for dogs and human, at the Halifax North Common, with miraculously beautiful weather, with a wonderful group of Humane Halifax members, many people joining in to sign petitions, read the flyers, enjoy a piece of birthday cake, some sharing the special dog cake with th
eir pooches  - and lots of talk about Brindi.

Everybody we talked to had heard about her, but many were stunned to lea
rn that she was not released in January. I hear this often, and believe me, correcting people is no fun. The same reaction of shock, disbelief, and irritation, not infrequently, outright ang
er. One woman, very distinguised-looking and well-dressed, burst out - and I quote - "I swear, this place is just like a communist country!! It's getting worse all the time!!"

Today, cold, rainy, and gray, to match my mood. Very tired. Visit from someone who couldn't make the rally, welcome company, a walk around the field and the beach, but not much more productivity from me today. 

Progress report otherwise? Good news: permission from the authorities to see Brindi 30 minutes a week, noontime Wednesdays. Two visits so far since January. Unlike back then, this time we were allowed to be inside the building, since it was cold and rainy that day-  that was the day after her surgery, which was a very scary time, waiting to find out if she had cancer or not. I didn't write about that because it was simply too much to think about, let alone put into words. 

The next visit, the first of the noon series, I hope, the weather was sunny and warm, so we were allowed to go outside in the graveled pen, the one she sees every single day. She has not been anywhere else outdoors, to my knowledge, since July 2008. Probably sniffed every square inch hundreds of times. She lay down on the gravel for me to rub her belly, and I worried about her stitches popping. 

I can't helping thinking that Brindi has easily served ten times more time behind bars than even the worst animal abuser. My time has been much like prison; I certainly have not been living a real life. Knowing your dog is literally on death row makes that kind of impossible.  

Well outnumbered by positive supporters by the thousands, I have to marvel at the few detractors who want blame me for all of this. To them, I'm practically an animal abuser - yet here I am, trying everything possible to save my own dog, which to my utter disbelief has turned out to be a colossal effort. The alternative? A syringe of poison injected into Brindi's body on August 7, 2008, nobody knowing or caring. If she is being abused now, it certainly is not by my hand. Other people are involved in that decision, not me, just as other people are seeking her death right now. I am staking my entire life on preventing them and will keep on doing so as long as I breathe.

Incredibly, there are even one or two who insist I deliberately misled the public by posting a video of me celebrating the Supreme Court victory on January 16.  Sure, I would lie about the most important thing in my life, for what?? 

Call me naive, but when my own lawyer called and said "We won!!" and that Brindi would be home within a week, how was I to anticipate the devastating disappointment that followed? 

How was I to expect that instead of getting my dog back, I would be charged for the first time ever for violations of a by-law 45 minutes before the expiration of the six-month statute of limitations? 

All I know is, I love my dog more than anybody on the planet. There is nobody who will take better care of her or work harder to keep her safe and sound, with all the necessary aids and precautions. 

When people tell me how much they love Brindi, I think that's really great, because it reassures me that even behind bars, she is being her wonderful, beautiful, smart, attentive, fun, eager to learn, and above all, loving self. Even behind bars, all of that comes through; she is weary, she is lonely, she needs more exercise, her teeth and coat need attention, and Lord knows she needs to come home -but she has not gone crazy, she has not become vicious. Not this dog, people! 

And it gives me a bit of hope. Who in their right mind could kill a dog like Brindi? 

My hope is that maybe, just maybe, people who say they love Brindi will put themselves in my shoes for just a moment. A fraction of a moment. Any amount of time, no matter how brief, would be enough for them to know one thing for certain: nobody loves Brindi as much as I do. And then they would understand exactly why I say that I am not going to stop until she is back home, safe and sound. 
That is all I really want for my birthday: nothing more or less than my own dog, the one who celebrated (quietly) with me, one year ago on May 22. How much longer?

Here's some of the pics - thanks to Valerie S.! And everybody else, two-legged and four-legged, who attended!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Am I a mother?

A few kind and thoughtful people have sent me Mother's Day messages. It's common among animal lovers to think of themselves and others as parents to their pets. I don't have children; actually I never felt the need to identify myself as a mother. I do call Brindi my baby girl, but most of the time, I think of my animals as companions and adults in their own right. Brindi was already four when I adopted her and after a period of clingy-ness she soon gained confidence to become who she is - though she remains somewhat clingy, being a rescue, and being a loving dog!

The idea of being a mother to your pets does make sense in some ways; we care for our animals, nurture them, love them, teach them how to behave, take them with us on our journey through life. They never leave home of course, unless they are taken by illness or get lost or as in Brindi's case, dare I mention, just taken. 

I've noticed a sort of discursive debate among animal advocates out there about the proper designation for people who have pets: guardians vs. owners. I believe it has to do with the question of whether animals should have rights or remain property under the law. There seems to be a certain militancy among pro-guardian advocates, while a professor who teaches animal law at Dalhousie believes it is better to hang on to the concept of animals as property. I imagine that some combination must be derived to create the proper balance for animals to be fully protected from harm.
And today I wonder, how does this debate mesh with the notion of being a mother to a pet? Neither "guardian" nor "owner" brings with it the familial relationship or any hint of an emotional bond between human and animal. Why is that? My struggle to get Brindi back home has everything to do with this bond. It is not reflected in the law. My rights as a property owner seem to be so carefully guarded in all levels of law (with some exceptions, like expropriation). Courts tend to balance property rights against the public interest pretty fairly, on the whole, except when it comes to dogs. Then, all bets are off; a presumption of guilt is firmly embedded in the laws and practices. Anybody wondering what I am talking about should read not only By-Law A300, but also the Municipal Government Act, section 177. Anti-breed legislation opponents know this presumption of guilt (in pit bull bans, one-bite laws, and our native laws) does not correspond in any way to the statistics on the prime threats to human life. Nowhere in the law, or in the system built upon it, do I find consideration for all the good that dogs do for people - which is considerable. 

Brindi is a mom, by the way (and so is my cat, Amelia). When Brindi was rescued she had a full litter of puppies with her, in a cardboard box, and was shielding them from the rain with her body. Because she was tied to a stoop she could not get them to a dry place. She must have been so frustrated, then so glad to be helped! She detests water to this day, dislikes baths, won't swim in the ocean. In the photo on the top of the blog, it is no coincidence that she is running alongside a water-loving black lab at a careful distance from the waves.

Happily, Brindi's five pups were all adopted. Most went to the Halifax metropolitan area
Here's a few pictures:
pup 4Pups 1 and 2 by you.Brindi's 5th pup by you.Pup 3 by you.

So, as I never gave birth myself, this seems more appropriate:

***********Happy Mother's Day, dearest Brindi!***********

Thirsty momma by you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Health Reprieve!

I got some welcome news yesterday from my vet - the lab reports were back early from PEI, and they showed no evidence of cancer in the biopsied tissue from Brindi's cysts. 
A big relief! 
Now we just have to make sure that her stitches don't get infected and she should be better.
The vet said the cysts were around hair follicles - I imagine they were blocked up or something... 
It's really the best news in ages!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A report on my visit with Brindi

Note: On Tuesday night (May 5, the day of Brindi's surgery) I got an email reply to my faxed request for a visit to the SPCA vice president, Kat Horne, saying I could come the next day, and I responded in time to go at 9:30 am. I was extremely happy to be allowed to see Brindi again. This is only the second visit in over nine months. At the same time a lawyer out of province advised me to sign to the SPCA's 12 conditions regulating the visit only under protest, specifically denying any implied accusations (that I pose a threat to staff). She also advised not to speak to anybody (no photography or other recording was allowed and only a lawyer may accompany me. A lawyer's presence in this instance was simply not feasible - or advisable. I feel it went well despite all that, gladly.

9:30 am to 10: 00 am, May 6, 2009, Metro Shelter, Dartmouth

On the way to the shelter, I managed to get batteries and bones and still arrive exactly on time. Lori Scolero, the animal services supervisor, and Kat Horner, the SPCA VP who replied to my email last night, were in the lobby. I said nothing but just handed them the signed protocol – to which I added Kat’s email with the permission to be inside, and the statement the lawyer wrote for me.

Next to the lobby is a bigger, newly renovated room they call the adoption center, with two couches at one end and stools and a counter at the other. They told me to go into this room and Kathy, a supervisor at the shelter (might be acting director now) brought Brindi in and unleashed her. She came to me right away, full of kisses. Scolero and Kat stayed in the lobby where they could view me through two large windows. Most of the time they didn’t look, so I had some degree of privacy, which was great.

From the surgery yesterday, Brindi’s back has three shaved patches, the biggest about 5 square inches, each centered on the incisions where they removed the cysts. One of the cuts was about two inches long. All three looked clean and uninfected, though the stitches looked a bit tight and I saw she was licking them now and then.

I played with her, hugged her, and gave her a lot of massages and practiced a few of her commands. She was very into the treats, more than before but not as bad as in January. She was still impatient though, but I was glad to see that she remembered the “bang!” command. When she spotted the treats though, she started performing all her moves, sitting, paw, and down, then rolling over, in anticipation. (I don’t give her a treat unless I give a command first, though.) She looked okay, still a bit heavy, very affectionate, lots of kisses. We hugged and talked and sat on the floor, even lay down together for a spell. I so just wanted to take her through the doors to my car. But I looked at Kat Horne and figured she’s much bigger than me and Lori would send the cops after me in a flash; I’d never make the three hour drive to PEI.

As a parting gift to distract Brindi while we separated – the toughest part – I gave her one of the meaty frozen soup bones I brought, not to big to carry in her mouth. It worked: she was a bit uncertain at first if it was really for her (she’s very polite about treats) but with encouragement she picked it up and went off with Kathy. Last time parting from her was heart-wrenching and so upsetting, when Sean Kelly (now the president) took her away. I had tried to sneak off but he walked her right into me to get past, and she strained against him with all her might to stay with me, her face showing her determination and fear.

I did speak briefly to Kathy and to Kat as I left, but only to turn over the treats, the bones, and ask Kathy to put my fuzzy jacket in Brindi’s cell. And I also said thank you to each of them, nothing more. They seemed cheerful and at ease.     

Before leaving my house I called my friend (through Brindi) Bob Riley. He was there when I arrived. I figured he would just  stay parked outside but he walked around and managed to look through the outside window at us for a while, undisturbed by Scolero, and then even went into the lobby where he could see us through a glass door. He stood a few feet from Scolero (animal services) with Kat behind the lobby counter. Neither told him to leave. He didn’t say much to them, just stood quietly and watched until I left Brindi. So I do have a witness of sorts and they did not object.

When I was leaving, Bob remarked for the others to hear, “Doesn’t look like a dangerous dog to me!”

I have not asked for another visit – yet – but I plan to soon, with the hope that they will agree, as this one went smoothly as far as I can tell.


I finally had the chance to put the St. Francis medal on her collar - the one that Linda Koekman had specially engraved for her. It was meant to be blessed and put on her by a minister or a priest, who would accompany me to ask to see her at the shelter. Linda called 16 men of the cloth; I asked the local priest and a retired police chaplain. All declined (though to his credit my local priest did offer to bless the medal, to his credit).

Since last fall I have been wearing Brindi's St. Francis medal on a chain around my neck together with my mustard seed ensconced in a bit of glass (and engraved with the St. Matthew quote). It's now with her and I pray that it will protect her from illness or any harm, always! 

Here's what it looks like. Linda added the "We love you" so that Brindi knows...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The present moment

I am having the life choked out of me. Every muscle and fiber is twisting in pain. I am gripping my  body in agony and uttering cries that I don't even recognize as coming from me, cries of unspeakable grief and terror.

Welcome to my world.

Tomorrow my sweet dog will be taken from her cage, put in the same truck that took her from me so long ago, and driven to Porters Lake to the vet clinic, a place she will recognize. She will not know what to expect. She will be sedated and given an injection in her back for a local anesthetic. And they will cut out the cyst or tumor or whatever it is and stitch up the hole. They will put her back in the truck and take her back to her cage. Nobody will stay with her the rest of the day. 

Because my lawyer did not respond promptly to the city's only offer of a visit since January I did not get to visit her before the vet appointment. And the city lawyer did not put in writing that I could be there during the procedure as he had promised over a week ago. If I want to see her in a few days or the day after I have to plead for another chance and submit to the SPCA's 12 conditions for a visit. Under protest as advised by legal counsel. I want to see my dog but not just once. I want my dog back home with me. 

I am wrenched with pain and it is endless and brutal. I am crying out in pain like a wild animal. I cannot eat or drink. I am just like the animals who have no rights, no legal rights, my own property is being illegally held and that is confirmed by lawyer after lawyer and yet none will go and get her out. 
And the charges filed one hour before deadline are leading to a kangaroo court where I will still not have my day in court because dogs don't really ever get the same treatment as people: there is a strong presumption of guilt and you cannot expect the same rules of evidence to be applied, and the court has full license to kill or send away or anything they like. It is no comfort at all. 

And it will take another two weeks before I can know if the cyst they remove from my dog's spine is malignant or benign. Something else to look forward to. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nine Months is Nine Months Too Many!!! FREE BRINDI NOW

A heartfelt message made by Linda Koekman last fall and updated in January a few days before the Supreme Court victory was announced. Little did anybody imagine that the city would choose to lay charges then (the first ever) and hang on to my poor dog. Little did I imagine my lawyer would fail to find a way to stop them. In hindsight and with a lot of hard work I believe I now know several things he could have done before and after that day; the most powerful would have been to insure that release was included in the "form of order" agreed on by the winning and losing party following the court decision. And if the release of the decision had been delayed by just one day, it would have also rendered it impossible for the city to lay any charges, and they would have HAD to send her home!! Who knows, there might have been a way to head off the charges with some kind of action - I begged him to do something. 
These are things that could have happened right then, between Jan. 16 and Jan. 19; there are several other things that could have been done since. 

And to this day. Because it does not appear the city is legally entitled to hold a dog without a specific "purpose": every warrant has to have a purpose. On the day of the seizure (July 24) the justice of the piece who signed the warrant was informed about only one purpose for it to remove a "dangerous dog" from a home (section 176 Municipal Government Act). The law does not go any further than that as far as what is to be done with the dog; it's presumed the rest will be decided in court, because NORMALLY charges are filed, and the owner is either fined or summoned to court, etc.
After a seizure (of anything) that is carried out on a warrant a report must be filed the next day with the same justice of the peace. The report must clearly state where things go from here: what "purpose" or disposition is there in detaining whatever was seized and the legal basis for doing so. In our case this report stated that the purpose was to hold her for two weeks and then euthanize her, period. The report cited as its legal basis the now infamous Section 8.2.d of By-Law A300. This is the section of the law that the supreme court invalidated on Jan. 16. 

As an aside:
1. The euthanization order was issued the very same day as the warrant. So then why was the justice of the peace who issued the warrant not told about this purpose? Perhaps because it was out of sequence? That is, the animal services department makes clear that every seizure is followed by a "thorough investigation" before a decision is made. They were simultaneous in this case. And only 4 days passed between a reported incident and the order/seizure, without any statement taken from the owner (me). Nobody even informed me of the report until the day they took my dog.
2. The information filed with the warrant request is inaccurate: it includes mention that Brindi bit people walking by the house. No such thing ever occurred and no dates or names are mentioned; also other key information is lacking and the grounds for seizure are rather vague.)
To return: the order to euthanize was invalidated by the Supreme Court on Jan. 16 when it quashed section 8.2.d of A300, which illegally made an AC officer cop, prosecutor, and judge. This means:
  • at no time was the order to euthanize valid, and
  • since euthanasia was the sole stated "purpose" in the report filed to the justice of the peace after the seizure, it follows that the entire period of impoundment was illegal,
  • it also follows that the impoundment remains illegal to this day, as no new warrant was issued nor was the existing one extended. 
The notion that detaining my dog is covered by section 176 of the Municipal Gov. Act (a provincial law) is dubious for two reasons: 
  • First, the stated purpose for holding her was A300; it is not automatically umbrella'd by the reason given the day before.
  • Second, as of this year the city has a classification for a dangerous dog and a license to go with it. This must mean that as far as Halifax is concerned, a person is entitled to keep a dangerous dog if it is properly licensed and maintained. Even íf the charges are related to my dog being dangerous (and they do not appear to be), the law does not automatically grant the power to impound her; nor charges alone ever authorize seizure under A300. 
  • If the city argues she can't be released pending the trial because she is dangerous, then why has she not been classified as dangerous? We asked about this and the city solicitor stated in writing that she has not been entered into the municipal registry - at the time (late January) there was no registration for a dangerous dog. Now there is. But I just renewed her registration and it was handled as a normal license for a spayed female dog. It would be a bit obvious if on reading this information, the city turned around and changed that license - and if it did, it would be eliminating the reason it says it is holding her!!
  • Further: the entire issue of declaring a dog dangerous probably ought to be decided by a judge, not an animal control officer; this is one of two or three other parts of A300 that I asked my lawyer to quash. I do not know why he omitted this, nor can I answer why he did not include the warrant in the original case, as I hired him to get my dog home to me  without penalty or constraints (including the gratuitous muzzle order, if at all possible, grrrrr) other than what I had already offered: to pay fines (meaning charges if laid) and to build a fence.
  • No property can be held longer than 3 months unless an ongoing court proceeding requires it, i.e. as evidence. A dog is not evidence for the kind of by-law violations involved here.
The problem is: my ex-lawyer did not put this argument before any judge with a request to get her out attached to it! He attempted to quash the warrant before a provincial judge on Jan. 29 but told me in advance not to expect anything. He didn't try that hard either; just a short statement, no details of the case. He said the judge was not sure she had jurisdiction, and she said so in court, and added that in any case she was not prepared to hear it that day. At the arraignment (for the charges) on Feb. 3 another provincial judge raised the question about the warrant at the start, unbidden; he really seemed ready to rule on it. My lawyer didn't respond other than to hem and haw and move some law books around on his table. The prosecution did not respond much either, other than to mumble a bit. After a minute the judge moved on to the charges and demanded a plea. And so on. 

The trial was then set to begin Feb. 24. My lawyer had quit by then, leaving no time for me to find a new one or for a new one to prepare, even if I found one. So with a lot of trepidation I asked for an adjournment and also asked the judge about the legal basis for holding Brindi. I did not get very far with my question or my explanation, however. This time the judge did not address the warrant, nor did he even ask the prosecutor to present his grounds for holding her. Instead the judge said it was not his jurisdiction to decide on the question! He said if the prosecutor dropped charges she could be released; otherwise the case would have to proceed and depending on the verdict and what followed after that he would rule on her release (yes or no). 

The prosecution stated very plainly in court on Feb. 3 and Feb. 24 that its purpose in prosecuting the charges is to seek a euthanization order from the judge rules guilty or not guilty. There are three charges and all are alleged to have happened on the same day, July 20. They are: owning a dog that runs at large; owning a dog that attacks an animal unprovoked, and failing to obey a muzzle order. The fact they were laid one hour before the legal limit ran out raises a lot of questions as well -but they can't be addressed in court on June 5, unless I contest the charges. While it could be very successful I don't know how long that approach would take. Having said that, it could easily take much longer to continue pleading not guilty and go through witness after witness. I would have a better choice if Brindi were at home in the meantime. Even better, if the city would agree to work out a deal to resolve everything way before that. 

This is the dry and legal side of things. I've been through it over and over and discussed it with legal minds for months, and this is pretty much the result. I don't see any harm in sharing it. It's no big risk if it gets misunderstood or debated. Maybe somebody out there will find something I overlooked, who knows? All I know is, my new lawyer put it to the prosecution as a fair question (not as part of negotiations, since we really never got the chance): please cite a specific legal basis (or better yet give us a piece of paper) for holding my dog in the pound - independent of the charges. The answer was a day late, vague, and even inaccurate; it did not cite the charges as a reason, and it did not mention Section 176, and it did not cite any other section of a law. If it had been a concrete, solid answer, I would not bother to bring it up, there would be no point. 

The dry and legal side of this ordeal thus carries a huge amount of terrible frustration and pain; it doesn't seem to make any sense and yet there doesn't seem a clear avenue to cut through the red tape. As somebody said to me recently, it's right out of Kafka. The Castle, etc. 

Then there is the pain of the every day part, the real-life part, the knowing what is happening every day to my dog, and now to know that she may have developed cancer - only tiny glimpse can be had. Saying that I cannot sleep until 6 am and am never rested when I have to drag out of bed 2 to 3 hours later doesn't even begin to tell about it. There is also my awareness that the telling renders all of this reality into somebody else's pasttime; even a form of entertainment for some people and I do not need to add to that. The facts are impossible to get out into the media - what's left of the media these days. The point of writing anything is to get my dog back. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

A gap too far

I am not sure what or how to blog anymore. 
I stopped blogging in late January. Things were getting too difficult and I would not have believed it then, but they actually became even more difficult since then, in ways that nobody could have predicted, at least not me.

As a way to bridge the gap until I blog some more...  I'll post this letter, which a friend has written to the local newspaper, the Chronicle-Herald in Halifax, sent yesterday; no idea if they will publish it. 

HRM and Brindi: Prosecution or persecution?

Francesca Rogier’s beloved pet Brindi has been in the pound for nine months. The Supreme Court quashed her euthanization order in January, effectively rendering impoundment illegal. HRM then kept hold of her on a technicality, and charged Rogier for the first time ever while it seeks a new court order to kill her dog. But without an order in hand, how can it even hold Brindi? Dogs are property. Can HRM impound your car for months and then ticket you, hoping to prove you broke a parking law? Hardly.
Now HRM is outsourcing the case to a fancy law firm. It says its lawyers are too busy. More likely they’re afraid they’ll look bad if they prosecute somebody with one lawsuit filed last August, another on the way, and a supreme court victory. Outsourcing only makes it look worse, in my view.

The trial starts in June. Ms. Rogier is more desperate tha
n ever to get her dog out. She knows private lawyers have no incentive to shorten a case that is already guaranteed to take months longer. All along she’s been willing to negotiate with HRM. In her favor: an assessment opposing euthanization, local and international petitions, affidavits from dog professionals, and a highly-qualified trainer who supports her plan to take Brindi home and retrain her. There she’ll be safely fenced in and well-cared for. Rogier has yet to hear back.
Last week she learned Brindi has a potentially serious medical condition: the SPCA vet found a cyst that might be cancerous, and recommends a biopsy. It’s near the spine, and full anesthesia is necessary, so Rogier wants her own vet to do it. HRM will allow this only if she foots the bill. Rather than give her vet a complete health record of nine months, it will only release recent blood test results. And if Rogier (allowed only one visit so far) wants to see her dog now she must submit to no less than 13 rules that, among other things, limit the visit to 30 minutes, force her to stay outdoors regardless of weather, and forbid her to discuss the visit with anyone, especially media.

Is this a democracy?

Clearly HRM prefers being a bully
to listening to reason. Even animal control officers elsewhere question its motives. Hiring a high-priced firm to prosecute by-law violations is laughable; to insist on euthanasia for a rescue dog that never bit a human - and may have cancer after nine months in the pound - is in poor taste indeed. If HRM succeeds in putting this woman’s dog down or force her to give it away (as rumor has it), it can expect bad publicity for a long time: win or lose, it will lose.
Enough idiocy! HRM must work out a deal so Brindi can go home now. Use our taxes for better things, like cleaning the poop out of the harbour (again) and ridding the gunmen from our neighbourhoods!!
Jenn Richardson, Dartmouth

Sunday, January 25, 2009


With a good opening response in sales, Caz Weatherill, an energetic and compassionate trainer in Australia, has launched the "FREE BRINDI GALLERY, DEDICATED TO FRANCESCA ROGIER AND BRINDI !!" on a site called



From: brad hayman
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2009 00:27:03 -0500
Subject: RE: Reply to your "HELP SAVE BRINDI! THEY TOOK MY DOG AND PLAN TO KILL HER!" Ad on Kijiji

I sent him (the mayor) an email, he better read it! cause you should be able to have Brindi home with you safe and sound, what a beautiful dog! I seen your story on the CTV news the other day and my grandparents and I are behind you 110%! How awful it is for them to do this to you, is it legal for a government-run agency to break the law? NO! its not like Brindi attacked a little boy and severly injured him, I mean theres people here in Westville with pitbulls that hurt like two children and the dog is not aloud to leave the yard, come on! seriously, this is rediculous! Bring Brindi Home!! is what i would be telling them! this makes me so angry that they can do this. I dont know what else to say, but i will tell you this; Don't stop until you get Brindi home! which i know you wouldn't! thank you!
Brad Hayman

Westville NS

Friday, January 23, 2009

In return for the favor

It's been a week since the ruling. While I am proud of it as a good solid victory for the community,in many ways I can't help feeling as though everybody else won, not me, not Brindi. At least for now. 

A very kind person told me tonight on the phone - and we never finished our chat - that they were at the SPCA shelter on Christmas day when the blackout happened. After helping out at the shelter for a while, this person later decided to hold Brindi close and look into her eyes to comfort her. Her beautiful eyes, like almond jewels, expressing such a range of thought and emotion. There's so much she needs to be comforted for. I am sure it was a big comfort, at such a frightening time, after so many months away from home. I was so grateful to hear this, and at the same time, it brought everything back into painful focus, how sensitive Brindi is to all these things and the toll it is taking on her. And the toll it takes on me to know this, and be helpless to do anything about it.

I can't stop sobbing about this now, right now, I cannot stop crying, it is so awful. It was so incredibly kind for them to do that and let me know. But realizing yet again what is like for Brindi, all alone the rest of the time... and here's me, sleeping the whole day on Christmas, so I didn't have to be aware, to feel anything, then finding out about the blackout the next day. 

Words cannot do it justice, how sad this makes me feel. 
Every night is like that for her. She needs love, she needs to be held and comforted. She used to have such nightmares. I can't imagine what they're like now.

I will never be the same, nor will she.
If they kill her... I failed. I already failed; I can't get her out, even though I won. I waited over five months to go to court; I did all I could, I worked so hard to help my lawyer, and I risked everything. Nothing should be preventing her from coming home now. Nothing but unfounded fear and speculation, and whatever else is going on behind closed doors that neither I nor my lawyer can find a way to stop, now, this minute. 

 Tonight, and every night after this one, all dogs living in HRM homes are safe from being seized and killed without warning. Their owners will be able to take their case before a judge, within a month or two at most, without the expense of a lawyer, without need of separation from their loved one.  

But my loved one is not safe, she's not well, and she's not with me, where she belongs, where she wants to be, where I want her so much, to look into her eyes and hold her. 

I don't expect thanks for changing the law. All I ask in return is for Brindi to come back home, so I can stop sobbing at 3 am, and she can feel secure and loved once again. Then I can celebrate a victory in full.
And Linda and Richard can celebrate the Christmas they postponed until Brindi comes home. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Expert behavioural assessment of Brindi

To read what Silvia Jay reports on her December 8 visit to examine Brindi, please see her assessment.:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Media note

In the news section of today's Chronicle-Herald, Barack Obama got a two-page, full spread photo as the first non-white president of the United States. I got a thumbnail photo over, for the first time, more than five inches of copy written by a seasoned reporter. A big day for both of us! 

History will only record one, of course. But of course, that’s as it should be: he earned it.

Time will tell if Brindi and I get to enjoy the victory we earned. 

As for Deborah Story  - I hope she reads the decision and discovers that actually, it does deal with whether Brindi is a danger. Anything related to the euthanization order is quashed right along with it, and the declaration that she is dangerous is included.

Every single councilor and the mayor received a copy of Silvia Jay's report, and the by-law prosecutions chart. The mayor may be able to ignore hundreds of calls and emails, but I fail to understand how he could ignore these documents.  

The city needs more evidence, it seems to me, if it wishes to prove Brindi is dangerous. It's not plausible to use the same three incidents three times over: for the euthanization order, for the current resistance to release her, and for the charges they just laid on Monday, an hour before deadline.

Her time at the SPCA ought to make that even more difficult. She's not a "favorite" for nothing.

More questions, fewer answers

On January 16, Justice Duncan Beveridge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia quashed section 8 (2)d of By-Law A300 regarding the power of an animal control officer to seize and euthanize a dog on his or her sole discretion, without need of a judge's specific authorization for the euthanization.

The city no longer has any legal authority to hold my dog, as they didn't have any authority to take her in the first place. The judge also ruled that any other actions an HRM employee named Tim Hamm undertook in conjunction with 8 (2) d on that day are also quashed. These include his declaration that Brindi is a dangerous dog. Therefore, Brindi is no longer a dangerous dog. Questions remain about the manner in which the same employee decided to issue Brindi a muzzle order, and hence the validity of such an order. These will be addressed in a separate legal action shortly. 

1. What is stopping me from picking up my dog, Brindi?


While the city is not opposing the Supreme Court ruling itself (not directly), it refuses to allow this. It raises two objections in a recent letter. One appears to be that I was banned from the facility where they hold her. A second appears to be that they continue to believe she is dangerous, despite all the evidence I provided and despite Silvia Jay's report. They seem to cite a clause in the Municipal Governance Act, against owning a dangerous dog. They do not offer evidence to support the claim that she is dangerous. As I noted before, the ruling threw out the previous designation.

Regardless of the opinion of the city or any of its employees or officials, Brindi is not a dangerous dog worthy of impoundment or killing. She is my property and the city has her. I should be able to go get her. 

Keep in mind something else: I did not go to court to argue about all the incidents, about Brindi's behavior during them, or whether I am or am not a responsible dog owner. 

That was not because I didn't have the evidence to show in detail that her offenses were minor and that she can be trained and will be enclosed in a fence once she comes home. I have plenty of evidence and credibility on that score. However, it might have taken a year or more to get a court date scheduled, and then there would have been further delays. As HRM refused my July request to have Brindi placed in a boarding facility, and  refused my August request to place her in a foster home, this method became out of the question. 

The reason I pursued getting the by-law quashed (I love when I see "squashed" on comments) is because it was FASTER. I thought it would happen in November, in fact. But as I noted earlier, the city found ways to keep delaying me from getting to court sooner. 

The fact that Brindi has been kept in a "temporary" animal care facility for a long period of time as a result of HRM's decisions is cause for my own personal frustration; it ought to be a great concern to the dog community in HRM, because nothing prevents that from happening again. 

Brindi is a seasoned dog when it comes to long-term shelter stays, since she waited two years before I adopted her. In what kind of condition would another dog be after spending six months at the Metro Shelter? What is to prevent that from happening again? 

Brindi knows how to survive, in the material sense, but she suffers all the same, maybe much more deeply (and goodness knows her trust was broken). This, if nothing else, may explain to some people just why I have been knocking myself out to get her released, and why I want her back.

It also this raises another question. In what kind of condition would another dog be, after six months at this shelter? I hate to think.  

2. Why can't I visit Brindi every day until the matter is settled?

I don't know. In December, I requested to see her, five months after she was brought to the SPCA shelter/pound. Within a matter of minutes the SPCA banned me from setting foot on their property. See below.

3. Is the SPCA entitled, as an HRM contractor, to ban the owner of an animal from premises the city pays for to serve as the city pound? Wouldn't HRM have to authorize the ban? 

Essentially, I am being prohibited from accessing a city service, namely, the reception area of the pound. I suppose the contract would have to be analyzed to answer this question. But it surprises me it's possible, since the SPCA was hesitant to make any move without HRM permission prior to this. 

There are many questions that spin out from that, regarding the relationship between the two. Apart from those, I note that the person responsible for the ban, Diana Forrestall, is no longer employed by the SPCA. 

4. Why haven't I been allowed to visit Brindi before?

As insight to this and previous questions, here is something from the Halifax Regional Municipality Animal Control Services Contract Amendment, signed into effect July 2007 (no specific day given), signed by Mayor Peter Kelly and Judith Gass of the SPCA, amending and superceding in parts the full contract from September 2003.

Animal Control Service Contract #02-327
 . . . 

3.1.7   The shelter shall be open for animal redemption from 8:00 am 8:00 pm Monday to Friday, and 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Saturday, Sunday and holidays (as defined in the Interpretation Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c. 235), during which times the owners of impounded animals, and the general public can view and redeem impounded animals.

I am an owner of an impounded animal. 

Regardless of the opinion of the city or any of its employees or elected officials, Brindi was never legally declared dangerous. If there is any doubt as to whether she is dangerous enough to be put down, a very respected dog behavior expert named Silvia Jay has said that she is not a candidate for "euthanization". Given this, I see no need for any conditions to be placed on her release. She should come home now.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Questions, and some answers

Two days ago, shortly after 5 pm at my home, I received a summons to the provincial court on three charges of violating A300. The charges are: owning a dog that runs at large; owning a dog that attacked another dog; failing to obey a muzzle order. The summons does not cite the date when these offenses allegedly occurred; it doesn not have to, evidently, but I surmise the date will turn out to be July 20.

1. What is the reason for serving me a summons just one day short of the end of the six-month statute of limitations on the alleged offense - i.e., why charge me now?

I don't know, but a provincial court judge is likely to ask the same of Officer Tim Hamm, who evidently felt these charges were serious enough to order Brindi to be put to death. If some sort of urgency is the reason, the judge might then ask, what was stopping him from doing it later?

2. Why don't I just appear on Feb. 3, pay a fine, and get my dog back?

Because it is unlikely that would happen. I am pretty sure it wouldn't have happened that way if they had charged me when they seized her. Back then, they said she was dangerous, period, and must be put down. (This raises the issue for future by-law revisers: is it illegal to own a dangerous dog, if it has not killed anybody and is deemed trainable, etc.?) The only difference being that back then, I could have gone to a judge right away. I think. It's confusing!

Another concern is, I were to appear in provincial court, it is possible (I'm not saying probable) that Brindi might end up being declared dangerous all over again and be put down. I can't fathom this exactly, but I am told it is possible. There's yet another scenario, that seems to be hopping around on the internet, that Brindi should be taken away from me, but still live, in somebody else's family. How could they do that? I received the answer a few days ago, when someone suggested that I sign over Brindi to an Animal Control Officer named Leah Parsons who runs a German Shepherd Rescue. I have no idea if Leah is aware of that. But I guess that's the only possible way a judge would turn over a dog he believes is dangerous. I'm sure people can imagine how I feel about such a possibility. Whether running a rescue and working at Animal Services poses a conflict of interest is yet another, very valid, question. 

3. Didn't the city already use the July 20 events as the grounds for seizure and destruction? (You cannot be tried for murder twice, can you?)

I thought so, but apparently not! Likewise, I'm told anything I wrote on a report could be used in the summons charges, even if it predates July 20. 

If only the authorities were this persistent when it came to prosecuting rapists and drug kingpins. I really don't know how this is possible, but my lawyer says it is. Again, I guess it would depend on the provincial court judge.

4. All of these charges are based on A300. A300 has been delivered a potentially fatal blow, now that section 8 (2) d is quashed; can it still hold?

Well, it remains to be seen if a provincial judge back away from enforcing A300 now. It seems to me it needs overhauling; it is missing something that would explain what happens when an owner is not charged but the dog is seized - even if just to require that an owner be charged before the step of seizure is taken, etc. The law requires a great deal of study before the right answer turns up.

5. What is happening now?

My lawyer is in the process of addressing the summons. We have several options. Keep in mind, the summons is just one of several issues to address. The most important one is that the city refuses to return Brindi. Until it does, I need to be able to visit her, and this is a further isuse.

Needless to say, all of this costs money. My lawyer has to eat. So do I and my animals. That aspect will be taken into consideration by a court when the time comes. I might add that though the Supreme Court awarded me costs, the "usual" amount awarded is $2,000. Hardly a drop in the bucket towards the current total of over $30,000.


I may be out on a limb here, but isn't the effort to get my dog back beginning to sound like Amnesty International trying to get a political prisoner released? If Brindi wasn’t a political prisoner at the start, it sure looks like she is now. What a little troublemaker she is! I love that little one so much. It was so good to see her and that gorgeous tail wag. I just can't wait. It can't be long now, my girl!! 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

See this chart to compare Brindi's case to others

To see a sampling of cases between June 2007 and July 2008, see this chart of HRM By-Law Prosecutions
Thanks to Joan for lending me her server to do this.
If anybody would like to drop off soup bones with a little fresh meat on them and some nice suet in them for Brindi at the Metro Shelter, PLEASE, be my guest! I used to go every week or so. I can't, it would cost a bit too much.

PS on the post below - the Global TV clip is interesting. I thought they would have included the part where I said, "Love is more important than a by-law." I wonder who edits these things?  Maybe they thought it was too controversial? I believe there is nothing more important than love, and my love extends to all dogs, who are in my opinion sources of infinite love, understanding, approval, and acceptance, who ought to be honored, not destroyed pre-emptively and dismissively.

Bittersweet Reunion in the Bitter Cold

Here is a rough description of my first visit to Brindi since July 24, 2008. Because it is already so late today and people are interested in finding out how it went, I am posting what I have so far and will add to it as I go. 

A friend phoned animal services on Friday afternoon to make a request on my behalf. I received notice that evening via email that they would be “reviewing” the materials of the case on Saturday, and would be phoning me with their decision regarding permission to visit. 

I replied to the effect that I expected to hear from them and visit Brindi that day and every day until her release. It seemed reasonable to me, having been denied visits so long, and since any day now, she would be released to me, I figured it would be a good transition.

On Saturday morning, I received three calls from the media before hearing from Andrea Macdonald just before 2 PM. She said I would be granted permission for a visit that day, and that day only. 

She explained the terms of the visit.
a. I had to specify exactly what time I would be there.
b. It would last for exactly 30 minutes
c. No other persons could accompany me
d. I was not to leave any high-value items behind that I might bring for “the dog.”
e. This would be a one-time visit.

When I asked why she says I can have only one visit, she said they are still examining the documents and so it will be only one visit until a decision is reached about what is going to be done with "your dog". Although section 8 (2) d was quashed, she said, there are other parts of the by-law, and they are being looked at. I tried to say, in so many words, the right to visit is not contingent on any of that , on the outcome. And she cut me off “Francesca I can’t discuss this with you right now.” Any further comments were met by the same response.

On arriving, I asked for permission to enter the property. I was assured it was okay. I assumed that this meant the ban was lifted. It turned out I assumed wrong; I'll get to that later. 

When I arrived: Richard’s SVU had a thermometer and he said it was minus 15 degrees. But that was 4:15 pm, and with every minute it got colder. Before seeing her, I was told I had to go around the back and see her in an outdoor pen, which was, it turned out, layered over with ice. I was told I would have to stay outside with her for the duration of the thirty minutes.

This posed a huge problem, needless to say. I was not dressed to stay outside that long- I only had one layer on, and I felt the cold as soon as I left the car – was headed into the building but was directed around the back.
I was told I could go in and warm up and come back out as many times as I liked, but not together with Brindi -  I would have to separate from her, which would put her through the agony of separating multiple times, so I could not do such a thing to her, it was definitely not good for her to have that done! 

Lori Scolero accompanied me around the back, quietly telling Richard and Linda that they could not stay with me. Then she told me to wait in the pen, and "the dog" would be brought out to me. "Brindi," I said, "She has a name." Meanwhile, I was thinking, how can I deal with this, in minus 15 weather??

When she was brought on a leash into the pen, I was waiting at the back door, on the other side of the pen, thinking that was where they would appear. He came up behind me, so I was behind a chain-link gate at that point, and as I struggled to open it, I saw Brindi reacting at my sight, wagging furiously and pulling on the leash to get at me. There it was!! The "fickle finger of fate" rotator wag, specially reserved for beloved humans!! All right!! Nobody knows how glad I was so glad to see this. But I could see in an instant that she was no longer the dog she was on July 24. 

She had gained at least 20 to 25 pounds; her coat was dull, not the shiny thing that glinted in the light (and photos); I took my gloves off to pet her, and it was saturated with dirt and quite musky smelling. I'd never seen it like that before. Her expression, once she calmed a bit and moved about, was not the confident, happy pooch I had so enjoyed caring for. A half a minute later, as I walked around and up to her, in the middle of the pen, she seemed very confused and her face was marked with an ingrained look of insecurity, I would say fear, of a kind and extent I have to say I never witnessed before with her. The only remote comparison happened about a month after I got her, when I happened to raise my arm above her. Then, she had instantly dropped to the floor and turned up to look at me as if expecting a blow, terrorized. This time, the look had a weariness about it that I was even sadder to see - a kind of resignment. But in seconds, she recognized me all over again, and greeted me all over again, and went off, happily prancing about. She grabbed a soft toy and began bucking and prancing around the pen, which had a pocked layer of ice about two to five inches thick, so that I had to walk slowly with her, checking every step, as I badly sprained my ankle about five weeks ago.

I took my gloves off to pet her, and my hands froze up, but it was no use wearing gloves. I tried to get her to stay so I could photograph her, but it was tricky because she kept moving towards me, so at one point I put the camera down and just kneeled down gave her a big hug. She responded in maximum joy, knocked me down on my back, flooding me with kisses. Suddenly we were both engulfed in waves of love, flowing back and forth. I looked over at the cameras posted behind a fence, about three pens away, wondering if they caught that. Amazing. It was clear she was very, very happy to see me and still felt a close bond with me. The feeling was mutual.

I was at a bit of a loss about what to do though, out in the cold. She would not play fetch – she never was one for that, depended on the day, and she hadn't been raised with toys anyhow. But she seemed to be asking for something, expecting something, and I didn't know the protocol out there - we usually walked together instead of standing around a yard. I tried to use the commands she knew before, and she would not respond – she would come, but then run off; she would sit, but only for a fraction of a second, before leaping up and pawing my chest. I realized after a few minutes that she was expecting a treat – which I had had no need of before when she was seized. (I commented on this a bit later to the SPCA official, saying she was never this crazed about treats and food, that when I first got her, she didn’t want a treat at all – in fact she spit one out when she thought I was leaving without her. He said, “well, she’s food-oriented now.” More like food-crazed!! All that why she would still be so hungry, I don’t know. Although when I was heavier, I was the same way; when I got more exercise, I wasn’t as interested in snacks.)

The response to all commands were the same, pretty much. “Down” – fraction of a second, then popping up expectantly. She was looking at my pockets and even lunged at them. Wow. I thought, boy, do I have a lot of work to do now. She was clearly distressed at the lack of goods, and was scouting the bins in the yard, so I asked the SPCA to help out and give me some treats. It turned out to be fake bacon – the same kind my neighbor, with the boisterous shitzu, used to spoil her with. I regretted not making my home-made chicken hearts, but who had time to do that? I didn’t even know I’d be there that day. She was so intense and wound up at the prospect of treats, very demanding. But when I just leaned in and petted her, she'd drop that idea in a flash.

After ten minutes, I was frozen solid; my hands, which I didn't want to keep gloved when I petted her, and needed to use the camera, were numb, as were my legs and my face, and the camera had stopped working. (Right now, it won't transfer the pictures, so I wonder if it was even damaged.) I asked again if we couldn’t go inside, and was again told no. It seems that the place was under renovation. I tried to move around to get warm, but the sun was disappearing. Brindi went up and took a poop, and then pranced around with the ball, more of a game of keep-away than fetch. I turned my back, walked away, and she came right after me, and then dropped it at my feet so I could throw it.  

A few minutes after that, I asked if we could go for a walk - I said, you can come with us if you want, at least we could stay a bit warmer if we moved. The SPCA official went to ask the Animal Services official, Lori Scolero, for permission. The answer came back: no. 

It was really alienating to see how she would jump up on me, or on him, with a crazed look - I know saying that might be unwise since there are folks convinced she is "dangerous" - but this is a food-crazed look, and one that reflects an awareness that she had to make every second of freedom - i.e., outside her cage - pay. To say that I was dismayed to see it is putting it lightly. I remember her jumping up on me once or twice after I first got her. I soon, and easily, trained it out of her, and swiftly discouraged others - usually men - from allowing or inviting her to do it, so that she would not jump up on frail people or kids. I mean, it was easy to stop, but then, she wasn't doing it for treats; now, I wonder how hard it will be to train out of her. 

Repeatedly, she would come in close for petting, and once or twice, she'd curl herself down on the ice, wriggling on her back in ecstasy. I noticed her stomach was a bit red and I realized it was the cold. Not until about 22 minutes into the half-hour was I told I could go into the building with her - but only into a tiny 3 feet by 4 feet airlock, really an entry with two interior doors, unheated. By then it was probably about minus 17 outside, so maybe it was about zero there. I can tell because my kitchen is currently around that temperature when I don't turn the heater on. 

So she was suddenly in a close space, with both me and the SPCA official, kind of crowded. I talked with him as I petted her. I tried to tell him not to let her jump on him, to say "no". He seemed unfamiliar with the idea, to my surprise. In the next moments, several times she put her head into my lap, but with the extra weight, it was quite alarming - I couldn't comfortably circle my arm around her, and her head and shoulders didn't fit into my lap snugly anymore - we've both changed. I've lost 25 pounds, and I think I know where they went to - my thighs are no longer the tree trunks they once were, so there was not enough of them for her to lay down on.
Anyway, as the man and I chatted, Brindi turned to him for attention, and jumped up on him again. Since her focus was on him, even though I still had five minutes left, I said, let me just slip out while she doesn't notice, so it would be easier. He said, we have to leave through the door behind you, and taking the leash, moved towards me. This brought her attention back to me, and of course made the whole thing pointless, so I began to say something like, "Okay, then I'll stay a bit---" but suddenly he was reaching around me to open the door and take her away, and she was being dragged out, because by that time, she certainly noticed and was pulling with all her might to stay with me, shoving her head through the door, and putting up quite a fight with her added weight.
Wow, I thought. That didn't work at all, did it?

I left the vestibule, wound my way around the building toward the front entrance, and heard him behind me, saying, "Francesca, just so you know..." The ban has only been lifted that one time. I had told him I intended to visit her every day, until her release; he replied that I would have to take that up with HRM, he had nothing to do with it. Really. So now, he was following me to say that I was not permitted to return there, ever again, until the end of the ban. Even to drop off bones? No. He did allow me to get inside and warm up for a minute - and I sat down, opposite the TV tripods, the camera people standing behind them. Later I wondered - the reception area had now been cleared out and it was so spacious inside, and the two TV camera people and their huge tripods were there, taking up plenty of space, along with my friends, Richard and Linda, who were waiting inside for me. While I was outside. No room for me and Brindi in the building?
But at the time, I was too cold to notice. I just realized after a minute that I now had to speak to the cameras. How?
Sean came and asked us to leave before I could think. We went outside to film, so we all went to the parking lot. I couldn't think about how I felt - the usual question - I hadn't formed any feelings or thoughts yet. So I wasn't very outwardly emotional, yet, but I answered as best I could. They were satisfied, and Mike, from CTV, stopped shooting and began packing up. Sarah, Global TV's person, hesitated, then started filming again, asking me one more question - I can't even remember what is was, and I haven't seen either report yet. But whatever it was, it got me going, and I broke down. Mike looked back, startled, and I found myself staggering through the answer. When I finished, I went and hugged Sarah, because she had begun to lose it herself. I compared the way Brindi and I mean to one another to a marraige, more than a parent- child relation, because she was a mature dog when we met, and now we are about the same age, dog to human years. Okay, she's female; so it's a little quirky, but it's the truth. Having to leave her behind, in the condition she is in - you can guess what that felt like. 

I left the "premises" with Richard and Linda, not wanting to drive, and we went to Tim's, where they bought me a sandwich and a Boston creme doughnut - first in about twenty years, I'd guess. I couldn't eat though, and we talked, even though I could see they were anxious to get home. Yes, I finally saw Brindi. But the information gathered on that visit was deeply disturbing. I was grieving for the time lost, half a year practically, a big chunk of a dog's life. I was in shock at her condition, horrified to think about the months of recovery and remedial training ahead (and nightmares -like the ones she had for the first six months after I got her until they waned away). Knowing this gave me a deep shudder, because of what it meant to the great backlog of work and projects I have waiting for me once she's out. How can I do all of that at the same time? But I was terrifically relieved and joyous that she still loved me so much, and all the signs were there, the rotator wag, the pushing me down to lick my face and give me love. I was anxious to get her home and get it all started. 

But I don't know when that will be.
That's because the city has to sign off on a "form of order" document prepared by my lawyer for Monday. If the city, i.e., Mr. Persaud, agrees to the way he set it down on the same day, she could come home immediately. However, if something is not to his liking, it has to be worked out. When we got a court order for Silvia Jay to visit and assess Brindi - a document that incidentally was not used in the court proceedings, though we submitted it - it took two weeks before an agreement was reached and the order could be executed. And, given Andrea Macdonald's remarks, I wonder if I should expect other obstacles to arise. But what can they do now, after all this time? I honestly have no idea. 

All I know is, my visit was painful - uncomfortable due to the cold, and pretty unhealthy, since today I have a sore throat and an ear ache, making it very painful to speak.  
All I know is, I won a case in the Supreme Court. 
All I know is, I don't know when - or if - I will ever see Brindi again.
All I know is, I won a case in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the result of a good deal of work on my part, and a great deal of work on my lawyer's part, yet I still have to wait - and hope - that I can get my dog back

Ever since July 24, I feel as though I am constantly approaching and jumping hurdles; once I make one, another one is staring me in the face.  Or, as though I am running a marathon of indefinite length, but somebody keeps pulling back the finish line.  I think of Charlie Brown and Lucy's football swipe, a joke that is not really meant to be a joke, unless you love black humor. 

Do I have it in me to keep going? I have to. How many more layers of uncertainty are there to come? How ever many there are, I guess. I'll know sooner or later. I do know right now that she's still there, and that she definitely loves me, very much, and that we are a unit, and that's all there is to it. 

As I thought when I stood up to leave the courtroom, after learning the judge would turn in a written decision at some unnamed date, "This is not a battle for the fainthearted." But why is it even a battle? 

Friday, January 16, 2009





This unforgettable day is dedicated to my father
Joseph William Rogier, 1919-1998

and to my loving godfather
Dr. William Ciaravin0
who departed the earth this day.
May you be received into the light surrounded by love.
Your love, warmth, and generosity are never forgotten.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

See a new page with special letters!

I created a new place to post letters from animal activists supporting Brindi. They have written to public officials -some more than once - and I would like to share these letters now.

To read them, please go to Brind Nation. I will be adding more soon!

In the meantime... the Paypal donations account received a $20 contribution from a very kind person in Bulgaria; another came from Australia. This is a remarkable thing, and I am absolutely speechless at how this amazing network has grown and manifested so much sold support. 

The city stopped counting the calls, the councilors are deleting emails that have Brindi in the title... the Brindi Nation makes itself heard! 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Post-court, but not post-haste

NOTE: I realize some visitors are seeking a quick scan of info about the case. If you've already seen the newspaper reports, like the Metronews, please refer to the summaries in the texts of the petitions and the Facebook group Save Brindi. And in the left-hand column here, there are links to the By-Law, videos, and other key info. The first blog posts here tell the story in greater detail.

Blogging gets tougher and tougher, yet, I suspect, more necessary as time goes on. In my mind, I store up things to say, and the post gets long, but it's got to be that way for me.

It's been a weird week after dozens of weird weeks, each one uniquely terrible. The past week was less horrific and somewhat more satisfying than others, since I finally had the chance to go to court on Monday, January 5. THANKFULLY, I was not alone on the bench: a solid bunch of Brindi was there all day, and though some are too shy to go public, I'll give first names: Linda, Richard, Maxine, Phil, Kelly, and Michelle, and I hope I didn't forget anybody. Being the first working day since Christmas, it was tough to be there. Several others tried, but couldn't find the right courthouse. I attribute this to the architecture of the Supreme Court building, a prime example of anonymous 70s brutalism, is anything but prominent, despite its waterfront location.

As I think about it, the stress just keeps mounting, and writing isn't easy. I'm grinding my teeth again, a lot, while asleep and awake; haven't done that in years. I have the shakes a lot, for no apparent reason, and I'm still not sleeping much. My chest hurts, sharp pains, even as I write; I'm sure it's anxiety, not a heart problem. Crying and sobbing? A daily activity. My cats, my only breathing companions, sense the stress; they have taken to planting themselves right and left of me as I write in bed, which I have to do to avoid more painful tension in my neck and back.

Of course, when the day in court began, I was exhausted, having had another computer crash at 1 am the night before, which meant not even a minute of sleep. Praying as I sped down the highway, I managed to get there on time despite nearly skidding into a snow-filled ditch, twice.

Yay, I thought as I drove, no more delays! Little did I know my limbo would take on a whole new dimension of anxiety. Ever since the case was scheduled, I tried to keep my mind off the outcome, and it worked mostly. But it was a very intense day, and my heart was pounding and tears were already on board when it was time for the judge to speak. By then it was around 3 pm, and the lack of sleep had started hitting home; I was coming apart at the seams under the strain. Listening to the proceedings, especially the remarks of the city's young legal counsel, Mr. Persaud, made me re-live the pain and horror I experienced since July, when the two animal control officers showed up without warning and took Brindi away. I wasn't prepared for that impact (how could I be?). I lost track of how many Hail Mary's I said to myself; St. Francis and St. Jude were also big addressees.
So in many ways, I didn't want to know the results, but then again, it was a disappointment not to get any, and confusing that no indication was given of when a ruling will be made known..

It was not a closed session, and reporters were allowed in the courtroom, but I am told I should not discuss too many details. A few basic facts will be of interest to readers, however. For instance, right off, the city got the judge to throw out the assessment of Brindi by Silvia Jay we submitted. It cost a lot of money and time to get that court order. But I imagine the Mr. Persaud did not want it presented, since it speaks favor of sparing Brindi's life and returning her to me.

Fortunately, the judge denied his further request to reject a transcript of an online interview of the HRM Animal Services manager Andrea Macdonald. Only one sentence in it is important to the case, namely, when she says seizures of dogs are always followed by a thorough investigation before a euthanization order is decided on. This was clearly not the case with Brindi, and nobody ever explained why.

The judge also refused to reject a chart of by-law prosecution cases related to dogs between 2007 and 2008 that we submitted, using publicly accessible information. I had painstakingly updated and completed that chart over the weekend, but the new version was not submitted. You can see a version of it here that I painstakingly updated and completed in time for court; there was no opportunity to submit it, sadly. Ditto for the petitions. By then the number of signatures was nearly 4,000, with some strongly worded comments from around the world.

As the day went on, however, things seemed to take on a good momentum. My lawyer, Blair Mitchell, really did his homework, and then some; he worked all through the holidays to prepare a 23-page brief. I felt so lucky and grateful to have him on my side. SO MUCH WORK went into it, so many months. We had help from so many people, too, including my sister Nancy, Joan Sinden, and an animal rights group from Dalhousie. It was not easy to follow all the legalese; Blair kept warning me it would be boring. Nothing about it is boring to me, it's about my dog after all. In fact I think I understood most of it, though I could never repeat the words. I knew he must have been doing well, when halfway through, people sitting with me who didn't expect to be able to understand a word suddenly began sitting up and taking notes.

I guess it makes sense that the judge said he was going to delay his ruling, given that it might set a precedent. But it was disappointing all the same - not to have a date - and that made it so hard to get up and leave the room, let alone speak to the reporters waiting outside. I just wanted to sit down and bawl. It's a good thing there were people there to help me through it. I bawled a little later, of course, on the seventh floor, and they patiently waited for me to get it together and help me leave the building. On the drive home, bumper to bumper all the way in a sludgy mist, I really thought we'd get the decision in a few days. But now I hesitate to make any plans each day, with it hanging over my head.

Before leaving the building, we asked the city's counsel once again if I could be allowed to visit Brindi. Answer: a flat no. And something about being determined to fight to the end. They should realize by now that I'm matching their determination all the way. I don't have a $2.4 million budget like they do, but I have some pretty strong weapons, thanks to Brindi's Angels - persistent campaigners located from here to Lister, BC - and the entire Brindi Nation, which keeps growing. It seems that long before Monday, the city of Halifax's call center (902 490 4000) stopped counting the calls about Brindi. I also understand that the mayor's staff was specially briefed on how to handle the calls that get through. (Heather Anderson of DAISY in Calgary has yet to get the mayor on the phone, even after two dozen calls.)

That's how many people care enough to make phone calls, even long distance. It's amazing! People from here are Paypal donations coming in from Australia and Bulgaria. Brindi supporters live in several countries on every single continent on the earth, except perhaps Antarctica, and that's only because penguins can't use keyboards with their flippers. But we're working on that.

I have complained a long time about the Nova Scotia SPCA, who are keeping Brindi in the pound they run in their Metro Shelter - apparently in decent health, according to Silvia Jay's impression. (Brindi is overdue for a check-up, however). I suppose this makes some loyal SPCA members, many of whom also support Brindi, feel uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable too, especially since I was once a volunteer for similar organizations. And so, after months of pleading, being diplomatic, I thought it was a disgrace to discover lies and more lies. For a charity, honesty ought to be paramount.

But I know the SPCA is feeling the pinch as well because the lengthy disclaimer about Brindi posted on its website since August now says that a clause in its HRM contract requires it to keep all cases like hers confidential. Poppykosh. I have a full copy of that contract and it contains no such clause. If it did, why would somebody from the SPCA be telling people that Brindi is a big favorite at the shelter? I've heard it from several sources, who found this an important step, and perhaps it is. But at this late date, my only thought is: "Of course she is a favorite! She's a great dog, that's the whole point!!!"

It must be true that many, if not most, of the shelter staff who work there day in and day out are there because they care about dogs. So why do they not fight for her life along with me, instead of banning me? Have they never seen the contract? After they turn a deaf ear to my pleas for help, won't allow visits, and call the cops on me, then say such things to others, how do they think I feel? It's as if they are holding Brindi hostage, and having fun with her at my expense. Hello, she's MY FAVORITE! I am her rightful owner, and I'd really like to be able to enjoy her myself. GIVE HER BACK, and please stop lying to everybody. It's not doing any good.

On Wednesday, Tom Young, on News 95.7 based in New Brunswick, interviewed me. Counting the months, he asked how many times I've seen Brindi since July 24. He was dumbfounded when I said "none". When I explained the ban, he couldn't believe it. "Why did they send three cops to remove you from the building? D-do you threaten them? Are you a threat?" I have no idea. If anybody there feels threatened, they should think how the dogs feel, how Brindi feels, how I feel!! And if they do feel threatened, it's because of their own decisions, not mine.

I am only doing what anybody who loves their dog would do. I'm not doing it because I can afford to; I certainly can't! I'm doing it because I know she'd do the same for me. Dogs don't abandon their people. Recently, a fisherman in New Brunswick got caught in a storm, and his dog swam frantically behind his boat for three hours, instead of going back to shore to save itself. By the time help finally came, the dog was near death from exhaustion. Its owner was more relieved for its sake than for his own.

This is why I am asking people to write to the SPCA now, to ask for two things: let me have visits to Brindi, and finally, do something to help me get her back home!

I am weary of this fight, heaven knows, but I am not going to give up. It needs to be fought, for Brindi's sake, for my sake, and for the sake of all the dogs in this city, whose owners should not have to be faced with the decision of whether to fight, and all the horror I'm going through. It's for that reason alone that it was so important the media turned up at court. Some got there early and stayed all day - like Jackie Foster at CTV, who wanted to interview me weeks ago, but didn't get permission. I managed to see her excellent report that night, and Global TV, but missed the CBC, which I heard was also very good. I know of three newspaper articles as well, and suddenly a few new blogs turned up as well.

I have to confess however, a few glaring absences struck me a few days later. I never thought of it before, but it would have been good if somebody asked the city a few key questions, starting with:
  • Where are the photos of all the terrible bloody injuries Brindi supposedly viciously inflicted on other dogs?
This really interests me, that nobody noticed the lack of visual evidence. Grisly images are hot - so where are they? Where is the actual proof that Brindi caused a serious injury?

Similarly, few have bothered to ask, especially compared to the plentitude of other dogs that bit dogs AND people, without incurring either euthanization or a muzzle,
  • Exactly why did they issue Brind a muzzle order?
  • Why was there no investigation after seizure, before the euthanization order was issued?
These are just a few key questions. The last is worth a Pulitzer prize; I for one would give anything to know the answer.

As for the muzzle, it seems to have been an arbitrary choice, the result of coincidence, if not an opportunistic hoax. I'm serious. The record shows that the order came about as a concession to another dog owner who wanted to make sure I would pay her inflated vet bill (which included a $70 general exam of her dog, because it was a new patient, according to her. In retrospect, I should have not paid that part of the bill). I faced a $222 fine. Without telling me, she begged the AC officer not to issue me a fine so I could afford to pay her bill. Presumably to accommodate her wishes, he upped the ante to a muzzle. I was stunned, since he had already told me on his first visit that at worst, he might come back with a fine. If he hadn't said so, she would never have asked him not to. Mind you: this was the second report. He never intended to issue a muzzle. He'd have to muzzle dozens of dogs in HRM just to be a bit consistent, and that would cause a huge furor. At the same time - he knew that I was planning to challenge the muzzle order the first chance I got, once I had worked to get Brindi's recall as perfect as possible, and had a fence in place. 

So never mind that a muzzled dog makes people afraid, and their fear thus makes the dog afraid too - great choice, for a rescue dog. Never mind that my dog was never a problem during 8 weeks of obedience classes with dozens of dogs around. Never mind that I offered to build a fence - it was part of my plans already.

The question is, why would he do it? Maybe because in Halifax, under A-300, a muzzle order is all it takes to declare a dog "dangerous"? In the absence of any criteria for muzzles, what a great way to eliminate as many dogs as possible (and as an HRM lawyer once said, "Euthanization is the goal."). Just pick a dog, any dog; slap a muzzle on it for any reason - and presto, it's dangerous! If you're an ex-cop, say, ex-military police, what a dream job - you get to give the orders, and nobody can stop you. As an added bonus, after that, you can use the slightest incident as grounds to have it kiilled. No worries that you'll be stopped by the SPCA, an authority higher than the city obligated to protect dogs from cruelty; heck, they're on the same payroll as you are. What a temptation that is, in a job where you have more power than your bosses. Must be a thrill for somebody who used to take orders all the time.

Under the law, the muzzle order is permanent, unless the owner pays to go to court and dispute it, and who would do that? Me, actually!!

From my horrified reaction, and the questions I asked him, he may have guessed I intended to challenge the order. And I certainly did, once my house was finished and I improved Brindi's recall responses. No wonder he claimed it wasn't his decision, and kept telling me not to bother calling his boss, the one he said was behind the order. It's interesting that she, not he, signed the euthanization order later - contrary to law. And she's never laid eyes on Brind, as far as I know.

Certainly, neither he nor any other animal control officer ever witnessed Brindi being aggressive to other dogs, or anybody else. Everything hinges on unconfirmed statements, which were revised more than once by the owners and the officer involved before the case went to court. Do I sound defensive? Well, I've never disputed the facts, even many that were never actually proven. What I want is to be treated fairly and my dog to be treated fairly as well. I've done all I can to show that I am responsible and concerned.

Another question came to mind as well.

Why has no one quoted the many letters I posted five months ago - from the mail carrier, the vet, the groomer, the kennel owner, etc. Without them (and a few other facts), it's very tempting to sensationalize the story. Mind you, I'm not complaining - I'm grateful for all the coverage! But with dogs, sensationalism ought to be avoided as much as possible; it only incites fear. As much as they make great headlines, the words "aggressive dog" and "attack" instantly polarize readers. So they demand further explanation: what kind of "attack"?"Aggressive" according to whom?

It seems to me we all deserve a break from fear, and among public health threats, dogs barely make the stats. As I've said before, in 2007, only 2 Canadians died from dog-related injuries, versus 36 who died from lighting strikes. Joan Sinden noted recently that Sports Illustrated is doing its part to dispel the fear-nurturing myths about dogs, especially so-called pit bulls, a non-existent breed subjected to laws that cost millions to pass, yet do little to increase public safety and cause needless slaughter.

I thought about posting a list of about 17 persistent myths about Brindi, to debunk them, as they are rampant. I'm still debating that. I'd like to focus instead on the positive things happening, like all the people out there working so hard to save her. And how fantastic it was to hear from so many people that night, like my local city councilor, David Hendsbee, now the deputy mayor, who emailed me to say he hopes I win. He copied it to Andrea Macdonald, and if I recall correctly, Persaud, so I don't believe I'm violating privacy to mention it here.

Even more fantastic, a few very kind people have turned up to help me fix the plumbing, even in this bitter cold. How cool is that? I can't wait to take a shower in my own house again.