Monday, June 20, 2011

"I fought the Law, but the Law Won:" For Now

Recent events had me looking into Ontario laws with regards to animal abandonment and neglect. Lawfully, people must provide their animals a shelter, water and food if left outside: I already knew that. The rest of it shocked me and made me quite angry and frustrated. Let me explain what happened and how the laws, or lack thereof, apply to this situation.
Last evening around six Lindsay phoned me to let me know she had an unknown puppy in her house. Her parents are super intendants at a "geared to income" apartment complex. There had been a pretty bad fight the night before between two tenants and Lindsay's dad discovered a little puppy out on the apartment's balcony. It would appear that the pup had been out there all night and most of Sunday when he finally couldn't take his crying anymore and called the tenant to tell her he was entering and taking the dog until she returned. At that point it was not certain as to the pup's name, breed or age and when the woman was coming home to claim him. Lindsay said she would keep him for as long as was necessary and also said that she would keep him until a suitable home was found just in case the previous owner did not want him anymore.
I went over to meet the mini fluff ball and to talk about options for his future. The instant I scooped him up I was in love. I knew I couldn't take him, considering I have just recently rehomed all of our Miniature Dachshunds, but I wanted to help any way I could. I was angered at the selfishness of both parties leaving this small creature out all night by himself. We're pretty sure he isn't even eight weeks yet because he is missing a lot of puppy teeth and there is a distinct belly button. That made me even more mad-how was he supposed to temperature regulate being so small? It still drops under ten C here some nights and what if it had rained?
We spent the night supervising Glacier, Baloo and Mr. Nameless. He was spunky and full of puppy play. He definitely had puppy breath and little sharp teeth to go along with it. We deduced that he was some kind of Husky mix, but had no idea what the rest of his genetics were that made him such a beautiful gold colour or where the two black spots on his tail came from. We talked about our options and I kept wondering if there were any laws preventing the woman from claiming him. Knowing he was safe for one night, I left it alone and headed home, but when I woke up thoughts were nibbling at the corners of my brain.
What could I do? What was the puppy's best bet? Could we convince the woman to give him up so that we could foster him and find a good home for him?
I started my morning feeding my own dogs and cats. I fed myself and drank coffee, the wheels still turning. The anger was subsiding into action and a clearer mindset. I started making a few phone calls and got some answers. Not the ones I wanted though.
I called the local Humane Society and was informed that there was nothing we could do unless Lindsay's dad wanted to fill out a bunch of statements. This was a lengthy process and it was not a guarantee. The woman even put me on hold to consult with a colleague and the answer was the same: we had to give him back. She told me we could try convincing her to give him up. I kind of assumed that was the case. It wasn't defined enough as abuse or neglect and it would take time and a lot of paper work to even try to get him taken away. Then came the part I was not aware of. Animals in Ontario are considered property. Okay, I sort of knew that, but since they are property if there is an eviction or anything like that and animals are left behind, the landlords/super intendants have to hold onto the animals for thirty days just like the rest of the tenant's property. There was a letter circulated to shelters about two weeks ago telling them that they are not legally allowed to go and remove abandoned animals from evictions or tenants just up and moving out. Their hands are tied.
So what does this mean?
The incidents of animals being just thrown out on the streets will probably increase. What landlords or super intendants are going to look after someone else's abandoned animals for thirty days before surrendering it? There will be more animals dropped off in the "night drop box" probably because that will be the only thing landlords or super intendants can do. The worst thing could be an increase in the unnecessary killing of animals by landlords and super intendants who may not know where else to turn or what else to do. Either way, this is a huge problem.
Our little friend-who we  were later  informed was named Talon-is being returned to his neglectful owner and there is no way we can stop it. The only good thing is that Lindsay's dad is in a position to keep an eye on the situation and if another incident of neglect or abuse occurs, he will file the proper paper work and have the dog taken away. Either  that or the puppy will magically learn how to fly and  disappear off of the balcony.
The scary thing is that is only one case that we know of. I am sure there are hundreds more in our city alone and probably much worse circumstances. What is frustrating is that there is nothing we can do. If I were staying In Ontario I would start a rescue that holds animals for the required thirty days and then would endeavor to find them new homes. It would be a good alternative to dumping them in Humane Society drop boxes in the dead of the night or abandoning them on the streets. But besides that, how do we save the Talons of the world? How can we possibly make this world a safer place for animals? I truly believe that if people learned how to treat animals properly, then we would be nicer to each other. If I could see, I would be a person who pulled my car over and got collarless dogs into the back seat in order to find their home or to foster them until I could find them one. Unfortunately, I don't own my own car and I'm pretty sure Glacier would retire himself if I brought strange animals home every few days, but it brings me back to "what can we do then?!" There has to be something!


In the Dog House said...

I live in America, but the laws here are essentially the same - pets are property. I actually took an Animal Law class in my last year of law school and it was so discouraging. People have to behave in horrible, horrible ways before something is done - and even then what is in the best interest of the animal isn't always what happens. Animal law is also seen as a joke by a lot of people. I'm trying to stay optimistic though, at least here in the states, the attitudes towards animals are changing - and quickly. You can see it in the news - more people are bypassing having children in favor of adopting animals. More people consider their pets integral parts of their family. The push toward making punishments harsher for animal abuse/neglect give me hope that change is on it's way. In the meantime, remind yourself that you can't save every animal, but for everyone you do help you make a big difference.

Kolchak Puggle said...

I hear you Jess, the animal laws in this country break my heart. A house on our block was abandoned leaving three cats behind and I was told that I legally couldn't take the cats and find them homes as they were owned by the owners of the house, who had 30 days. THIRTY DAYS? How is an animal supposed to cope for 30 days? It was a real shame when those cats "mysteriously" found their way to a friend's farm. They must have been pretty smart to follow me all that way ;)

Amber DaWeenie said...

Wonderful post. I think you've said it all and said it very well. Animals need all the help they can get and more people interested enough to offer the help. I have rescued many over the years but it just never seems like enough. And it's so sad!

Jess and Glacier said...

In The Dog House: You are right. Attitudes here are changing as well with people doing exactly that. I guess I was just so surprised to be faced with how inadequate the laws really are. You're also right wen you say that we can't save them all, but every one helps. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)
Jodi: LMAO! Cats can be pretty handy little creatures. Maybe those ones had thumbs and figured out how to open your car door and you didn't even know they were there. :P
Amber's Mom: Thanks. I hear you, but think what a wonderful life all of those little guys you rescued have/had. I am always astonished at your family and how they all came to live with you. :)