We in the animal rescue world often chant the mantra “be the change.” Step up and be the voice for those who can not speak. Its not an easy mandate to deliver on the public stage – many prefer to convert family, friend and neighbour on a more personal tact, one by one in passionate private conversations. That’s why its so admirable when individuals who have earned the respect of their peers step forward and speak publicly, open themselves up to those who don’t know, don’t care, or worse – criticize without the benefit of informed opinion.
That’s why Furever Network sends kudos to Amy Bremner and Brent Lindhurst of Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary. Despite certain abhorrent actions against them by spiteful community members, despite outcry from “haters” on every social media platform going, and despite some dire challenges transpiring in their personal lives, Amy and Brent have persevered in their advocacy work to bring change to their community bylaws for animal rescue in Fort Erie, ON.
Community Bylaws For Animals
Last evening Ms. Bremner chose to make a presentation in response to new animal rescue bylaws Fort Erie County are set to implement. The official moniker is Consolidated By-law No. 119-97 (this is the version prior to the new amendments proposed). There are three that would put BCFS — indeed any other reputable foster-home-based charitable rescue group — out of the animal rescue business.
Namely, in brief:
- foster homes would require 5 acres of land and be zoned agricultural in order to lawfully house foster dogs;
- foster homes would be required to pay a fee of $125 yearly
- the charitable rescue groups would be required to disclose the personal information of the charitable rescue groups volunteer foster homes as well as families that adopt, under the provision “Proof of adoption of a rescue foster dog shall be provided.”
These would, in the rescue communities opinion, present needless obstacles to the charitable work done by volunteers. The stated goal aim for all involved is to save more animals. To foster-based charities, that means increasing the foster home pool to save more animals. More foster homes means more dogs rescued. It means the rescue group itself is in an even stronger position to collaborate with municipal SPCAs, able to offer more resources for placement overflow.
More adopters in any one community means more advocates for dog rescue in general – also a huge boon to all SPCAs, humane societies and charities.
So the logical question is – why narrow the playing field to the point that no one wants to play? Or worse, potential fosters and dog rescuers want to, but can’t afford to / don’t have the physical attributes to work under the bylaw restrictions? Does a chihuahua really need 5 acres to be saved?
The recommendations presented by team Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary can be read on their website here. the most sensible of them being the suggestions to:
- allow the fostering of rescue dogs on non-agricultural property, recognizing the fact that not all dogs require the geography of 5 acres to be rehabilitated and cared for pending adoption;
- allow bone fide rescue organizations to pay the dog fostering fee on behalf of all its volunteer fosters, that is to say the volunteer fosters would come under the umbrella of the “mother” rescue and one fee. Imagine if a local rescue organization were able to attract 10 or 20 foster homes under its aegis. Like it does with all costs of fostering, the rescue group would likely opt to cover this cost. That means fundraising an additional 10 x 125 r 20 x 125 per year. For small charities, these kinds of figures are significant.
- That the burden to prove each adoption be stricken, since doing so with any degree of authority would necessarily mean sharing the personal information of those to whom registered charities have given promises of privacy, per the recommendations of the Privacy Acts of the federal government.
Lori Sirianni, an international animal welfare activist and BCFS adopter, also registered to present to Council as a delegate in support of the positive and progressive bylaw modifications suggested by Ms. Bremner, as well as adding some others. The others were born of her close ties and familiarity with bylaw issues in communities across the country and around the world. For instance, the provision to remove litters of puppies from their mother at the age of 8 weeks (too early by a month) simply because they have reached that age, handing them instead to the local SPCA is not in the best interests of the health of the puppy nor mother. It also interferes with the ability to find them appropriate furever homes in the most responsible, stress free manner for the dogs.
Cornerstone for Change
It was fascinating to watch the process. In a microcosm, the seven members of City Council represented the range of knowledge typical in any local community. Their response to the presentation, their questions and concerns reflected attitudes animal rescue workers work with every day.
We heard comments such as “what is a microchip and what is its significance” to “the SPCA shelter is a quality establishment and I trust them more than a rescue group” from Council members that have presumably little to no prior knowledge of the plight of rescued dogs and the global issue of unwanted animal over-population.
On the other extreme, there were Councillors who have made it their business to get out and into the community to ensure they have a handle on the issues. Marina Butler and Christopher Knutt have actively engaged BCFS in dialogue, welcomed informative insights from those on the front lines like Ms. Bremner, and want to make the best decision for the welfare of rescued animals. Ms. Butler in particular showed her support by leading Ms. Bremner in a series of post-presentation questions that helped address top line concerns for both her colleagues on Council and the rescue group.
Ms Butler’s ultimate wisdom was demonstrated when she tabled a motion to post-pone that evening’s Council vote on adopting the animal Bylaws as they stand now, in favour of assimilating the new information brought forth by Ms. Bremner and Ms. Sirianni in their presentations. By majority vote, the motion carried.
Those in the Fort Erie animal rescue community choose to take this as a positive development. Presumably the Council will at least consider some of the Bylaws in the context of the support from their own constituency, and in the context of what sister communities are effecting to best support the animals in need.
JA Malone, a supporter of BCFS wrote on their website the sentiments we share:
Ontario needs more not fewer rescue centres for our many animals in need. I hope your town council shows compassion and common sense and readily fixes whatever bylaw issue is threatening your excellent facility. Many across the province will be watching, – JA Malone
Bylaws for animal rescue are increasingly in the news for good reason. Bylaws help bring standards of care to the forefront and can be progressive catalysts for positive change at a fundamental level in local communities. Along with the 30+ BCFS friends, volunteers and supporters who came to the Council meeting last evening, Furever will be lending our support to the BCFS team, and hope their proactive advocacy will help others to find similar paths. Politicians need education and support from front line rescue workers to make the best decisions; reputable charitable animal rescue organizations like BCFS can step up to make that a reality.
NOTE: In the interests of full transparency, Furever Network is the sister of Furever Home Television series, which is featuring the work of Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary in several episodes. More about the television series here.