It’s been a bad few weeks in the world of animal rescue.

But it’s been worse for the animals.

While social media explodes with anger, accusations and defensive stances, dogs and cats are still living outdoors with seemingly little recourse.

Pressure has been mounting all year over the issue of permanently tethered dogs, with the lid blowing off a few weeks ago when we learned about Buddy, a husky mix who had lived outdoors for years in Joggins with reportedly little care and attention, save for a kindly soul — not his owner — who fed him. He was finally surrendered for $200 and then euthanized when a ruptured tumour was found.

The outrage was palpable for obvious reasons. Why did this happen? Why did the system in place to protect the Buddys of the world not put an end to this horrible, horrible existence after a visit by the police?


Then came a dog in North Preston, whose name we don’t know. She was found frozen outside a home just before Christmas, not long after Buddy died.

Her body was so welded to the ground that an icepick had to be used to remove her.

It’s not yet known what killed her, but it’s thought the short-haired dog was kept outdoors in an inappropriate and un-winterized kennel. Imagine her suffering.

Even if the cold didn’t end her life, the fact she was left outside like unwanted garbage is just as disturbing.

In the wake of these two high-profile deaths — along with reports of other dogs at risk in the extreme cold snap — the RCMP, which polices much of the province, and SPCA have unfortunately gone into defensive mode.

Both have been under siege with calls from around the province by those concerned about dogs perceived to be in peril and would-be vigilantes wound up by what they’ve read on Facebook or elsewhere.

Some of the information is perhaps true, some of it perhaps not, but the damage to the reputations of the police and the SPCA is real.

While I haven’t seen an official response from the RCMP on these cases or others, word has it that they’re getting mighty testy about the number of complaints pouring in.

The Nova Scotia SPCA has posted on its Facebook page that their phone lines have been clogged due to the volume of calls.

Not surprisingly, both agencies have been tossing the responsibility for certain cases back and forth like a hot potato as the public has howled, a fire fanned by Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell, who has signalled he’s not happy with the SPCA and is considering reducing or removing their powers to investigate cruelty.

All concerned have some soul searching to do. It’s hard to believe that the RCMP or the SPCA still think they are doing right by the animals of this province with respect to tethering and their endangerment in these extreme conditions.

The Animal Protection Act — while it needs fine-tuning, to be sure — has strong enough language to cover suffering and distress.

Dead dogs trump any argument to the contrary.

And, to be clear, police forces have the same power to seize animals in distress as the SPCA does and share equal blame as they are often first on the scene.

But if the agencies think they can honestly defend themselves, then both the RCMP and the SPCA are at the very least badly handling the public relations aspect of the issue.

Where was the pointed warning about leaving animals — not just dogs; cats also perish in this weather — outside for long periods of time, especially this time of year?

Where was the news release to say that a case of possible animal endangerment or neglect was being investigated after the poor unnamed dog’s body was chipped from the ice?

Talk about a lost teachable moment.

Part of the reason many members of the public are so up in arms is that they believe those who have the power to protect animals don’t care.

As a former board member of the Nova Scotia SPCA, I know this isn’t true.

The folks who work in the cruelty division of the SPCA are caring people who have the unbelievably difficult job of dealing with idiots who decide to get a dog or a cat, or hoarders who don’t know when to stop. It’s a job I wouldn’t do for any salary, and I know they care deeply about animals in this province.

But this is far more serious than the public relations disaster that it has turned out to be.

Everyone better get their act together before the next dog dies.

Pat Lee is an editor at and a volunteer with various animal rescue organizations, including the SPCA’s Provincial Animal Shelter.