Earlier this month, Saskatchewan SPCA Executive Director, Frances Wach, and Board President, Dr. Sandra Neumann, were interviewed by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS). The interview highlighted the work being done on the Registration & Certification Program for Rescue Groups in Saskatchewan. Read the full interview below.
Frances Wach: Thank you. Yes, it’s something that we’ve wanted to implement for a long time and, now that we no longer handle enforcement of the Animal Protection Act, we can focus on prevention and education.
CFHS: Well, it’s fantastic. Can you tell us what the impetus was behind creating a program to certify animal rescues in Saskatchewan?
Dr. Sandra Neumann: Right now, anyone in Saskatchewan can say they’re a rescue group, and nobody knows whether they provide even basic care for their animals. Over the years, a lot of rescue groups and SPCAs have come to us, asking if we could help with regulation. Also, we enforced the Animal Protection Act for many years, and our own protection officers came across a lot of so-called rescue groups that were basically glorified hoarders.
CFHS: And how long have you been working to develop this?
FW: We announced the program in September at our animal welfare conference. It was something the Society has wanted to do for a long time, but we didn’t have the resources to start developing a program.
CFHS: And where are things at right now?
FW: Right now, we’re forming a working group made up of SPCAs, rescue groups, Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association. The first working group meeting will be held in March. We’ve also contacted every stakeholder we know of in the province—rescue groups, SPCAs, veterinarians—talking about what we’re doing and the process that we’re going to be following.
CFHS: How long do you anticipate it will take to create the program?
FW: Well, that’s tough to say because one of the things the working group will be tasked with is developing timelines. This is a huge undertaking, and it’s going to take time to do it right.
SN: We need to make sure we understand what stakeholders think would work best, what the concerns are and how to address them.
CFHS: What issue are you most concerned about when it comes to rescues in Saskatchewan?
SN: We’re only concerned with rescues that are not providing proper care to their animals. There are individuals or groups who are basically hoarders—they have 35 dogs in crates in a garage, and they call themselves a rescue group. Animals often don’t get any vaccinations or parasite treatments, and they get adopted out right away. There can be behavioural issues, as well. Other groups import animals from the States or other foreign countries while also providing minimal or no care and, in addition to the problems I already mentioned, they may also introduce diseases into Saskatchewan.
CFHS: How has this idea been received so far?
FW: The feedback we’ve had from rescue groups has been very supportive. When we announced this program on Facebook, one rescue responded, “Long overdue.” They understand this is an important step in ensuring all rescues provide the best possible care for their animals. And because it’s a voluntary program, rescue groups will be able to opt in. It’s a way to demonstrate to the public that they’re meeting certain standards.
CFHS: Overall, what do you hope to achieve with this process?
FW: If everything goes as planned, we should end up with a rescue code of ethics, operational guidelines, best practices and a certification process. I think it’s important to mention that we’ll be creating all of this in collaboration with the provincial animal welfare sector, so we’re not going into this with a pre-conceived notion of how it will all work. We have our own ideas, of course, but we really want to work with everyone to develop the best possible program for our province.
CFHS: What do you think this certification program will do for Saskatchewan?
SN: By becoming a certified rescue group, a rescue organization is demonstrating that they are working to provide the best possible care. The certification program is also a useful tool for potential donors and volunteers to identify reputable rescue groups. And, most importantly, this is a way to improve the welfare of rescued animals.
CFHS: If people want to learn more about this, Saskatchewan SPCA will be presenting on this topic at the 2016 CFHS National Animal Welfare Conference, which is happening April 16-19 in Toronto.
FW: That’s right. We’re presenting about our process on Tuesday, April 19th at 10:30am as part of the Sheltering for Change learning track.
To read up on the Saskatchewan SPCA’s rescue certification program, click here. Registration for the 2016 CFHS National Animal Welfare Conference opens on Friday, January 29th. Keep your eye on Humane News for updates!