Saturday, November 28, 2015

HRM Animal By-law A-700 shocker! New money-maker for Halifax preserves A-300's biggest flaws

[Update: Overnight, a petition appeared: Mayor Savage Fix the Animal Control By-law A-700. Please sign and share!]

Reading A-700 gives me the distinct impression that HRM Council feels I got off lightly. And yet even though HRM has struck out three times in its bid to kill her, Brindi is still locked up after seven years. There is nothing light about that.

Timing is everything... and everything about the timing of the release of the "new" By-Law A-700 for the Halifax Regional Municipality (I'll never comprehend how a municipality can be regional) is simply nuts. And that's just the beginning!

I have not blogged for months. There are a lot of important reasons; they all add up to what I call flatlining. But I can't talk about that now. I have to talk about this. I am trying very hard to meet a court deadline, resuming with reluctance this very difficult task, after trying very hard to find representation - coming close but no cigar. Having to turn away offers of work as this deadline approaches doesn't make it any easier. Neither does having my head explode more than once in the past four weeks by things that just never happen but somehow did to me. Things best left unsaid, for now.

Now I am just speechless - A-700???  I am trying to overcome all manner of obstacles - financial, physical, emotional, spiritual, you name it, to appeal charges under A-300 and the horrible sentence under the little-known "additional penalty" clause tucked into the voluminous HRM Charter, and suddenly this A-700 drops from the sky. It should be called "A-007 Skyfall"! The HRM "Regional" Council voted on it a month ago, and whisked it into effect so fast this weekend, I never even heard it was thinking of it. Even a friend who reads the paper every day missed it. Maybe they wanted to avoid the long years of Council debates before A-300 went into effect?

Still, I would have thought Council would want to make sure it heard from the public first, especially since it had to change A-300 right away when folks went ballistic over the cat licenses. Apparently everybody missed the fact that A-300 contained sections that violate Charter rights, one of which I had to go to court about when it seized Brindi so wrongly and, it turned out, unlawfully.

Council sort of lost the trust of a lot of people after that too. It sure lost mine. Words cannot express the magnitude of the consequences of the way Animal Services treated me and my dog since 2008 - no end of drastic financial and material loss it's caused me, with years of lost income, the extreme and sustained emotional distress of separation and worry about Brindi, not to mention the effects on my professional and personal reputation - with social shunning as well as outright attack from stalkers, cyberstalkers, and cyberbullying from total strangers.

However, reading A-700 gives me the distinct impression that HRM Council feels I got off lightly.

Looking Back

When HRM seized Brindi intending to put her down in 2008 under very murky circumstances, it forced me into court twice, right off the bat: first, to suspend the date they picked out to kill her, because they didn't provide any form of appeal, and second, because they refused to reconsider their decision, would not meet with me or my local councillor, would not read letters from everybody from next-door neighbours with infants to kennel owners, groomers, and even the Canadian Post letter carrier. So the first filing was about wrongful seizure - and it would easily have taken a year to resolve.

Then, when HRM not only refused to meet with me and then refused to allow Brindi to be assessed, I had no choice but to file another application on the law itself - because even a former junior high student council president like me could tell it was unconstitutional. Not to mention, the Animal (Dis)Services people were delighting in having found their first victim - a docile rescue dog that didn't scare them in the least.

And, I never imagined the city would allow the matter to actually go to court! I thought, surely they'd want to avoid that embarrassment, and would rather discuss returning Brindi with me in exchange for four actions on my part - paying fines - once they charged me with something, as they'd leapt from a mild warning to drastic action; installing a dog run attached to the back door to prevent escapes, which I did while waiting; complying with a muzzle order, another drastic action that violated the same rights; I'd hoped to appeal it, but discovered there was no way to do it; and lastly, do specialized training with Brindi on her reactions to certain dogs approaching the property.

Boy was I wrong! The team of lawyers running city hall is pretty confident of themselves. And they are really sore losers. "Why should we abandon our position?" is their mantra.

But still! Sections that violate basic rights jump right out at you, if you have any understanding of your rights, that is - like the right to be heard and the right of appeal on any decision affecting you or your property. There were about four sections that were equally unconstitutional; in fact I'd actually asked the lawyer I hired to get Brindi back to include them all. Would have been easy, using the same brief, he blurted out by accident a few weeks too late. The look on my face must have been the reason he backed slowly out of the room.

Anyhow, I so wished he had done the job I paid him for, because, while section 8(2)(d) isn't there, it looks like the other right-violating sections were transplanted to A-700.