Jennifer Pierce
Jennifer Pierce, Member Services Specialist

The Nova Scotia SPCA has been around for a long time – since 1877. Mandated under provincial law to enforce animal cruelty laws, this registered charity provides not only animal protection but also care and rehabilitation, advocacy and humane education on behalf of animals in Nova Scotia.

Most people have a general idea of what the SPCA does, but I wanted to find out more, so I met with Diane MacDougall, the Director of Fund Development and Major Gifts.

Last year, in 2009, the Nova Scotia SPCA responded to over 1500 complaints about alleged abuse, cruelty and neglect – and the number is going up each year. I was impressed to learn that each and every complaint that comes in is investigated by one of three full-time investigators who travel across the province. According to Diane, many of the cases can be resolved through education, but in more serious cases the SPCA will seize the animal(s) and will pursue the issue as far as the courts if necessary. In fact, in 2009 alone, 45 charges were laid as a result of investigations.

Through such seizures and through collection of stray and abandoned animals, the SPCA across Nova Scotia takes in around 8000 animals each year. When I visited the Provincial Animal Shelter in Halifax, I expected to be faced with rooms full of animals that had been in the shelters for years and to want to save them all from a grim fate – but when I got there, I learned otherwise.

“People often come in and ask in hushed tones, ‘How long do they have’ – meaning before they are put down,” says Sandra Flemming, the dynamic Provincial Animal Care Director.  In reality, though, Sandra told me that most animals are in the shelter for less than two months and many for as little as days or weeks before going to their new ‘forever home.’ And even better, the Nova Scotia SPCA is working toward its strategic goal of being a NoKill organization. This means that only animals that are too sick or have severe aggression problems are put down. And the goal is being achieved remarkable quickly: in 2009 the live release rates for cats and dogs were 55% and 82% respectively, and as of the first quarter or 2010 those rates had risen to 79% and 88%.

Due to its high turnover rate, the shelter is able to take in most of the animals that are surrendered – and even if they are full, they will not turn away a sick or pregnant animal or a mother and her young.  And it’s not just cats and dogs that the shelter places – according to a whiteboard tally on the wall of the shelter, last year they placed rabbits, birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, chinchillas and more!

The SPCA relies heavily on donor donations and volunteers to run its organization. Government funding varies from year to year but can be as low as $3000 when the operating budget is over half a million dollars. The shelter takes donations of all kinds of materials – top on their list being laundry detergent since they have two high-capacity washers and two dryers running constantly to aid in keeping their shelter spotlessly clean. They also take donations of specific types of toys, supplies and food, as well as, of course, cash. While I was at the shelter I also met several of the many volunteers who help out with walks, cuddles, and more.

I was extremely impressed by the dedication, enthusiasm, passion and love for animals that I witnessed at the shelter. And of course I still did fall in love with every animal I met – but now I know that they have a very good chance of finding their own forever home!

To learn more (and to fall in love with a cat, dog, rabbit, chinchilla… of your own) visit

Jenn’s Journal is a new series of blog posts profiling ‘behind the scenes’ at Chamber member businesses. If you would like to give a Chamber staffer a behind-the-scenes tour of your business and have a blog post about it appear here, we’d love to visit! Please contact Jennifer Hopper, Member Services Manager at (902) 481-1227 or