Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary is currently in a battle for its life. The very existence of our registered charity animal rescue is in the hands of the Fort Erie Town Council. Only the council can change the bylaws that will allow us to exist in Fort Erie.
The bylaws were last reviewed and approved in 2001. They are antiquated and in no way reflect the new trend of respect that society is giving to animals.
We run BCFS like a business, because without a business plan we are doomed for failure, but we run it with compassion, understanding and with one simple goal: Help Animals.
Town of Fort Erie and BCFS
We’ve been told our goal is too simple and it will never work. People harbour too much apathy, but we are standing by mantra: Help Animals. When we need to make a decision we ask ourselves: Will our actions help animals?
On May 21, 2015 we achieved step one of our goal to help animals by welcoming two of the Town of Fort Erie Council members to visit Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary . They came out to see the sanctuary, meet the animals and meet me, the founder — so motivated to help animals that a new charity was created.
Chris arrived first and as we stood in the kitchen chatting, Marina pulled in with a friend. I looked cautiously at Chris and asked “who’s that” gesturing towards my front walk.
Chris told me her name and said that she sits on the board for the Fort Erie SPCA. My heart rate accelerated. Really?
I greeted our guests and took them on a tour of the farm. Marina was captivated by the stories and the animals – maybe there was hope?
The SPCA rep told me that they never questioned the quality of care given to the animals at BCFS. I also learned that the SPCA enforcement is predominately complaint driven, which means there are people in Fort Erie who don’t support BCFS as an animal rescue.
We understand that folks might not support our style of rescue, which is why we’re grateful people have the opportunity to choose a different flavour of rescue that still helps animals.
Those who complain about BCFS feel we are doing something so wrong that they call the Fort Erie SPCA, lodge a complaint giving ammunition to those that would see us shut down — not helping animals.
Why? What have we done that is so wrong? We help animals. Is that not a noble cause? We put ourselves out there, open our home and and welcome all those who care about animals. Have you visited my home and then called the humane society?
What was your complaint?
Are my horses too shiny? Are my pigs too happy? Does Donkey the bunny’s joyful binkies offend you? Do the dogs have too much room to run and play in fresh cut grass? Is the water too clean and the food too plentiful?
Does our extensive adoption program offend you? Is it because we adhere to a strict spay and neuter program to help reduce the number of unwanted animals?
Is it that we have made large food donations to other rescues and SPCAs? Including the Fort Erie SPCA when we had a food donation so generous that we wanted to share, because helping animals should not be limited to our own hands. It takes a village to help animals. Are we not wanted in this village?
Horse care is part of work on the Farm
The four of us made our way into the house and sat around the old oak table for the meeting. I rubbed my hand over the polished wood as its smooth surface gave me comfort, familiarity and confidence. This old house supports me.
I sit alone in my kitchen at my favourite table to face two councillors and a representative from the SPCA. Why alone? Because I want this to be an open discussion and not a war. Because inviting more people might seem intimidating. I was wrong. I was foolish. My nativity got the better of me.
The SPCA representative opened a spiral note book and started going through my website post: The Saga of the Town of Fort Erie.
Her first comment was about money. She thought it was absurd that $125 was considered a lot of money. She stared at me and said “really?”
I said: Yes. $125 is a lot of money for an animal rescue. Its a vet bill, food and medicine. We are frugal with our donations wishing them all go to the animals. We take no salary and offer no monetary reward to our volunteers. BCFS is a 100% volunteer based registered charity animal rescue.
Not to be stymied she moved on to my comment that the kennels at the Fort Erie SPCA are cold. No, not cold – very cold.
I explained that there are studies published regarding kennel stress and how it makes dogs appear unadoptable. These animals deemed unadoptable have two options: euthanasia or rehabilitation with a rescue organization. BCFS has worked with SPCA affiliated organizations (LCHS, Toronto Animal Services, Niagara Fall HS and Erie County SPCA) to save dogs from euthanasia. We try to reserve a spot at the farm for these time sensitive cases – that spot is currently unavailable as we are unable to renew our Foster Rescue Dog Licence under the current bylaws, and therefore, cannot have any rescue dogs on our property.
The discussion got heated. I explained that the new wave of animal rescue is a foster home based system where the dogs are housed with families that can give them one on one care and training. I didn’t get a chance to mention our use of alternative medicine before the SPCA representative got up and left the meeting.
In my mind this meeting was suppose to be a positive step forward and now I felt blindsided and unprepared. Had I known the SPCA was going to be at this meeting I would have invited a physical presence of BCFS support.
I was recklessly hoping by keeping this meeting between myself and council we could have an open forum to write a bylaw that encouraged animal rescue with provisions for Registered Charity Animal Rescues and foster homes that is not only up to the date, but would be considered progressive.
Frustration was setting in and you can imagine my shock when Chris and Marina agreed the new bylaw should be progressive. The clouds parted to let a little sunlight into a dark kitchen giving me a glimpse of blue sky. Hope.
These new council members took time to meet a constituent to help us, or as Chris puts it “let us help you, help the animals”. All three of us sitting at the worn oak table work full time and in our free time we do our best to improve our community.
Thank you Chris and Marina for your open minds working towards a common goal that will change the way people in our town view animals. Education is in our mission statement and the first step to change always starts at home.
There are details to be worked out and BCFS is hoping to be invited to sit on a committee that will create a new Responsible Companion Animal Bylaw that makes sense for the town by helping animals and the people who care for them.
The proposed bylaw change will take months and will not take effect until late summer or early fall of 2015, so my hands are tied for the next couple months as the paperwork from the last SPCA visit on May 14, 2015 states my Foster Rescue dog license under the current bylaws would not be renewed.
I asked Chris and Marina if there was anything they could do that would allow me to continue rescuing animals until the bylaws are changed?
I offered to pay the $125 to get my Foster Rescue Dog Licence reinstated, so I can rescue two dogs at a time at Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary. My gut says they should offer me exemption until the bylaw comes into effect, but red tape is excellent bondage material.
I’m still uncertain what will happen if I can’t get the alpaca out of Fort Erie by May 26th. I might end up fined and in court if council isn’t able to convince the powers that be to waive these charges during the time of change.
Until the new bylaws are written and passed by council BCFS is in a very vulnerable position. We’re at the mercy of the antiquated bylaws, angry citizens and the Fort Erie SPCA.
This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I began fighting for animal rights, but I’m hoping to make a positive impact for the future of helping animals.