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New Brunswick SPCA Annual General Meeting

post agm 2016The New Brunswick SPCA held its one-hundred-and-thirty-fourth Annual General Meeting in Fredericton on May 1, 2016.  AGMs give the Society the opportunity to look back over its work from the previous year and talk about current and future directions.  President Steven Turner noted at the meeting that there had been significant changes during 2015.  We added a number of new part-time officers to our staff, accepted with regret the resignation of APO Supervisor Gilles Chiaison, and appointed APO James Mundle to replaces Gilles as district supervisor.  We also received the resignation of Glen McGuire, who has served for years as our Fundraising and Communications Officer.  Glen was honoured at the meeting for his long and outstanding service. In September the Board of Directors approved the appointment of Ms Leslie Cockburn to replace Glen as Communications Officer.   Steve paid tribute to the work of Executive Director Hilary Howes, Chief Animal Protection Officer Hilary Howes, and Office Manager Bernadette MacFarlane for the smooth day-to-day operation of the Society.
There were also changes among our volunteers and board members during 2015.  In April 2015 we welcomed a new board-member-at-large, Poul Jorgensen, who was elected at the 2015 AGM, and we welcomed back board member Vanessa Packman, successfully standing for re-election at the last AGM.  During 2015 we accepted the resignation of treasurer Rose St.-Pierre, and the Board later elected Bevin Champion of Saint John to the position of treasurer.    At the 2016 meeting, the Society extended thanks to both Rose and Bevin for their service in this demanding and important position. The other officers of the Society during 2015 were Christian Richard, Vice-President; Joy Bacon, Past-President; and John Harper, Secretary.  At the meeting three new Board Members at Large were elected to the Board of Directors:  Brada Hale (Oromocto), Andrew Newell (Riverview) and Ali Reid (Fredericton).

The Society was active on many fronts during 2015.  Thanks to the initiative of Executive Director Hilary Howes, we have worked closely with the provincial rabies committee and with the government Taskforce on Exotic Animals.  In November NBSPCA officers and officials from the Department of Public Safety conducted unannounced inspection of Pet Stores in the province searching for banned exotic species.  On June 21, 2015, we conducted a Strategic Planning Session ably led by Vice-President Christian Richard; the Society defined a number of strategic themes, including a renewed focus on the needs of cats.  We have met on several occasions with representatives of the province’s purebred dog breeders about pet establishment licensing, and with representatives of the New Brunswick Department of Social Development.  Board Member Vanessa Packman has remained as active as always with various initiatives, including her Rover Kits, the Fur Safety Program, the Rovers and Readers Program, and especially the very successful Kibble Foodbank Network.  Our Committees have been active, including the Investment Committee, the Fundraising Committee, and the Inspection Committee.  Among the many members and volunteers active on these committees.

December 1, 2014 saw the new provincial regulations prohibiting the overnight tethering of dogs come into effect for the first time.   Investigating, publicizing, and enforcing the ban on overnight tethering has strained the resources of the NBSPCA.  We recorded 321 tethering investigations in 2015, with the addition of those recorded in December, 2014 bringing the total to over 400.  We believe, however, that the ban was well-received and that on the whole the public has shown good compliance with the new requirement.  The frequency of tethering complaints was down substantially in winter 2015-16, due to a combination of public compliance and warmer temperatures.  The President expressed thanks to the Department of Environment and Local Government under Minister Brian Kenny for special one-time funds designed to assist the Society in bringing in the tethering ban.  During 2015 the Society joined with other stakeholder groups in developing a recommended Code of Practice of the Care of Dogs in New Brunswick.  This Code is now posted for public comment on the NBSPCA website; a challenge for 2016 will be to move the code toward regulatory status.  Also in the area of legislative change, during 2015 the NBSPCA set as its main legislative priority that of securing ticketing authority under the Provincial Offenses and Procedures Act for all offenses listed in the provincial SPCA Act.
The mandate of the NBSPCA is broad, but our chief function is helping to enforce the laws against animal protection and abuse.  2015 was a very active year in this regard.  The Chief’s statistics for 2015 showed that our Animal Protection Officers responded to 1,998 complaints involving 5,445 animals, and used their legal authority during the year to seize 261 animals under the NBSPCA Act while logging 25 days in court.  4,284 calls were received by the PMCC hotline number in 2015.  The annual numbers show that we are in a period in which the number of animal protection cases is increasing rapidly year-by-year, and in which enforcement is becoming steadily more aggressive.  In 2015 as compared to 2014, the number of animal protection complaints acted on was up three percent (to 1998); the number of seizures was up 40% (to 261); the number of surrenders received was up 71% (to 188); the number of legal charges brought in the courts up 175% (22 from 8).  In addition to our animal protection work, we continued to perform dog control in the rural areas of the province as our principal source of revenue.  In 2015 we responded to 1,293 calls, picked up 326 dogs running at large, and issued 122 fines.  Those numbers, fortunately, are somewhat down from 2014 – a sign, we believe, that the public is becoming more aware of that dogs running at large are a danger to themselves and to the public.

The NBSPCA resists the view that the number of legal charges brought in a given year is a good measure of our work and our success.  The real measure of our success is the number cases in which we have assisted animals through education, persuasion, and persistence, without recourse to seizures or prosecutions.  Nevertheless, in 2015 we were involved in 23 court cases in which charges were preferred under the SPCA Act.  In all those cases which have so far been heard, we have obtained guilty pleas or verdicts, and fines or sometimes prohibitions have been levied.  Convictions in animal cruelty or abuse cases are not easy or automatic, and the Society’s good record speaks to the professionalism of our officers

Our audited financial figures for 2015 show revenues in 2015 of $1,032,203, 10% higher than in 2014.  Our total expenses in 2015 were $979,111, only 5% higher than in 2014.  But the Society’s actual operating revenue came to only $971,171 in 2015, leaving us with a cash-flow deficit of $7,940.  On the expense side, the costs which are increasingly most rapidly are those for inspector hours and travel expenses connected with our animal protection work.  These were up 18% in 2015 over 2014, as a result of growing public demand for our services and the new tethering restrictions, combined with faster responses and more conscientious enforcement by our officers.  And they have been growing much more rapidly than revenue for the last four years.

Discussion at the Annual General Meeting focused not only on the Society’s activities during 2015, but also on some important events of 2016 to date.  The NBSPCA was able to avoid a more serious operating deficit in 2015 because of special, one-time funding by the Province of New Brunswick to help bring in the new tethering legislation and a generous one-time bequest.   By the middle of February, based on our internal financial analysis, it was clear that the NBSPCA could be looking at an operating deficit by the end of 2016 of as much as $113,000.  

To deal with this challenge, in February 2016 the Society made some very difficult decisions.  First, it laid off Executive Director as a cost-saving measure, and is operating in 2016 with this important position vacant.  The Society has also imposed cuts on its uniformed officers, including a reduction of the travel reimbursement rate.  To date, none of the financial cuts taken have been of a kind to reduce the level of animal protection in the Province of New Brunswick.  But during the meeting, the President noted that whether that will continue to be the case in the future depends on our financial situation as it unfolds during 2016.  He expressed optimism however, that both the citizens of the province and its Government are convinced of the importance of animal protection and are prepared to assist the New Brunswick SPCA in the coming months.  Certainly the Society is current trying to help itself, by cutting expenditures, ramping up our fundraising, and appealing strongly to our members and supporters.

Further information about the 2016 Annual General Meeting, and the state of the Society, is available upon request.