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Youth earn $5,000 for Haliburton Heat Bank

Joseph Quigley

Two Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) students earned $5,000 for Heat Bank Haliburton County through the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Canada June 4.  

Bence Suranyi and Stefan Salaris beat out their Grade 10 civics classmates with their presentation on the Heat Bank.

The school-wide competition is part of the YPI program, which runs similar charitable contests in schools around the world.  

Suranyi said their presentation highlighted the success stories of the charity.

“The Haliburton Heat Bank is a less-known charity than the other ones that were competing,” Suranyi said. “I think that helped shed light on the Heat Bank.”  

“The stories that (Heat Bank co-ordinator) Tina (Jackson) gave were probably really moving because sometimes they were really tragic,” Salaris added. 

 The YPI initiative has run at HHSS for 12 years. The program goes into the curriculum as a graded project for the school’s civics class. The project requires students to engage with charities in their community and share what they have learned in a presentation. The top-five projects compete in front of the school, with the winning group earning $5,000 for their charity.

The group has donated more than $50,000 to local charities since it started running in Haliburton.  Teacher Paul Longo, who co-ordinates YPI at HHSS, said the program remains successful. 

“It gets Grade 10 students out in the community, visiting charities, asking questions, learning about what we do in this community that’s so important as far as volunteer work,” Longo said. 

Jackson said the charity, which provides firewood and heat to vulnerable people, has participated in projects for YPI before. But this is the first time the charity has won.  

“I am just so proud of the work that both of these youth did, in pouring everything into the presentation that won us the money,” Jackson said. “This is one of the largest donations we’ll likely receive this year.“

They were absolutely passionate. They believed in what we were doing,” she added.  

Salaris said to succeed in the competition, it is vital to choose a charity you care about.  “Pick a charity you believe in, like and would stand for,” he said.

HHHS gets scathing feedback over Highland Wood closure

Haliburton Highlands Health Services is planning to address criticism it received for its handling of the Highland Wood evacuation last year. File photo.

Highland Wood long-term care home families, staff and management have severely criticized the local health services’ handling of the facility’s emergency evacuation last year.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services released a draft action plan Feb. 21, which details its ideas for improvement in the wake of the feedback. The criticism came during stakeholders’ sessions Dec. 9 and 10, to address what happened after HHHS relocated residents Feb. 7 due to serious roofs leaks at Highland Wood.

A third-party, external facilitator oversaw the process according to the report. Most of the feedback was negative, with the event reportedly creating long-lasting trauma.

“Every session had tears,” the report said. “Across audiences, there is a sense that answers have not been provided, that accountability has not been accepted and that there was a cover-up.”

Feedback included a “lack of compassion” from management and the Ministry of Health. Stakeholders expressed the need for a better emergency plan and communications and HR support, which the draft action plan calls for HHHS to address.

HHHS president/CEO Carolyn Plummer said the feedback was difficult to read through but she appreciated the honesty.

“We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to understand that experience,” Plummer said. “We are taking this very seriously and actually as hard as it was to read, I really appreciate that people were as honest as they were.”

Another common perception was the sense that the situation was preventable. The roof was ageing and slated for repair in the spring of 2019, after Highland Wood’s sister facility in Minden, Hyland Crest, had its roof fixed the fall of 2018.

“It was preventable and it’s disgusting it was allowed to happen,” the report quoted from a staff feedback session. “Played Russian roulette and lost.”

HHHS maintains that the early failure of the roof “occurred suddenly without warning,” per the preliminary report of forensic engineering firm Michael Flynn & Associates Ltd., who inspected the roof on behalf of HHHS’s insurance company.

“This event occurred very early on within the service life of the roof and without the normal signs of early failure,” Flynn wrote after his inspection. “No one within your facility is at fault and certainly should not be blamed for this unfortunate incident.”

Other points of criticism included issues with covering travel costs for family members, a lack of presence from the HHHS board, a lack of government funding for infrastructure and labour issues, with staff reportedly feeling unsupported during the incident.

Plummer said the Ministry of Health was involved in the feedback process. She said she would like to see better infrastructure funding for long-term care homes.

“There are some avenues for infrastructure funding for hospitals, but we don’t have access to those similar avenues for long-term care,” Plummer said. “There needs to be something more in place to support homes or be able to keep themselves maintained and to sustain themselves. That’s certainly something I’ve been advocating for and continue to advocate for.”

But Plummer said HHHS will move ahead with long-term infrastructure renewal regardless of whether more provincial funding comes.

“That will continue to be our plan,” Plummer said. “We’re building on that plan, but we will end up needing to borrow money to make that happen if funding doesn’t come.”

HE passes budget with 3.81 per cent levy increase

Highlands East passed its 2020 budget Feb. 11. File photo.

Highlands East passed its 2020 municipal budget with a 3.81 per cent levy increase Feb. 11.

The budget includes funding for an array of improvements to some roads, fire departments and Cardiff facilities. CAO Shannon Hunter said the budget this year avoids larger changes to the organization and infrastructure to do further review. With the County and education rates factored in, Highlands East residents can expect a total tax rate increase of 1.61 per cent, or $13.69 for every $100,000 of assessment.

Coun. Cam McKenzie complimented staff on the budget, adding council has generally not taken issue with budgets in recent years.

“I would just like to say to Shannon and her staff, well done,” McKenzie said. “I’ve been on council five years and we’ve never had a major disagreement or in-depth discussion on the budget.”

Highlights include $175,000 being transferred to reserves for a future, singular municipal office, recommended in an organizational review. The municipality is also allotting $50,000 for an asset management plan revision and $15,000 for a service delivery review.

Most fire halls are receiving repairs to add exhaust fans, with a couple receiving roof repairs. Station 6 is getting $59,600 for fans and roof repairs, station 4 is getting $42,560 for the same and Stations 1, 2 and 3 are each getting $20,000 for fans only. Road projects this year include $250,000 for Clement Lake Road, $150,000 for McColls Road and $48,000 for Magnificent Road.

Cardiff facilities are also getting improvements, including $200,000 for a new changeroom and bathrooms at the pool, as recommended by a facilities review. The Cardiff municipal office and library are getting $33,500 for concrete walkaways amongst other upgrades, while the Post Office and food bank are receiving $15,000.

The final budget removed $10,000 originally included in the draft for a consultant to review ward boundaries, Hunter said.

High school curlers edge out win in dramatic finish

The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School boys curling team poses together after winning the Schoolboys Trophy. Photo submitted

Facing a championship-deciding shot, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School boys curling skip Jacob Dobson said he treated it like any other.

“We just said, here we go. Just another shot, another day,” Dobson said. “I knew exactly as soon as their rock stopped moving what I had to do.”

It was close – a matter of inches. Dobson said he could not see the result immediately. But Haliburton lead Owen Nicholls could, and he lifted his arms into the air and shouted the result: “We won!”

The team of Dobson, Nicholls, vice Liam Little and second Corin Gervais claimed the Ontario School Curling Provincial Championships in Chatham Feb. 13-15, winning the Schoolboys Trophy.

It was a dramatic finish to the tournament, which would see Haliburton go 2-1 in a round robin and best the favoured hometown Ursuline team 6-5 in the semifinals.

They surged ahead 5-0 against the Carlton Place Bears in the final, but the Bears battled back to make it 5-5 and send it to an extra end. The Bears were ready to score two in the final end, before Dobson made a strong draw to the button to come out ahead. But after Carlton matched his shot with one of their own, Dobson had to make another difficult draw to the button through multiple guard stones to win.

But after two previous years of provincial competition and years of practice, Dobson said he was ready for the moment, and succeeded. Dobson and Little placed fourth in the same competition in 2018, while Gervais joined them in placing fifth at the OFSAA provincial competition in 2019.

“It was something we worked three years for with this team,” Dobson said. “I was quite happy we were able to get that last shot out.”

It’s the first high school provincial title for Haliburton’s curlers since 2014, when a girls’ team took the title. The only other title came in 2009 with a boys’ team.

High school coach Darrell Dobson, Jacob’s father, said it is a mark of success for the Haliburton Curling Club’s youth program. He credited fellow coaches Hugh Nichol and Russ Duhaime for their efforts, which have helped result in a new championship banner being hung up at the club.

“The whole county can be proud,” the elder Dobson said.

Jacob Dobson said he is inspired by the curling greats – the likes of Mike Harris, Brad Jacobs, Brad Gushue, who sent a congratulatory message to Dobson, who attended Gushue’s curling camp.

One day, he hopes to join their ranks and bring home a Brier title and an Olympic medal.

“But at this point, just taking those steps, winning the games now,” he said.

The team was back in competition quickly and went on to win Kawarthas Feb. 18-19 and have now qualified for the regional COSSA competition March 7.

Jacob Dobson said the team worked well together with their combined experience and expects a strong showing.

“We just hope we’re going to have the same results as before,” Dobson said. “Take it game-by-game.”

TripAdvisor spurs tourism debate

The County tourism committee reviews an example TripAdvisor destination page during a meeting Feb. 12. Photo by Joseph Quigley.

The County Tourism Committee remained at an impasse about spending on a TripAdvisor page and will seek more stakeholder feedback before coming to a decision.

The committee asked questions during a Feb. 16 meeting about investing $13,500 from the marketing budget for a Destination Sponsorship package with the company. The package would allow the County more control on a TripAdvisor destination page for the Haliburton Highlands, but some accommodators have expressed concern TripAdvisor could end up costing individual businesses.

The committee asked questions of TripAdvisor’s Emily Fowler over teleconference. Committee chair and Coun. Carol Moffatt said she wanted to ensure the County’s investment would not take extra money from local businesses.

“We don’t want to use public money to facilitate something that will force the hand of our small business owners into somewhere that they don’t want to go,” Moffatt said.

Fowler explained that with the purchase, the County would be able to control most everything on a central page for the Haliburton Highlands to promote the area. The County would be able to curate the content of the page and direct it to link out to different local businesses.

She also said TripAdvisor would not force the hand of those small businesses, who could benefit from a controlled central page directing traffic to them without having to pay into TripAdvisor themselves.

“Working with their tourism board, they’re able to have that tourism board post on their behalf,” Fowler said. “It’s really a win-winwin for stakeholders.”

But Rob Berthlot challenged that. He noted TripAdvisor offers sponsored placements to make a business feature more prominently on its website.

“If the County’s going to sponsor something, I don’t want it to sponsor something that makes me feel beholden to upgrade my thing in order to get my benefit out of it,” Berthlot said.

Fowler said she can work with businesses that do not pay into TripAdvisor directly and that the destination page does not favour businesses with a paid membership. She added algorithms for viewing habits can impact what someone sees as they browse the website.

County tourism director Amanda Virtanen said the page itself is only a $2,500 investment, for one year. The remainder of the funding is different advertising for the County on TripAdvisor, one of several different marketing initiatives being worked on, she added.

Committee member Tegan Legge said she supports it, adding TripAdvisor is important to online presence. “To me, it’s a no-brainer,” Legge said, adding her Haliburton Forest utilizes TripAdvisor readily despite not paying into it. “There are other platforms out there, but again, this is the top one, this is number one … I am very passionate that this should happen.”

The committee voted to accept the discussion as information and have staff bring back feedback from the tourism stakeholders’ group to the next County meeting.

Sweetening the pot for affordable housing

City of Kawartha Lakes human services manager Hope Lee addresses an audience about a new housing program in Haliburton Feb. 11. Photo by Joseph Quigley.

Housing developers and advocates flocked to an information session in Haliburton Feb. 11 aimed at highlighting incentives that will help fill the regional affordable housing gap.

The City of Kawartha Lakes and County of Haliburton housing services hosted the session to discuss the new annual Affordable Housing Target Program. The initiative will guide developers through a yearlong process to help them take advantage of all the government financial incentives available to develop affordably. More than 50 people attended.

Places for People vice president Faye Martin said the new process should attract more interest into previously undersubscribed incentives.

“There was very poor take-up and part of the problem was people didn’t know about it,” Martin said. “The really, really smart thing this time around is they got Elise (Karklins, affordable housing program coordinator) here to basically hold your hand, take you through it.”

The program will accept expressions of interest for several housing types, including new rental and home developments, secondary suites, and multi-unit rehabilitation. Packages will be provided to developers based on their projects and what incentives they seek. After being filled out, the packages will be reviewed by the coordinator and a technical team, before eventually being forwarded to councils for approval. The amount of funding released by municipalities will depend on how much interest there is, according to city human services manager Hope Lee.

It is all to help the City and the County achieve their new affordable housing targets, committed to in 2019. The City is aiming to create 2,000 new affordable units over 10 years while the County is aiming for 750.

“It’s not competitive,” Lee said. “We’re going to look at each expression of interest based on its own merits and how it helps us achieve those targets.”

The incentives include a variety of funding programs that can be provided as an up-front grant, Lee said. In general, the amount of money available to an applicant is greater based on how long a developer keeps the proposed unit(s) affordable.

Haliburton Community Housing Corporation president Glenn Scott complimented the presentation and what is being offered.

“It’s actually getting close to rubber on the road,” Scott said. “This is the way to do it, is to give us a process where there is some opportunity for money at the end.”

However, he added the biggest test of the program will be seeing exactly how much funding it can provide.

“I love what they’re doing but let’s really see how they can help us out,” Scott said.

Maple View Apartments administrator Kathy Rogers said there is some real potential in the program.

“It’s a great step on starting to get us all together,” Rogers said. “There’s definitely a lot of interest.”

The pre-submission process is planned for March, with expressions of interest meetings planned for April. More information is available by contacting Karklins at ekarklins@kawarthalakes.ca or 705-324-9870 extension 3105.

Haliburton native in CBC Searchlight

Mackenzie Robinson

By Lisa Gervais

Haliburton native Mackenzie Robinson has made the top 100 of CBC Searchlight 2020, but needs voting help if he is to progress in the nationwide competition.

The contest invites musicians of any genre to submit an original song and compete for prizes courtesy of the Juno awards, the National Music Centre and CBC Music.

Robinson entered a song entitled I Know under the artist name Kashaga, a tribute to Lake Kashagawigamog, where he grew up.

 During the last round, 50 artists made it through by popular vote and the other 50 advanced by internal judging from a team of CBC music producers. Robinson was one of them.

The contest proceeds to the top 10 finalists on Thursday, Feb. 27, and finally, the winner of Searchlight 2020 will be declared on Thursday, March 5.

“I can’t even explain how excited I am to have made the top 100 for CBC Searchlight 2020,” Robinson told The Highlander.

He said when he found out he was part of the hand-selected group, it “blew my mind. I never expected to move on to the next round, so this is huge for me. Even if I don’t make it to Top 10, I’m just happy I entered the competition.”

He said he’s doing his best to promote himself on social media to get as many people to vote for him as he can.

“This next step into Top 10 is a very short time period of five days, (voting ends Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. EST), so the pressure is on.”

Robinson said if he were to win the competition it would be a dream come true.

“Music is everything to me. It is my therapy, self expression, muse, escape, my best friend and my one true love.”

He started playing the drums at a very young age, largely inspired by early 2000’s Pop-Punk bands such as Blink 182, GOB, Billy Talent and others. He said his drumming transitioned into the world of Jazz and he is forever thankful he dove into that genre.

“It is so powerful and still such a heavy influence on the music I make and listen to today.”

He said that it was at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School that he found his love for Hip Hop through a collective called, Odd Future, which he said plays a huge role in inspiring the lyrical side of his music.

“When I began recording my own music, I labelled my self as a ‘Rapper’ but over the years I have found my voice in singing and I prefer the title of an ‘Artist.’ Although my music is mostly Hip-Hop based, I enjoy blending all of my favourite genres into one cohesive sound.” 

He said the best way to follow his journey of music is through his Instagram, ‘Kxshaga’. He said all of his music content is on all platforms but he has the most attention from fans on Spotify. “There’s something nice about having a name that pays homage to the place that shaped who I am,” he added.  
He said winning the competition would be the next step in making his passion become a career.

“I, like many other artists, doubt myself all of the time. Making the Top 100 has really shown me that what I’m doing is the right thing. If I win, then I will be more focused than ever to push this dream into reality and be successful in the music industry. I’m not looking for ‘fame’ or ‘clout’, but if my music can touch people and help get people through tough times, I will consider myself a success. The exposure from being in this competition will be a huge help in making this happen and I will be forever grateful if I make it to number one.”

To vote, go to cbc.ca/musicinteractives/searchlight

Builders storm council chambers over bylaw

Citizens filled the County of Haliburton council chambers over concern about a new draft shoreline bylaw. Photo by Joseph Quigley.

Haliburton’s construction sector is raising alarm bells over a draft shoreline preservation bylaw. However, County councillors have assured them their concerns will be heard.

County council discussed the bylaw during a committee of the whole meeting Feb. 12, with its chambers packed with onlookers from the construction industry. Staff had gathered feedback and worked on the bylaw for several months, aiming to protect shoreline and lake health by restricting development within 30 metres.

Brown + Co contract manager Andrew Brown said the bylaw in its current form would severely hamper developments and puts new lakefront properties at a massive disadvantage to existing ones when it comes to lake views. He added although he understands people want less clear-cutting, he thinks existing bylaws can cover that, but are not enforced.

“The construction industry, Haliburton’s largest employer, is seriously worried about the delays, restrictions and extra fees,” Brown said. “Not to mention the amount of people forced to break the law because they can not afford the expense to see the lake, the reason they moved to Haliburton.”

Council did not make any decisions about the bylaw, voting to receive it for information and have staff propose a public consultation process. The bylaw itself impacts all lands within 30 metres of the high-water mark of a body of water. Within that area, unless it falls under an exemption or a permit is granted, it states nobody shall remove, destroy or injure natural vegetation.

It also calls for those spaces to be kept clean of litter and refuse, restricts any site alterations, restricts tree removal, as well as other limitations for noise and odour. It also specifies certain types of work would not require permits, including snow removal, installing a driveway or pathway, removing invasive species, clearing obstacles such as fallen trees and culvert cleaning.

The bylaw includes fees for application, permits and an extension fee, suggested at 50 per cent of the original permit. The draft states that permits will expire after 90 days if site alteration activities have not commenced.

The exact fee costs are not yet listed, but Coun. Patrick Kennedy questioned the extension fee.

“I almost feel that’s a cash grab,” he said.

Director of planning Charlsey White suggested fees be waived for the first year of the bylaw to help get compliance.

Councillors brought up other concerns, such as the enforcement challenges the bylaw could pose and the possible need for additional staff. They expressed the need for a good public consultation process.

“I would rather not have any rush to put something in place until we’re absolutely sure we’ve heard from everybody and understand the concerns,” Coun. Carol Moffatt said.

Haliburton County Home Builders Association vice-president Glenn Evans said the executive was pleased by the outcome of the meeting.

“The process seemed to be almost well underway and predetermined,” Evans said. “It was nice to understand there was more room for public input.”

He said the association is starting a task force to examine the bylaw. He added more should be done to properties which have already damaged natural shorelines and the task force will seek a middle ground between protecting the environment and economic interests.

If you build it

If you build it

We applaud the City of Kawartha LakesCounty of Haliburton housing services for hosting an information session Feb. 11 in Haliburton.

The event attracted more than 50 people. There were housing advocates, which is great. But they are the converted. More importantly, housing developers attended. They’re the ones the city and County must convince to invest in affordable housing. And the only real way to entice them is to assure them that there is government money available, and that they can, in time, make some money off of the housing they build.

The hosts came to talk about the new annual Affordable Housing Target Program. This initiative will guide developers through a yearlong process to help them take advantage of all the government financial incentives available to develop affordable housing.

As is sometimes the case with government incentive programs, it takes awhile to get the word out. Builders and developers are so busy, well, building and developing, that they don’t always have the time to research this stuff.

So, having affordable housing program coordinator Elise Karklins on hand, to basically walk developers through the incentives, was good common sense.

The program will accept expressions of interest for several housing types, including new rental and home developments, secondary suites, rent supplements and multi-unit rehabilitation.

Packages will be provided to developers based on their projects and what incentives they seek. After being filled out, the packages will be reviewed by the coordinator and a technical team, before eventually being forwarded to councils for approval.

The amount of funding released by municipalities will depend on how much interest there is.

With the city setting a target of creating an additional 1,280 affordable housing units, and the County 750, over the next 10 years, this is a good first step.

The incentives include a variety of municipal sweeteners and funding programs, many of which are provided as an up-front grant. In general, the amount of incentives or funding available to an applicant is greater based on how long they keep the proposed unit(s) affordable.

Of course, the devil is in the details. How much funding will be provided?

Developers are reminded that the pre-submission process is planned for March, with expressions of interest meetings planned for April. (See related story in today’s edition for more information).

An April 25, 2019, Globe and Mail article outlined really well the National Housing Strategy’s (NHS) key federal funding initiatives. It talks about non-profit WoodGreen Community Services building a new 35-unit housing complex for seniors on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue.

It’s one of the slew of new projects taking advantage of billions of dollars in funding available through the NHS.

Launched in 2017, the $55-billion-plus NHS is the country’s first ever federal housing strategy. Its goals include reducing homelessness by half, removing about 530,000 families from housing need, renovating and modernizing about 300,000 existing homes, and building more than 125,000 new units over the next decade.

One of the key themes is bringing together different parties from public and private sectors, including private developers and non-profit organizations, to tackle this major undertaking.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is the government agency responsible for implementing the lion’s share of the NHS, using grants, loans and incentives.

Each of the federal funding initiatives have been designed to fund sustainable, affordable housing projects that would have otherwise been impossible using traditional financing models.

It’s a welcome program since we all know how desperately more affordable housing is needed here.

Fiesta to fill stomachs and hearts

Camexicanus Mexican students perform in Haliburton.

If you can’t get to Mexico this winter, Camexicanus is offering County residents a short trip down south for an evening this Sunday, Feb. 23.

Dubbed February Fiesta, it’s a fundraiser for their March break volunteer humanitarian arts trip.

Founder Greg Sadlier and his wife Hannah Sadlier are taking four local Grade 11 and 12 students to Monterrey and the Yucatan, Mexico for a crosscultural arts exchange.

Camexicanus was officially formed in 2013 but its journey has been developing for years, ever since Greg went to Mexico in 2001 on a similar student exchange.

Sadlier said the Haliburton students will be running arts camps, working with charities, meeting Camexicanus Mexican students and their families and representing Canada and the Highlands on their trip.

He said it’s a mirror image of what Mexican students did when they came to Haliburton this past summer, “running day camp programs for kids especially in underreached areas that don’t have any programs.”

During the trip, they will be connecting with their Mexican students, staying in their homes with their families, and experiencing real Mexican life, he said.

Sadlier said a lot of organizing goes into the trip, including hockey bags of arts, craft and music supplies. In some cases, they purchase items in Mexico to help the economy there.

“It’s always a bit of a balancing game. If we can get it there, at relatively the same price or less expensive, I prefer to do that.” He added it is hard to predict the needs when in Canada. For example, they may arrive to find a family desperately needs a new microwave oven. “We just have to be prepared and be ready. if we’re doing a kids’ camp and we become aware of a need with a family, we need to be ready to jump in and fill those needs.”

He encouraged people to come out to the fundraiser as he believes their program is unique due to the “breadth and width” of their reach. He said Haliburton youth not only receive a cross-cultural exchange but stay on to form Camexicanus’ summer staff. They also run after-school programs and had almost 100 students in 2019 across the County.

“It’s sort of the ripple effect of cultural change that I think is very unique when you are working with youth and in an arts context,” he said.

The event is being held upstairs at the A.J. LaRue Arena this Sunday at 6 p.m. The Sadliers will be cooking an authentic Mexican feast, including tamales and enchiladas, and the kids will be putting on a show that will feature music, dancing and theatre. There’s also a silent auction. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for students. Tickets are available online or by emailing info@camexicanus.ca

Dogs seized from Minden property

One of the dogs allegedly on a Minden property, which came under scrutiny for animal welfare concerns. Photo submitted.

Neighbours and advocates are relieved after officials removed 11 hunting dogs from Minden properties during an animal welfare investigation.

Officials removed the dogs Feb. 13, due to the owner not complying with orders relating to standards of care, according to the Ministry of the Solicitor General. Fourteen dogs were initially chained to insulated dog houses on an uninhabited property, according to the property owner. The ministry said the dogs were brought to humane societies, but no information was available on the three dogs unaccounted for as of Feb. 18.

Shanna Dryburgh was one of the neighbours who originally reported the issue Jan. 22 due to concern over the dogs’ conditions. She said it’s bittersweet seeing the dogs removed.

“In the back of my mind, I didn’t want anything to be wrong,” Dryburgh said, adding she feels bad for the property owner. “But it’s a relief that there’s an acknowledgement. (Dogs) being left unattended in this community is not something hopefully, going forward, that will be tolerated.”

The property owner could not be reached for comment after his dogs’ removal. In an interview before the dogs were taken, he said his setup is common among hunters. He also said his dogs were in good health, and he attended the property twice a day.

Officials did not initially seize the dogs. An OPP press release Jan. 30 said animal welfare investigators were working with the property owner to improve property conditions.

Dryburgh described the public response as “overwhelming.” A video of the dogs went viral, attracting tens of thousands of shares and comments on Facebook. One online petition, calling for an investigation as to why the dogs were not initially removed, garnered 10,023 signatures.

She said she still has concerns about how the officials handled the investigation and believes they should have taken the dogs right away.

“It would have stopped all the public outcry,” she said, adding the owner could get the dogs back after fixing any issues with their habitat. “It’s better to err on the side of caution and just get them out of there.”

The Ministry of the Solicitor General said Feb. 11 a veterinarian was called to two Minden properties to aid the investigation. But the Jan. 30 OPP press release makes no mention of a vet. After being asked whether a vet was called when investigators first attended the site, the ministry said it could not comment as it is an ongoing investigation.

Advocate: outcry made a difference

Lynn Perrier is a long-time animal welfare advocate who started the petition. She said she feels the public outcry made a difference in how the ministry handled the case

“We had over 10,000 signatures in two days. There’s no way that any government can ignore that,” Perrier said.

The case came in a time of transition for animal welfare in the province. The Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act came into effect Jan. 1, putting enforcement in the hands of the province instead of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA).

Perrier said the new act has loopholes, as evidenced by this case. But she added the act is a good framework and the province will need more time to add more regulations for animal care.

“They really are totally inexperienced with this and I think we need to have patience,” Perrier said. “I have no doubt that eventually, we’re going to have an animal welfare system that is the best in Canada, but it’s going to take time.”

Laws come under scrutiny

The situation has put a new focus on the practice of tethering, or chaining dogs. It’s legal in Ontario, but another online petition, which cites this case, is calling for tethering to be banned. It has amassed more than 40,000 signatures.

In its code of practice for kennels, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CMVA) said tethering is not allowed as a method of confining a dog to a primary enclosure, nor as the only means of containment. It also recommends dogs be monitored while tethered, and tethers be five times the length of a dog.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) does not have a position on tethering, according to resources management specialist Lauren Tonelli.

But the OFAH is working on a new code of conduct for hunting dogs. Tonelli said the code will provide best practice, including for the training and care of hunting dogs. Outdoor care will also be mentioned.

“Really that idea of a weather-appropriate shelter, making sure they do have somewhere warm and out of the elements and somewhere they can always access water,” Tonelli said.

She said the OFAH is aware of the Minden case but could not comment on it specifically. She also said concerns raised by a situation such as this are broader than hunting.

“If anyone ever sees a situation where they’re concerned about the treatment of any animal, they should be contacting either their local municipality or the OPP,” she said. “It’s not a hunting dog issue, it’s a dog owner issue.”

Minden bylaws are also coming under scrutiny. The municipality restricts rural properties to nine dogs, besides kennels. But Dryburgh said even nine is too many and plans to make a delegation to council.

“At nine dogs, there are sanitary issues, there are noise issues,” Dryburgh said. “It’s just a crazy number.”