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Home away from forever home



The SPCA looks out for the rights of animals while matching them with families to love


By Maggie Zinck

My family adopted our first dog, a black lab named Clifford, from The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in 2000, before I was even born. My parents told me the story about how my mom walked into the Nova Scotia SPCA shelter in Burnside, and Clifford was the only dog that wasn't barking. He shoved his nose out of his kennel to sniff her hand. Clifford was eight months old when my family adopted him. When I was born, Clifford welcomed me into the family by giving me a big lick on the cheek. Whenever I cried as a baby, he would come over and rock my cradle to calm me down. Clifford was the perfect match for our family and it was the SPCA who made sure that he was going to a good family.  

"The SPCA is the agency that adopts out animals to new homes, says Elizabeth Murphy, who is the president and CEO of the SPCA in Nova Scotia, a position she’s held since September of 2013. “It has offices around the province and a shelter in Burnside.” in Nova Scotia there is a law called the Animal Protection Act and the SPCA has the authority to enforce that law. The SPCA has about 17 paid staff and 300 volunteers (just in the metro office). In springtime, the shelter has lots of puppies and kittens because it’s breeding season.

Did you know that The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, used to not have an "A" for Animals in its name? It used to be "The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty." Its original job was to prevent cruelty to both animals and children. The SPCA in Nova Scotia has been around since 1917. It is a "no-kill" facility, meaning that it doesn't put animals down, but instead tries to find new homes for them. It has peace officers that work around the province and whenever it gets a call about possible cruelty to an animal, it will investigate. "The first line of defense is education," says Ms. Murphy, "because some people just don't know better." Sometimes it has to seize an animal from its home and the animal gets taken to the shelter.

People will also bring their pets to the SPCA for other reasons. When people get older and go to a nursing home, they often cannot take their animals with them. People can develop allergies to pets and have to use the SPCA to find their animal a new home. Sometimes a pet is not a good fit for the family. Pet owners can have a hard time looking after an animal if a family member has lost a job. Sometimes people find animals on the side of the road. They call the SPCA and it goes to get them. Ms. Murphy says that the SPCA doesn't judge people who want to give up a pet. "Sometimes you don't know and that's OK." The SPCA has had many unusual animals other than dogs, cats, and rabbits. Is has had hamsters, lizards, ferrets, chinchillas, a degu (which is a rodent from Chile), hedgehogs, and rats.

If your family is thinking about getting a new pet, perhaps you should consider the SPCA. Ms. Murphy says there are many things a family should think about before getting any pet. For example, what kind of family are you, what your energy level is, how much time you have for a pet, the cost of owning a pet, and your personality. Dogs usually need more exercise and time than cats do.

When an animal is adopted from the SPCA, it helps protect and save more animals. "Animals that have been abused or neglected, they are all welcome and they all come to the shelter...The revenues that we receive through the adoption fees, it helps not only take care of the animals, it also helps us have programs in the community so that we can educate the public and go into the school system", Ms. Murphy says.

The process of adopting an animal from the SPCA is not that difficult. The SPCA tries to make it easy for people to adopt the animal, because the more animals that can be adopted out to families, the more animals that can be saved. The process involves meeting an animal at the SPCA, doing a questionnaire, and making sure that the family and animal are right fits for each other.

The SPCA relies partly on donations to help it run, so the public can help by raising money for the SPCA by doing things such as bake sales. People can also come to the SPCA and walk dogs.

Ms. Murphy has learned that people are very passionate about caring for animals. She has learned that it takes all kinds of people to work with animals. She has learned that all animals and people have value. "The best part [of my job] is being able to have kittens walk across my desk [and] to be able to come to work with a puppy sleeping in my chair. That is a definite perk", she says.

Ms. Murphy feels strongly about the importance of the work done by the SPCA. "...Life is important, all life is important. But I think it's our responsibility as stewards of this Earth to take care of what's around us and that includes animals. I am very fortunate to work for the SPCA because animals bring something unique to peoples' lives...They make us better people."

For more information on the Nova Scotia SPCA and its work, visit


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