Thursday, April 17, 2014

Let's Close the Species Gap!

It's no secret that animal welfare is a very different thing for dogs and cats. Long gone are the days when dogs were allowed to roam. Dogs tend to receive significantly more veterinary care, are more likely to be vaccinated, and – females, at least – are more likely to be sterilized than their feline counterparts. 

More than 60 per cent of dogs brought to the Ottawa Humane Society as strays are claimed by their owners. And we suspect that a significant number of those "lost" dogs were really just unwanted by their owners for one reason or another. In our best year ever, despite huge efforts to get lost cats home, only seven per cent were claimed by their families!

One of the most striking differences between dogs and cats in our community, and by extension, at the OHS, are the numbers that enter our care with identification. While just 14 per cent of dogs admitted have either visible identification – a collar and tag – or permanent ID in the form of a microchip, only a sad one per cent of cats are so protected.  Obviously this seriously inhibits our ability to return a cat to its home.
While 14 per cent of dogs admitted to the OHS
 have either visible ID or a microchip, just one
per cent of cats do.

What can you do?  If you have brought a cat into your life, please outfit her with a collar and tag. Have her implanted with permanent identification. This way, you can help us and your neighbours return her home safely.  I know what you're thinking: My cat hates her collar. She never goes outside. Well, I hated wearing ties, but I got used to it. Your cat will get used to the collar. And a surprising number of owners that come to us looking for a lost cat tell us that “she never goes outside,” that, “she slipped out this one time.”

If you lose your cat, don't give up looking for him. We have reunited pets with their owners months after they became lost. Here are some tips from your friends at the OHS:
  • Visit the Ottawa Humane Society as soon as possible.
  • View photos of most stray cats admitted to the OHS shelter at
  • Make fliers that include the lost date, description including any unique markings, a picture, and your phone number. A reward motivates people!
  • Make familiar sounds to attract your pet. Walk around your neighbourhood in the morning and evening calling your cat’s name.
  • Put fliers up around your neighbourhood shops, veterinary clinics and anywhere else, including your old neighbourhood if you’ve recently moved.
  • Place the kitty litter outside – while it may sound strange, this helps nervous or shy cats who may have bolted return to a site that “smells” familiar.
  • Check with neighbours, mail courier, newspaper and other delivery people, local veterinary clinics, etc.

More tips and information can be found on our website at:
And please, let's close the welfare gap between dogs and cats. Always identify your cat!

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thank You OHS Volunteers!

The Ottawa Humane Society is pleased to join the celebration of National Volunteer Week this April 6 to 12 and salute the close to 600 volunteers who give so generously of their time, skills and energy to support the animals in our care. The OHS would simply not be where it is today without the commitment of our volunteers.
The OHS would simply not be where it is today
without the commitment of our volunteers.

Our volunteers touch every part of our work, supporting our daily operations, programs and services. Over the past year, dedicated OHS volunteers logged an incredible 49,343 hours to help save animals’ lives. Committed volunteers fostered hundreds of sick animals in their homes; others supported the OHS by entering data to ensure that our supporters were acknowledged and thanked for their generosity. Our volunteer dog walkers braved the rain, sleet and snow to provide daily outings for canines in our care, while other volunteers drove hundreds of kilometers to deliver cats to our 24 partner Pet Adoption Locations across the City. Our generous volunteer veterinarians donated almost 400 hours to sterilize animals prior to adoption and provide critical life-saving surgeries to give many animals a second chance. Board and committee volunteers helped ensure that our future is bright and healthy, while, thanks to the efforts of so many other volunteers, we can ensure that our daily administration is as efficient as possible. Our Humane Education volunteers delivered 185 school presentations, reaching nearly 4,500 students and building the next generation of compassionate, informed pet owners. From teaching kids—and adults—about the humane treatment of animals, to taking animals on visits to brighten residents’ days in long-term care facilities, OHS volunteers reach out and help us ensure a strong community devoted to animal care and welfare.

Our volunteers are truly the lifeblood of the Ottawa Humane Society and we do not take a single hour of their time for granted. We are thankful for each and every hour and what it means to the 11,000 animals that need our help each year.

This week, we look forward to hosting some special events for our volunteers as part of National Volunteer Week, but our sincere appreciation for their contribution stretches across each and every day of the year.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

If you are interested in joining our volunteer team, please check out available volunteer opportunities on our website at

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hop on down to the OHS for our free family Easter egg-stravaganza!

Is there a hop in your step now that spring is finally in the air? Grab the kids and hop in the car for some egg-citing free Easter fun at the Ottawa Humane Society. You and your family can eggs-plore all of our furry friends and join in the fun. We’ll be offering free Easter-themed activities such as egg races, face painting, sugar cookie decorating and tons of Easter crafts. The OHS auxiliary will be holding a bake sale where you’ll find some scrumptious treats.  And you never know if our good friend the Easter bunny will make an appearance!

Our Off-Leash Camp counsellors will be on site to answer any questions you may have about our children’s programs including summer camp, birthday parties and tours.

Come celebrate spring at the OHS Hoppy Easter event.  There are no egg-scuses to miss it!

Lori Marcantonio

Director:  Outreach

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thank You For Your Thoughts

What a terrific response we got to my blog last week, "What's going on?" that posed the question as to why we are seeing so much animal abuse in Ottawa, and what could be done about it. 

The overwhelming majority of you felt there was a need for tougher laws and stiffer penalties. Many of you recognized that the problem went beyond the legislation itself and extended to the penalties being brought down by the courts.
Why are we seeing so much animal abuse in Ottawa
and what can be done to stop it?

Sandie Spears felt that our society needs an attitude adjustment:
"When people learn that an animal is not a thing but a member of their family they may change their treatment of them."
A number of you pointed to the link between violence toward animals and violence toward humans. Karen Phillips wrote:
"(The) court system needs to recognize that animal abusers have a high likelihood of women/children abuse. This is the mark of a sadist. Lock them up on animal abuse and save the rest of the family! These recent animal abuse cases are not NORMAL! These are disturbed, violent individuals that we should all feel unsafe around."
Shirley Morgan had a good suggestion:
"What about having a campaign called, Look with your eyes and Listen with your ears: If you hear a dog barking or crying constantly, look into it (and) call the OHS. If you see with your eyes cows really thin, do something, call..."
I will make sure Ms. Morgan's suggestion is considered as a part of our upcoming strategic planning process.

I liked that Joanna Calder felt that the spate of horrendous cases might actually mean something good about our community. She wrote:
"I wonder if the apparent rise in cases is not because there is more abuse, but perhaps because other people are more sensitive to animals' abuse and quicker now to confront the abusers, report them, or take other action. If so, then the apparent rise in abuse may really be a rise in caring by others."
I hope you will forgive me if I highlight Tonya Pomerantz's response. To me, it expresses both the horror we feel and captures what we are ultimately trying to achieve. Also, it's nice to get a compliment now and again!
"All I know is that these monsters should not be part of our society. It frightens me to think of the horror that other people are inflicting on their pets. I am so incredibly grateful for the OHS and what your team does. I have supported the OHS in all sorts of ways, and I will continue to do so. 
I would love to have a day where we don't have unwanted dogs, cats and other animals, and when no one abuses or neglects their animals. Until that day, both our society and so many animals are blessed to have you and the whole OHS team."
Thank you to everyone who considered these questions and took the time to write. Keep writing, keep thinking, and keep up your vigilance. Breezy, Charlie and all the other animals need you.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's going on?

You probably have seen my face many times lately. I have been talking to the media a lot about the most recent horrific crime against an animal—the alleged intentional dragging of Tyson , a two-year-old German Shepherd, behind his owner's vehicle.

This is just the latest in a series of shocking crimes: the public beating of Breezy, the starvation of Charlie the Great Dane, and the capture and torture-killing of a mother and baby raccoon. Overall, our number of investigations has increased significantly, and these incidents are among the most serious and disturbing we have witnessed in many years.

Two-year-old Tyson, recovering at the OHS, is the
latest case in a series of shocking crimes against animals.

To a person, reporters have asked me the same question: "What is going on? Why have so many terrible crimes been committed in Ottawa over the past year?" My response? I wish I knew. If we understood it, maybe there is something we at the Ottawa Humane Society could do about it.

Why here? Why now? Violent crime levels have fallen dramatically in most of the Western world over the past several decades. Ottawa has typically seen much lower violent crime levels than its counterparts, certainly in comparison to comparably-sized U.S. cities. Are animals becoming proxies—outlets for aggression once perpetrated against humans? Is this just a terrible statistical blip?

Provincial legislation has improved significantly in recent years, and the Criminal Code, while still seriously flawed and out of date, has at least increased penalties for those convicted. Is our community more aware of crimes against animals and therefore more vigilant and willing to report? Is there a wider trend fueled by some awful social change?

Tell us what you think, and more importantly, tell us what you think can be done. Write us with your thoughts on Facebook or at

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Friday, March 14, 2014

Think Before You Buy

I have great respect for local columnist Kelly Egan. In fact, a couple of years ago the OHS gave Kelly an award for his writing and for drawing attention to the plight of Ottawa's animals. In my introduction, I said Kelly didn't always agree with me or the OHS, but he was always accurate and fair. It seemed impolite at an awards ceremony to mention that I don't always agree with Kelly.

One such instance was an article that Kelly wrote about buying a puppy. He described the terrible conditions at the breeder and how horrified he was that the puppy was living there:
"When we bought our pug, Henry, we found a breeder online, outside the city. It was arranged via email and in telephone conversations. A deposit was made.

When we arrived to pick up the pup, we were shocked by the conditions. Outside, the farmhouse was in battered shape; inside was worse.

There were filthy cages all over the kitchen floor - even one on the stove - and the operator herself was a mess.

We "rescued" the dog and fled, with noses raw. Well, didn't he turn out to have mange, a condition he lived with for some months, with frequent vet intervention?"
Can you see the part of Kelly's story that concerns me?  "We 'rescued' the dog and fled".  What Kelly didn't seem to understand is that he had just bought a puppy from, at best, a very sub-standard breeder, and at worst, possibly a puppy mill.  And by handing over money to buy that puppy, he just became a small part of the problem.  That "breeder" was just going to breed more puppies in those terrible conditions to sell to the next Kelly to come along.

Please don't think that I am blaming Kelly for puppy mills or even sub-standard breeders.  I just wanted to highlight how people with the very best of intentions and even a good understanding of issues can exacerbate a problem.

We are fortunate in Ottawa, to have  good municipal legislation, an educated and mostly sensitized community, and, I like to think, a competent and progressive humane society, have led to an Ottawa that rates pretty high in animal welfare.

Yes, there are problems.  One small chain of pet stores holds out against the majority and continues to sells dog and cats that are not rescues. I am told they actually pay people to breed cats, rather than partner with the OHS or another reputable group.  Puppies and kittens still languish in their window in the shopping mall, much to the dismay of those of us charged with caring for and rehoming thousands of homeless animals every year.

Even in Ottawa, people continue to allow their cats to reproduce, creating thousands of cats and kittens in need of a new home.  

So, what can you do?  Here is a brief list of what you should always consider before buying a pet, cribbed from a great list created a number of years ago by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council:  
  • Have you been allowed access to the facilities where the dogs are housed? Is the facility clean?
  • Are food and water available in the dogs’ environment?
  • Are references supplied upon request?
  • Have you been asked pertinent questions to ensure the compatibility of you (the buyer) and the dog?
  • In the case of a breeding establishment, is the mother (dam) on the premises and available for you to see?
  • Do the dogs have good dispositions?
  • Do the dogs appear to be in good health? Below are some of the symptoms that may be of concern:
·      Thin body condition
Two-year-old St. Bernard Luke came to the OHS
from a puppy mill seizure in late 2011. He had spent
the first part of his life in a kennel with limited
human contact.
·      Pot-belly
·      Lethargy
·      Diarrhea or stained hair around the anus
·      Cough
·      Discharge from the eyes or nose
Are copies of health, vaccination certificates and documentation of the dog’s last visit to the veterinarian available for you to see?
  • In addition to the above, when dealing with a breeder, is documentation available confirming formal health clearances for both parents? (Such information is required to reduce the likelihood of transmissible diseases and genetic disorders.
  • Will you be provided with a bill of sale, listing the following: date of purchase; names of the buyer and seller; description of the dog; purchase price?
  • Will you be provided with a written guarantee that lists: specific details of pet return or compensation arrangements in the event of a health problem/illness and any time frames that apply; what is expected of the buyer (i.e. exam by a veterinarian within a certain time frames)?
And of course, I would add:  Have you considered adopting a pet from the Ottawa Humane Society or another reputable humane society or animal group?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dog Obedience Training

Does your dog come when you call him or just look at you and seem to say, “yeah, whatever,” ignoring you completely? Does she jump all over the furniture or inappropriately greet house guests? Or maybe drags you down the street when you go out for a walk? You may feel frustrated with your dog’s behaviour but remember: having a well behaved furry family member takes work.

It’s an unfortunate reality that most puppies and dogs surrendered to shelters are animals that have not had obedience training.

Dog obedience training is one of the best things you can do to ensure a successful relationship with your dog. Here’s why:
  • Your dog will understand right behaviours and will not be confused by inconsistent or misunderstood commands. 
  • You will be equipped to resolve obedience problems quickly. 
  • When meeting other people or dogs, your dog will be much happier, relaxed and confident and will demonstrate socially-appropriate behaviour. 
  • Your dog will be much safer, particularly if he runs out your front door or is off-leash at the local dog park; he will return on your command. 
Here at the OHS, we’ve offered group obedience classes for puppies, adolescents, and adults for the past couple of years. We’ve focused on providing animal owners and their puppies or dogs with an obedience program that deals with common training concerns and teaches the basics of what every dog and their owner needs to know.

While we’ve had some great feedback on our traditional obedience classes, we’ve received calls to expand our obedience offerings. In response, we’ve introduced Loose-Leash Walking workshops last month and have already held two successful sessions. Through a one-and-a-half-hour time commitment, your furry friend will learn to walk appropriately by your side. Participants from these classes have continued to use the skills they learned and are finding their dogs rarely pull and are easily redirected when going for a walk.

We’re also beginning our very first private obedience class next week for a dog whose behaviour is a little more challenging and would benefit from one-on-one lessons from our experienced obedience trainers.

Whether you choose to participate in obedience training for your furry friend at the OHS or through another training facility, the important thing to remember is that obedience training develops a bond between you and your dog that will form the basis for your entire relationship.

Lori Marcantonio
Director: Outreach