Thursday, November 27, 2014

Surprise Your Kids This Holiday Season With a Pet and Make a Homeless Animal’s Dreams Come True

‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring except a little OHS mouse. 

With the holidays quickly approaching, children everywhere can be found making lists of all the gifts and goodies they’d like to find under the tree. Not wanting to miss out, the animals here at the Ottawa Humane Society are busy doing the same thing: 

Max is wishing for a cozy bed to snuggle in, a squeaky tennis ball to chew on and a Kong filled with peanut butter; while Zander hopes for a scratching post, a laser to chase after and a bright, colourful collar to stand out against his beautiful white fur. 


With all the lists, though, there is one item that always comes up on top and that is a home for the holidays. If you have been dreaming of having the pitter patter of little furry feet around your home, you could make a special memory not only for an animal but for your family. With our Holiday Delivery Program, be it a guinea pig, cat, bird, rabbit or dog, our holiday elves will help you find the best match for your family and arrange for a magical holiday delivery that will remembered for years to come. 

Deliveries can be made for any of the nights of Hanukkah as well as Christmas morning; and while regular adoption procedures apply in addition to a delivery fee, don’t worry, our elves are really good at keeping a secret! 

So make the holidays bright for one of the amazing animals available at the Ottawa Humane Society and they will make sure that you get the best gift of all this year – unconditional love in a cuddly, furry bundle. Please contact our Adoption Centre at 613-725-3166, ext. 258, for more information or visit our website at

Looking for other ways to have fun with the OHS over the holiday season? Why not check out our Critter Christmas party? It's an exciting event for the whole family!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Frozen Kitten’s Brush With Death a Reminder to Protect Pets From Winter Weather

The plight of a tiny kitten revived from the dead after being left outside to freeze is a warning to pet owners to protect their animals from the cold now that winter weather has arrived in Ottawa.

Now recovering at the Ottawa Humane Society, the kitten, aptly named Lucky, was declared dead on arrival when a veterinarian first laid eyes on his lifeless body.

“This is an amazing story of survival and should really be a reminder to pet owners to be mindful of the risks of cold weather for their animals,” said Bruce Roney, OHS executive director. “Lucky was truly lucky this time. But he’s definitely used up eight of his nine lives.”

A Good Samaritan found the two-month-old kitten in a shed Sunday night suffering from severe hypothermia and rushed him for emergency care. The vet, who thought the kitten was dead, performed CPR in a final attempt to save his life. Astonishingly, Lucky’s tiny heart started beating again.

The vet gave Lucky medicine to keep his heart going and raised his body temperature with warmed IV fluids and heating pads. He’s presently in the critical care unit at the OHS.

Like Lucky, pets left outside too long risk frostbite and even death without shelter from the cold temperatures. Pet owners can protect their animals from the winter weather by taking a few precautions:
  • Cats should live indoors year-round and never be allowed to roam in the cold. 
  • Limit the time your dog spends outside. Take your dog for shorter, more frequent walks.
  • Consider a sweater or coat for your dog.
  • Be sure to wipe your dog’s paws after returning from a walk to remove salt, sand and other chemicals designed to melt ice and snow.
  • Dogs that live outside are required by law to have an insulated doghouse built from weather-proof material, facing away from prevailing winds. The shelter must be elevated from the ground with a door flap and bedding.
  • Keep an eye on outdoor water bowls. Make sure your pet’s water hasn’t frozen in the cold. 
  • Don’t leave your pet in a cold car for a long period of time.
  • Be mindful of animals that may have crawled under your car to keep warm. Bang on the hood a couple times to scare away cats and wildlife.

If you see an animal in distress, please call the OHS emergency line at 613-725-1532.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Serving Our Heroes

For many veterans, a service dog becomes not only a life-
changer, but truly a life-saver.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of our pets is their powerful ability to impact us emotionally and inspire both our thoughts and our actions. They seem to sense just how we’re feeling and know just how to cheer us up, make us laugh, or give us the support and companionship we need. The OHS has been involved in animal assistive therapy with its Brightening Lives program since 1980, providing animal visits to people across the city who benefit from the attention and affection of a furry friend. We know these animals are making a real difference in people’s lives.

Brightening Lives is just one of many types of animal assistive therapy programs around today. While therapy dogs are increasingly found visiting hospitals, retirement homes, schools and universities, and service dogs continue to provide help to those with various needs, a very special group of elite service dogs provide meaningful support to our nation’s heroes—our veteran soldiers.

Specialized service dogs support veteran soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through their companionship, affection, and guidance in situations that may cause anxiety. As constant companions, these dogs bring calm and comfort to individuals whose past military experiences make the return to daily life challenging, with many experiencing stress and anxiety, flashbacks, feelings of isolation, and suicidal thoughts. For many veterans, a service dog becomes not only a life-changer, but truly a life-saver.

For veterans with PTSD, their canine companions provide unmatched support in virtually any difficult situation. In environments that are too busy and chaotic—such as shopping malls or busy streets—they bring a sense of calm and confidence to their human partners. Conversely, in conditions that are too tensely quiet for veterans, service dogs provide the company and affectionate distraction to relieve anxiety, paranoia, and flashbacks. And, they possess the power to sense when their human partner is beginning to feel stressed or agitated, and respond immediately and in the most effective of ways—proximity, attention, affection and, of course, lots of doggie kisses. In recent years, a number of veterans have spoken about their battles with suicidal thoughts, and attributed their success in this struggle primarily to their loyal, loving, and ever-attentive service dogs.

In May, the federal government announced a pilot project to research the impact of “psychiatric service dogs” on PTSD in veterans. While this research project is ongoing, some charities continue to provide the funding and training to prepare PTSD service dogs and provide them to veterans in need, free of charge. For these organizations, the evidence is already quite clear: a significant number of positive impacts have been reported in veterans who have been matched with elite service dogs, including increases in patience, impulse control, emotional regulation, sleep, a sense of belonging, parenting skills, and family dynamic. In addition, PTSD service dog have been linked to decreases in depression, startle responses, flashbacks, suicidal thoughts, and use of pain medication.

Service dogs are expensive and not funded by the government. One can cost up to $15,000 and take three years to train. But the evidence pointing to positive change in quality of life for soldiers due to the influence of a faithful service dog leads many to believe this is a service that should be available for our veterans. Therefore, today, in addition to honouring our nation’s heroes, we would like to pay tribute to the devoted service dogs that provide daily support to our veterans at home, and the dedicated organizations whose efforts have made these placements possible. We are grateful to have some exceptional canine companions serving our national heroes.

Andrea Tatarski
Co-ordinator: Humane Education

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.”
—Milan Kundera

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Old Friend is a Good Friend

Sadly, animals like five-year-old Jaspurr are considered past
their prime as young counterparts quickly find homes.
Jaspurr is five years old, and while his human counterparts (in cat years!) are often just starting a family or buying a first home, Jaspurr is considered by many to be well past his prime. He has been waiting patiently for almost three months for the right family to discover what a great cat he is. Sadly, despite the fact that many cats today will live to celebrate their 20th birthdays and beyond, and many dogs will live well into their teens, pets are often considered “too old” when they’re barely out of adolescence.

Sadly, older pets often languish longer at shelters while their bouncy young counterparts frequently “fly off the shelves,” besotting adopters with their cute kitten looks and playful puppy ways. But the reality is, these older friends are a shelter’s best kept secret — and we want to tell you why!
  1. What you see is what you get. Shelter staff can usually tell you a lot more about the older pets in their care, which means you can make sure you find the right match for your family. You also won’t be surprised by how big that puppy might get or by how much exercise he’ll need! 
  2. Older pets have manners. Unlike kittens and puppies, many grown-up pets have spent years living with a family and being socialized to life with humans. Some have already received obedience training or know a few simple commands!
  3. They’re not a 24-7 job. Mature pets don’t require the constant monitoring that puppies and kittens do, leaving you with more freedom to do your own thing. If you have young children, or just value your “me time,” this is definitely a bonus.
  4. No expensive carpet cleaning bills! Older pets are often already housetrained … it usually just takes a few days to help them learn the toileting regime in their new home. 
  5. You get to sleep. All night. Little kitties love to hunt pipe cleaners at night, and little puppies aren’t great at holding it ‘til morning... the only thing an older pet might wake you with is his contented snoring!
  6. Your shoes and drapes are safe. You won’t see your mature pet scaling your silk curtains or chewing on your Manolo Blahniks… most of these guys are past that. 
  7. You can teach an old dog (and cat) new tricks! Adult animals are quick learners and focus more easily than their junior friends. The OHS offers obedience training for adult dogs — ask us for details! 
  8. Couch potato? He won’t judge you… he’ll join in. In fact, your mature pet will enjoy having more lap-time while you’re snoozing in front of Netflix on a Friday night. And while mature pets still need play and exercise, they usually won’t demand endless walks around the block.
  9. You can make the commitment. Let’s face it. A lot can happen in 20 years, and sometimes, we just can’t responsibly commit to a pet with that lifespan. But maybe you have five or 10 years to give to a pet in need. You can still enjoy the tremendous benefits of pet companionship. The level of commitment is the same but not for as long.
  10. You can be a hero to a deserving dog or cat. The truth is, older pets are simply harder to place. You can take pride in knowing that you have given a pet a wonderful home by opening your home and heart to them. 
For the month of November, the OHS is celebrating mature pets. Open your home and heart to one of our older pets in need. Read more here:

Sharon Miko
Deputy Executive Director

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tips to Keep Pets Safe on Halloween

That spooky night when little fairy princesses and mini pirates holler for suckers and gummy bears can be scary and even dangerous for Fluffy and Fido.

Here are six tips to help keep your pets safe this Halloween:
  1. Keep cats indoors: Cats allowed to go outside may become the target of people who want to hurt them. Keep cats inside where it's safe.
    Lit pumpkins and electrical cords can be a hazard for your
    feline friends and pooch pals.
  2. Don't take the family dog along when you're trick-or-treating: Even friendly dogs can get spooked on Halloween and there's a risk your dog could run off and get lost. Leave your dog at home.
  3. Use decorations with caution: Keep your pets away from lit pumpkins and electrical cords to avoid shocks and burns.
  4. Keep candy out of your pet's reach: Chocolate can be poisonous to many animals including dogs, cats and ferrets. And don't forget about wrappers - they can cause your pet to choke.
  5. Don't dress your pet in a costume unless you know he/she enjoys it: Some costumes can cause stress and injury to pets, making it tough to move, hear, breathe, bark or see. Never leave costumed pets unattended.
  6. Make sure your pets are properly identified: In case your pet runs outside, make sure he or she has a collar, tag and microchip so they'll increase their chances of being returned home. It's a good idea to keep pets in a separate room of the house so they can't slip out.
Remember, if you see an animal in immediate distress or danger at Halloween or any time of the year, please contact the OHS emergency line at 613-725-1532.

Natalie Pona 
Manager: Communications

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Raising Reptile Awareness

Now more commonly viewed as cool, rather than creepy, it seems reptiles are an increasingly popular choice for people who are in the market for a new pet. Reptiles certainly do have some qualities that make them lower maintenance than some other types of pets: they don’t need to be walked, they don’t shed (at least not fur!), some reptiles need to be fed only once a week or so, and they generally don’t make much noise. 

That being said, reptiles are by no means maintenance-free pets. They come with their own unique set of needs and challenges. Most reptiles sold at pet stores are exotic species – animals that are not native to this area and instead have been transported here by humans over hundreds of years. The OHS believes that the best place for wild or exotic animals like reptiles is in their natural environment because it is very challenging to meet all of the needs of these animals outside of their natural home.

Reptiles often have very specific housing requirements in terms of light, heat, and humidity. These need to be monitored carefully and frequently to ensure your pet is comfortable and healthy in their environment. Many species of reptiles don’t enjoy frequent handling, so they have a tendency to become a bore for kids and adults who are keen to have an interactive or affectionate pet. 

Furthermore, many reptile species can live for 20 years or longer, making them a long term commitment. Some turtles can live to be 100 years old! Certain reptiles can grow quite large over time and will require larger enclosures as they age. For some larger species of reptiles, these enclosures can sometimes cost upwards of $500.00. Finally, a number of reptiles eat things that people don’t always enjoy keeping around the house, such as live insects or rodents. And, like any other pet, reptiles should be seen regularly by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy. This combination of food, enclosures, accessories, vet visits, and an impacted hydro bill can add up to quite a costly investment.

In addition to cats, dogs, and other furry and feathered pets, the OHS also receives reptiles that are brought to us as strays or owner surrenders. Although we don’t offer reptiles for adoption, we do work with community partners to find safe, appropriate placements for the reptiles we receive. As an animal welfare organization, we strive to educate the community about responsible reptile ownership in a variety of different ways.  One of the big highlights for campers during our “Off-Leash” day camp programs are visits from reptile rescue groups in Ottawa who help spread the message about the importance of reptile care and protection.

Our Rescue and Investigation Services team responds to calls and complaints each year regarding reptiles that are being kept as pets, many of which are not legal to own in Ottawa. Back in 2002, our officers removed over 250 exotic animals, many of which were reptiles, from a single townhouse here in Ottawa. Instances like these remind us of the importance of encouraging careful, informed decision making for anyone who is considering a reptile as a pet.

As part of National Reptile Awareness Day, we are encouraging anyone who is considering adding a reptile to their family to take the time to research the needs of these intricate species and ensure that owning a pet reptile is a commitment you and your family are ready to make.

We know there are many different reasons for seeking out a new pet for your household. To anyone who is considering a pet reptile, we encourage you to do your research to ensure you are making the best choice for your family. As you would with any other type of pet, you need to make sure you are fully aware of the commitment required to provide the right type of care to these fascinating, but delicate creatures.

Andrea Tatarski
Co-ordinator: Humane Education

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nasty, Brutish and Short

Today is National Feral Cat Day. I hope you will take a moment to think about these neglected felines.

In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes described the life of humans without government as "nasty, brutish, and short." It is also an apt description of the lives of feral cats.

A feral cat, defined by Alley Cat Allies is, "...a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or her contact with humans has diminished over time. She is fearful of people and survives on her own outdoors."

A feral cat is distinct from a stray cat, even if the cat has been stray for a long period of time, and from a "loosely-owned" or "porch" cat; a cat that is fed by one or more people in a neighbourhood who do not accept full responsibility for the cat's care. Stray and loosely-owned cats are or were once socialized to humans. They may be wary and skittish around humans if they have not a had recent or extensive human contact, but they are not fearful to the extent that feral cats are.
There are likely dozens of feral cat colonies in the Ottawa area.

Feral cats occupy a grey zone in the world of animal welfare. They are not wildlife per se. They are interlopers in our natural world and can cause considerable destruction in wild bird and mammal populations. They were introduced through human irresponsibility, and therefore are a human responsibility.

But they are not fully domestic pets either. They cannot just be rounded up and socialized. Kittens up to four months can be socialized, but adults will frequently injure themselves trying to escape when confined. Their panic in prolonged confinement is simply not humane.

Most progressive humane societies like the OHS practice "TNR" or "Trap, Neuter, Return" to address the needs of feral cats. Feral cats are removed from a colony, sterilized, vaccinated, and then returned to the colony. If newly introduced cats—new stray cats and the feral's kittens—are consistently removed, the colony will disappear over time. Studies indicate that simply removing all the members of a colony does not work. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum and other cats simply come to occupy the vacant colony, generally because of its proximity to shelter, food and water. The effectiveness of TNR was proven with the gradual elimination of the Parliament Hill Colony by some amazingly committed volunteers and the OHS a few years ago.

Like so many issues in animal welfare, controversies rage, and numbers of animals often exceed our resources to help. There are likely dozens of colonies in the Ottawa area, possibly many more. In fact, one of these controversies is how many feral cats there actually are in a given community. The OHS helps a handful of colony "caretakers" with surgical and other medical services, and we are very proud of our role in humanely eliminating the Parliament Hill colony, but our efforts are likely the proverbial drop in the bucket. Our best hope is education and promoting the kind of responsibility that would stop feral cats from coming into existence in the first place, through spaying and neutering cats and not letting them roam. And this takes time.