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.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Adopt a Shelter Dog Month at the Ottawa Humane Society

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and the Ottawa Humane Society is encouraging our community to celebrate all things canine. How can you participate?

Shelter dogs like Bentley found their perfect match in a forever
home - visit the OHS shelter and make a dog's happy ever after.

The OHS has many wonderful dogs who are just looking for the right match...could that be you? So many dogs end up at the shelter through no fault of their own. Changes in the family, a move, “no time”—and the dog ends up paying the price. Now, these wonderful canines are just waiting for the right, new family to say “we pick you.”

When you adopt a shelter dog, you’re not just giving a deserving dog a home, you’re adding to your family. So stop by the Ottawa Humane Society at 245 West Hunt Club this month, and let us help you find your perfect match.


Do you have a few hours a month to help homeless animals? Make Adopt a Shelter Dog Month the month you sign up to volunteer. Love dogs but can’t have one? Maybe our volunteer foster program is for you! Visit our volunteer page for available volunteer opportunities.


Make a donation today in honour of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Help us make sure that each dog coming into our care has the best possible chance at a happy outcome.
  • $25 gives a dog or puppy food, water, blankies, and three walks a day for a year
  • $50 vaccinates a dog and gives them a health check
  • $100 helps rescue hurt and homeless dogs and also helps investigate animal cruelty and neglect
Or visit our Wish List to see the many dog supplies we need!


Help us get the word out that the best dog is a shelter dog.

  • Donate your Facebook status. Paste this message into the “What’s on your mind?” box at the top of your page: “October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Save a life: adopt a dog!” 
  • Tweet, retweet and repeat: “October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Save a life: adopt a dog!”
  • Share an OHS adoptable dog on your blog or Facebook page each day of the month.
  • Talk to friends, family, and especially those younger than you—about the role of humane societies, and why Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and shelter adoption in general, is important.
Sharon Miko
Deputy Executive Director

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Here Come the Pets in Black!

This month, the Pets in Black (PIB) team will be erasing all your preconceived notions about black animals, from unlucky onyx kitties to phantom pitch pooches.

These PIBs are the black animal reputation defenders. And contrary to the myths about black kitties and ghostly midnight hounds, they make great pets. With this month's adoption special, you'll forget all about your misconceptions about black animals.

When you adopt a black cat or dog from the Ottawa Humane Society this month, you’ll take home an adoption starter that will turn your vivid memories about black animals into fantasies.
Winnie is at the OHS waiting for her forever home.

For raven-furred cats, our take-home kit includes:
  • Litter box
  • Cat toy
  • Litter scoop
  • Food scoop
  • Treats
Black or mostly black dogs will be sent to their forever home with:
  • OHS poop bags
  • Food and water dishes
  • Kong squeeze ball
  • Food scoop
  • Treats
They walk in shadow but don’t fear them, cheer them, these Pets in Black — they really make great companions, just like their fairer counterparts!

Come meet your match at the OHS at 245 West Hunt Club Rd. this month and show some love to the PIBs.

For more information, please visit

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Building a More Compassionate Community and Brighter Future for Ottawa’s Animals

We believe it’s important to teach humane education in schools to teach animal care and welfare to our younger generation. By examining the relationship between humans and animals, students recognize that we share many of the same physical and emotional needs. Our school presentations teach kindness and respect while working to create a compassionate and humane society for animals.

The City of Ottawa has more than 250 schools with more than 100,000 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12. While we’ve continued to increase our reach into schools and the number of students that learn from our presentations each year, we’re still only reaching 33 per cent of schools and six per cent of students.
Students can now learn about puppy mills in one
of three new presentations being offered this year.

That’s about to change. You asked and we listened. Starting in the next few weeks, our presentations will all be available in French. Whether we’re teaching JK/SK and Grade 1 students about responsible pet care for cats and dogs or inspiring high school students to explore animal related careers — all will be available in French. This will help us to reach the 45 to 65 per cent of students taking all or part of their studies in French in Ottawa.

We’ve also introduced three new presentations this year:
  • Grade 4: Co-Existing with Urban Wildlife where students learn about wildlife conflicts as they relate to urban communities and habitat loss, and collaboratively resolve various conflict scenarios to explore how we can best ‘co-exist’ with urban wildlife in our community.
  • High School – Spoiling Our Appetites: An Introduction to Food Animal Welfare where students learn about the current plight of livestock/food animals in Canada, the regulations surrounding their care, as well as the importance of conscious consumerism and advocacy on this topic.
  • High School – Profit Puppies: Exploring Puppy Mills where students learn about the history and conditions of puppy mills, how the OHS is addressing this issue, as well as the importance of responsible animal adoption and advocacy on this topic.
Through our presentations, we let students of all ages know that they too can make a difference in their communities and the world around them by showing them the impact our short-term decision makes on the lives of Ottawa’s animals. By giving students the opportunity to learn about animal welfare, we are building a more compassionate community and brighter future for Ottawa’s animals.

For a complete list of presentations aligned with Ontario provincial curriculum expectations, please visit the Humane Education section of our website.

For more information or to book a presentation, please contact the co-ordinator: humane education at 613-725-3166 ext. 235 (English) or ext. 204 (French) or email

Lori Marcantonio
Director: Outreach

Thursday, September 18, 2014

National Farm Animal Awareness Week

“We wanted cheap food, and the market delivered – with ruthless efficiency. Past the point where the animals involved were treated like living, feeling beings.”1 

As an animal welfare organization, our focus is not to abolish the use of animals within our food industry, but rather to promote the humane treatment of these animals to ensure they experience an appropriate quality of life in an environment that provides the necessities for health, comfort, and natural behaviour. Following the five freedoms model, we believe that all animals are entitled to the following: 
Pigs are intelligent creatures who love to play and socialize
with each other. 
  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst 
  2. Freedom from discomfort 
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease 
  4. Freedom to express normal behaviour 
  5. Freedom from fear and distress 

We strive to ensure that farm animals also receive treatment in accordance with the five freedoms, and we support the work of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) in advocating for humane practices in farm animal care. Seemingly, these five freedoms guidelines should be easy enough to implement within our farm industry. So, are they being implemented?

First, consider laying hens, whose natural behaviour includes foraging, perching, and seeking isolation for laying their eggs. These sentient birds are forced to spend their lives crammed together into tiny battery cages, each having less than the dimensions of one sheet of paper as living space. They experience injuries and amputations from being crushed or stomped on by other birds. Is this a five freedoms experience?

Secondly, consider female breeding pigs, often referred to as sows. They love to forage, have a natural home range of about 16 km², and are amongst the cleanest of livestock animals - they even designate a bathroom area within their living space. They are intelligent creatures who love to play and socialize with each other. These curious and interactive animals must spend their lives eating, sleeping, urinating, and defecating in tiny individual sow stalls, which provide barely enough room for a pig to stand up, and no opportunity to walk or even turn around. Is this an acceptable quality of life?

Finally, consider dairy cows, who spend time in select social groups, and nurse their calves and bond with them for months. Many of these sensitive creatures spend their lives in tie stalls, which do not permit them any social interaction with other cows, barely allow them to lay down or move freely in any way. Their calves can be removed from their company at only a day old. Is this humane?

For most of these animals, the only escape from these dreadful conditions is slaughter. When that time comes, some animals are so worn out that they can't even physically walk the transport ramps to their death as this is often the very first and only real exercise they ever experience.

As a humane society, we champion a five freedoms quality of life for all animals, but we know our strength comes from our community members. As part of National Farm Animal Awareness Week, we encourage you to take steps to help improve the welfare of food animals. Some actions you can take include joining the Meatless Mondays movement by incorporating more plant-based meals into your menu planning, visiting local farmers’ markets and practicing conscious consumerism at supermarkets by reading labels and buying from alternative producers that allow animals to experience a higher quality of life. Most importantly, you can speak out for farm animals and raise awareness in our community.

We can’t help but feel like, as a society, this issue is our responsibility to correct. We got what we asked forand for the sake of the animals, it’s time to start asking the farm industry for something else. 

Click here for more information about the Ottawa Humane Society’s position on food animals.

Andrea Tatarski
Co-ordinator: Humane Education

1 . Lange, Karen E. “Back to the Land” All Animals Magazine, July/August 2012. Page 17.