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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Microchipping: Your Pet’s Way of Saying Who They Are and Where They Live

Does your cat or dog have a microchip? Tiny and virtually painless to implant, this life-long form of identification may mean the difference between never seeing your lost pet again and having her returned safely to you.

Here are two stories from Ottawa Humane Society staff members who personally experienced the importance of microchipping a pet:

I Never Thought My Indoor Cat Would Get Outside!

By Meaghan Isaacs, OHS Communications Co-ordinator

A few weeks ago, I woke up to find my cat missing. Usually curled up at the foot of my bed, Smalls was nowhere to be found. I searched all his favourite spots in the apartment. When I saw the screen for the bathroom window pushed out, I grabbed a container of my cat's food and ran outside, shaking it and calling his name.
Indoor cats, even those who occasionally go outside on a harness,
don't have the skills or knowledge to thrive and survive outdoors.

Always an indoor cat, I worried how Smalls would fend for himself outside. Even with his ID tags, my feline escape artist could have easily wriggled free of his collar and lost that form of identification. I hoped that if I couldn't find him, a neighbour or passerby might see him and bring him to the OHS or a vet clinic to check if he had a microchip.

After 15 minutes of shaking his food and calling his name, Smalls ran out from his hiding spot in the backyard, trembling and meowing but safe and sound and found. I was lucky this time and my nerve-wracking experience really proved that the fifteen-minute appointment and $50 microchip fee is a small price to pay for your animal to be permanently linked to you if they ever find themselves lost.

Getting Mrs. Wiggles Home

By Sharon Miko, Deputy Executive Director

This past summer, a lost cat appeared in a neighbour’s backyard one sunny morning. The cat was very friendly and keen to go into the home of anyone who’d have her. We all watched her for a few days, thinking perhaps she was just an outdoor cat who knew her way home. But when she took up residence in someone’s screened gazebo, we realized she was likely lost.

One neighbour filed a lost report with the OHS and another spread the word through our neighbourhood’s email list. Another neighbour placed a notice on Kijiji and on the Ottawa Lost Pets website. Then my kids and I took the kitty to our local vet.
The fifteen-minute microchip appointment and $50 fee is a
small price to pay for a permanent link to your pet if they ever
find themselves lost.

The vet tech and I looked at each other, stunned, when the scanner beeped within two seconds of being placed near the cat. I felt like we’d just won a lottery! A phone call later, a young mum with a toddler and baby in tow arrived at our door to collect their beloved family member. It turned out that Mrs. Wiggles was 10 years old and had been missing for almost two months. She lived just two streets away!

This story has a happy ending but so many others don’t. A mere five per cent of the thousands of cats that arrive as strays at the OHS each year will be claimed by their owners; many don’t have the identification necessary to help find their way back home. A microchip helped Mrs. Wiggles get home. Without it, she may have never been returned to the loving arms of her family.

By the Numbers

From April 1 to Aug. 31, 24 lost cats and 55 lost dogs brought to the OHS were returned to their human companions because they had a microchip.
When you consider the total number of strays brought to the OHS during that same time period — 964 cats and 498 dogs — it’s clear that there is still work to be done when it comes to education on the importance of identifying pets with a microchip, said Sarah Oswald, manager: admissions and rehoming.
These stories have happy endings, but many cats and dogs
who come into the care of the OHS don't have the
identification to help them find their way back home.

“A microchip is an animal’s way of telling us who they are and where they live," Oswald said. “It's the best safety step that you can take to help your animal get home to you if they're ever lost.”

To find out about upcoming microchip clinics, please visit

Do you have a story to share about losing a pet or having one returned because of a microchip? Please share it on the OHS Facebook page at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School Goes to the Dogs at the Ottawa Humane Society With a Special Deal for Canine Scholars

Jake (A170794) is one of the featured dogs this month.
September is Responsible Dog Ownership Month and part of being a good pet parent is setting up your newly adopted dog for success. There’s no better way to start the school year off on the right paw than by teaching an Ottawa Humane Society dog some new tricks with obedience training.

Adopt a canine companion this month and sign up your furry pupil for some higher learning with an OHS obedience class for just $99. Adopt one of the four featured dogs and get 50 per cent off the cost of training — that’s a $70 savings on tuition! Information on the featured dogs is available at the OHS Adoption Centre at 245 West Hunt Club Rd. This deal is available while supplies last.

Dog obedience helps strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners. Not only do dogs learn how to be good canine citizens, but the sessions are also a valuable experience for new owners who learn how to help their new friend be the best dog possible.

While you’re at the OHS, check out the Buddy and Belle Boutique for some special prices on select dog gear, such as Kong and Chuck It toys.

Natalie Pona
Manager: Communications

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Walkers are the Tops!

Several weeks ago, at the media launch for our upcoming Wiggle Waggle Walkathon and Run for the Animals, I had the great pleasure to meet an unassuming young woman named Lydia Gagnon.

Lydia is very pleasant, a little shy, but very special to the Ottawa Humane Society and the animals in our care. You see, for three years running, Lydia and her team, F.I.D.O. (Fun Independent Dog Owners) have been the top walkers in our walkathon. In fact, over the past seven years, the group has raised an astounding $19,516 and counting!
Lydia Gagnon and her team, F.I.D.O., work all year collecting
pledges to help the animals.

The walkathon is our biggest and most popular event of the year. Just seeing all the hundreds of dogs together, all shapes, sizes and breeds, is a sight to behold. Many come just to see the spectacle. Of course, the walkathon is a fundraiser—an essential one to help the OHS help the more than 10,000 animals that need our help every year. Having so many people come out is great, but they need to come with pledges in order to make a difference for the animals.

That's where Lydia and her team come into this story. They work all year to collect pledges. They hold small events to raise funds. Helping the animals is a year-round activity for them and the results show in their individual and team totals and in the happy outcomes for the animals.

Thank you Lydia; thank you team F.I.D.O. You are an inspiration. And thank you to all of you who have set up teams, donation pages, and have begun to collect gifts from your friends and family. The animals need you and you are there for them.

See you on September 7!

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Psst! You May Not Have Heard...

We have been telling anyone who will listen for the past few years that our Pre-Authorized Withdrawal (PAW) program is the best way for you to help the animals. Nothing has changed. PAW remains a secure and easily managed way to help the more than 10,000 animals that need the OHS—and you— every single year. The costs with PAW are low, so a far larger percentage of your gift goes to the animals than with other ways of supporting the OHS.

I know PAW may not be the way that you want to help the animals right now. I expect you know that making a one-time gift online or by mail is the second best way to help the animals. I expect you know about the Wiggle Waggle Walkathon and the Run for the Animals, the FurBall and the Summer Harvest Garden Party and would participate if any were the right way for you to support the animals.
But there are a few ways to help the animals that you may not know about. Maybe some of these are right for you?

United Way
Did you know that you can direct part or all of your United Way gift to animals in need? It's simple! All you need is the OHS charitable number when you complete your pledge form. More information about United Way directed gifts can be found at:

My Event
Raising funds is so easy with My Event. Available on the OHS website, the feature allows you to send emails to your friends, family and other contacts to ask them to support you in raising funds. Gifts are processed at the OHS and receipts sent to you or your donor friend auto-magically by the OHS server! Some very special people have used My Event to solicit gifts to the animals in lieu of wedding or birthday gifts, or have asked to be sponsored in a run or other challenge. My Events is at:

Pet Tributes
Knowing your gift will help thousands of other pets can be
a consolation when someone loses a beloved animal companion.

Pets are now very much a part of our families and their loss can be as devastating. When someone close to you loses a beloved pet, knowing that you are thinking of them, and that your gift will help thousands of other pets, can be a consolation. Some people have told me that raising funds in memory of their own lost pet to help so many was a healing project. It's easy. Our staff will send an e-note or paper note as you wish. All tributes can be accessed at:

Ottawa Humane Society BMO MasterCard
Our newly launched BMO OHS MasterCard is a simple way to rescue animals as you shop. A percentage of your spending will go to the animals as a part of our affinity agreement with BMO and this new card. You can even use it for your next online gift to the animals! More information about the new OHS BMO MasterCard can be found at:

These are just a few of the ways that you can save lives and help the Ottawa Humane Society care for more than 10,000 animals that need our help and have nowhere else to go.

If you have already tried one of these great, but lesser known ways to help the animals, I would like to hear your experience. Please write me at

Thank you for all you do for Ottawa's animals!

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Praise of Black Cats

I have had a lot of cats in my life. Growing up on a farm, many of them were "working cats, "there to keep the rodent population in check. And of course, as is the case with many farms, cats were dumped at the end of our long laneway by city-dwellers who no longer wanted their pet or their pet's offspring.

Though I was very attached to some of the working cats, the relationship could not be the same as with an indoor cat, and it was only in my 20s that I lived with indoor cats.

My favourite, by far, was a tom named Butch. I didn't name him. Butch was the greatest cat ever. I have to confess that I like cats that act a bit more like dogs: ones that greet you at the door when you come home, are always up for a game or a cuddle and frankly, just seem to like me. Butch was this and more. And he was pure jet black.
Me circa 1985 with the greatest cat ever—
who happens to be black. 

It surprises me that black cats are not more popular today. The old myths about black cats are no longer a part of our culture. I would have thought that any long-passed occult association would be a plus today with the popularity of Harry Potter and the many other witch/wizard/vampire franchises. I would have thought black cats would be cool.

It seems to me that black cats are more feline—black highlighting a sinewy elegance that so many people admire. Like a panther. Only a lot smaller.

Here at the OHS, by the end of the summer, with so many cats admitted, cared for, and transferred to adoptions, invariably the number and percentage of black cats rises, as their white, tabby, tuxedo and other cat friends are adopted, while the black ones remain waiting for someone to fall in love with them.

I hate to think that the next greatest cat ever might be overlooked, just because of the colour of his fur.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Helping “Hard to Place” Dogs

Trudy is what shelters call a “hard to place” dog. She has been at the OHS for over three months now. Trudy is often overlooked by hopeful new families because of her rather large size and dark colouring. Those that do take a closer look often shy away when they meet her and experience first-hand her very boisterous and vocal nature; others simply aren't a good match for a dog that really isn't a dog park kind of girl (marketing lingo for “does not like other dogs”). And have we mentioned that Trudy likes cats…a little too much?

Size and colour issues are no match for our eager Adoption team. Gentlemen will no longer prefer blondes by the time our staff have mounted their marketing efforts. But while a slick salesperson may try to convince you that an ill-fitting garment really does flatter your figure, the stakes are simply too high for dogs like Trudy for us to value placing her quickly over finding a permanent, loving home that can meet her needs. It just may take awhile.

Trudy has been at the OHS for over three months and is often
overlooked because of her large size and dark colouring.
Leading animal welfare organizations predict that it will not be long before the supply of puppies, small dogs and adorable, healthy young pets are a very small fraction of homeless pet populations. Many shelters are already experiencing this; some cater to their communities’ desires for such pets by importing highly adoptable pups from neighbouring cities or countries.
Trudy does still have her age—and her good health—working in her favour. Many dogs are harder to place because they’re a little long in the tooth or suffer from a chronic but highly manageable health condition. Do they not still deserve a second chance? Should we not be devoting more resources to helping more dogs like Trudy find homes—or to helping dogs with even more challenges than Trudy become adoptable in the first place, rather than “brokering” pups from afar?

We think so. And thanks to you, we can do more every day. And so, while Trudy waits for her new family to come forward, we’re helping things along by ensuring that she receives enrichment to keep her relaxed in the shelter environment and training to help her develop good habits, so that she’s ready to put her best paw forward when that family does appear, no matter how long that takes.

Of course, the OHS will always be a strong partner in the animal welfare community, and when we do have resources to help another community in need, we have helped and will continue to help more animals to find homes through our shelter.

Sharon Miko
Deputy Executive Director