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

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