Thursday, March 26, 2015

Great News for Elephants

Some of the best news I hear comes through Facebook. Just last week, one of my friends posted the news that Ringling Bros. would be phasing out elephants from its performances by 2018.

The company cited "a mood shift among our consumers." It also cited the difficulty of fighting local legislation that would affect its shows.  The local legislation it is are referring to ranges from outright bans to the use of the notorious bullhook,  a hooked tool commonly inserted in elephants' skin to train and corral them.
Ringling Bros. elephants 
In the company's statement, its CEO is quoted, "This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers." The fact that the elephants' interests were cited is not only new, but a tacit admission that the animals' welfare was not served by the company's practices.

The OHS has been long opposed to captive wild animals in entertainment. In 2002, the OHS lobbied city council to ban elephants and other captive wild animals in circuses and other entertainment.  The city instead instituted a licensing regime. The OHS responded that the city should not license animal cruelty.

Today, only the annual Shrine Circus is a regular fixture in Ottawa. There is no legislation on the horizon. But in the end, money talks.It spoke to Ringling Bros. and it's taking action.

You can make your money talk by not supporting the Shrine or any circus.

For more information, a summary of the OHS's concerns can be found here

To read about the Ringling Bros. decision, click here.  

To read about how Mexico is expected to ban circus animals, click here

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, March 19, 2015

If You Care, Leave Them There

Raccoon family 
Beware the Ides of March, the soothsayer told Caesar, foretelling the day he would be assassinated. In the Spring of 2015, the dire message should go to our local wildlife.

As the temperature warms, wildlife becomes more active and birthing season soon follows. Humans start to go outdoors more and the wildlife/people conflict begins to heat up too. The most obvious sign is the carnage on our roadways that we begin to witness. The sign here at the OHS is the influx of wild animals. Sadly, many of these creatures will be juveniles that would have been safer had they been left where they were. There simply aren't enough rehabilitation spaces for all the wildlife in our region, and most didn't need our help in the first place.

I know that stumbling upon a baby animal that appears to need help brings out a helping instinct in all of us but spotting a baby animal by himself doesn't necessarily mean he's an orphan. Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day, sometimes for long periods. The mother is usually nearby and quite conscious of her young. Also, keep in mind that despite their small size, many young animals are actually independent enough to fend for themselves.

Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day.
How you tell if an animal needs your help or should be left alone? If an animal needs your help, you will see one or more of the following signs:

  • A wild animal presented to you by a cat or dog
  • Bleeding
  • An apparent or obvious broken limb
  • Evidence of a dead parent nearby
  • Unusual or uneven loss of fur
  • Difficult or raspy breathing or sneezing
  • Body covered in fleas

Otherwise, please, if you care, leave him there. 

For more information about wildlife and human wildlife conflicts, please visit http://ottawahumane.ca/protection/wildlifeissues.cfm before you act. 

Bruce Roney
OHS Executive Director 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Is the OHS “No-Kill”?

The following article was published in the Winter 2015 edition of the OHS newsletter, Our Best Friends: 

The humane movement has been fixated with the rise of the so-called “no-kill” movement, mainly from the outside, but sometimes from within the humane movement. It is frustrating because the term is elusive and frequently misunderstood.

No-kill does not generally mean no euthanasia. In Ontario and most jurisdictions it is a crime to keep a severely sick or injured animal alive and suffering. For an organization to be “no euthanasia” would be to announce that it allows animals to suffer inhumanely and illegally.

No-kill is used by some organizations to describe themselves. Unfortunately, there is no standard definition that they must use. Sadly, it often used to beat another organization over the head. Scandalously, it is sometimes used to deceive the community. Almost always, it means turning animals away because there is no space or resources to treat them. When they are full or faced with an animal with needs beyond their capacity, some organizations flying the “no-kill” banner simply refer animals and people in need to open admission shelters like the OHS. Or worse, do nothing. What, I wonder, happens to those animals?

One definition of no-kill is a policy of not euthanizing adoptable animals. (Yes, the next question does go begging: what defines adoptable?) Another suggests the appropriate definition is that a no-kill shelter saves all healthy, treatable and rehabilitatable animals. (Again, what constitutes treatable or rehabilitatable?)

At the OHS, we have made great strides in both categories, but in the end, we decide what we can do to treat and rehabilitate based on the resources we have. And what if we assess an animal as not adoptable because either there is no intervention possible, or that despite our many programs and promotions, the situation is so extreme that we know that no one would adopt the animal even after our loving care? There simply are not enough homes for animals with serious problems. Do you and I believe in leaving an animal in a shelter for the rest of its life? I have been shocked by the living conditions of dogs “saved” from euthanasia and tethered with dozens of other dogs in a barn for years after, sometimes left in pain, sometimes dying slow deaths.

As an open admission shelter, the OHS accepts all animals at any time, no matter how old, sick, injured, and no matter what their behaviour or temperament. We are always here for them. That means those that are not treatable, rehabilitatable are humanely euthanized by caring professional staff who wish that they didn’t have to.

In the end, of course, the debate should not be a philosophical one — not between organizations and who is right or wrong. It needs to be based on good veterinary practices and sound research available, and what is the best interests of each individual animal.

So, is the OHS a no-kill shelter? I don’t know. It depends on which definition you subscribe to. But you won’t catch me or anyone else here using the term. I do know this: we are a no-suffering shelter.


Bruce Roney
OHS Executive Director

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Can your pet sitter keep your pet safe?




With March Break rolling around, it’s vacation time for many—and a busy time for pet sitters. If you’re booking a sitter for Scooter, make sure you’ve taken the right steps to keep him safe should he stray while you’re away. Sadly, the Ottawa Humane Society receives dozens of reports from frantic pet sitters every year, and admits too many others who have escaped the care of even the most watchful pet sitter. And when an owner is away, getting their pet back home is often not straightforward—and can result in a prolonged and stressful shelter stay for the pet or sometimes, tragically, the pet not making it home at all.

What can you do to keep your pet safe while he’s being cared for by a pet sitter?

  • Make sure your pet is wearing ID, both visible (a collar and tag) and permanent (a microchip…need one? Visit one of our monthly microchip clinics!). This is just as important for animals who are “indoor only” pets, as a change in caretaker or environment increases the chance that they will escape.
  • If your pet’s tag has your home phone number on it, make sure someone’s checking your messages, or place a temporary tag on your pet with a number someone can be reached at while you’re away (your pet sitter’s number, or your cell number).
  • If your pet is microchipped, contact your microchip company to have your pet sitter’s information added as an emergency contact.
  • Most shelters will not release an animal to someone’s care without proof of ownership. Make sure your pet sitter has proof of ownership, and leave a letter allowing your pet sitter to act on your behalf while you are away.
  • Leave a photograph of your pet with your pet sitter, so that if he does stray, the photo can be shared to help locate him.
  • Let your veterinarian know you will be away and leave instructions should anything happen to your pet. Leave your veterinarian’s contact information with the pet sitter, as well as a number where you can be reached in case of emergency.
  • Make sure your pet sitter is aware of your pet’s habits so that they can be prepared: is your cat likely to startle and bolt at loud noises? Is your dog likely to take off after a squirrel?
Taking the simple steps above can help make sure you can relax and focus on your vacation, knowing that your pet is in good hands!

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