Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

Everyone has a bad year from time to time. Because of the death of a loved one, a health scare, a financial setback — eventually everyone has a year they would rather forget. In my relatively long life though, I never recall a "collective" bad year, that is, a year when we as a world, a country, a community agree that it was just a bad year. 2016 is the first. I see it everywhere. So many events in the year just felt exceptionally bad: from the loss of David Bowie and Prince, to terrorist attacks in Europe; from "Brexit" uncertainty to the Zika virus. Many, many, people just want 2016 to be over.

So, it almost is. 2016 will be gone shortly. We're all going to get a fresh start in 2017. Here is the question: What we going to do with this fresh start? How can we make 2017 better than 2016?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Do you know what happens when a bell rings?

OK, I confess — I can get a little mushy at Christmas. I start humming and whistling Christmas music as soon as the first flake of snow hits the ground. (In December that is; in November it just annoys me.) I love the lights on Parliament Hill and even the ones here at the OHS. Port and Stilton in front of a fire are bliss. And in our house, a year rarely goes by without watching standards like the Grinch and Charlie Brown. Much to the chagrin of others, my favourite by far, though is It's a Wonderful Life. I often save that one for the night I wrap gifts, just to assure that I am going to have the Christmas spirit in high gear.

There is something about that movie that always resonates and moves me, especially at this time of the year. There are so many themes that I think are important: the value of friendship, the possibility of redemption, the importance of gratitude, the search for home, and of course, the interconnectedness and the value of every life.

Maybe it is those same themes from that old movie that led me to a humane society, because I find them here all the time.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Our New Holiday Tradition: Meet Jingle

Jingle the Christmas Elf.
Among the best parts about Christmas — and most holidays — are our traditions and the memories that come with them. As you open the worn boxes containing the decorations, your mind tends to wander back to memories of earlier days. Just the smells of turkey and holiday baking can take you back 30 years in a moment. It's comforting to remember and to follow the well trod path of our holiday rituals. And as you grow up, most of you retain at least some traditions from your childhood, and adopt new ones in your own family.

Well, after 128 years, I think the Ottawa Humane Society is all grown up. And so we decided to add a new tradition in our family: Jingle the Christmas Elf. We adopted Jingle to show all you good girls and boys out there what's going on at the OHS over the holidays.

Jingle is a curious little guy and he gets around the OHS a lot this time of the year. I hope you will join us in our new holiday tradition and have as much fun following Jingle's little adventures on Facebook over the holidays as we do.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Always Room at the Inn

Animals like Chili — who's been patiently waiting for a
home since January — always have a place at the OHS.
At the core, there are two kinds of animal shelters: open admission and limited admission. When I say "shelter" I mean to include all groups that care for animals, not just physical ones. Many excellent groups have no physical shelter, but rely on a network of foster homes, rather than a building. The OHS of course has both. And the OHS is an open admission shelter.

Every community needs an open admission shelter — that is, a shelter that never says no. One that, no matter how sick or how dangerous they are, will accept all animals at any time. There always needs to be, "room at the inn." I know what can happen when people cannot or will not care for an animal and have nowhere to turn. I saw it growing up in the country. And I want to make sure that never ever happens in our community. 

It is not an easy task. Animal sheltering is seasonal, with huge numbers needing shelter and care in the warmer months. Some days, more than 40 animals will be admitted. The size of the shelter certainly helps, but we have had to create programs to ease the intense pressure on even this large facility. A network of 300 or so foster homes helps hugely. Our 30 or so off-site adoption locations ease the pressure considerably. And we have to keep the animals moving through the system. If treatments, assessments, spay/neuters and all the other essential services get bottlenecked, the shelter becomes overcrowded and that is an invitation to stress-related disease. 

But here is what we don't do: we do not euthanize for space. No healthy adoptable animal has been euthanized at the Ottawa Humane Society in a very long time. Once they are assessed as adoptable, they stay in our care until they are adopted. Period. And many more that were not adoptable when they arrived, become adoptable in our staff and volunteers' loving care.

So, if you support the OHS and the animals in our care, thank you. Thank you for ensuring that this time of year especially, there is always room at the inn. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving is the New Black

There are 130 cats and kittens at the OHS who
need your help on Giving Tuesday.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! And, no, I don't mean the door buster deals of Black Friday.

Sure it's easy and exciting to be lured into the rock-bottom prices, the never-been-seen-before deals, the buy-one-get-one specials and the extended hours of shopping frenzy, (we even have our own weekend long sales in the OHS Buddy & Belle Boutique) but it's actually next Tuesday that has my interest peaked.

#GivingTuesday is like the modest, younger sibling to its overbearing counterparts, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And while it was originally launched by a United Nations Foundation in the U.S., this global movement for giving and volunteering has a very Canadian feel.

Giving back and looking out for our neighbours is part of who we are as a nation. So, it's not surprising that since its inception just four years ago, Giving Tuesday has flourished here in Canada at an online participation growth rate of 300 per cent year over year. What was a handful of organizations promoting the "opening day of the giving season" in 2012 is now more than 4,700 partners strong in 2016. And the OHS is proud to be one of those partners.

So, I won't be lined up outside my favourite store fronts tomorrow morning or up at dawn on my computer for online shopping on Monday. But on Tuesday November 29, I will be supporting the #GivingTuesday movement as we open the all-important giving season at the OHS with thousands of caring donors and hundreds of loving volunteers by our side, all for the love of animals. Won't you join me?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Life as an OHS Shelter Veterinarian

I’m often asked, “What is it like to be a veterinarian at the OHS?” There is no one word or single sentiment that sums it up. It’s busy, exciting, challenging, fun, and rewarding. There are moments of joy and times of sadness. It’s everything I ever thought being a veterinarian would encompass, and more.     

Working in a shelter differs substantially from veterinary medicine in a private practice:
  • In a shelter, we’re typically dealing with animals with no known history. This leaves us to piece together their medical needs from a careful physical examination alone.
  • We practice high quality, high volume, spay and neuter techniques to allow us to perform surgery safely and efficiently, giving a second chance to as many animals as possible. These techniques are specialized and are typically used in shelters and spay/neuter clinics across North America.
  • Infectious disease is something we also face much more often than would be seen in general practice. In handling infectious disease cases, the health of the entire population has to be considered in our treatment plan. Our patients have often had no previous preventive health care such as vaccinations, internal and external parasite treatments, sterilization or dental care. 
All of these things make shelter medicine a unique and challenging specialization of veterinary medicine. To be a successful shelter veterinarian, you need to be efficient, hard working, compassionate, and exhibit good clinical judgement. On top of all this, excellent surgical skills are a must.  

I often chat with my veterinary colleagues about my work days. Those who work in general practice are astounded when I mention the volume of work we manage to do in a day at OHS:     
  • Days begin by assessing the animals in critical care, the unit where the OHS’s sickest animals stay. Usually we will have six to eight patients in critical care to check on first thing in the morning.   
  • We then move on to pre-operative examinations. All OHS animals that will have surgery that day will receive a pre-operative examination from a veterinarian. We usually book 20-30 surgical procedures per day, and our goal is to have these completed by lunch time. 
  • Our afternoons are spent assessing any sick or injured animals in the shelter. Usually this involves examinations and treatment plans for 40 or more individual animals. 
  • On top of our routine work load, we deal with emergencies as needed.  
  • As the chief veterinarian, I am also tasked with overseeing medical and surgical protocols, managing overall shelter health, managing our veterinary team including our community volunteer veterinarians, and providing case consultation on complex medical cases.   
I often get asked “how do you do it?” by people wondering about all the abused, abandoned and neglected animals I see daily. I always reply that I am simply thankful that we are here to help those in need. I can’t change what has already happened but I can help change the future.   

I know that every single day that I come to work, I am making a difference in the lives of many animals and giving them a second chance. Seeing an animal that I have cared for recover from being sick or injured in our critical care unit to being well and finding a new home brings an indescribable feeling of fulfillment and joy.  

I also know that I contribute to not just the work I do on a day to day basis but the work of our organization in public education, sterilization, and advocacy that will bring a brighter future for our community’s animals.   

Most of all, I know that I am lucky to be able to practice my profession in such a progressive, kind, caring and compassionate organization that is the Ottawa Humane Society...and the cuddles from the four-legged friends I meet along the way are a pretty great perk too!  

Dr. Shelley Hutchings
Chief Veterinarian

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Our Values will Prevail

The Ottawa Humane Society is an organization founded on compassion. 

So I, like many of you, was shaken by the results of Tuesday's election. I am left with the feeling there is something I should do.  

So here it is. I will renew my personal commitment and the commitment of the OHS to the values we have lived and promoted for more than a century:
  • Protection for the weak
  • Respect for the dignity of all life
  • Care for those who are unable to care for themselves
  • A voice for those who cannot speak for themselves
  • Relief from pain and suffering
  • A respect for the environment that all creatures share
  • An abhorrence of cruelty                  
  • Building compassion through education
I hope that you will join all of us at the OHS in keeping these values in our hearts and actions over the period ahead. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, November 3, 2016

They Still Have Love to Give: Older Pets and You

Since I began working at the Ottawa Humane Society a lot of people approach me for advice — especially about the kind of pet to adopt. It's interesting, because very few of them actually heed the few pieces of advice I give.

There are  two things I recommend to almost anyone who asks. First, be patient and take the time to work with OHS staff to find the right pet for you. And second, adopt an older pet.

Many say they will follow the first piece, but quickly fall in love with pet that is cute, looks like a much-loved previous pet, or that they just feel an immediate bond with.

I tend to give a lot of reasons why an older pet is often a better choice. I tell people that our staff can give more information about the temperament, behaviour and little foibles of an older pet. Kittens and puppies often act very differently than their adult selves.

While most of us like a playful pet, older animals can provide welcome calm and quiet between playtimes. I know more than a few people still waiting hopefully for their retriever to reach a calmer phase of life; others are praying their cat will soon age out of climbing the curtains. Five years ago, I thought it would be fun to foster some puppies. Only two. And I still get tired when I think of it.

Take my advice. Older pets still need a home. They need love. They need you. Please give it some thought before you adopt. One of them may be what you need.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Brightening the Lives of Seniors

A Brightening Lives volunteer dog visits a seniors' residence.
I write a lot about children and animals, mainly because I believe the OHS's work with young people is key to ending animal suffering in the long term. Of course, not all of our "people and animals" work is with children. In fact, one of our long standing programs brings animals together with seniors and other individuals living in care settings with no access to the comfort a pet can provide. The history of the OHS, Helping Hands: The First 125 Years recounts the story of the birth of the program now known as Brightening Lives:

On a grey November afternoon in 1980, Insp. Robert Cleaver and two other Ottawa Humane Society staff members visited the New Orchard Nursing Home. They brought along three puppies and three kittens to meet the 30-odd seniors in the home. The visit was a hit, featured in the Citizen with a front-page colour photo, and marked the start of the society’s very successful Companion Animals Program. 

This was the first Canadian initiative to bring pet visitors into seniors’ residences and hospitals, and similar programs have since been introduced in other cities. In addition to the playful company they provide, animals have proved to be of therapeutic value to withdrawn, bed-ridden or lonely individuals of all ages. 

Speaking on behalf of the humane society at a symposium in 1982, (then Executive Director) Ken Switzer commented on the visits to seniors’ homes: “After talking to some of these people, when tearful recollections are made of long departed pets, it is not surprising they would want to have another just for the pure joy of having something to hold and love. We have heard of cases where people who were previously uncommunicative and barely leaving their rooms have come out eagerly when they know that the animals are there.” 

In 1982, the program was the subject of a film produced by a Toronto company that was circulated in Canada and abroad. In 2005, in honour of its 25th anniversary, and to enhance the public’s awareness and understanding of the program, it was renamed, Brightening Lives.  

Today, the number of facilities visited regularly has increased to 76, with the number of annual visits totaling almost 600. The program is one of several at the OHS, including our Cats for Seniors adoption program, our Senior's Days open houses, and mobile spay/neuter program that help bring seniors the joy and comfort of animals, and of course, animals the joy and comfort of seniors.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"...and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right." Albus Dumbledore

You may have read that a judge reinstated the affiliate status of the Ottawa Humane Society on Monday. 

Among his comments, Justice Ray said the suspension of the OHS, "needs to be acknowledged by all parties that it was wrong." His written finding about the OSPCA actions were that, "Many of these decisions were taken without regard to procedural safeguards and contrary to certain statutory and regulatory provisions." Very unfortunately, the judge did not extend his order to the OHS agents as yet. That will have to wait for the moment, until at least a court-ordered AGM in November.

You may wonder why this is important. Why would the OHS and six other of the largest OSPCA affiliates across the province even bother to take action against the OSPCA? Wouldn't it be easier just to go with the flow?

Well, I can only speak for myself. I have very deep concerns about what has taken place over the past few months. I am concerned about a provincial police force with no oversight. I am concerned when communities are left out of decision making. I am concerned when boards hold secret meetings and suspend the voting rights of its members. I am concerned when new bylaws are created extending the term of office of board members who should have stepped down already, having served out their six-year terms. I am concerned about trying to silence anyone who speaks out about these things. I worry about who will be next. And I am most concerned about the future of animal welfare in Ontario if these problems aren't fixed. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Different Cats, Different Solutions

Too many cats will live wretched lives as long as there are too many cats.
As our new Mobile Spay/Neuter Vehicle hits the streets, the prospect for long-term solutions to cat overpopulation and cat welfare are becoming clearer. The thing is, cats in our community live in very different circumstances, there are many reasons for the problems, and all need tailored solutions. 

A significant source of overpopulation is feral cats. Feral cats are not stray. They are generally the progeny of stray or roaming cats and have never lived with humans. They are not wildlife, nor are they pets. Their lives are generally nasty, brutish and short. According to the experts, our friends at Alley Cat Allies, adults cannot ever be truly socialized to humans, though their young kittens can be. 

Then there are "porch" or "loosely owned" cats. These cats are socialized to humans, though may be very skittish. They have, or had, an owner and are fed and loosely cared for by a neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the neighbourhood's care rarely extends to veterinary care or sterilization. Therefore, these cats are a significant source of unwanted litters. Those not vaccinated can be a reservoir for contagious feline disease. 

It can be hard to identify a skittish stray or porch cat from a true feral cat. But in a shelter, socialized porch or owned cats will generally calm with time. Feral cats do not, and may injure themselves, sometimes severely, trying to escape. Their stress can be so intense that they can die of heart failure in a cage. It is not humane to shelter a severely distressed feral cat. 

The issues of each type of cat are very different and require different solutions. Since most feral cats cannot be humanely housed, the standard humane practice is "TNR," or trap/neuter/release, that is, capture, sterilize and vaccinate, and release them where they were found. Feral cat colonies can be phased out over time through TNR. The OHS assisted volunteers to phase out the famous Parliament Hill colony several years ago through TNR in advance of government intervention that may have seen the entire colony euthanized. The OHS will support other feral colony caretakers under certain conditions through free food and sterilization at our clinic. 

Porch cats can and should be socialized and rehomed. If they are rehomed through the OHS, they will leave healthy, vaccinated and sterilized to a good home that is ready and able to care for them. They will no longer contribute to cat overpopulation. 

I am feeling very positive and hopeful that our efforts are going to produce very significant results and quickly, changing the world for Ottawa's cats by resolving the problem identified in the OHS's new five-year strategic plan, that is, too many cats will live wretched lives as long as there are too many cats. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

This meme from Facebook says a lot.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope to make the holiday a little more than a day off work with a big meal. It 's an opportunity to reflect on what I have and to be grateful. And that's a good thing to do.

But apparently, being grateful goes beyond just being a "good person." It has other benefits. No less than the Harvard Medical School tells us that there is a correlation between gratitude and happiness and better health. In one study quoted:

Two psychologists...asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Whoa! If we are more grateful, we are more likely to be happy and healthy? And be a good person? No jogging? No giving up gluten? I'm in and I will share:

Among my many good fortunes, I am grateful for the career I have had. I have always made a living helping others, whether they be humans or animals. Change a life, love what you do, and get paid for it? How great is that? Moreover, to borrow from our friends at the Community Foundation of Ottawa, I have had chances to, "help good people do great things" along the way. That is an amazing feeling.

So, I guess I have to add you to my gratitude list — and everyone who supports the Ottawa Humane Society and all the other organizations that are making a difference in our community and in the world — because you are good and you do great things, and I am grateful for it.

Please have a safe, happy — and grateful — Thanksgiving.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Special Pets for Special People

Chance, a special needs cat adopted from the OHS,
recently featured in the Ottawa Citizen.
Everyone at the OHS was so happy and grateful to read Alison Mah's Ottawa Citizen article on the rewards of adopting special needs pets ('I can't imagine our lives without him': Owner says benefits of special needs cat far outweigh costs, Sept. 26, 2016.) The article reminded me of what so many adopters tell me about their great experiences with special needs pets. It mirrored my own feelings, having adopted the very special Gracie in April of 2015.

It also reminded me of my blog on the subject from January 2014.

Special Pets for Special People

All the animals at the Ottawa Humane Society need our love and yours. But some need it a little more than others.

Close to 10 years ago, the OHS created a special needs adoptions program to help older animals and pets with manageable conditions get a second chance at finding a forever home. Conditions may include food allergies needing a special diet, thyroid conditions requiring regular, though inexpensive, medication, or heart murmurs that probably need nothing more than annual monitoring.

The older animals are healthy but beyond some people’s “best before” date. We think that they are great pets with years of health and love to give ahead of them. As we say about the older animals, "It takes a long time to get this sweet." Moreover, the older animals tend to be quieter and more predictable than the bouncing balls of fur some people choose.

To give them a little extra help finding homes, we feature our special needs cuties on Facebook and our other communications, and adopt them for half of the usual adoption fee. With our in-house clinic, we can assure  potential adopters that the animals’ known health concerns are limited to the ones we’ve identified. Our health guarantee still applies, as does the free health insurance.

I know that many people want to adopt a young and completely healthy pet. Rescuing a pet with special needs isn't for everyone. It is for special people with big hearts. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Silent Grief

I think we vastly under appreciate the impact of the loss of a pet. Too often, we tell people, through our words or actions, that they should just get over it (They can't get over it!) or to get a new pet (They don't want a new pet, they want that pet!) or in some other way diminish the person's feelings of loss and grief.

Too often this leads to the person who has lost a pet to suffer in silence because they feel silly or embarrassed by what they are feeling. That's not OK. The grief is real and we need to treat it as real. If we care, we have to feel and express that losing a pet counts as something worthy of grief.

Men, I think experience this more acutely, as we do with any problem that can be positively affected by sharing feelings. Few men will admit‎ it, but many probably shared more feelings with that old dog they do with their partner.

Don't let anyone tell you to put it in the past. You don't have to say, "I loved that cat." You love that cat. Period. Your time together may have been in the past but your feelings are right here in the present.

Because this is such a profound issue, as a part of our five-year strategic plan, the OHS has partnered with the Pet Loss Support Group to double the local resources for those grieving the loss of a beloved pet. A second group will be launched Mondays once a month beginning on September 26, right here at the OHS.

The group is free and light refreshments will be available. If you are experiencing the unresolved loss of a pet, please join us.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Good Day with HOPE

Ottawa's first spay/neuter clinic on wheels!
The best day I have had in a long time was last Thursday. That was the launch of our new Mobile Spay/ Neuter Program. It was fantastic. Our board was there. Some of our most committed supporters were there. We were all happy and excited to be doing something positive for our community and for the animals. And to me, it meant the beginning of the end of the endless cycle of thousands of cats needing our care every year. It meant that we are starting to solve a problem, not just deal with it endlessly. 

OHS supporters at the Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic launch event.
One of the main themes of OHS's five-year strategic plan is cat overpopulation: Too many cats will continue to live wretched lives, as long as there are too many cats. I believe this to the core. Finally, with this new program, we can reduce the number of cats in our community, and the number living wretched lives as a result. Studies suggest that in a community the size of Ottawa, 6,000 subsidized spay/neuters annually will result in a precipitous drop in overpopulation. By year two, the Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic is targeting that magic 6,000!

The one damper on that great day was that I failed to thank one of our great community friends and partners: the wonderful folks at HOPE, who, for 34 years have been presenting the fantastic HOPE Volleyball Summerfest. This event, the largest of its kind, is possible only because a HUGE number of volunteers — a board of directors, a planning team of 40 and an astounding 1,100 event day volunteers — come together with only one thing in mind: giving to our community. And what gifts they have given! HOPE has given over $3.5 million dollars to 110 local charities since its inception 34 years ago. 

Our friends at HOPE are giving the OHS $25,000 this year to help make this ambitious new program a success, and to make a difference for many generations of cats. They deserve my thanks and yours. Please join me in thanking all the great people at HOPE for their 34-year commitment to our community. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, September 8, 2016

One Fine Day

Join us this Sunday and help save animal lives.
The weather forecast for this year's Wiggle Waggle Walkathon and Run for the Animals next Sunday couldn't be better: 23 degrees and partly cloudy. No one will be too cold; no one will be too hot. Organization of the day is going really well. It promises to be a great time this year. All that's missing is you.

The proceeds from the walk and run sustain Ottawa's animals all year long. Life-saving surgeries, rescues of animals in distress, and the day-to-day care of animals who have nowhere else to go — all possible only because you come out to run or walk on this one fine day. Because the pledge system is on line, it's not too late to register. The system will help you send pledge requests to your friends and family auto-magically in an instant.

The animals depend on this one day. They are depending on you.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

P.S. Really, really can't make it this year? Consider sponsoring Betsy our spokesdog this year instead!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Walk or Run and Show you Care

The OHS Wiggle Waggle Walkathon and Run for the Animals are a lot of wonderful things: a great day out, a fun time with your family and your dogs, a chance to see breeds of dogs you never see anywhere else, and a chance to mingle with other caring and committed people in Ottawa. The run is all that and a chance to set a personal best.

But, they do have a very serious purpose: they are literally life-saving events.

We can plan all year long to create an event that is bigger and better than the one before, but only you can make them a success. The animals depend on you on this one day for their future.

You will remember last year, the event was struck by a huge, unprecedented electrical storm. It wasn't looking good for the animals, but you and our community saved the day, and saved the lives of hundreds of animals by being there with your gift when they needed you. The weather looks like it is going to return to the beautiful days that we are used to for the events, but the animals still need you.
You were here for Daisy, a kitten found in a zip-tied box into a Kanata dumpster in May. Only because of you could Daisy be treated for dehydration, her eye infection and her compromised  respiratory system. You came through and allowed the OHS vet to treat her with fluids, antibiotics and eye ointment. And because of you she was adopted late last spring. 

The Walk and Run paid for Coco's care. Coco, a Dogue de Bordeaux, was surrendered by her owner. She was five. With the help of an intervention volunteer, she received training for handling sensitivity, fear and food aggression. We spayed her and treated her for and food allergies. She was adopted in July into a home that could meet her needs. 

Betsy the spokesdog.
And, of course, there is Betsy, our walk spokesdog. Betsy exemplifies the animals that need you and the OHS. Betsy was a puppy mill survivor, the scars on her body tell us of her life: multiple litters, sores from years of sleeping without bedding, teeth rotting in her mouth, and overgrown nails from a lifetime of neglect. Betsy needed dental surgeries, to be spayed, and treatment for a bladder infection, grooming and time in foster. But she was adopted in the spring. A new life, because you walked, you ran, you cared.

Please sign up and start collecting pledges today. Please be there this year, on this one day, for the Daisys, the Cocos and the Betsys that are here right now in our shelter, and they need you to walk, to run and to care. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

P.S. I'm really looking forward to seeing you on September 11th!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Politics and Animal Lives

The OHS has been providing rescue and investigations
services for 128 years.
The Ottawa Humane Society was founded in 1888. It was created to enforce our the new animal welfare legislation in the capital of our almost-new country. And ever since, it has been core to what the OHS does for our community and for its animals.  

Unfortunately, we are not individually empowered to conduct this work. It flows through the Ontario SPCA, the organization named in the Act. And as an affiliate serving a community — one of the 28 voting members — of the OSPCA, we have had a voice in animal welfare in Ontario. It is enshrined in the Act and we think it is important. That is, we had a voice until the sitting board of the OSPCA unilaterally, and without notice, and we contend, illegally, decided that we didn't. Local communities and local humane societies would no longer represent their communities in animal welfare in the province, only the sitting members of the board. We thought that was wrong. We said so. The result? The OHS was suspended for objecting. 

We could no longer provide investigations into animal cruelty and neglect for a community and its animals that have come to rely on us. No voice for Ottawa provincially. No OHS investigations in Ottawa. We think this is a dangerous game. It is playing politics with animal lives. 

I worry. The OSPCA has told our partners that they will provide the service here. But your complaints are coming in. You are telling us that animals are not served. I worry a lot because I believe in the work we do and I care about our community's animals. In the end, we just want to get back to work — the work we have been providing for 128 years — rescuing animals and bringing the perpetrators of cruelty to justice.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why IS summer so busy at the OHS shelter?

It will come as no surprise that the busiest months at the OHS shelter are July and August. One of the reasons may surprise you though. Here are our Top 3:
  1. Animals and people are both outside more, leading to more stray animals.
  2. Many animals, especially cats, give birth throughout the spring and many are brought to us eight weeks or so later.  
  3. Early summer is the beginning of summer holiday season, and many people surrender their pet before going on holidays. 
Naomi  (A189212) is just one of the many cats at the
OHS looking for a new home this summer.
I know that the third reason will shock a lot of people. You likely are very bonded to your pet and would not dream of surrendering her to a shelter because she doesn't fit with your holiday plans. But many, many people do.

You know what may shock you more? I am mostly ok with that. I say "mostly" because I believe that being a pet owner is a serious commitment. But I also believe that, if all else fails, bringing your pet to a shelter is a responsible choice. Too many pets are simply abandoned when not convenient, dumped somewhere alone and left to their own devices. And that is much, much worse than surrendering him to a trustworthy shelter.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wiggle Waggle Walkathon Team Showcase: Algonquin Animal Hospital’s Pet Angels

Wiggle Waggle Walkathon and Run for the Animals Spokesdog Betsy interviews Natalia Hanson, Algonquin Animal Hospital team captain. 
Betsy: So, first off Natalia, tell me why the walkathon is so important to you? 

Natalia: I have always wanted to help animals as they are the most vulnerable members in our society. I started fundraising when I was a teenager and I like to think that I am part of a bigger picture, that I am helping fund spay and neuter surgeries and finding pets their forever homes. 

Betsy: And why is the walk so important to Algonquin Animal Hospital? 

Natalia: Our former owner, Dr. Barrie Stewart, who passed away in 2014, was a big supporter of the OHS. In fact, one of the dog kennels at the shelter is named after the Prince of Wales Animal Hospital, our sister clinic. I started the team in 2013 and Dr. Stewart was very supportive of the idea, so we decided to make it a yearly tradition. Plus, we have been the animal hospital/vet clinic that has raised the most funds for two years in a row, so we hope to maintain our title. 
Algonquin Animal Hospital’s Pet Angels

Betsy: Do you have any tricks or tips for others who are new to fundraising for this event? 

Natalia: I think using the emotional appeal helps a lot. Donors like to know how their money is directly benefiting the animals in Ottawa. The Algonquin Animal Hospital’s team gives donors something in exchange. We sew bandanas and sell them at the hospital for a donation. 

Betsy: What is your favourite thing to do/see on walk day? 

Natalia: We get to meet so many people and animals! I remember a lady who always walks with a tiny horse. We’ve also seen some ferrets and cats in carriers. Everyone is in a good mood and walking together for a good cause. My teammates always get excited about the Puppy Picasso paw prints for dogs!

Betsy: Do you have any suggestions for keeping your team excited and encouraging them to fundraise? 

Natalia: I try to get them excited by looking forward to the actual event; it’s a day when we can get together, wear our team jerseys and be a team outside our workplace. 

Betsy: Woof! Is there anything you would like to say to people who have never been to the walk or run or who are considering registering? 

Team T-shirts
Natalia: I would tell everyone to please go! This is the OHS’s biggest annual fundraiser, there’s no minimum required donation and people can choose to walk on their own or form teams. Come meet other animal lovers, talk to the exhibitors, meet adoptable pets, and walk/run for a worthy cause. It’s an event for the entire family. 

Betsy: Thank you so much for your time, Natalia! Can’t wait to see you and your team on Sept. 11, 2016! Woof woof!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Heck no, I won't go.

Captive orca with collapsed dorsal fin.
About a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to participate in a whale watch in Massachusetts. Seeing humpback whales in the open ocean was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Of course, whale watches in those waters are tightly regulated. Boats can only come so close, motors need to be turned off, etc. I was satisfied that my thrilling experience wasn't at the expense of the welfare of these majestic creatures; not so for marine mammals in captivity.

I understand that people want to see animals close-up. They want their children to see them. But at what cost to the animals? Marineland, right here in Ontario, has made itself as famous for its poor treatment of animals as for its jingle.

The whales are housed in cement aquariums very different from their natural habitat. In the wild, orcas, live in pods of two to 50 whales and they swim up to 100 miles in a day and dive to depths of 500 feet. Some orcas stay with their families for life, as they travel in pods and sometimes join other pods for hunting or socializing. They prefer deep water and usually spend only 10 to 20 per cent of their time at the surface.

In captivity, the killer whale is extremely limited. Kept in tanks not much larger than themselves, they are unable to swim even the tiniest fraction of the lengths and depths they do in the wild. In an aquarium they will spend up to 50 per cent of their time at the surface, which is likely the reason they sometimes suffer from dorsal fin collapse, a result of gravity pulling on the fin when it does not have the support of the water.

Like orcas, belugas travel hundreds of miles in the wild. Constrained in an aquarium, these whales end up swimming in circles with little stimulation, suffering psychologically, mentally and physical. There is a high mortality rate for whales captured from the wild and those born in captivity.

Despite the owner's much touted and bogus "educational" aspect of Marineland, it is a business. It is owned by a man named John Holer and it exists to make money. Animals are kept at the lowest-possible cost in order that Mr. Holer can make the highest-possible profit.

And if we don't go, it will become a relic of the past.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

With thanks to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Television promised me things were going to get better

I was born in 1962. It was an interesting time to be born. As a child, in the late '60s and early '70s,  I was somewhat  aware of the terrible social problems from earlier times. And like many my age, after my parents, my values were formed mainly by television. 

Television told me that things were going to get better, though. By 1971, All in the Family was exposing the everyday racism and bigotry in American life. The next year, Maude told me about the inequities and double standards between men and women. Even the usually uncontroversial Mary Tyler Moore took on the insidious nature of anti-Semitism. The underlying message was always that the right-thinking, generally younger people were doing away with the injustices of the past and that the future would be brighter. 

As a teenager, I became aware of towering figures like Martin Luther King, Betty Friedan, and later Harvey Milk: the antidotes to racism, sexism and homophobia. And in television, shows that I now felt too mature for: The Facts of Life, Full House, and many others routinely taught young people to treat everyone the same, speak honestly, confront injustice, and that violence is not a way to solve problems. Again, things seemed to be on a course to a better world, because younger people were going to be different. 

But it doesn't seemed to have worked out that way. Or at least it certainly doesn't feel like it today. The problems I once thought would be relics of the past have resurfaced aggressively and as ugly as ever.   

Moreover, I struggle with what to do about it personally. But professionally, I do know what to do. As a humane society, we are called to do more than rescue and care for animals. We are called upon to change the future for animals and our community. We know that violence too often begins with animals, but so too can compassion, nurturing and empathy. Last year, more than 16,000 mostly young people participated in an OHS program that teaches those values with the help of animals. The OHS is committed to continuing and expanding these efforts to do our part in keeping the promise that television made but failed to deliver. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Helping Dogs in Hot Cars

As the weather warms, the number of calls you make to us about dogs in hot cars soars. What should you do if you spot a dog locked in a hot car? Just remember T.A.N.

There are three steps:

1. Take information. Note the make and model of the car, the license number, exact location, and a description of the dog: breed, colour, size. etc. Remember that windows cracked open do not significantly reduce the internal temperature of a car.

2. Assess the situation. How long have you been present while the dog has been in the car? Is the dog in distress? Signs of heat distress include excessive panting with the tongue fully extended, stumbling, glazed eyes, disorientation, hiding in the footwell, and ultimately, coma and death.

3. Notify authorities. Contact nearby stores and businesses. Ask them to make an announcement for the owner to return to their car. If the dog is in distress, call 911. Stay on the scene to monitor the situation until the owner or help arrives.

Please know that citizens are not protected from litigation if they cause damage to enter a car, even if it is to rescue a dog in distress.

And of course, don't be a part of the problem. Don't leave your pet in a hot car.

Bruce Roney,
Executive Director 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Urgent Animal Welfare Issue: We Need You To Take Action

(Warning: Graphic Content)
OHS Executive Director Bruce Roney has written the Federal Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, calling upon her to  amend the Criminal Code following  a shocking Supreme Court ruling.

On June 9, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 7-1 that bestiality is only illegal in Canada if it involves acts of penetration.

The Globe and Mail reported that a man from Prince George was sentenced to 16 years for all the offences upon which he was convicted, including two related to the bestiality count. The judge in that case decided that bestiality in the Criminal Code meant touching between a person and an animal for sexual purposes, and penetration was not required. The details are horrific: the man used peanut butter to compel the dog to perform a sexual act with his stepdaughter while he used a video camera to record the incident. But the man’s bestiality conviction was overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal, so lawyers for the province took the case to the Supreme Court.

All but one of the Justices ruled to uphold that bestiality must involve penetration. The lone dissenter, Justice Rosalie Abella, said she had a great deal of difficulty accepting that in modernizing amendments to the Criminal Code, “Parliament forgot to bring the offence out of the Middle Ages.”

In his letter to the minister and OHS's local MP Anita Vandenbeld, Roney wrote, "This abhorrent loophole will remain open unless Parliament takes action to create a broader definition of bestiality under the Criminal Code of Canada." He called upon the government to either support Bill C-246 currently before parliament as a private member's bill, or to introduce its own legislation to ensure that "this form of heinous crime against animals becomes illegal."

Add your voice to protect animals from sexual abuse, contact Minister Wilson-Raybould at You can also write her postage-free at House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A 0A6.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

School's Out!

Though most days, I didn't really mind school, I will admit that my favourite day was always the last day. On this, the last day of school this year, I have been thinking about how far the OHS has come in reaching children and youth in our schools and what it means. 

Last year alone, OHS staff and volunteers reached a stunning 9,724 young people in classrooms across the city. That is an amazing number. When added to our summer humane education program, camps, birthday parties, and other programs for children and youth, the OHS reached an astounding 16,109 young people. And of course, now we are reaching young people in Ottawa's French and French immersion classrooms, not just in English schools. 

You may be thinking, "So what?" Here is the thing, my admittedly rudimentary demographic skills tell me that if we reach 16,000 children a year, assuming no duplication, we will reach every child in Ottawa at least once in their school life. If our programs are successful — building empathy, compassion as well as responsible animal ownership — and we reach every child in Ottawa, there is a real possibility of changing the future for not only animals, but our entire community. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

It's warm. The sun is shining. Summer is finally here. It's the time for subjects no more weighty than the age-old debate: the difference between cats and dogs...

"Dogs come when they’re called. Cats take a message and get back to you later."
Mary Bly

"Cat's motto: No matter what you've done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it."

"Cats are ultimate narcissists. You can tell this by all the time they spend on personal grooming. Dogs aren’t like this. A dog’s idea of personal grooming is to roll in a dead fish."
James Gorman

"Dogs are like kids. Cats are like roommates.”
Oliver Gaspirtz

"Everyone needs a dog to adore him, and a cat to bring him back to reality."

"A dog is a man’s best friend. A cat is a cat’s best friend.”
Robert J. Vogel

"If a dog jumps into your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer."
Alfred North Whitehead

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
Jeff Valdez

"Dogs have owners, cats have staff."

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Evidence is in: The Benefits of Taking Pets to Work

OHS humane education staff with their pets.
I'm sorry I left this article so late. Friday, June 24 is Take Your Pet to Work Day. If you aren't as lucky as we are at the OHS, and are not yet able to take your pet to work, it may be a bit late to convince your boss that it's a good idea. If it is too late for this year, maybe you can use the event as a conversation-opener to prepare for next year.

Taking a pet to work is about much more than saving employees on the cost of doggy day care. A 2014 Jordan Smith article in Inc. magazine outlined the many benefits of pets in the workplace: increased productivity, communication, and morale, and improvement in the overall health and well-being of employees.

The article cites several studies in support of the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace, along with some U.S. corporations that have become true believers.

The companies named found that employees found long working hours more tolerable when they had their pets — or even their co-worker's pets — by their side. They found that pets promoted staff interactions with colleagues that they otherwise would not have had, leading to a more collaborative workplace. Stress reduction for employees was identified by both studies and the experiences of employers. According to one, “If you are in a position where something is stressful, seeing that wagging tail and puppy smile brightens the day — it can turn around the whole environment.”

The research cited is serious. No less than the eminent U.S. Centre for Disease Control reports that pets can reduce not only stress and loneliness, but also blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Remember, even the most pet-friendly workplaces like the OHS need to know how everything is going to work in advance. It is important to have rules, so that, for example, those few that aren't keen on your sweet little fur bundle aren't disturbed, and that no one feeds him without your permission.

So, here is your chance. If you have always thought that bringing pets to your workplace was a good idea, now armed with studies and anecdotal experiences, why not mark next June 23 as your personal D-Day?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 9, 2016

They Need a Special Place in Your Heart

This month, get to know cats like Likos, the pet behind the
special needs label.
Our June adoption promotion is Behind the Label. It's our play on Behind the Music from the cable music station VH1. It is all about finding homes for special needs cats. We hope that you will look beyond the term special needs and see the real cat behind the label.

Animals at the OHS are special needs for a lot of reasons. They are generally relatively minor: a heart murmur with no discernible symptoms, arthritis, allergies which require a special diet, or another health issue that a loving and committed family would accept.

To promote the special ones, we reduce our usual adoption fee by half, and in June we are offering the equivalent of a first free vet visit by waiving the other half of the usual fee.

Gracie — my Siamese who must be obeyed — was special needs, owing to her age (10) and her smaller than expected kidneys. For me, this was a no-brainer. I wanted a cat that others might not. I didn't want a kitten: too much energy, too many unknowns. I wanted an adult that had a fully-formed personality, so I would know that we would get along. The fact that I wasn't allergic to her as I am with many cats helped a lot too. For all this, I was willing — happy — to take on the medical care that she may need sooner than other cats. In cat years, Gracie is late middle-aged. Here is the thing: so am I. And I think we both still have a lot to give.

Of course, special needs animals are only adoptable if our community will adopt them. We can do the pre-adoption medical work, we can promote the heck out of them, but at the end of the day, it is only you who can provide them a home. And when you do give them a home, it really isn't the animal that's special, it's you.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Tragic Death

The world has been shocked and horrified by the shooting of Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. If you haven't yet heard the story, a four-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure, and after some tense moments, with the gorilla dragging the boy around the compound and displaying behaviour that some have described as protective, others as dangerously agitated, zoo officials made the decision to shoot Harambe. The child was rescued, relatively unscathed and the gorilla is now dead.

I feel for everyone involved: the child, the distressed mother, the zoo employees called upon to shoot a creature that they had raised from birth — one of the last of his kind. As for Harambe, his death just makes me very, very sad.

I have looked at the footage of the incident, and have thoughts, but given I am in no way an expert, or even slightly conversant in gorilla behaviour, I will not stoke the fire. I will keep my observations to myself.

But here is what I do know: when there is conflict between humans and wild animals, whether they be a gorilla in a zoo, a performing elephant, or a fox living on a piece of land to be developed, the animal almost always loses.

What can you do? You can reject circuses, zoos and aquariums that exploit animals for entertainment. Rather than trapping and relocating wildlife on your property, you can learn to coexist. If we make these changes, maybe one day the animals will stop losing.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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