Thursday, February 25, 2016

The OHS Clinic: A Real Lifesaver

OHS veterinarian preforming surgery in the clinic.
I took Gracie (the best cat in the world) to the veterinarian today. I sent her OHS medical file over to her vet in preparation. I was struck by how long it was— four pages of treatments, medications, dental surgeries, etc. She was a very stressed and ultimately sick cat, who, owing to her 10 years also needed a lot of dental work to be ready for adoption. It occurred to me that she owes her life to a lot of people and to the fact that the OHS has its own in-house veterinary clinic. 

The OHS first acquired its own clinic space when Bayview Animal Hospital moved out of the Champagne Avenue shelter in 2005. The goals of the new clinic today seem modest, but important. Our primary concern was eliminating spay/neuter vouchers, the progressive, but not 100 per cent reliable way to ensure that animals adopted from the OHS would not reproduce and contribute to pet overpopulation. The clinic and our own veterinarian would allow us to sterilize all animals prior to adoption. 

The needs, and our goals soon expanded dramatically. With our own clinic, a host of other needs could be filled. Dental work became possible. It is simply not realistic to adopt an animal to most people and expect that the next day, they will shell out hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for needed dental work. They won't adopt or they won't have the dental work done — and the risk of a lifetime of pain for that pet is too great for us. But, if we can do the dental work before adoption, then sweet older animals like Gracie can look forward to a comfortable retirement in a forever home. 

Moreover, animals with serious, but treatable, injuries and needs could be treated in-house, reducing costs and allowing us to bring more animals back to health. With the move to West Hunt Club, and the larger and more modern clinic here, the number and range of surgeries and treatments increased significantly. The larger facility allowed us to invite more community veterinarians to supplement  the work of our staff veterinarians and I am delighted that many of our local veterinarians have answered the call. 

Even with volunteer vets and our frugal approach to our work, all kinds of medicine are expensive —  very expensive, in fact. While we hear that everyday inflation runs under two per cent in recent memory, inflation in the medical realm often runs at 10 or more per cent. Veterinary medicine is not immune. Between inflation and our drive to help more animals, costs have increased a lot. 

I want to make sure animals get a second chance and a forever home. That includes animals like Gracie who needed more, even a lot more care. And I know you want it too.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spay it Forward and the Keys to a Better Future for Animals

Most people are surprised when I speak or write about the work of the Ottawa Humane Society. Few expect the number, range and depth of our programs and activities. We do a lot for our community and the animals with the hope that the investment will improve the welfare of the animals and change the future. Out of these, I believe there are three things that will lead to the biggest and fastest positive changes: legislation, education and sterilization. Legislation is a reflection of community norms and when legislation changes, communities follow. Education, particularly with children and youth, creates better future pet owners.  

Sterilization is also an effective means to change. This has been one of the main OHS messages for decades. Too many animals will suffer as long as there are too many animals. And too many animals will end up needing a refuge as a result of remaining unsterilized. 

One of my happiest professional moments was when in 2005, the OHS opened an internal clinic, allowing us to ensure that every animal adopted from our care was spayed or neutered before the adoption. No more would we run the risk of contributing to pet overpopulation, through our imperfect voucher system. 

In the last decade, our clinic has grown and allows us to perform a whole range of life-saving surgeries. But the core need, and so the core purpose, remains the same: sterilize every animal before adoption. And sterilizing them quickly means they don't languish in our shelter, maxing out our space and running the risk of stress and illness. 

That is why we are asking you to "Spay it Forward" this month. Because spaying and neutering helps not only that dog or cat, but ultimately all dogs and cats. It is one of the most important keys to a better future for our animal companions.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, February 11, 2016

For the Love of Pets

It occurs to me that animals — pets, at least for those of us who have them — are a huge part of our emotional lives.

For those of us who grew up with animals, often they were our first loves. And they were our first loss. I can still feel the sting of the loss of my first dog. Most of us can.

Love for our pets can be a tremendous consolation. Which one of us has not hugged a beloved pet after a break-up, a divorce, a death? We swear they can sense our pain and they probably can.

Some souls have only experienced the love for a pet and never for another human. And for some, it is the only love and companionship that is left in old age.

So as we celebrate our love and our loves this St. Valentine's Day, let's set aside a little of the celebration for our pets.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Streets are No Place for a Cat: Your Comments

There were a lot of comments on Facebook about my last blog, and a handful of people took the time to write me with their thoughts and ideas. 

The majority, about 85 per cent, agreed that cats should be kept inside, or at least safely under their owner's control in a harness or structure at all times — an option I should have added.

I also should have mentioned coyotes, an increasing threat to outdoor cats. The local coyote numbers appear to be growing. I have seen two myself behind the West Hunt Club shelter. Coyotes can catch and will kill cats and small dogs. Some U.S. communities with large numbers of coyotes simply have no outdoor cats, as any cat venturing outside is killed in short order.

Several added a concern about the effect of roaming cats on songbird populations, a point I didn't make and should have. Most studies point to outdoor cats as the number one cause of the death of millions of birds and small mammals annually. Some species are threatened as a result.

Those that disagreed, disagreed vehemently. T.C. wrote in part: 

"...I think it's terrible that people don't let their cats outside, if the cat wants to go outside, and you live in a location that isn't "busy", you should totally let your cat out.. ..Animals want to frolic!! Our children may live longer if we keep them in the house and never let them out either! Think about it, they could get hit by a car, or kidnapped, or freeze.. ..Stop living in fear and let the animals be animals! S--- CAN happen, that doesn't mean it will!! Let them enjoy their unfortunately short lives whichever way they want!"

Many that agreed that cats should be kept inside expressed their personal frustration about the issue. L.L. wrote in part:

"We  have a neighbor who allows his cats out all the time.  One of which constantly comes and urinates on my basement window – which has a screen and happens to be right over my desk.  I can’t open that window any longer because of that, and my best efforts don’t keep this cat away.  To be honest, it's disgusting and I’m at my wits end about it.  I wouldn’t let my own dog do this.. ..They tell me they are ‘outside cats’ and they just can’t keep them indoors.. .. An entire neighborhood shouldn’t have to ‘adopt’ a cat just because one family chooses to have one they let run loose"

Many writers expressed tremendous concern about the cats they see in their neighbourhoods. J.A. wrote:

"Cats do not belong on the streets yet a lot of people think it's ok to have an 'outdoor' cat or in-outdoor cat.  I see kitties in our neighbourhood regularly. I've even emailed the OHS on one little guy that we kept on seeing throughout the winter, we know he belongs to someone as he is collared and we were concerned for his safety. It breaks my heart every time I see a putty outside. Especially in the winter time..."

Cats are better off indoors.
Some shared their reasoning for keeping their cat inside. V.S. wrote:

"A quick walk through my neighbourhood, wallpapered in posters for missing cats, was enough for us to decide to keep our girl inside. Sure she stares out the window longingly sometimes but it is my responsibility to keep her safe. She is fixed and vaccinated should she escape though. Humans need to do better"

Some shared their journey to keeping their cats indoors.  P.W. wrote:

"In the past we have owned 2 cats and both were inside and outside cats. Unfortunately both were killed on the road. It was very traumatic for our family and when my 20 year old son stated to talk me into another cat (he missed having a pet in the house)..  .. We talked as a family and agreed to adopt a cat. I only agreed to this if we kept the cat indoors."

Thank you to everyone who shared thoughts and ideas. The goal of the blog was to stimulate discussion and, I hope, change.

With the greatest respect to those who feel cats should roam, for me this debate was over long ago. After 16 years at the Ottawa Humane Society, I simply cannot accept that cats are better off outside. Every one of those years, 3,000 to 5,000 lost cats have needed our care. Many of them were injured or sick and in pain. Many suffered frostbite, needed amputations of tails and legs. Some were intentionally harmed. All of them needed a safe refuge.  

And the reality is, most wouldn't have been here if they hadn't been allowed outside.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

P.S.  Our friends at the City of Gold Coast in Australia made an excellent video on this subject:

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