Thursday, April 28, 2016

Pets & Kids: Life Lessons Through Pet Ownership

For many people raising a family, adding an animal into the mix can be a somewhat daunting idea. The mere prospect has many parents contemplating more work, more noise, and more mess. However, many of us who have had pets as kids or have raised kids with pets in the household know that it can make a lasting positive impact on the life of a child, and make all of the hard work, added hullabaloo, and extra mess well worth it.

To start, a child with a pet regularly exercises compassion; they learn to love and care for something other than themselves and their immediate family. Understanding that their pet has an inner world of their own, with complex feelings and emotions, can be an invaluable tool in gaining emotional intelligence and can help children grow up to be kind and empathetic adults.

Families who have pets naturally tend to lead a more active lifestyle. The healthy habits kids learn at a young age, like getting out for regular walks with Fido, stick with them throughout their whole lives.

Children who grow up with pets also have a unique opportunity to take on a special kind of responsibility. Caring for a pet teaches them that the most enjoyable things in life often require commitment and a lot of work — but that the benefits are immeasurable.

Perhaps the most meaningful benefit to a child is that a pet can be a source of comfort and be a best friend. It can be a child’s silver lining after a difficult day, or help them partake in interactive, exciting play. For children with special needs, a relationship with a family pet can be profoundly beneficial; an animal can be engaging and stimulating in ways that toys or television simply cannot.

Furthermore, you can imagine how therapeutic it could be for a special needs child (or any child for that matter) who might struggle to communicate or have a hard time connecting with his or her peers to experience the completely non-judgmental and unconditional love of a family pet.

Many of us who grew up with a beloved pet remember how much we loved them and we fondly cherish their memory. We might remember how we changed their lives or what we trained them to do, but perhaps the most amazing part of growing up with a pet is not what we teach them, but what they teach us.

Kristen Brooker
Coordinator: Humane Education

Friday, April 22, 2016

What is a humane society's number one issue?

There are so many issues that a humane society addresses for animals and the community it serves: animal abuse, neglect, homelessness, issues of animal health, of animal welfare — there are dozens, if not hundreds. Many or even most source back to human behaviour, and so we spend a lot of effort trying to get people to change their behaviour. 

I started to think, if we could get our community to change just one or two things, which would they be? For me, definitely they would be identifying and spaying or neutering their pet.  Universal identification would mean that we could get every lost pet home. And spaying and neutering has dozens of benefits, for the pet, for the owner and for the community. So why is spaying and neutering on the list?
Spaying and neutering has dozens of benefits, for the pet, the owner
and the community

The health benefits for the pet are enormous. Spaying prevents ovarian and uterine cancers and tumours and can prevent uterine infections that can be life threatening. Neutering in dogs prevents prostate problems causing infection and problems urinating as well as testicular cancers. 

Just recently at the OHS, Coco the Pomeranian was diagnosed here with a mammary tumour. Coco one very lucky dog. As an unspayed 10-year old, there was a 50/50 chance her tumour was cancer. When the diagnosis is cancer, the prognosis is usually poor. Thankfully, the OHS vet removed Coco’s tumour, spayed her, and she’ll soon be ready for her forever home. 

But had Coco been sterilized sooner — before her first heat — her tumour would likely never have existed. Tumours like hers are almost completely prevented by spaying, according to our chief veterinarian Dr. Shelley Hutchings. In fact, mammary masses in a dog spayed before her heat cycle has only a 0.5 per cent risk versus intact dogs, growing to a 26 per cent chance after a second heat.
The behavioural benefits of sterilization are also tremendous. It drastically reduces the incidence of problems like urine marking, spraying, roaming and aggression in males, and eliminates the issues associated with the heat cycle in females. All of these issues, of course, too frequently result in surrendered pets to the OHS.  
Spaying and neutering prevents pet overpopulation.
More than anything though, spaying and neutering addresses pet overpopulation. While not a generalized problem with dogs, it is an enormous problem in cats. Too many cats will continue to live wretched lives as long as there are too many cats. They are undervalued, under cared for and expendable simply because there are so many. And only spaying and neutering can solve this. 

So, have your pet sterilized. She will be healthier. He will be better behaved. And they won't produce a new generation of cats to suffer. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The OHS has the best volunteers!

Our volunteers help make Ottawa a more humane place for all.
National Volunteer Week is an annual celebration that recognizes and honours the 12.7 million-plus Canadians and the two billion-plus hours they contribute annually to organizations across our country. From April 10 to 16, the OHS will proudly celebrate our volunteer’s efforts and contributions over the last year.

Let’s face it — the OHS would not be able to continue to offer so many lifesaving programs and services for our community without the support and dedication of our volunteers. I am constantly overwhelmed by the selfless acts of kindness that our volunteers provide to help give Ottawa’s animals a second chance. From volunteer groomers who immediately abandon their plans to assist with OHS emergencies by brushing, bathing and clipping neglected animals to relieve their pain and suffering, to office volunteers who put in extra shifts to help with massive holiday and tax-receipt mail outs to thousands of OHS supporters, to PAL cat assistant volunteers who spend two mornings each week feeding, socializing and providing care to cats temporarily residing in partnering pet store locations, to volunteers who hand out flyers in the heat of summer to warn our community about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars. It’s because of volunteers that we are able to help the close to 10,000 animals that need our care each year, and it’s because of volunteers that we are able to continue to do so much for these animals.

A volunteer groomer helps give an animal at the OHS his second chance.

Being part of the OHS volunteer team is a unique experience for each volunteer, but all volunteers share one common goal — to help give Ottawa’s animals a brighter future and make our community a more humane place for all. In addition to helping animals, volunteers gain invaluable experiences to help them expand or develop their skill sets, have the opportunity to network with more than 800 fellow volunteers, have the chance to learn at educational workshops and become a critical component to the success of the OHS. Let our volunteer’s acts of kindness inspire you to start making a difference for our community. 

Please join me and everyone at the OHS in thanking our 800-plus volunteer team this National Volunteer Week. This amazing group of volunteers supported close to 30 volunteer programs and gave close to 60,000 hours of their time last year. The work of the OHS would not possible without them and I am so grateful to spend each day working with such an inspirational group of people.

Ashley Britton
Manager: Volunteers

Friday, April 8, 2016

Serving our Bilingual Community

Humane education school presentations are offered
in both French and English
We at the OHS are dedicated to promoting animal welfare and building a compassionate community, but in order to do this we must be able to reach our whole community. While the sick, injured, and homeless animals we care for speak neither of Canada’s official languages, we recognize that a great many of the human residents of the Ottawa area are francophone. We know that we must extend our reach to include French speakers in order to further our mission to build a brighter, more humane community.  

Our goal is to provide important community services, be it reuniting lost pets with their owners, finding forever homes for homeless animals, or educating the public about animal welfare, in both official languages. To this end, we are currently in the process of translating OHS documents and materials, with a focus on those most frequently used by the public. Additionally, we are very proud to offer all of our humane education school presentations in both French and English. Since the beginning of this school year alone, we have provided French presentations to over 2,300 children and counting.

Kristen Brooker
Coordinator: Humane Education

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

UPDATED: Pet Shops and Animals for Sale, Time for a Change

Full house at the City's Community and Protective Services
Committee meeting on March 21.
UPDATE: On March 21, the City's Community and Protective Services Committee heard public delegations regarding the commercial sourcing of puppies and kittens in Ottawa pet stores. Attendance at committee was outstanding: there were too many people in attendance to fit into the committee room and a total of 32 delegations were heard from. I was there, joining with the majority of speakers who said that the staff recommendations did not address the genuine concerns about where the animals were coming from. I argued against the grandfathering of the three remaining stores selling non-rescue animals, and pointed to serious flaws in the inspection requirements proposed.

Councillors Catherine McKenney (Somerset Ward) and Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward), who are not members of the committee, took time to attend what ended up an all-day meeting and to ask the questions that would assure a full airing of the speaker's concerns.

In the end, the committee supported the motion of Councillor Mark Taylor (Bay Ward) which would ultimately ban the sale of commercially-sourced animals after a five-year phase-in period.

The committee's recommendation goes to full council on April 13.

Is this enough? What do you think? Send your thoughts to

Read my speech to the committee here and read my letter to the City here.  

PREVIOUS POST: First, the good news: the majority of pet stores in Ottawa do not sell commercially-sourced animals. Most are enlightened and have signed on to the OHS Pet Adoption Location (PAL) program offering only OHS or other groups' rescued animals. Only three remain that acquire animals for sale from other, potentially sub-standard sources.

However, city staff have just released their report on modifying the city's pet shop bylaw. The local group, Puppy Mill Awareness Working Solutions (PAWS) and the OHS recommended to the City that stores be limited to acquiring and adopting only animals from the OHS and other groups rescuing animals. Staff have rejected this opportunity.  Rather, city staff recommend that the three pet shops be grandfathered and allowed to continue to sell dogs and cats that they acquire from commercial interests, subject to some new limitations.

Grandfathering can be a good way to be middle of the road and to try not to annoy too many people. City staff know this makes life easier for them and for council, and that is why it was their approach to local zoos, and even to strip bars—keep the ones we have, just don't create new ones. I would argue though, that it is not good public policy. Something doesn't become right just because some people have been doing it for a long time. Good public policy sometimes means taking a stand and making a decision.  Toronto did it several years ago and I expect no less from my community.

The new limitations city staff have recommended are that the remaining three be restricted to acquiring cats and dogs for sale from, " ...commercial establishments that have been inspected annually by an agent authorized under that Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act or the (Quebec) Animal Welfare and Safety Act, who has confirmed in writing that the commercial establishment's premises and the animals therein, meet the requirements of the relevant Act..."

OK. Sounds good, well, sort of good. The net effect is that animals could only be sourced for sale from within Ontario or Quebec, and that the relevant agencies would have to inspect those premises.  
Here is the concern, though: there is no requirement that those dogs and cats, puppies and kittens were actually born or raised in the inspected establishments, just that the pet stores buy from them.  Puppies may have arrived in a tractor trailer from Arkansas or Chicoutimi the day before, but as long as the facility where they are held in Ontario or Quebec has been inspected, then the stores can buy them and put them in their front windows. Puppy mills often work through brokers and middlemen, so on the face of it, this would do nothing to address the concern about the source of the animals.

There is an opportunity to take a small step forward to find more homes for Ottawa's homeless animals and to ensure that local pet stores are not sourcing animals from disreputable breeding operations. Ottawa needs to take that step.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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