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.

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