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 In addition to the playful company they provide, animals have proved to be of therapeutic value to withdrawn, bed-ridden or lonely individuals of all ages.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

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