Thursday, June 15, 2017

You and I Can End Kitten Season

Every kitten season, the OHS helps hundreds of kittens like Stewart.
We call it kitten season. And at the OHS, we make a lot of our plans around it — extra hiring, more supplies, extra budgeting, volunteer recruitment. It doesn't always happen at the same time each year. Sometimes the weather affects the date it will arrive. An early spring often means an early kitten season. In the past few years it has come later in the spring, even in June. But come it does, every year. It comes suddenly too. Generally in a matter of days. One Thursday, we will have 90 cats in the shelter and on the following Monday there will be 160.

What is kitten season? It is when the boxes of kittens start appearing at our door, and the number of cats and kittens needing care soars. Last year, for example, the OHS took in an average of 17 animals a day in January. By July, the number pretty much doubled to 33. On some peak days, it can be 45. It is an enormous task to care for all those animals and it severely stretches our resources. But we get through it, and because of our donors coming through for them, so do the cats and kittens — who end up in loving homes.

I would like to see a permanent end to kitten season. The key, of course, is spaying and neutering. And beginning last fall, with the launch of our mobile spay/neuter vehicle, the OHS is spaying and neutering Ottawa's cats in a big way. Studies tell us that, in a city the size of Ottawa, completing 6,000 spay and neuter surgeries a year will result in a precipitous drop in the number of homeless and unwanted cats, and so that is the number we are working toward.

So, these our simple goals: end kitten season for good and in the meantime care for these little ones that need us — and you. If you are reading this article it is because you care. If you want to make a difference, you can adopt, volunteer or donate. Together, we really can make a difference.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Stop the Bull

A friend contacted me last night to make sure I was aware that bull riding is coming to Ottawa this Friday. I wasn't aware and I was horrified. The promoters are billing it as “Man vs. Beast,” but it’s really an animal cruelty showcase that has no place in our community.

Bull riders use electric prods, spurs and straps tightened around the animal’s abdomen/genitals to make the bull buck and charge — they’re bucking to stop the pain. It’s a lifetime of torment that begins when the youngest bulls are chosen with criteria that weeds out all but those with the most hysterical reaction to the suffering.

This event is inhumane and I am hoping you will boycott it and spread the word to your networks that these practices are abusive, cruel and have no place in our community.

I also hope you will tell City Council that Ottawans vehemently oppose the cruel treatment of animals and that these events are not welcome here by signing the petition now.

Together, we can make our community free of these horrific events.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Blurring the Line

Subsidized spay/neuter means that pets of low income families can
benefit from the health and behavioural benefits of spaying
and neutering and will not contribute to pet overpopulation.
Traditionally, the OHS and most, if not all, humane societies had a pretty deep "line in the sand" between "owned" animals and those that were homeless. That is, our message to owners was that you are responsible for your pet — period.

About fifteen years ago, we started to relax some of our views, in particular on the issue of euthanasia. We used to push back, saying you should see your veterinarian, who has been caring for your pet for its lifetime, for this final act of kindness. But the number of calls regarding the urgent need for euthanasia began to increase, with desperate and cash-strapped families telling us they had been quoted in the many hundreds of dollars, a euthanasia they simply could not afford. Further, many pets in need had never seen a vet. So, now we will perform needed euthanasia, for a fee that is affordable in situations where an animal is likely to suffer otherwise.

Since then, our thinking and the thinking of the progressive parts of the humane movement has continued to change and I hope expand. In our research for the new OHS strategic plan, we came to the reality that "owned" animals need us too and that the old line in the sand was blurry.

It became clear that the biggest, and most important need was for accessible, subsidized spay/neuter. And so, we launched our mobile spay neuter program and vehicle so that low-income families could have their pet sterilized. I have heard many times, by the way: "People who can't afford pets should not have pets." Okay, and a part of me agrees. But here is the thing: people who can't afford pets have pets. It is not okay if our judgments allow those pets to suffer. We can at least ensure that pet has the health and behavioural benefits of spaying and neutering and does not contribute to animal overpopulation. Education is a part of the program, and we hope that people will leave with not only a sterilized pet, but also with better knowledge about caring for her.

In the coming months and years, our strategic plan calls for further programs to assist pets in our community, not just in our shelter. We now know the social, mental and physical health benefits of pets in our lives. If we know this, then we also know that keeping healthy pets in families has a benefit for our whole community.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Leave a legacy for Ottawa's animals
As I get a little older, like many people, I start to imagine the world after me. Will people remember me kindly? Will I be remembered at all? Will I leave, in the words I heard recently from Buffy Sainte-Marie, "Something of lasting value beyond myself"?

I'd like to think that I will have left a legacy: the people and animals helped through three careers, a life-saving animal shelter, a tree planted in recognition of a gift toward getting that shelter built.

Building this shelter is a part of many people's legacy. And saving lives is a part of many more. Each year, the kindness of people who remember the animals in their will allows the OHS to make major purchases such as emergency vehicles and surgical equipment that save lives and simply could not be afforded any other way. Their kindness allows us to launch projects that will save animal lives in the future without risking the lives of animals that need us today.

When people tell us of their intention to remember the animals in their will, we honour their kindness with a place in the OHS 1888 Legacy Giving Society. Their names appear on our legacy wall, revealed at a induction ceremony held each spring. It is a solemn thank you. And I hope it is a reminder of the legacy that everyone present is leaving, a better life for animals and a kinder, more compassionate community, something of lasting value beyond themselves.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Disasters and Their Lessons

OHS was at the ready to take any animals displaced by
the recent flooding. Julie Oliver/Postmedia
Disaster relief has been on my mind a lot lately, mainly because of the tragic sight of homes under water from recent flooding and our preparation at the OHS to help the animals made temporarily homeless as a result. Coincidentally, May 14 was National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, and our partner, Hills Science Diet, has been reminding us to share information with you about preparing for a disaster with your pet

All this has brought to mind a dinner with my good friend Kate, who had been in charge of one of the temporary animal housing facilities set up in Louisiana following hurricane Katrina. I learned a lot from her that night about what to do and what not to do in a disaster, particularly when it comes to animals. I even learned a new acronym: S.U.V.  SUVs, as I came to know, are often the biggest logistical nightmare for those leading disaster relief. SUV stands for Spontaneous Unsolicited Volunteers. While clearly responding with the best intentions, those who showed up on site to help were the biggest single problem she faced. So much so, she had to plead for weeks with anyone in authority for fencing; not to keep dogs in, but to keep would-be volunteers out.

Another big problem was donations. Yes, donations. As the SUVs started streaming in, so did truckloads of donated stuff. Most of the stuff wasn't what was needed. But even un-needed stuff needs to be gone through, organized, and stored in some form. There was no capacity to dispose of anything and stuff was coming in daily — literally by the ton.

It was a long and fascinating evening with Kate. She shared so many stories about Katrina, its aftermath and her role in helping. I am grateful that I learned a lot that night about being a part of the solution, rather than contributing to the problem. The two most important lessons were these: offer and stand ready to go, but don't go until asked, and donate cash not stuff, unless you are asked for stuff.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hazel: A Reminder and a Symbol

This is Hazel. She is a seven-year-old long-haired domestic tabby. Other than being a very beautiful cat, there is not so much special about her. Except this: she is the 200,000th animal in our computerized database.

So what does that mean? She is obviously not the 200,000th animal to come into our care. Our database only goes back to 2002. The Ottawa Humane Society has surely cared for many more hundreds of thousands of animals since our founding in 1888.

For me, Hazel is a reminder and a symbol.  

She is reminder of just how many animals need the OHS every single year. The great news is the numbers are slowly dropping. But there are still close to 10,000 animals who have nowhere else to go that still rely on us every year. And caring for that many animals remains a tremendous effort on our part and on the community that supports us. 

She is a symbol of how far the OHS has come in helping Ottawa's animals. Hazel was admitted to the OHS as stray at 6 p.m. on the March 28. She was returned to her owner shortly after noon on the 30th — just 36 hours later. This isn't typical. Most years only six per cent of cats are reunited with their families. But Hazel's family saw her on the OHS website and called. Her family also decided to have her microchipped before she left, so she will have permanent identification should she ever get lost again. Technology is helping us reunite animals with their families.  

Had Hazel not been returned to her family, she would have received excellent care and almost assuredly, a new forever home, having received all the loving care she might need to get there. This was once simply not possible for so many animals. The first animal in our database may not have been so lucky to receive the care that Hazel did. Hazel is a symbol of what we can do for animals with a little ingenuity, a lot of work and the support of our community. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Quebec and Pit Bulls: Another Province Looking for a Quick Fix that Doesn't Work

The OHS could not rehome Alice, the pit bull terrier
pictured above, because of Ontario legislation, but could
transport her to Quebec. This will end if Bill 128 passes.
Quebec has proposed new legislation to ban certain dog breeds. The focus of course, is pit bull terriers, as it was in Ontario more than a decade ago. In some ways, the Quebec legislation — Bill 128 — is even scarier, as it leaves the breeds to be banned open for future addition. That is, this or future governments will be able to add other breeds to the list much more easily: by regulation, not by legislation. Already, the Quebec government has identified Rottweilers as another breed they will target.

So, why should you care? 

You should care because breed bans don't work. I was unable to obtain statistics for Ottawa, but the City of Toronto reports that the number of dog bites are up since the much ballyhooed legislation was introduced in 2005. Yep, you read that right: up, not down. In fact, a Global News report in February 2016, found that Toronto’s reported dog bites have been rising since 2012, and in 2013 and 2014 reached their highest levels this century, even as pit bulls and similar dogs neared local extinction.

You should care because other breeds will be next. The breed most commonly biting before the legislation? German shepherds, followed by pit bull and Jack Russell terriers. And the number one biter a decade later? Also German shepherds, now followed by Labrador retrievers and Jack Russell terriers.

It's better to be a pit bull terrier in Ottawa, but only for now. The City of Ottawa has taken the approach that the legislation should be used to address individual situations and have, as yet, not enforced the global ban. The Ottawa Humane Society has refused to participate in mass euthanasia of a breed. We address dogs as individuals, not simply as breeds. Since pit bulls cannot be legally adopted in Ontario, we rely on out-of-province transfers, many to Quebec. If this legislation passes, the OHS and other humane societies in Ontario will have fewer options for rehoming safe pit bulls.

So what does work?  

Many jurisdictions have researched good solutions to the real problem of dog bites and have concluded that legislation to prevent dog bites and to manage aggressive dogs should focus on the individual dog and the owner not the breed.

In 2012 the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) commissioned a report into the causes behind aggressive dogs. The report found that there was little evidence to support banning particular dog breeds as a way of addressing canine aggression in the community. Instead, education of the public and legislative tools that equip animal management authorities to identify potentially dangerous individual dogs offer the best results in reducing incidents with aggressive dogs.

The report found that any dog of any size, breed or mix of breeds has the potential to be aggressive and to be declared dangerous so dogs should not be declared dangerous on the basis of breed or appearance. Each individual dog should be assessed based on its behaviour. It added that the role of the dog owner is a critical factor.

Genetic predispositions are an important factor in animal behaviour, however the impact of the environment and learning are also critical. The tendency of a dog to bite is dependent on at least five interacting factors:
  • heredity (genes, breed)
  • early experience
  • socialization and training
  • health (physical and psychological) and
  • victim behaviour
What can you do?

You can write the Minister of Public Safety, Martin Coiteux, especially if you are a Quebec resident. Tell him that breed bans don't work, and that animals will lose their lives needlessly under his legislation. Tell him that you are concerned about human safety, but that there is a better way.
The minister can be contacted at: 

Telephone: 418-643-2112
Fax: 418-646-6168
Martin Coiteux
Ministère de la Sécurité publique
Tour des Laurentides, 5e étage
2525, boulevard Laurier
Québec (Quebec)  G1V 2L2

Bruce Roney
Executive Director 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thank you volunteers. Thank you Helen.

Hellen Keller
Helen Keller (1880–1968) was an American author, political activist and humanitarian. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Her story was shared through her autobiography and the stage play and movie based on it. She is an idol to many deaf people in the world and considered among the greatest people of the 20th century to many others, including me. 
This Volunteer Appreciation Week, I want to share her words in tribute to the close to 800 volunteers who give their time to the animals and to our community at the Ottawa Humane Society:
"I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
Thank you OHS volunteers. And thank you Helen.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Should Earth Day Be on the Endangered Species List?

This Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day. The 47th one, in fact, since its founding in 1970. The Earth Day story is actually pretty fascinating. The project's website sets the stage: "At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. 'Environment' was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news."

Into this reality came Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. "Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a 'national teach-in on the environment' to the national media...(and) to promote events across the land."

"Teach-in on the environment"? Yikes. Anyone younger than me will be puzzled by the term. You see, in 1970, everything that happened ended with "-in".  There were sit-ins, love-ins, even the famous "bed-in" that John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to protest the Vietnam War in Montreal in 1969. The phrasing seems quaint in 2017. And I am sorry but "Earth Day" is a bit quaint-sounding  too. 

But here is the thing: Earth Day was one of early drivers of serious discussion about the environment, including animal habitat and extinction. And that discussion led to the creation of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts in the U.S. by the end of that year. 

The situation in Canada was and is complicated by overlapping federal and provincial powers, and by and large legislative action came considerably later. Canada's Species at Risk Act became law in 2002, Ontario's Environmental Protection Act in 2004. Still, all legislation comes from discussion, and all discussion comes from awareness. And Earth Day remained among the few broad awareness movements about the environment through the '70s and into the new millennium. 

Today, few disagree that the environment is one of, if not the most, pressing issue facing our species and all the others that we share our world with — animals and people alike. Protections are under threat almost everywhere most of the time. We need all the reminders we can get that our home, our planet needs us to act. One of those reminders is Earth Day. We need it more than ever.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

P.S. To read more about the fascinating history of Earth Day, please visit its website.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What Our Statistics Tell Us About the Easter Bunny

With Easter approaching, some of our colleagues in the humane movement are reminding their communities that adopting a rabbit at Easter is a terrible idea. Some imply that thousands of bunnies die every year because children tire of the rabbit quickly and they end up in shelters, euthanized for lack of homes. This may happen in some communities, and reminding people to be responsible when it comes to bringing any pet into their homes is always a good thing. But as is so often the case in animal welfare, myth sometimes beats out fact, rigid thinking can be counterproductive, and reality is not the same from community to community.

So, what is the story in our community?

Last year, the OHS cared for 208 domestic rabbits. Of these, close to 40 per cent were surrendered by their families. Another 36 per cent were stray and 23 per cent were transferred to the OHS from other humane societies and groups. The busiest months for surrender of bunnies are August and September. In contrast, for dogs and cats, the months for highest owner surrenders are May and June. 

So what does this tell us about the problem of rabbits given at Easter? The fact that the highest surrender months — at about double the average month — are about six months after Easter means there likely is an issue. But the number surrendered in those two months totals only 26. So it's a problem, but likely not a big problem. These numbers of rabbits coming into our care are relatively manageable and we have discovered that there are good homes for bunnies if we sterilize them before adoption.

Like adopting cats and dogs at Christmas, we have changed our thinking about adopting rabbits at Easter. No, we don't think giving children at pet rabbit just because it is Easter is a good idea. But, if someone has done their research, concluded that a rabbit would be a good pet for their family, and is willing to meet all of the rabbit's needs, then why not adopt at Easter? All of the normal adoption procedures apply, not matter what time of year. Easter may be an impetus for a family to start their research on bunnies as pets. For a lot of lucky people, it is a three — or even four-day weekend. That's free time for families to integrate a pet into their home. In fact, it may be the best time for many to adopt a rabbit — or a cat or dog for that matter.

So, bunnies at Easter in our community? It's a good opportunity to remind ourselves to adopt only if we are prepared to make a commitment to any animal's needs for its lifetime. But it's also a time to find forever homes for pets, including the bunnies.

For more information about rabbits and their care, please visit our website.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Top 5 Cat Myths

It has been thousands of years since the domestication of the modern cat, and in this time these fascinating creatures have been the subject of many myths and legends developed by the humans who love them, as well as those who are wary of them.

From superstitions, such as black cats are bad luck, to the belief that cats always land on their feet — both false, by the way — cats have definitely garnered more than a few interesting mentions throughout human history.

In honor of feline folklores, here is a look at the Top 5 modern-day cat myths:

5: Cats cannot be trained
This is just not true. Cats are incredibly smart creatures and can be taught commands such as sit, stay, and come. They can be taught fun tricks like giving high fives. They can be taught how to walk on a leash… and so much more! Undesirable behaviours, such as inappropriate elimination where a medical reason has been ruled out by a veterinarian, destructive scratching and jumping on counters, for example, can also be addressed through a combination of behavioural and environmental modification. And, you don’t have to be a professional to train your cat: all you need is a little patience, a good feline training resource, and lots of praise and reward. But the best part is that training your cat increases the bond between you two, while providing your cat with some very beneficial mental stimulation.

For more information on training your cat, please check out

4: If a cat is purring, it means she is happy
Cats purr for a variety of reasons, not just when they are content. Cats can purr when they are hurt or scared, and even when they are giving birth. Interestingly, not only do cats release endorphins when they purr, but the frequency at which they purr at is in a range that has been found to stimulate bone growth and healing. So, it seems purring may be used as self-soothing behaviour for cats. Cats also use purring as a form of communication. As kittens are born blind and deaf, mother cats will purr so that their kittens can find their way to her body for warmth and to nurse, and her kittens can start purring back at mom and siblings at two days old. Some studies have shown that a happily purring cat may even offer health benefits to their human owners, such as lowering stress and blood pressure. So next time your cat is contentedly purring beside you, go ahead and soak in those vibes!

3: Some breeds of cats do not cause allergies
There are many opinions surrounding this issue and many resources that claim there are hypoallergenic cats. This can be misleading, as no cat is 100 per cent hypoallergenic. Cat allergies are not caused by a cat’s fur, but rather a protein found in their skin which comes off in dander. Protein found in saliva and urine can also be a source of allergens. So, whether a cat is short-haired, long-haired, or hairless, there is no guarantee that they won’t trigger allergies in susceptible humans — despite claims to the contrary. The good news though, is that some cats can be less likely to trigger allergies, and there are ways to help reduce allergens in a home.

The bottom line is: if you are considering adopting a cat and have concerns about allergies, make sure to do your research first and consult with your family physician.

2: Indoor cats cannot catch diseases or parasites
Just because a cat doesn’t go outside doesn’t mean they are immune to contagious diseases. Some viruses and bacteria that cause illness in cats can be airborne or brought home to your cat on your clothing. Fleas and other parasites could also be brought home to your cat on your clothing, or even by a pet dog that has come into contact with them while outside. And, as we all know, cats are very skilled at catching small animals that may get into your house, such as bats and mice, and these animals can transmit illness and parasites to your cat as well. So, to ensure your best kitty friend stays protected from illness, talk to your veterinarian. For more ways to keep your cat happy and healthy, please check out:

1: Cats are ‘loners’
An unfortunate cat stereotype seems to be that cats are independent ‘loners’ that require little more than food and shelter from their human caregivers. While cats do form a different type of relationship with humans than pet dogs for example, studies have shown that cats can form social relationships and strong bonds with their owners. And, as any cat lover will tell you, some cats can be extremely affectionate toward people and other animals. All cats require more than just food and shelter from their owners. Cats show affection by raising their tails upright in a greeting, rubbing with their heads and flanks, and purring when content. Conversely, cats can show signs that they are lonely or lacking attention by excessive grooming or meowing, overeating or not eating, or a decrease in activity and interactions.

To ensure you are providing your indoor cat with the attention and enrichment she needs, check out:

Ashley Hodgins 
Coordinator: Feline Services  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Rhinos, Fundraising, a Little Thought and a Little Research

My Facebook feed declared last night that the Western Black Rhinoceros had been declared officially extinct. I was sad. I have never seen one and now never would. The world — my world — felt diminished without this creature in it. Because of the prevalence of false news on social media, I decided to make sure the story was true. Snopes, my go to source for reality, confirmed the story. The demise of Western Black Rhino has indeed happened. In 2006. Okay, that doesn't make it any better. But I am glad I took the time to check the story and didn't share it.
Letter from the Animal People Forum

Similarly, yesterday, I received a letter from an organization called Animal People Forum. The postmark was Jamaica, New York, though with a mailing address in the state of Washington. Overall the piece looked a bit odd. And despite my 17 years in animal welfare, I had never heard of this organization. So, I went to their website. I looks pretty good. But you have to read it carefully. They have four projects. One is called, "Beyond Human: Animals, Aliens and Artificial Intelligence." Yikes. I'm glad I checked that one out too.

This all made me wonder how many letters hit our supporters' mailboxes, and whether people check out what they receive. In my experience, people who care about animals are a very kind bunch. They want to help. Sadly, this can be taken advantage of. And there are groups that range from misleading and dubious to outright frauds ready to take advantage.

I would never presume to tell anyone the causes they should support but I hope and pray that people ensure that they are really supporting the issue they intend. It only takes little thought and a little research.

First, what are the issues you care about? Mainly domestic pets? Wildlife? Are you mainly concerned about local issues? National? International? All of the above? Do you want to support actual care for animals or do you think that awareness and advocacy are really going to affect change? Having considered these questions before that very emotional appeal hits your mailbox can help you to make sure your hard-earned cash does what you want it to.

The second consideration is whether the organization asking you for cash actually does what it says — or implies. A quick review of their website is sometimes all you need to do. What does this organization actually do? Be careful here, I have a seen some misleading practices. A few sites show animals for adoption, but none of the animals are actually in the care of that organization, just adoptable animals pulled from other websites. An organization may highlight an important issue, but it's not clear what they are doing about it. I am very concerned about the loss of the Western Black Rhino, but the OHS website does not imply that we did anything to try to prevent it. Beware too of small gestures that are expensive and may not add up to significant change. Sending a staff team to China to adopt a few dogs from the meat markets and fly them back to Canada may raise awareness, and it certainly saves some canine lives, but is supporting the flights the best way to close the markets? Is it where you want to invest your money?

Other places you can check are the Canada Revenue Agency charities listings. Every registered charity in Canada is listed and you can easily find out how they spend their money with a few clicks. And if they are not a registered charity, ask yourself why not?

If it is a humane society asking for your support, are they a member of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS)? Most are. And another few clicks on the CFHS site can tell you.

You can always call us at the OHS too. We won't provide a recommendation, but we sometimes can provide some basic facts and we will tell you if we work with a particular group.
The OHS is one of only two humane societies in Canada
to achieve accreditation with Imagine Canada
I hope that in the not-too-distant future accreditation of various sorts will help us all in separating the legitimate and effective from the dubious and misleading. That is why the OHS sought and achieved accreditation with Imagine Canada for excellence in board governance, financial accountability, fundraising, staff management, and volunteer involvement last year. We wanted to support this direction among not-for-profits and wanted to assure our community of supporters of our commitment.

Few charities have achieved this, and only one other humane society in Canada, the British Columbia SPCA, has done so to date. I am not suggesting that those that haven't are not legitimate, but I look forward to a day when you and I can rely on this and other forms of accreditation to assure that our kindness is not exploited.

Until then, you and I can do it ourselves, through a little thought and a little research.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is a Great Pet Born or Made?

Pets typically require formal or informal training
We in animal welfare often talk about "Disney" dogs. Disney dogs, or cats for that matter, never pee on the carpet, don't chew your shoes, don't need you to exercise them. They don't need a vet, or a groomer, and they understand anything that you calmly and rationally explain to them — or better yet, understand what you want completely intuitively. Of course, we aren't referring to a real dog or cat; we are referring to some people's expectation of a pet — an unrealistic expectation, and a damaging one at that.

It is damaging because we know that if someone expects a Disney pet, they are going to be disappointed, they will not bond with the pet, and there is a good chance she will end up here, surrendered to the care of the OHS.

The OHS has developed behaviour seminars for cats and dogs
In both animals and humans, there is controversy about "nature versus nurture." That is, how much of what we are is a result of genetics or upbringing? Without opening that debate up too far, I think it is fair to say that there is a good dose of both in us and in our animal companions. I have often been impressed with our staff's dogs. They are generally fantastic dogs. (I don't often meet their cats) Over the years, I have often thought they must have excellent eyes for selecting dogs. This is likely true to an extent, but most also invest heavily in formal and informal training to make great dogs.

So, you may not have a perfect dog or cat, but the OHS has developed several dog obedience programs and dog and cat behaviour seminars, Don't Blame the Cat and Don't Blame the Dog for you. The Disney pet may not exist, but some investment of time and effort get at least as close as our staff have.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Rabbit Around the House

I confess, despite the many pets I have had in my life, I have never had a pet rabbit. My good friend in the U.K. did though. The bunny, simply known as "Rabbit," was a house rabbit.  Rabbit had run of the house. In fact, he wasn't happy that I would close the door of the guest bedroom, keeping him out. Invariably, at some time during the night, he would throw himself at the door to try to get in.

I will further confess, till I met him, I never thought of a rabbit as a viable pet, having seen only  undersocialized ones confined to cages at the edge of the garden growing up. To me, keeping rabbits seemed cruel and pointless. But a house rabbit is different thing. Rabbit was paper trained, and my friend told me he rarely had a accident, unless sick. He was moderately affectionate, though not with me. Perhaps because I locked him out of the guest bedroom.

Given this month is Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month, here are a few things our adoption staff want you to know about pet rabbits:

Rabbits are intelligent, social animals. When given plenty of attention, they make affectionate and rewarding family pets. They can be trained to use a litter box and are more enjoyable, responsive pets when living indoors as house rabbits. Given appropriate care, rabbits can live 10 years or more. Before adopting a rabbit, consider the following:
  • Rabbits need daily exercise and play
  • Rabbits need nutritious food, fresh water and a clean habitat
  • Everyone in your household should understand how to hold and play with a rabbit, and be eager to welcome a rabbit into the family
  • Some rabbits can be destructive. They like to chew on books and wooden furniture and electrical cords, and will need to be monitored
For more information about rabbits and their care, visit

For rabbits and other small pets available for adoption right now, visit

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Our Unsung Heroes

The OHS relies on about 800 volunteers.
This month we will be surveying our volunteers. We do it every year. And it is a pretty big deal because at any given time, the OHS has about 800 active volunteers. They are a huge part of our work and of achieving our goals. The OHS would grind to a halt without them. So we want to make sure they are satisfied with their placement and how we treat them.

It turns out OHS volunteers are a pretty happy bunch. Last year, 87 per cent rated their overall volunteer experience as either very good or excellent. A whopping 92 per cent felt they were "always" or "usually" supported by the staff they work with. Close to the same percentage of volunteers felt they were usually or always appreciated. 
Canine enrichment volunteers walk dogs, offer enrichment
and encourage basic obedience.
It is very gratifying to see these results because volunteers are so essential, but also because managing and supporting that number of people is a challenge. Even greater can be the challenge of managing all of the people who want to volunteer — a number several times the number of active volunteers. In fact, interest is so great that for a number of years, the OHS has recruited volunteers pretty much the same way we do staff: positions are posted, candidates submit applications, are interviewed, then oriented and trained before being placed.
Brightening Lives volunteers bring joy to the
community through companion
animal visits.

Of course, not all our positions are as sought-after as others. In particular, finding experienced candidates for canine enrichment, Brightening Lives Animal Visits, grooming and outreach canvassing to promote our Mobile Spay Neuter Services Program has proven to be a challenge. And maintaining enough foster families to care for animals in their homes means there is almost always a need, especially in the summer months.

If you want to join the happy group of often unsung heroes that are changing the lives of animals and people in our community, check out all of the positions available.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, March 2, 2017

You Made National Cupcake Day the Sweetest Day of the Year

National Cupcake Day at Economical Insurance Ottawa.
On Feb. 27, National Cupcake Day marked the sweetest day of the year for the animals at OHS. Thanks to all the teams and individuals who baked, sold and purchased cupcakes, we have raised nearly $18 thousand to date for the animals.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, we had a chance to get to know two teams that were passionate about helping Ottawa’s animals:

Economical Insurance Ottawa developed a committee to support this year’s National Cupcake Day. The company stepped up to support the animals by offering to match all donations up to $1,000. They were very active over the last month with raffles, a cutest pet competition, 50/50 draws and so much more. Thanks to their efforts, they raised $1,300 for our furry friends. Their reason to give back: many had adopted pets from the OHS and know how much their support mattered to the animals still looking for forever homes.

The next group was a combination of a few teams making up Dylan’s Dream Team. Dylan’s Dream Team was developed in support of the Dylan Fund to recognize a wonderful 14-year-old boy who passed away in November 2016. Dylan cared very deeply about the environment and the well-being of all animals. In his memory, friends, family and community members who knew Dylan raised funds for the benefit of animals at the OHS. Between family, friends and loved ones, these dedicated supporters raised more than $3,000 for the animals!

Thanks to everyone who participated in National Cupcake Day! Your generous support has helped change animal lives.

Shelley Maclean
Manager: Events

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Saving Lives with Dentistry

Over a decade ago, when we opened our first in-house clinic, the OHS realized its long time dream to replace our once leading-edge, but then outdated, voucher system for spaying and neutering animals post-adoption with a "no animal is adopted unsterilized" policy. Back then, we were frequently backlogged with animals waiting for sterilization surgery. Additional resources, a new clinic, and better technique has meant that now animals rarely wait long for sterilization. Now they wait for dentistry.

The need for veterinary dentistry is a difficult reality faced by most, if not all, progressive shelters in North America. We simply cannot adopt an animal that may be in pain and tell the adopter that they have to spend a thousand dollars or more right away on their new pet. It isn't realistic. Many won't to do it. Many would simply not adopt that particular animal. But, not treating a cat or a dog that requires dentistry is not only unacceptable medically, it is cruel. Imagine you suffered severe pain in your mouth from rot and abscesses for the rest of your life.

Dentistry helps animals like Chip, who had some teeth
pulled at the OHS, find their second chance.
So, we struggle with this new challenge. An eight-year-old cat likely has a long and healthy life ahead.  But many need dentistry to achieve it. Beyond the issue of serious pain, our chief veterinarian tells me that untreated, periodontal disease can lead to very serious problems like jaw fractures from bone loss, infection of the jawbone, and nasal infections. And that aside from periodontal disease causing oral problems, it can also have systemic consequences, affecting the kidneys, liver and heart.

We cannot, in good conscience leave an animal to suffer. While minor, or potential future dental issues are identified for adopting families, anything which likely causes pain has to be addressed before adoption.

Dentistry for pets is not a luxury. We have to provide dentistry to save lives, and to give animals a life worth living.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Does Your Pet Love You?

When I was young, I was taught that the way "we" distinguished humans from animals was that humans used tools, and animals did not. It wasn't long after I saw pictures of chimpanzees using sticks to pull insects from decaying trees. "Tools!" gushed National Geographic, "Now we would have to re-think everything!" Today, of course, we know that there are a dozen or so species that use tools, including lowly crows and octopuses.

We used to think a lot of things about animals that weren't true — usually things that would diminish their existence from our own. We now know that many species have excellent memories, strong family bonds, feel a sense of loss, and possess many other attributes that we once held as a part solely of our own human existence.

But do animals love? I'm talking about love here, not mere attachment, as there is little doubt that is a part of an animal's experience. Now, there is a lot we don't know about the emotions of cats and dogs, and without delving too deeply into the nature of love, John Bradshaw, a researcher at the University of Bristol contends that dogs do "love" their owners. He suggests that cats admire us, and show the same kind of behaviours they show other cats that they like, but like the person you dumped in college, "they just don't get us." This is probably because cats have only been living with us for about 10,000 years, and most of their breeding has been to produce colour and style. This is opposed to dogs, who settled down with us 30,000 years ago and have been selectively bred ever since to get along with us better. Had that date in college been selectively bred to get along with you better, maybe he or she would still be around.

In the end, I wonder if it matters. It feels like they love us. We certainly love them. And love, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, no?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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