Thursday, July 6, 2017

Road Tripping with Rover

This is the time of year when many pet owners hit the road — or sky or rails — for their summer holidays.

Yesterday, our staff did a little trip of their own, over to Donnelly Ford to present their “Road tripping with Rover” session about travelling with a pet and what to do if you can’t bring Rover along.

This is an important initiative for the OHS. June is our busiest month with many owners surrendering their pet. It seems that when Fluffy and Rover don’t fit with summer plans, too often they end up in our shelter. We want to help owners find alternatives, whether it be bringing pets along safely or making alternate arrangements.

There is a lot to consider for either choice and I would like to share the information with you so that your cat or dog has as good a summer as you do.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Travelling with Rover

What to Bring
  • Medications: Before you leave, consult with your vet. Ensure your pet is in good physical health before you travel. Pick up refills of any medications your pet will need while you are away. Ensure all medications are clearly labeled and kept in their original packages.
  • Kennel or carrier: Some accommodations ask that you kennel your pet if you are going out and leaving him in the room. This request is sometimes made in order to ensure the safety of your pet while left alone in the room (if they allow pets to be left alone), and also to ensure that their property is not at risk of being destroyed. The kennel is also a safe way for your pet to travel.
  • Food and water bowls.
  • Food and water: Keeping your pet on the same diet that he's accustomed to will help to prevent the dreaded diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Can opener: if your pet is fed canned food.
  • Stain remover/cleaning supplies... just in case! Please be courteous and clean up as much pet hair, etc. as you can. A good quality lint brush or pet hair roller is always useful!
  • Plastic bags or litter box/scoop so that you can clean up after your pet.
  • Grooming tools including a comb and/or brush, nail clippers, pet shampoo, and anything else your pet may need.
  • Extra towels for wiping those muddy paws and wet or dirty bodies!
  • Collar and leash(es): Consider bringing an extra leash just in case one of them breaks.
  • Comfortable bedding. Bring along whatever your pet is accustomed to, and what smells like “home.”
  • Document file: The document file should be kept in your glovebox and should contain:
  • Identification. Be sure to record the license numbers, tattoo numbers, and microchip numbers of your pets and bring this list with you. It's important, too, that your contact information is up-to-date.
  • Recent photo. If your pet is lost while you are traveling, the photo will come in handy when describing him to others. Also jot down any unique identifying marks — be specific.
  • Microchip information. If your pet doesn’t have one, you can visit our monthly microchip clinic.
  • Vaccination records and other documents. If you are travelling to and from another country, such as the United States, be sure to check what types of vaccinations your pet will need. Bring an up-to-date record with you.
  • Any other pertinent certification papers.
  • First aid kit: You can purchase an animal first aid kit or assemble a pet first-aid kit yourself.
  • A pet first aid kit should contain:
  • Vet wrap
  • Gauze 
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Liquid band aid
  • Tick puller
  • Nail clippers
  • Scissors
  • Disposable gloves
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

Stay Safe! Remember…
  • Your pet should always be under your control
  • Always use restraint tools like seatbelts or travel crates
  • Don’t let rover stick his head out of the window; this could cause irritation of the eyes
  • Never leave your pets in an unattended car.

Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Come prepared. Be sure to ask hotels/campgrounds, etc. to ensure that they are pet-friendly, and to ensure that you bring all of the necessary paperwork and tools required. For example, some accommodations may require the Canadian Good Citizen Certification, while American hotels may require the Good Neighbor certification. They may also require vaccination records, and they may charge an extra fee. Hotels often require that pets be kept in crates as well; it depends on the hotel or camp ground. Take care to inform yourself on what is required of you as a pet owner.

When Rover Can’t Come

Many pets are given up at vacation time because of a perceived inconvenience. Thousands of pets who were left with “pet sitters” are lost each year. A little forethought would have prevented these things from happening. Here are a few helpful hints about holidays and how to make them safe and enjoyable for your pet.

If You Leave Your Pet Behind
  • Take time to explain your pet’s routine to the sitter and include a list of written instructions of what to do if the pet is lost.
  • Whether you choose a pet-sitter or a kennel service, be sure to notify your veterinarian of your absence, and who is authorized to make medical decisions for your pet in the meantime. Also notify the caretaker of your pet that in the case that you cannot be reached, that they are authorized to approve up to a certain amount of money to be spent on emergency medical expenses, and that the veterinarian has been notified of the parties who are authorized to make decisions if medical intervention is required while you’re away.
The Live-In Pet and Plant Sitter

Ideally a relative or a friend who knows your pet (or gets to know him/her before you leave and will be with him/her most of the day). Before you go, leave an adequate supply of food, grooming instructions, exercise routine and veterinarian’s (including emergency clinic) telephone numbers. Also inform your microchip provider of the temporary contact numbers. If possible, leave your itinerary and phone numbers. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and tag and has had all vaccinations. Phone your sitter a couple of times to check-in.

The Drop-In Neighbour

Many agree to stop by each day to feed, water and exercise your pet. Make sure you entrust this duty to a responsible person (some students do this for a summer job). Get references.

Professional Pet Sitters
  • This is a relatively new field and is an excellent alternative to kenneling, especially for cats who often don’t do well out of their home environment. Talk to friends and family and find out if they can recommend someone. Always check references and look for someone who is bonded.
  • Visit the kennel and check for the Following:
  • Are the cages clean and large enough for your pet?
  • Is water available at all times?
  • Do the kennel owners insist on all vaccinations?
  • How often will your pet receive exercise? What kind of exercise?
  • Is the boarding agreement complete and satisfactory?
  • Always leave a list of emergency phone numbers for the pet-sitter or kennel service, which includes your phone number, your pet’s veterinarian’s phone number, an emergency after-hours veterinary phone number, and the phone number of an emergency contact in the case that you cannot be reached.
  • Always leave medical, vaccination, and microchip documents with the pet-sitter or kennel service. Whether you choose to have your pet looked after by a pet-sitter, a drop-in neighbor, or a kennel, always leave information on how much money they are allowed to approve in case of emergency veterinary expenses. If you cannot be contacted, it is important that clear instructions are left for the party responsible for your pet while you are away.
  • Provide the contact info of your pet sitter, and who is authorized to make medical decisions in your absence.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Canada Day: When More Animals Need Us Than Any Other Day

Most dogs are terrified of fireworks
We're just a few days away from what is the busiest day of the year at the Ottawa Humane Society: Canada Day. Why Canada Day? There are a few reasons: First, Canada Day is a very busy day helping dogs brought into our care. This is mainly because of the many fireworks displays on July 1st: the big one on Parliament Hill, and the many smaller ones throughout the City. And the 150th celebration means this year there will be more and bigger fireworks displays than we have seen in 50 years. The thing is, most dogs are terrified of fireworks. Even the best trained, never-wanders dog can bolt in fear during fireworks displays and end up at our shelter.

Second, late-June, early-July is our peak season for animals surrendered to us by their owner. As holidays approach, and vacation plans develop, sadly, many decide that their dog or cat doesn't fit with those plans. The result? Hundreds surrendered to the OHS each June and July. When added to an already busy time with many stray animals requiring our care, we can see as many as 40 dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens admitted to our shelter every single day!

You can help make sure that animals are safe, fewer need our care, and those that do, find their way home or into a new loving home by taking the following steps and trying to ensure that your friends and neighbours do the same:

  1. Keep pets indoors Canada Day.
  2. Make sure pets have a visible collar and tag and a permanent microchip implant.
  3. Plan for holidays for your pets. Help others care for their pets when away.
  4. Ensure all pets are sterilized.
  5. Adopt a homeless animal at the OHS.

From all of us at the Ottawa Humane Society, have a safe and happy Canada Day!

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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

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