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we opened our first in-house clinic, the OHS realized its long time dream to replace our once leading-edge, but then outdated, voucher system for spaying and neutering animals post-adoption with a "no animal is adopted unsterilized" policy.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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

May 21, 2017: A Momentous Day for Animals

In May 2017, Uniondale, a small suburb of New York City, will host the final chapter of nearly 150 years of animal exploitation and cruelty — the last performance of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

When it announced in 2015 it was phasing out elephants in its performances, Ringling Bros. cited "a mood shift among our consumers." It also cited the difficulty of fighting local legislation that would affect its shows, ranging from outright circus bans to the prohibition of the notorious bullhook, a sharp hooked tool commonly inserted in elephants' skin to train and corral them.

This time, on its outright closure, the company pointed to high costs and declining ticket sales.  Declining ticket sales are no doubt due, in large part, to an increasingly sensitized public staying away from the shows in droves.

Only the Shrine Circus continues as regular fixture in Ottawa.
The OHS has been long opposed to captive wild animals in entertainment. In 2002, the OHS lobbied city council to ban elephants and other captive wild animals in circuses and other entertainment, as do many jurisdictions, including whole countries such as Austria, Greece, the Netherlands and Mexico. The city instead instituted a licensing regime. The OHS responded that the city should not license animal cruelty.

Today, only the annual Shrine Circus continues as regular fixture in Ottawa. There is no legislation on the horizon. But in the end, money talks. It spoke to Ringling Bros. And you can make your money talk by not supporting the Shrine or any circus.

For more information, a summary of the OHS's concerns can be found at:

To read about the Ringling Bros. decision:

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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