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

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