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  

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