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

Hazel
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: 

Email:  ministre@msp.gouv.qc.ca
Telephone: 418-643-2112
Fax: 418-646-6168
Mail:
Martin Coiteux
Ministère de la Sécurité publique
Tour des Laurentides, 5e étage
2525, boulevard Laurier
Québec (Quebec)  G1V 2L2

Bruce Roney
Executive Director 

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