July 23, 2020

Lessons That Won’t be Forgotten

Last week, I wrote about all the changes we have made at the OHS to protect our staff and our ability to care for animals that are in distress because of or simply during the pandemic. These changes are not the only ones that we have had to make because of the health crisis. Beyond the now-ubiquitous Plexiglas barriers, masks, hand sanitizer and Zoom meetings, we have had to change, cancel or postpone almost everything we do. Many new programs have been introduced at the OHS in the past couple of years, and most have been a tremendous success. It has been heartbreaking to stop them, even for a while.

We were forced to cancel our Humane Education School Program. It typically reaches about 10,000 children and youth every year. Our Off-Leash Summer Camps too had to be cancelled, but we wanted to make sure our work to build knowledge and compassion in young people did not grind to a halt. So we created a new series of OHS videos targeted at children six to eight.

Some of the changes have been very interesting and heartening for the OHS and animal welfare in general.  We have been forced to delay most surrenders of animals that were not in distress. So we created an animal behavior counselling program over the phone for those waiting to surrender their pet. Astoundingly, with this additional support, 70% of pet owners decided not to surrender their pet after all.

With the cancellation of our two biggest fundraising events of the year — the Wiggle Waggle Walk and Run and the OHS Garden Party — we had to switch gears quickly to ensure we would have the resources to care for the animals. So we created a new 50/50 lottery online and a challenge to previous walkers and their supporters to raise funds online for the animals.

Some of the changes have taken the form of brand new programs to respond to the effects of COVID-19 on animals in our community. We know that many people have been struggling financially because of the health crisis. So we created a new OHS Emergency Pet Food Bank here at the shelter and through existing food bank partners. We know that many of our friends and partners in the rescue community in Ottawa are struggling with capacity and with many having to cancel their own fundraising endeavors, their services might be at risk. So we created a support program for partner agencies, with an offer of OHS skills and resources, including micro-grants.

As the proverb goes, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good,” and surprisingly this pandemic has been no exception. These are only a few examples of the many ways that our “business” has had to transform because of the crisis. Lessons we are learning now about being safe, efficient and effective in our work will not be forgotten with a vaccine.

Bruce Roney
President & CEO