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Animals and Easter
Easter is a great time of year. In theory, at least, winter is over and the weather is finally warming up. Sometimes we start to see some green on the ground. And with all of this, people start to get into a better mood, me included. It’s a great time of year for me, but is it for animals?
Wildlife are the most likely to suffer at Easter. Hungry animals are more likely to have conflicts with humans, and as always with human/wildlife conflict, animals almost always lose. If it gets warm enough, early enough, birthing season will begin. Well-meaning people will needlessly remove newborns and juveniles from their nests when parents are actually quite near, and many of these young animals will not survive.
Like for humans, Easter can be a great time for pets. Time off and the advent of warmer weather means your dog is likely getting a longer walk and more outdoor fun than he was when it was 40 below in January. If you have built a safe outdoor structure for your cat, this may be the opening weekend. My always-safe-indoors cat certainly enjoys the wildlife from the window in spring.
But the holiday itself can present some additional dangers for pets. Chocolate, some artificial sweeteners, holiday decorations, and many flowers and plants are on the list of hazards that may be more likely to be a temptation to pets at Easter.
There is a pervasive view that thousands of people buy live bunnies for their children at Easter and abandon them several months later. This may have been the case, but thankfully it appears, at the OHS at least, this phenomenon has largely ended. When I look at the OHS intake statistics, yes, there is a small uptick in bunny admissions in the summer months, but there is an even bigger uptick in admissions of all animals, especially dogs and cats in the same period.
Please don’t revive the trend of bunnies as Easter gifts. Like at any time of the year, only adopt a pet once you have considered her needs for her lifetime. And always adopt from a reputable source — a humane society or a group such as Rabbit Rescue. Otherwise, stick to a chocolate bunny.
We can all have a happy Easter, animals and humans. And that is what I wish for you and for them.
President and CEO
2017 Media Releases
- Ottawa Humane Society Pleads to Thief: Stolen Kitten Needs Medical Attention (December 20, 2017)
- Protect Pets From Dangerously Cold Temperatures Forecast to Hit Ottawa Tonight (December 13, 2017)
- Keep Your Furry Friends Safe This Holiday Season With the 12 Pet Safety Tips of Christmas (December, 12, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Dec. 10 (December 6, 2017)
- Sadie Mae is Expected to Recover After Life-saving Surgery at the Ottawa Humane Society (November 30, 2017)
- Celebrate the Season With the Animals and Santa Paws at the Ottawa Humane Society! (November 24, 2017)
- Surprise Your Kids This Holiday Season With a Pet and Make a Homeless Animal’s Dreams Come True (November 21, 2017)
- Beagle Receiving Life-saving Care at the Ottawa Humane Society After Being Shot in the Head (November 17, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Nov. 12 (November 7, 2017)
- Keep Pets Safe This Halloween With Six Tips From the Ottawa Humane Society (October 31, 2017)
- Howl for Halloween at the Ottawa Humane Society this Saturday! (October 26, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Oct. 15 (October 10, 2017)
- Important Animal Welfare Update: Statement From the Ottawa Humane Society (October 4, 2017)
- Surprisingly Hot Fall Temperatures Mean Dogs Still in Danger if Left Alone in Cars: Ottawa Humane Society (September 22, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society Honours Community’s Contributions at its Annual General Meeting (September 20, 2017)
- Join the Ottawa Humane Society at Lansdowne Park This Saturday and Wiggle, Waggle, Walk or Run to Save Animal Lives (September 8, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society Throwing Party to Cheer Up Two Cats Who’ve Spent a Year Waiting to Be Adopted (August 31, 2017)
- ALERT: Ottawa Humane Society in Desperate Need of Foster Homes to Help With Summer Population Spike (August 9, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Aug. 13 (August 8, 2017)
- Keep Pets Safe This Long Weekend by Not Leaving Them in a Hot Car: Ottawa Humane Society (August 2, 2017)
- Increased Danger to Pets Left Alone in Cars as High Temperatures Hit the City: Ottawa Humane Society (July 12, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society Makes First FIV-Positive Cats Available for Adoption (July 4, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, July 9 (July 4, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society Nearly Full in Advance of Busiest Weekend of the Year, Needs Community’s Help to Avert a Crisis (June 30, 2017)
- Annual Influx of Spooked, Lost Pets the Dark Side to Canada Day Festivities: Ottawa Humane Society (June 28, 2017)
- The Ottawa Humane Society is Throwing a Kitten Shower This Sunday and Everyone’s Invited! (June 23, 2017)
- Cute Overload as Kittens in Need of a Second Chance Overtake the Ottawa Humane Society (June 15, 2017)
- Deadly Summer Danger: Ottawa Humane Society Treating Two Cats for High Rise Syndrome (June 12, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society Asking Community to Boycott Friday Bull Riding Event at TD Place (June 7, 2017)
- Found A Baby Animal? Check With The Experts For How To Help (May 18, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, May 7 (May 2, 2017)
- Celebrate A Hoppy Easter With the Animals This Sunday at the Ottawa Humane Society! (April 6, 2017
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, April 9 (April 5, 2017)
- Be on the Lookout for Lost, Scared Pets After Fire at Baseline and Merivale Row Houses: Ottawa Humane Society (March 13, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, March 12 (March 7, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Feb. 12 (February 7, 2017)
- Protect Pets From Dangerously Cold Temperatures Forecast to Hit Ottawa Tonight (January 13, 2017)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Jan. 8 (January 3, 2017)
Helping our Friends
You’ve got to have friends, the song goes. And at the OHS, we are lucky to have so many good friends. There is simply no way that we could care for the close to 10,000 animals that need us every year without our friends: amazing volunteers, community-minded veterinarians, donors committed to the animals and so many more. In fact, thousands of friends help make the OHS work for the animals and for our community.
One element of our current strategic plan is to support our friends — our partnerships and the partners themselves. As a part of this, I recently made my now annual trek to visit the Wild Bird Care Centre and the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary to meet and discuss how the relationship is going and what the OHS can do to help out. Both are key partners of the OHS and indispensable elements of the animal welfare continuum in Ottawa. Since the OHS does not have the facilities, skills or resources to rehabilitate wildlife and birds, we rely on these two friends. Without these two organizations, the situation for wild animals in Ottawa would look pretty bleak. And we feel that it is a part of our responsibility to help them out where we can.
Both organizations are small, often struggle and operate on a shoestring. Both care for a huge number of animals with nowhere else to go. Their work is very seasonal, and like the OHS, the numbers of animals needing their care rises dramatically in the spring and summer months, and doesn’t abate until the snow starts falling.
I am grateful for the friendship of both these organizations, for their hard work and for their commitment to animals. If you aren’t already familiar with them, I hope that you will take the time to learn more about them and their work. I think you will be grateful too.
Important Animal Welfare Update: Statement from the Ottawa Humane Society
We have an update on some changes coming to the way the Ottawa Humane Society operates in our community.
The first is that City of Ottawa Bylaw Services will be transporting injured stray domestic pets and wildlife effective January 5, 2017, rather than OHS. As of that date, Ottawa residents should call 311 for help with injured stray animals and wildlife. Animals will continue to be brought to the OHS for care.
This significant change will be better for the animals. It will cut down on the confusion in our community we saw this past year about who to call if an animal needs emergency transportation to the OHS. It will reduce an inefficient system, so that we can focus efforts on what will do more for animals.
Our first priority has always been, and will continue to be, the animals in our community. The OHS will continue its work rescuing animals once they arrive at the shelter, with lifesaving veterinary care, food and shelter. We will continue to work with our partners in wildlife rehabilitation to save as many injured wild animals as possible.
The second change is that we will be increasing our intervention with dogs with behaviour issues, to help more of them find new homes. And, we will work more on advocacy, championing animal welfare for our community. Planning is underway to identify the resources available and the models to use to achieve both goals. Investment in both is expected in our new fiscal year in April.
These changes stem in part from incidents in 2016. You may recall that year, we spoke up when the OSPCA tried to take away the voice of our community — your voice — in animal welfare by taking away our voting rights. We joined six other humane societies in court to get back your vote. The OSPCA responded by stripping our officers of their power to investigate animal cruelty. Last month, a judge dismissed our case. Obviously we don’t agree with the outcome, but for the good of the animals, we will not be pursuing an appeal but will be focusing on ensuring a better future for Ottawa’s animals.
Thank you for your understanding over the past while. With your support, we remain committed to integrity in everything we do for the animals and for our community. This promise was reaffirmed last year, when we achieved prestigious accreditation from Imagine Canada’s Standards Program, recognizing excellence in non-profit accountability, transparency and governance.
We’ll continue to keep you updated as our planning moves forward to become an even stronger voice for the animals in our community.
Humane Education @ Home
School’s back in session! While this school year might look different for you, and although we can’t join you in your classrooms, it doesn’t mean the furry-fun has to stop! While we continue to physical-distance to help keep our community safe, our humane education team is challenging YOU to keep the kindness alive by participating in these totally paw-some activities.
- Off-Leash Camp@Home
- Child and Youth Paw-some Be Kind to Animals Poster Competition
- OHS Activity Book for Kids
- Wildlife Watcher Challenge
- Build that Bond: Enrichment Activities for You and Your Pet
- DIY Crafts for Kids
- Online Lesson Plans
- Colour-Me Bookmark
Killing with Kindness
The story of two Canadian tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park and “saving” a young bison calf by putting it in the back of their SUV and taking it to a ranger station has gone viral. I hope it becomes a lesson for everyone.
Most of us would feel sick if they killed a healthy young animal by mistake. Here is the thing, people do it all the time. Every spring, all over North America, people pick up juvenile wildlife that don’t need their help. They bring them to a humane society or other authority whose only option is to euthanize the poor creature.
That is what happened to the bison. On May 16, Yellowstone National Park officials announced a baby bison had to be euthanized after a pair of Canadian tourists put the animal in their car. The two feared it was cold, despite warmer-than-average temperatures.
“The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway,” park officials said in a press release.
Officials tried numerous times to re-integrate the young bison back into the herd, but it was rejected.”
The story of the baby bison spread fast on social media, prompting people to demand to know why the young bison hadn’t been sent to a rehabilitation centre.
Officials responded on the park’s Facebook page: “In order to ship the calf out of the park, it would have had to go through months of quarantine to be monitored for brucellosis. No approved quarantine facilities exist at this time, and we don’t have the capacity to care for a calf that’s too young to forage on its own.”
In the scale of the natural world, I know this is a very small event. And I know the tourists were concerned and meant no harm. But they did harm and this little tragedy could have been avoided, along with the dozens of little tragedies that well-meaning people in Ottawa will present the Ottawa Humane Society with this spring.
You can help. Spread the word. Unless you know for sure that juvenile wildlife needs help, such as if you can confirm the death of the mother, take our advice: if you care, leave them there.
You Made It Happen! Our Strategic Plan After Two Years
Admittedly, I can be pretty ambitious; not so much personally, but for the Ottawa Humane Society as a whole, and what we can achieve for the animals and our community. The OHS five-year strategic plan that was launched in April 2016 is an example of this ambition. This plan was, and remains, a very determined endeavour.
If you are familiar with the plan, in addition to enhancing our core, much of the direction has been divided into six main themes. Within these themes, I wish to share some of the highlights of our accomplishments as we near the plan’s two year mark.
“Building a better future for pets by creating better future pet owners” (Investment in the Next Generation)
We believe that real and sustainable change for animals will happen by way of the next generation. To this end, we have increased our focus on children and youth as the best hope for a more humane community. We have introduced youth tours, school field trips, and a youth counsellor in training program. This is all in addition to significant new efforts and growth in the school humane education program to more than 12,000 students in just two years. To become more inclusive, we introduced humane education in schools in French, along with camps for French-speaking youth. Our French translation is actually ahead of schedule. Beyond our expansion into Canada’s other official language, we have consulted with and begun our outreach to newcomers to Canada, to help them experience the joy of animals in their new adoptive country.
“Pets belong in homes, not shelters” (Pets in the Community)
In order to truly help all animals, we have to move beyond just the care we provide here at the shelter. There are a lot of animals that need us, and not all of them under our roof. We are very proud to have worked with our partners to convince the city that the time of animals for sale in pet stores is over. Ultimately, the agreement dictates that only rescue animals would be allowed to be adopted in retail establishments starting in 2021. Our first forays into community-based programs: microchip clinics and our Pet Savvy adult education program have reached hundreds of low-income adults with pets and is improving the welfare of the animals in their homes.
“Good Policies Save Lives” (Ensuring Animal Sheltering Best Practices)
I have always believed that our animal care decisions need to be based on the best research available. Fortunately, in the last few years, animal sheltering research and best practices have become more readily available, and are proving to be very valuable resources. Key among the available materials has been animal care guidelines as issued by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. A major accomplishment of ours has been the implementation of many hundreds of their recommendations for animal care in shelters.
Additionally, we have introduced enhanced cat enrichment to the shelter and have launched a number of behavior interventions for felines with issues such as house-soiling. We have also developed and launched an orphan kitten program to improve survival rates in this highly vulnerable group. Lastly, we also began to adopt cats and kittens who are FIV+ along with the education and support for adopters taking on these compromised but still loveable felines.
“Too many cats will live wretched lives as long as there are too many cats” (Reducing Cat Overpopulation)
To address this heart-breaking problem, the OHS launched our biggest single initiative since the construction of the West Hunt Club shelter: our Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic. To date, the program has sterilized more than 1,800 felines.
“We cannot continue to accept canine suffering because they act out” (Dog Behaviour Intervention)
In 2017, we launched our new behaviour assessment regime and initiated enhanced enrichment for all the dogs in our care. As part of this, we completely revamped our dog walking program, relaunching it as canine enrichment, and adding levels of training for volunteers to provide behavioural intervention for more challenging dogs. At the same time, we launched intervention plans for dogs with specific problematic behaviours, such as food guarding.
“Doing more with less because we are doing it together” (Partnerships and Leverage)
We believe that we can accomplish so much more in partnership than alone, and that our support for national, provincial and local partners makes a difference. To this end, we are much more engaged with our national counterpart, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and I have joined the board of the Association of Animal Shelter Administrators of Ontario. We also believe that animals will benefit across the board by actively sharing our knowledge and expertise with other groups. We have a lot to give, and we have given a lot over the past two years. We believe animals will be better off because of the work we have done for groups such as Ottawa Therapy Dogs, the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and other, smaller humane societies.
“Ottawa’s animals need us to ask for them as much as they need us to speak for them” (Investment in Growth)
We have expanded our “business” lines which raise much-needed funds and further animal welfare: more public seminars, more microchip clinics, more and varied camps. Ultimately, it is not ourselves that make all of these accomplishments possible; it is you, our donors and supporters who provide the funds that make it all possible. We are learning to tell our story to inspire both you and our community to help animals in need. To this end, we have made major investments in our PAW monthly giving program, and to tell that story of why animals are important to all of us, and how they are a part of a compassionate and kind community that benefits us all.
Thank you for supporting this ambitious plan. I hope you are proud of what you have accomplished.
A Guest Blog from the Wild Bird Care Centre
Despite strict public health measures in place across Ontario, animal rehabilitation centres, like the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, have kept their doors open throughout the pandemic. In fact, 2020 was a record-breaking year with more than 4,300 birds from 158 different species being admitted. Typically, winter is the slowest season at the Centre, but 2021 is proving to be even busier with double the intake compared to last year.
As migratory birds begin their journey back north this spring, the Centre is preparing to receive hundreds of injured, ill and orphaned birds. The three main reasons birds are brought to wildlife rehabilitators for care are cat attacks, window collisions and vehicle impacts. How can you help birds in your neighbourhood?
First, know when a bird needs help. You can tell if a bird is in distress if it is unresponsive, has poor balance, is puffed up, has a wing hanging or raised, is bleeding, or is covered in parasites or insects. A general rule of thumb is that if you can catch an adult bird, it needs help. If you find an egg on the ground, usually the best thing to do is leave it alone or put it back exactly where you found it. Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to arrange for care of any injured, ill or orphaned wild bird as soon as possible. Do not try to care for the bird yourself as it is illegal and not in the best interest of the bird. Unlawful interference with a bird, its nest or eggs can result in legal repercussions if the bird is a protected species.
Another way to help wild birds is to create a bird-friendly environment. There are DIY products that you can apply directly to the exterior of a window to make it more visible to a bird. Make your garden bird-friendly by providing food, water and shelter. Adding and properly maintaining bird boxes, bird feeders, water sources and native plants greatly impacts the lives of our feathered friends.
Finally, don’t let your cat contribute to the problem. It is estimated that cats kill up to 350 million birds per year in Canada. If your cat must go outside, let them enjoy nature on a leash or in a catio. Not only is it safer for your cat, but you will be helping to avoid thousands of needless deaths.
Board Director, Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre
The End of Fur?
I listen to CBC almost exclusively when I drive. In the morass of bad news, from time to time, there is something that gives me hope. Just a few days ago, there was a segment on the last fur auction in Canada. Apparently, there used to be several very large auctions in Canada, but these have dwindled to just one — and this one isn’t doing very well. The North Bay-based Fur Harvesters Auction is the only place left where trappers can sell wild-caught fur in North America, and one of just a handful worldwide. Only 30 per cent of the fur offered at its March auction was sold. The pandemic was certainly a factor, but even industry insiders admitted that younger people mostly won’t touch fur and many major designers and department stores won’t sell it.
The time of fur may be finally ending. I am celebrating. In a world rife with all sorts of cruelty to animals, the fur industry is uniquely odious.
Fur may come from either trapped wildlife or “farmed” animals. It’s hard to tell which is worse.
Over 730,000 wild animals are trapped in Canada annually. The methods are horrific. Wire noose snares can crush organs or slowly strangle an animal to death. Body gripping traps can trap animals underwater until they slowly drown. Animals caught in leg hold traps try to chew or twist off their trapped limb in a desperate attempt to free themselves. If a trapper does not immediately kill the animal — sometimes by bludgeoning, choking or stomping — the animal can die from dehydration, blood loss or hypothermia. Traps are indiscriminate, which means nearly any animal whose feet touch the ground can trigger them — whether it’s an endangered species like the Mexican wolf or a family dog.
Wildlife accounts for only a fraction of the industry. Many more animals suffer in fur “farms” where animals are often killed by anal and vaginal electrocution, gas, neck breaking and poison injections.
Farmed animals often show extreme abnormal behaviours as a result of great distress caused by the extremely small cages they are housed in. Farmed foxes and mink have been observed with extreme fear responses, including fur biting and tail biting — to the point of removing the tail altogether. Some foxes have even been noted to kill their offspring.
Let’s not forget China where there’s a thriving cat- and dog-fur industry. Cats and dogs are bludgeoned, hanged and sometimes even skinned alive for their fur. Their fur is often mislabeled and exported from China to unsuspecting consumers around the world.
Perhaps people are finally fully recognizing the loathsome cruelty inherent in the fur industry and are appreciating the beauty of fur — when it is on an animal.
President & CEO
Beyond English and French
Half a decade ago, I announced that the OHS was finally in a position to hire a humane education coordinator to provide services in French. This was the fulfillment of a long-overdue promise to our Francophone community, and I was delighted.
Not long after, in preparing the OHS Strategic Plan, we recognized that Ottawa had long past being just a French-English community and that we needed to do better. So, among the objectives in the plan was to create humane education that reflects the linguistic and cultural diversity of our community. Out of this came the OHS Newcomers Program.
There are many big adjustments for families who have moved from other countries to Canada. Language and climate are two, but there are also many cultural differences such as role that animals play in our day-to-day lives in Canada. As well, newcomers face wildlife they may have never seen before. Think about it: you are new to Canada. What are raccoons? Are they dangerous? Moreover, what is a skunk?
To date, OHS humane educators have launched three elements of the program each offered for adults and for children and youth. Urban Wildlife focuses on the types of wild animals commonly seen in Ottawa and how to co-exist with them; Dogs in Canada focuses on responsible animal ownership in Canada, with an emphasis on dog safety; and, Pets in Canada focuses on all domestic pets commonly seen in households across Canada.
Just two weeks ago, OHS staff presented to humane educators from across the country at Humane Canada’s Animal Welfare Conference. This type of educational programming is new to humane societies, and we hope it inspires others across the country to develop programming for newcomers in their communities.
We are proud to do our part in helping newcomers adjust to life in Canada and to help integrate the welfare of animals into their lives.
President and CEO