Search Results for: wildlife
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.
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.
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.
2018 Media Releases
- Plan Your Visit to the Ottawa Humane Society This Season by First Checking Holiday Hours (December 18, 2018)
- Keep Your Furry Friends Safe This Holiday Season With the 12 Pet Safety Tips of Christmas (December 12, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Dec. 9 (December 4, 2018)
- Santa Paws is Coming to Town! (November 26, 2018)
- Protect Pets From Dangerously Cold Temperatures Forecast to Hit Ottawa Tonight (November, 21, 2018
- Surprise Your Kids This Holiday Season With a Pet and Make a Homeless Animal’s Dreams Come True (November 19, 2018)
- Owners of Injured Young Dog Found (November 14, 2018)
- Humane Society Seeking Owners of Injured Young Dog (November 13, 2018)
- Get ready to howl for Howl-O-Ween at the OHS! (October 25, 2018)
- Pet-Adoptathon Weekend at Pet Valu Merivale (September 27, 2018)
- Hill’s and OHS Help Families Feed Pets after Tornado Tragedy (September 26, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society Tornado Aftermath (September 24, 2018)
- Northern Pets Need Community Support (September 20, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Sept. 16 (September 11, 2018)
- OHS Kitty Crisis Stabilized: Now Helping with Crisis in Windsor (August 24, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society Kitty Crisis Continues (August 15, 2018)
- OHS to benefit from Nissan’s Dog Days of Summer Campaign (August 10, 2018)
- Canada Day 2018: the perfect pet storm (June 28, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, June 10 (June 5, 2018)
- Update on 30 Cats and Kittens Abandoned at Pest Control Company (May 25, 2018)
- 30 Cats and Kittens Abandoned at Pest Control Company (May 25, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, April 8 (April 3, 2018)
- Celebrate A Hoppy Easter With the Animals This Sunday at the Ottawa Humane Society! (March 19, 2019)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, March 11 (March 6, 2018)
- Join us for National Cupcake Day 2018 and really bake a difference for Ottawa’s animals! (February, 23, 2018)
- The Temperature May Be Rising, But Danger Still Awaits Cats Left Out In The Cold (February 22, 2018)
- This February, There’s Love in the Air at the Ottawa Humane Society (February 5, 2018)
- Ottawa Humane Society to Hold Microchip Clinic Sunday, Jan. 14 (January 9, 2018)
- Important Animal Welfare Update: Statement From the Ottawa Humane Society (January 2, 2018)
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
Get to Know Your Wild Neighbours
If you find a sick or injured wild animal, here are the steps you can take. If you need more help, call the City of Ottawa at 311.
From the squirrel that raids your birdfeeder to the foxes that frisk in the distance, learn about these creatures and their habits to make peaceful coexistence easier. And in some cases, a greater understanding could even transform fear into interest.
Live trapping may seem like an immediate and easy fix to your wildlife problem; however, it is only a temporary solution. Read our take on why trapping and relocating is a bad idea.
If you can’t find the answer to your wildlife question and it’s not an emergency, contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 221, or send us an email.
Please note – as a precautionary measure in support of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the OHS is not hosting or booking humane education presentations between March 16 and April 6, 2020. If you would like to book a presentation for later this spring, please complete a request form here. Our team will be in touch in April to confirm a date, all request forms will be processed in the order that they were received at that time.
Nasty, Brutish and Short
Yesterday was National Feral Cat Day. I hope you will take a moment to think about these neglected felines. These cats live a hard life—one that is nasty, brutish and short.
A feral cat, defined by Alley Cat Allies is, “…a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or her contact with humans has diminished over time. She is fearful of people and survives on her own outdoors.”
A feral cat is distinct from a stray cat, even if the cat has been stray for a long period of time, and from a “loosely-owned” or “porch” cat, a cat that is fed by one or more people in a neighbourhood who do not accept full responsibility for the cat’s care. Stray and loosely-owned cats are or were once socialized to humans. They may be wary and skittish around humans if they have not a had recent or extensive human contact, but they are not fearful to the extent that feral cats are.
Feral cats occupy a grey zone in the world of animal welfare. They are not wildlife per se. They are interlopers in our natural world and can cause considerable destruction in wild bird and mammal populations. They were introduced through human irresponsibility, and therefore are a human responsibility.
But they are not fully domestic pets either. They cannot just be rounded up and socialized. Kittens up to four months can be socialized, but adults will frequently injure themselves trying to escape when confined. Their panic in prolonged confinement is simply not humane.
Most progressive humane societies like the OHS practice “TNR” or “Trap, Neuter, Return” to address the needs of feral cats. Feral cats are removed from a colony, sterilized, vaccinated, and then returned to the colony. If newly introduced cats—new stray cats and the feral’s kittens—are consistently removed, the colony will disappear over time. Studies indicate that simply removing all the members of a colony does not work. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum and other cats simply come to occupy the vacant colony, generally because of its proximity to shelter, food and water. The effectiveness of TNR was proven with the gradual elimination of the Parliament Hill Colony by some amazingly committed volunteers and the OHS a few years ago.
Like so many issues in animal welfare, controversies rage, and numbers of animals often exceed our resources to help. There are likely dozens of colonies in the Ottawa area, possibly many more. In fact, one of these controversies is how many feral cats there actually are in a given community. The OHS helps a handful of colony “caretakers” with surgical and other medical services, and we are very proud of our role in humanely eliminating the Parliament Hill colony, but our efforts are likely the proverbial drop in the bucket. Our best hope is education and promoting the kind of responsibility that would stop feral cats from coming into existence in the first place, through spaying and neutering cats and not letting them roam. The OHS’s own Mobile Spay Neuter Program is expected to make a significant reduction in the numbers of feral cats, but this takes time.
President and CEO
Bilingualism and Beyond
One of the happiest days in my work life was in 2014 when the OHS was finally in a financial position to hire a Humane Education Coordinator to deliver our education services in French. It was the fulfilment of a promise I had made to a supporter years before, and I was delighted.
Since then, the OHS has made very significant strides in our ability to provide French services. Each year, we translate more and more of our materials as a part of our translation plan. And last year alone, we reached an amazing 4,606 children and young people in French with our programming — representing 25% of all those we reached last year.
I am contacted from time to time from supporters who believe that everything we do and everything we produce at the OHS should be done in English and French. We have always, of course, ensured that clients with immediate needs, such as those relinquishing or claiming a pet, or those contacting us with urgent questions, can be served in French. But while I am sympathetic to those wanting the OHS to be 100% bilingual, I know that the resources that would have to be redeployed to translation from care and programming would be ruinous, as the cost of this is enormous and the ultimate cost in animal lives unacceptable. So, we have found compromises and have adopted a less comprehensive, but I think reasonable, approach to growing our bilingual capability.
When the board came to develop our current strategic plan three years ago, it recognized that, given the diverse make-up of our community, communicating in English and French alone was not sufficient. Ottawa is no longer simply a French-English community. It is far more diverse than that. The plan recognizes that the OHS needs to better reflect the linguistic and cultural make-up of the community we serve. And so we consulted with groups in Ottawa who are serving Newcomers to Canada and from this are developing programs and partnerships to help them to navigate Canada’s pet culture and unique wildlife, ultimately to the benefit of animals and the Newcomers.
And I am as happy about this next phase of our evolution and the development of animal welfare in our community as I was in 2014 when the OHS finally broke our bilingualism barrier.