CEO Blog: Ask Me Anything (February Edition) | Winnipeg Humane Society
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We just love the dog we adopted from the WHS. He was surrendered to you. I wondered if you keep who you adopt to confidential? (Mimi)

Hello Mimi and thank you for your question and for adopting a pet from us!

As a standard policy, we do not share the information about an adopter (or about who surrendered a pet) even if people ask for it. In some instances for example the finder of a stray animal wants to see the pet again, but in that circumstance we first contact the adopter and we ask for their permission. If they agree, great, if they do not then we do not disclose any information. Privacy is very important to us. To give you another example, every time a staff person access our database they need to click on a legal notice saying that the information cannot be disclosed to a third party. That is how much we care about protecting our information.

Why not open your vet services up to rescues? Perhaps run it 24 hrs Monday to Friday. If you offer your price at cost + 5%. This would cover the costs and the rescues would be keeping the money in the animal care. Just spay and neuter is what I am saying. The rescues would continue to use other vets for treatments. A basic safe spay and neuter costs $95 dollars averaged out. This means you could charge this amount to rescues for be it cat dog male or female. One price. As the animals will be cleared healthy before it reached you. (Barry)

That is a great question, Barry. Between low cost spay & neuter surgeries and incoming shelter animals, we provide veterinary services for over 7,000 animals per year. Currently we do not have the resources to treat animals outside that. Having said that, in 2017 I did propose to a few rescues to hire an extra veterinarian and an extra veterinary technician that would work exclusively for the rescues who wanted to participate as partners. The rescues wishing to partake would pay monthly for the cost of the salaries and consumables, based on the percentage of time they used these professionals. The WHS would take care of administration, payroll, booking appointments, free of charge.

At the time, unfortunately, I did not get a lot of interest, but the offer remains open. Depending on how many rescues are involved, if we had say 5 rescues willing to work together the monthly cost, if each used the clinic evenly, would be around $3,300 each plus taxes (this is a rough calculation). Most rescues find it difficult to budget a monthly amount of that magnitude since it is sometimes easier to fund raise on a case-by-case basis, instead of having to find a fixed amount every month.

Another challenge is that because we are a Humane Society, we treat every condition and issue the animal may have, being it urgent, emergent, or non-urgent. If there is a chance of the pet having pain in the future, we treat now. In private practice the person responsible for the pet can make decisions in terms of what to treat now and what to defer and treat later, once the veterinarians explain all the issues. We cannot offer that option here, and that has proven to be difficult for some.

What are the WHS’s plans to help control the pet population problem in northern / rural communities? (Lee)

Hello Lee and thank you for the question. This is by far one of the biggest challenges we face in Manitoba. There is a lack of support to many of our fellow Manitobans living in remote areas of the Province: no easy access to veterinary care, mixed support for developing culturally-appropriate animal control policies, and a very large population of dogs which create important safety concerns for the communities involved.

Thanks to the vision and generosity of a donor who chose to leave a legacy with our Foundation, Louis Nebbs, we are in the early stages of addressing the situation.

Thanks to the Louise Nebbs Spay and Neuter Endowment Fund, we just created and filled a new position: Remote Clinic Liaison, and this person (she starts in April) will be coordinating at first 6 spay and neuter clinics, and our goal is to do at least 12 every year. To achieve this goal we will partner with rescues already doing fantastic work, such as Manitoba Underdogs, Manitoba Animal Alliance, and Save a Dog Network to name three rescues we know well.

But we know it cannot stop at doing spay and neuter clinics. We want to see if, in alignment with Truth and Reconciliation, we can help facilitate the implementation of animal control and animal care-giving rules to ensure all animals in Manitoba are treated humanely.

We also try to take in dogs coming from these communities when space allows.

Please talk about the selection criteria for guest speakers and how to find balance. last year there was the extremely controversial speaker cancelled that caused uproar among his followers recently the ex hog industry man spoke. selection must be extremely difficult and balanced perspectives even harder. (Ian)

Another fantastic question, thank you Ian! I honestly lose sleep over this issue. The Winnipeg Humane Society belongs to the Humane movement. And in today’s world it is a tricky place to be in. We are not animal activists, yet we do not support -in fact we denounce- large corporate farms (so-called “Factory Farms” or “Confined Animal Farm Operations”) housing thousands of animals without providing them with access to the outdoors and being able to express their natural behaviours. We do not tell anyone to stop eating animal meat, yet we do strongly support asking all humans to reduce meat consumption to a more sustainable level.

So finding speakers locally has proven to be a challenge. We have been turned down by both animal activist groups and local sustainable and humane farmers because they fear protests and there had been actual threats online when a group decided to present their perspective (the presentation was cancelled).

I am an optimist. I think people with different views, no matter how different, must respect each other and listen. But when you see comments and words like “terrorists” to refer to peaceful animal activist groups, or you see words like “murderer” to refer to small, sustainable, animal-loving farmers my optimism diminishes greatly. Both sides of this divide actually are against factory farming.

We will continue to try to bring different perspectives regarding farm animals, as long as they fit our own mandate and view of what an animal welfare agency part of the Humane movement should be doing and saying today. If you have any insights on this I would love to hear from you!

Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run to give all dogs basic training with commands and walking on a leash so they are more likely to be adopted faster, rather than remaining there for a month or two waiting? (Lorraine)

Lorraine what a thoughtful question! Did you know that we have a stand-alone Behaviour department precisely to address behaviour issues? Every pet admitted to our shelter receives an assessment, is coded based on behaviour and we start working with that pet right away on leash manners and basic commands, in order to make the animal more adoptable. Because of this we have more successful adoptions and fewer returned animals. We have a phenomenal group of behaviour staff and volunteers doing everything they can to work with the more troublesome dogs.

The reality, though, is that an animal shelter is not the best environment for an animal. We are a temporary place of respite, but dogs, cats, rabbits and rodents (and the occasional bird) do much better, learn much faster in a home.

So our focus has been to work with them right away, but also to offer free behaviour classes and assistance to those adopters willing to give a more challenging pet a chance. And it is working, because our adoption numbers are up, and the length of stay, which essentially measures how long does it take for a pet to find a new home, is also decreasing. We are not there yet, but yes, working on behaviour challenges is critical and we are doing as much as we can from day one.

Do You think that maybe with the help of the Humane Society, we can convince councillors to revisit the BSL and possibly do the right thing, eliminate the ban and come up with a plan to promote responsible ownership and guidelines for being able to either get a dog from a breeder or from any type of rescue? Councillors for the most part, don’t seem interested in listening to the people who elected them, maybe they would start listening better if the main dog shelter organization was backing this initiative. (Tim)

Tim, are you a mind reader? First of all, Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) has proven to be less effective than strong bylaws targeting poor pet caregivers and aggressive animals irrespective of breed. Second, any prohibition is based on physical measurements, but because 99% of dogs are mixes, you may have a dog that has a lot of a breed in it, but the measures and the look does not show it.  That is why at the Winnipeg Humane Society, we have “large”, “medium” and “small” dogs and we do not try to guess the breed mix. The question though is this: If BSL is phased out, how are we making Winnipeg safer at the same time?

We have been working quite hard with End BSL Manitoba and we have been meeting with city councillors to gauge their support for change. I can tell you this: It will not be easy. It will not happen tomorrow. There will be a lot of public debate. But we are committed to educating the public and also offering ideas that will target dangerous animals and irresponsible human caregivers, no matter what breed label you affix to a dog. Wish us luck!

I was wondering if the WHS could initiate a conversation regarding the “fur free” issue. Many fashion houses in the US have gone fur free as well as some US cities. (Joan)

 Hello Joan. We have publicly stated our concerns about using fur in mass-produced garments outside of the traditions of our indigenous community, you can read all about it in this old blog post, where we really called Canada Goose to change its ways and asked the community to stop buying their products.

To sum up the conversation we attempted to have, we recognize the right of our Indigenous and Métis Nations to honour their culture and heritage; and we understand the fact that our Province and our country were built on fur trade. Where trapping is carried out by our traditional communities, the WHS accepts only the use of trapping devices that cause prompt irreversible loss of consciousness leading to death.

The tricky aspect of this are companies who promote the purchase of fur from these indigenous partners, and obscure the fact that those purchases are a minute fraction of what they need to mass-produce their jackets and winter coats. Which means they -and other commercial garment producers- cannot possibly know how each animal was trapped and eventually killed.

If you visit the WHS you will see a rack of wonderful, warm and cool-looking coats from Wuxley Movement. They are a cruelty-free, animal-free winter gear company based in Canada. If you surrender to us a Canada Goose or other fur jacket, Wuxley will give you a credit to purchase their product. This is a small, but we hope meaningful way, of having a conversation about the need for using fur for commercial garments.

Sincerely,

Javier Schwersensky
WHS CEO