For decades, cat people and bird people have been at odds with each other. But the welfare of one does not need to be sacrificed in order to protect the other. We have a responsibility to all of this country’s animals and need to work to improve the situation for both cats and birds. Pitting them against each other fails to address the perils facing both. Solutions for our embattled birds are necessary, but we can’t lose sight of how dire the situation is for Canada’s cats.
That’s why Humane Canada is partnering with Nature Canada on the Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives program, an initiative that brings together cat people and bird people and encourages them to work together to better protect both groups of animals. By bringing together Canada’s oldest conservation charity and Canada’s largest animal welfare community, we’re increasing knowledge and education on the benefits to cats, birds and others when owned cats are prevented from roaming unsupervised outdoors. And we’re ensuring that broad-based strategies and actions initiated to help one group don’t cause harm to the other.
We know that both cats and birds are facing very difficult odds in Canada. Twice as many cats are brought to shelters as dogs and, in 2015, approximately five times more cats were euthanized than dogs. Generally, about 70 per cent of stray dogs taken in to shelters are reclaimed by their guardians, compared to 10 per cent of stray cats. In the outdoors, cats are exposed to a variety of threats, including diseases, vehicle collisions and fights with wildlife and other cats. While a cat’s independent nature might lead some people to treat them like something between a pet and wildlife, we owe cats the same level of care we give our dogs.
While cats are facing a number of different threats, so are our birds. The official list of bird species at risk increased from 47 to 86 between 2001 and 2014, and some bird populations have declined by more than 90 per cent. Predation by free-roaming cats only adds to the much more significant risks that birds face due to habitat destruction and climate change.
For the welfare of cats and birds, we need to change how we care for our feline friends. It’s counter-productive to malign cats in the hopes of protecting birds, which is why we’ve chosen to get involved in a unified campaign that aims to educate the public and transform assumptions about how to approach cat and bird protection. Let’s curb the vitriol between these two camps. Together, we can – and will – do better.
How you can keep your cat safe and save bird lives at the same time:
Consider harness training
Training your cat to walk on a harness is a fantastic way to give your cat access to the great outdoors without risking their safety or that of other local wildlife. Just remember to let your cat take the lead in the process and don’t push them to do anything they’re resisting. For tips on how to go about humane leash training, check out this blog post.
Build a safe outdoor space
Cat enclosures, catios and cat fences can be built by you or bought from a manufacturer. These enclosed spaces allow your cat to enjoy all the perks of the outdoors without risking their safety.
Enrich the indoor environment
Many cats can easily transition to the indoors when given the proper stimuli. Enrich their indoor environment by providing a window perch next to a properly screened and secured window that will allow them to view the outdoors. Cats also enjoy stable and safe play spaces to climb, like cat trees, gyms or condos. Ensure play spaces are fit with a variety of both interactive and simple toys. Spaces that include a scratching post are the most enjoyable and allow cats to exhibit natural behaviours.
Two years ago today, Canada’s Criminal Code was amended to make the harming or killing of police, military or other service animals a special offence. Called the Justice for Animals in Service Act, this piece of legislation is better known as Quanto’s Law.
The law’s more common name is a memorial to Police Dog Quanto, a German shepherd with four years of service and more than 100 arrests to his name who was killed on the job in Edmonton in 2013. Quanto took risks on the job every day and, sadly, paid the ultimate price while protecting his community.
Paul Vukmanich, who killed Police Dog Quanto, was sentenced to 26 months in prison after pleading guilty to six charges in court, including one charge for killing the dog. But the short prison sentence was controversial and sparked a nationwide conversation about the need for a specific law to address service animal cruelty.
Humane Canada was proud to take a lead role in advocating for this law, and we’ve already seen charges being brought forward to discourage the assault and murder of service animals in Canada.
The first-ever charges were laid under Quanto’s Law in November 2015 after Police Dog Lonca was stabbed with a machete during a raid on a suspected illegal gaming house in a Toronto-area home. Then, in August 2016, officers from the Edmonton Police Service – where Quanto worked – laid a second charge after Police Dog Jagger was struck in the face several times by a man who evaded police in a high-speed chase for more than an hour. Both dogs have made a full recovery, and both suspects were apprehended. The first case has ended in acquittal, and the second is winding its way through the courts.
While police dogs clearly need our protection, this legislation was enacted to protect all service animals against the mistreatment and aggression they face while on the job. It’s not uncommon for guide dogs, medical alert animals and emotional support animals to be harassed and sometimes even assaulted by members of the public who don’t understand, value or respect the work that the animal is doing. These highly-trained, sensitive and intelligent animals have important jobs, and they deserve better than being subjected to this kind of abuse.
Quanto’s Law represents an important step forward for animal protection in Canada. But all of Canada’s animals deserve much better protection than our current federal laws afford.
As a next step, it’s crucial that we bring forward updates to Canada’s archaic federal laws, which make it so difficult to prosecute animal cruelty that they leave animals high and dry when they need our protection the most.
Do you want better laws for Canada’s animals? You can make a difference! Reach out to your MP today and tell them you support an immediate update to our federal animal cruelty provisions.
Learn more about the fight for improved federal legislation here.
Considering a dog
There are many reasons for wanting a dog, and all of them will have a huge impact on your daily life. Dogs will entertain you, keep you company, enrich your life and likely even improve your mental and physical health, but it's important to remember that, in exchange for all of the richness a dog will add to your life, he or she is going to need your dedicated time and attention.
There are many things to consider before getting a dog, like whether or not you have the time, money, energy, space, desire, patience and lifestyle to make the commitment of being a full-time dog owner.
Learn more about considering a dog.
Choosing the right dog
Dogs come in many shapes, sizes and temperaments. It is important when choosing a dog that you consider the reasons why you want a dog, what activity level you're comfortable engaging in, how often you want to groom your dog, how experienced you are with dogs, how big you want your dog to be once the animal is fully grown, what kind of personality you want your dog to have and whether or not you will need to get a hypoallergenic dog.
Thinking about your needs and having a concrete idea of what kind of qualities you are looking for in a dog will help you decide whether to get a puppy or an adult dog, and which breed or breed mix might be best for you.
Learn more about choosing the right dog.
Finding your dog
You've done your research and decided on the kind of dog you want to get. Now where do you go to find your dog? To ensure that you avoid supporting puppy mills, you can either adopt a dog from a humane society, SPCA, reputable rescue or satellite adoption centre, or you can purchase directly from a responsible, ethical breeder.
Learn more about finding your dog.
Remember, dogs are for life. Think carefully, choose wisely and love deeply!
What to do if you have lost or found a dog:
IF YOU HAVE LOST A DOG
Losing your dog can be devastating. Here are some actions you can immediately take to help you bring your Fido home.
- Immediately check your property and your neighbours' properties – check any place your dog could reasonably hide in.
- Notify your local animal shelters, including animal control and nearby humane societies, rescue groups, dog parks, groomers, doggy day cares and pet stores.
- List your lost pet on www.helpinglostpets.com. Emails and twitter alerts will be sent to all network members in the area.
- Create a poster that you can place in high-traffic areas. Include a photo of your pet and describe his or her distinguishing characteristics. (Note: posters can be printed at www.helpinglostpets.com)
- Get friends and family involved right away. The more ground you cover in the first few hours, the better chance you have of finding your dog.
- Knock on doors.
- Follow your dog’s regular walking route. Try to think of where he or she might go to feel safe.
- Go to your local humane society or SPCA and look for your pet.
- Check websites that have lost/found pet pages. Also, check in the pets for sale section in case someone is trying to sell/find a new home for your pet.
- If you receive a call about a sighting of your dog, confirm the pet’s description and size before you send anyone to search that area.
- If you get a confirmed sighting, have someone go immediately. Dogs can travel a long way in just an hour.
IF YOU HAVE FOUND A DOG
- If a lost/stray dog approaches you, be cautious. Even if he or she seems to be a friendly dog, we would advise that you move slowly, and very gently take hold of the collar or leash.
- If the dog growls or becomes panicked/aggressive, stop what you are doing and stand back.
- If you are able to leash the dog, check for tags and call whatever phone numbers you find on the dog's tags.
- If there is no contact information, notify your local humane society or SPCA or animal control.
- If you are offering food to the dog, place a small amount on the ground.
- Do not look the dog directly in the eye – this may be interpreted as aggression.
- Take the dog to a veterinarian or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip. This could tell you who the owners are and where they live.
- Microchip your pet, and update your information with the service provider EVERY TIME you change your phone number or address.
- License your pet with your municipality and keep the tag on your pet’s collar/harness at all times.
- Have another ID tag on the dog’s leash in case the collar breaks free or is lost.
- Check tags regularly for wear and tear.