BY MARK FITZGERALD
Getting your first pet can be exciting and fill you with happiness. If only people would remember that feeling when their pet goes missing.
There are many cases where people’s pets disappear and they give up looking for them. Or they abandon the animal on purpose because they don’t care about it anymore.
This is where the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society (KWHS) steps in, helping to give animals a second chance. Sometimes even a third or fourth chance.
Jeff Letson, a Conestoga College graduate from the police foundations program, is an animal protection services officer for the KWHS and enforces the humane treatment of animals and the safety of the public.
“I patrol K-W on a daily basis and investigate bylaw infractions. Calls are taken from the public and I respond to concerns such as animal bites, dogs running at large, injured or sick wildlife and domestic animals, dog licensing, and many other animal-related issues,” he said.
Jack Kinch, executive director at the KWHS, said it is important to educate the community about the proper treatment of animals. Kinch said unwanted litters are a big problem and that people should be proactive and get their pets spayed or neutered.
“Simple steps could prevent the amount of strays. It’s as easy as getting your dogs licensed, keeping your cats indoors and having your pets spayed or neutered,” Letson said.
The KWHS has a lot of information sheets in their office for people who need that extra bit of information about their pet. They include “Positive Dog Training,” “First Night Home With a New Dog,” and “Introducing Cats and Dogs.”
The KWHS also provides after-school programs to help educate the community about the proper treatment and well-being of animals. They have teachers on staff who work with the school board to provide educational information and even guest speakers for the students.
Letson said the Kitchener-Waterloo area benefits from the KWHS in many ways. “The care and control of wildlife and domestic animals is a 24/7 job, and so we are there 24/7. Stray animals are given a second chance at a good home through the collaboration of many caring people, and through the support of the community. An unbelievable amount of animals are brought in as strays, never to be picked up by owners. Without the KWHS and the support from the community, many animals would be without homes, running the streets, and without the care they need,” Letson said.
All of the animals brought into the human society are rescued animals and it is sometimes difficult to return the animal to the owner because the animal has no tags or isn’t licensed.
“Our biggest issue is cats. About two-thirds of the animals here are cats. Although dogs have a 40 per cent chance of returning to the owner, cats have about a one per cent chance,” Kinch said.
It is difficult to house and care for all of these animals, especially the sick and injured ones. Sometimes having a diseased animal in the shelter can be dangerous for the other animals.
If the on-site veterinarian cannot treat it, then the animal may have to be euthanized as a last possible outcome.
“We don’t like to euthanize animals. It’s the last thing that we would want to do, but sometimes we have to, to prevent a disease from spreading,” Kinch said.
The KWHS provides an adoption service, hoping to put their animals in “forever homes.”
Erin D’Arcy, owner of D’Arcy’s Dog Training & Pet Services in Cambridge, said the KWHS is really a good place to get a pet.
“You kind of know what you’re getting. They do temperament tests to determine the animal’s qualities like, if it is good with children. And they already come spayed or neutered,” D’Arcy said.
She also said it is a great way to save money when looking for a pet because some breeders can be really expensive. She warns that although a lot of breeders are good, some are just out to make a quick buck.
Debra Horn, an animal lover from Kitchener, said when she has enough time to care for an animal she is going to adopt one from the human society.
“Animals need love, even the older ones or the ones that have been left behind,” Horn said.
The KWHS also provides basic animal care. They administer all the shots a pet needs, although any surgeries are performed at a different location that has a proper operating room. The veterinary care that they provide is their “biggest out-of-pocket expense,” coming in at about $250,000 per year.
With the school year coming to an end, the KWHS has a few concerns that they feel the community should be aware of. Kinch said students often decide to get a pet at the beginning of the school year and abandon it at the end of the year. He wants students to be aware that the KWHS is addressing this problem by providing a foster care program where students can adopt an animal for the school year and return it afterwards if they so choose. It helps limit the number of strays and gives the animals a home. It may even lead to a permanent home.
“As the spring weather is approaching I ask that people be aware of wildlife on our streets and on our property. It is best to leave the animals alone, and if they appear to require assistance please do not intervene, and call the humane society,” Letson said.
The KWHS provides a necessary service to the community that can often go overlooked. They ask for people to be educated about their pets and care for them properly.
“The KWHS is a team of caring and compassionate members from our community. I strongly encourage people to research and ensure they have the knowledge they need to be responsible pet owners,” Letson said.
BY MARK FITZGERALD