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Interesting article about the Ottawa Humane Society.

LavenderRott
September 9th, 2006, 08:26 PM
I don't know if this has been posted already or if this is in the right section but I found this today and thought it was interesting.



Couple ask for review of procedures used by Ottawa Humane Society

JEFF PAPPONE

Special to The Globe and Mail

OTTAWA -- Kevin Skerrett and Simone Powell hoped to join hundreds of other new pet owners in tomorrow's Ottawa Humane Society Wiggle Waggle Walkathon, but they won't be there because the local animal shelter destroyed the dog they wanted to adopt.

In July, the couple brought a Lhasa Apso-type stray to the pound hoping it would be reunited with its owners. They indicated they would take it home should the owner not be found, but later learned that the pooch was on doggie death row after failing a behaviour assessment.

"We were astounded and I think a lot of people would be surprised at what we saw," said Mr. Skerrett, who has asked for a review of the OHS's euthanasia policies and animal assessment procedures.

"We actually watched a second version of their assessment and that was the thing that really got us concerned that this was a serious issue."

In the first test, the assessor allowed the dog to jump on a chair and then told it to get down. But the dog would not obey.

When the test was repeated for the couple a few days later, the dog got down, but only after three commands. The couple were told the dog was territorial and the fact that it had changed its behaviour from the first test was not significant.

The second part of the test involved putting the animal in a room and giving it food. The assessor then used a stick with a rubber hand to poke the dog's food and face. After about four jabs, the dog reacted with a bite and was deemed to be aggressive around food.

Despite saying they would adopt the dog and do anything the OHS advised -- hire a trainer, enroll the dog in obedience school and agree to whatever constraints necessary -- the shelter would not budge.

Six days after arriving at the shelter, the dog was dead.

"They said the dog demonstrated what they called no mental sensitivity and in their view it had no capacity to learn, rehabilitate, change its behaviour at all, or show remorse," Ms. Powell said.

"It was a 'bad dog deep in its soul' and there was nothing we could do about it."

The couple suggested that neutering the dog might help mitigate the aggression, but the idea was immediately rejected.

OHS executive director Bruce Roney agreed "in general" that neutering often helps control or reduce aggression, but he refused to discuss the particulars of the case any further.

"We do see the consequences of what can happen where there is a dog that doesn't have stable temperament," Mr. Roney insisted. "We don't take chances."

The OHS uses an adaptation of a controversial test developed by U.S. dog trainer Susan Sternberg to assess canines. It takes about 20 minutes and ranges from seeing how the dog reacts around cats to determining whether it guards resources.

"Dogs do fail, but the vast majority of these are to tell us more about the behaviour of the dog so we can find it a good home," said Mr. Roney, who said he did not know how many dogs were euthanized based on the test. Besides, he added, those figures are often taken out of context.

The OHS's canine temperament assessor has worked for the shelter for about 16 years and helps train animal workers across the country. Mr. Roney said there is no university or college degree in this kind of work.

Nadine Gourkow is working on a doctorate in animal welfare and helped the British Columbia SPCA reform its procedures when it came to assessing canine temperament.

The B.C. SPCA's manager of animal welfare and research said the tests the Ottawa couple witnessed might not return accurate findings, which could lead to needless deaths. For example, many dogs simply don't like being poked in the nose while they are eating, she said.

Besides, a shelter stay is a nerve-racking experience for many animals and a wide variety of factors -- strange people, loud sounds, unfamiliar surroundings, lack of food, exhaustion -- could skew the results, she said.

Mr. Roney dismissed this idea, saying that gauging an animal's reaction in a shelter situation is not problematic.

"Unless you can say the animal will never be stressed, and I accept that a shelter is perhaps for many animals very stressful, but animals do become stressed and there are stressful situations, so if an animal's reaction to stress is to bite or attack, then I don't think it's an appropriate house pet," he said.

The B.C. SPCA uses an eight-step, scientifically validated assessment program developed by British researcher Rebecca Ledger, which was tested over a period of seven years with thousands of dogs.

"If they think the test predicts something that will happen at home and they haven't gone to check whether it does that, then they are doing something wrong," Ms. Gourkow said.

Mr. Roney said the only follow-up information they have is that dogs that come back to the shelter are usually the ones that the OHS reluctantly decided to put up for adoption.


http://www.envirolink.org/external....90743270.135347

OntarioGreys
September 9th, 2006, 09:24 PM
Scary isn't it. The chair bit may be simply the dog does not know the command get down, or is frighten about why it is being told to get off.

And jabbing at the dog face , cripes I would snap too if some stranger did that to me

Frenchy
September 10th, 2006, 08:10 AM
I watch a lot of Animal Precinct on Animal planet.They always tests the dogs that way to see if they can put them up for adoption.They poke the dog (while he's eating) with a long stick,rubber hand at the end.I think it's a little bit extreme.Specialy with emanciated dogs.Dogs are dogs and should not be bothered while eating.They are not suffed animals!That being said,my dogs don't mind if I take out their food bowl,but I only did it if they were eating in another dog's bowl.

erykah1310
September 10th, 2006, 09:59 AM
As far as the food guarding thing, I can take anything from any three of my dogs. However No one else can. I think its because I have always made sure i could from Day 1. (you never know when they get into something they arent supposed to) however, that really isnt a good "temperment test" No stranger could EVER take any of the 3's food away.

I think that humane societies should look more into the over all disposition of the dog, not base it on things that,as said before, a dog wont do if intimidated or frightened.

Cygnet
September 10th, 2006, 10:10 AM
I don't know if this has been posted already or if this is in the right section but I found this today and thought it was interesting.



Couple ask for review of procedures used by Ottawa Humane Society

JEFF PAPPONE

Special to The Globe and Mail

OTTAWA -- Kevin Skerrett and Simone Powell hoped to join hundreds of other new pet owners in tomorrow's Ottawa Humane Society Wiggle Waggle Walkathon, but they won't be there because the local animal shelter destroyed the dog they wanted to adopt.

In July, the couple brought a Lhasa Apso-type stray to the pound hoping it would be reunited with its owners. They indicated they would take it home should the owner not be found, but later learned that the pooch was on doggie death row after failing a behaviour assessment.

"We were astounded and I think a lot of people would be surprised at what we saw," said Mr. Skerrett, who has asked for a review of the OHS's euthanasia policies and animal assessment procedures.

"We actually watched a second version of their assessment and that was the thing that really got us concerned that this was a serious issue."

In the first test, the assessor allowed the dog to jump on a chair and then told it to get down. But the dog would not obey.

When the test was repeated for the couple a few days later, the dog got down, but only after three commands. The couple were told the dog was territorial and the fact that it had changed its behaviour from the first test was not significant.

The second part of the test involved putting the animal in a room and giving it food. The assessor then used a stick with a rubber hand to poke the dog's food and face. After about four jabs, the dog reacted with a bite and was deemed to be aggressive around food.

Despite saying they would adopt the dog and do anything the OHS advised -- hire a trainer, enroll the dog in obedience school and agree to whatever constraints necessary -- the shelter would not budge.

Six days after arriving at the shelter, the dog was dead.

"They said the dog demonstrated what they called no mental sensitivity and in their view it had no capacity to learn, rehabilitate, change its behaviour at all, or show remorse," Ms. Powell said.

"It was a 'bad dog deep in its soul' and there was nothing we could do about it."

The couple suggested that neutering the dog might help mitigate the aggression, but the idea was immediately rejected.

OHS executive director Bruce Roney agreed "in general" that neutering often helps control or reduce aggression, but he refused to discuss the particulars of the case any further.

"We do see the consequences of what can happen where there is a dog that doesn't have stable temperament," Mr. Roney insisted. "We don't take chances."

The OHS uses an adaptation of a controversial test developed by U.S. dog trainer Susan Sternberg to assess canines. It takes about 20 minutes and ranges from seeing how the dog reacts around cats to determining whether it guards resources.

"Dogs do fail, but the vast majority of these are to tell us more about the behaviour of the dog so we can find it a good home," said Mr. Roney, who said he did not know how many dogs were euthanized based on the test. Besides, he added, those figures are often taken out of context.

The OHS's canine temperament assessor has worked for the shelter for about 16 years and helps train animal workers across the country. Mr. Roney said there is no university or college degree in this kind of work.

Nadine Gourkow is working on a doctorate in animal welfare and helped the British Columbia SPCA reform its procedures when it came to assessing canine temperament.

The B.C. SPCA's manager of animal welfare and research said the tests the Ottawa couple witnessed might not return accurate findings, which could lead to needless deaths. For example, many dogs simply don't like being poked in the nose while they are eating, she said.

Besides, a shelter stay is a nerve-racking experience for many animals and a wide variety of factors -- strange people, loud sounds, unfamiliar surroundings, lack of food, exhaustion -- could skew the results, she said.

Mr. Roney dismissed this idea, saying that gauging an animal's reaction in a shelter situation is not problematic.

"Unless you can say the animal will never be stressed, and I accept that a shelter is perhaps for many animals very stressful, but animals do become stressed and there are stressful situations, so if an animal's reaction to stress is to bite or attack, then I don't think it's an appropriate house pet," he said.

The B.C. SPCA uses an eight-step, scientifically validated assessment program developed by British researcher Rebecca Ledger, which was tested over a period of seven years with thousands of dogs.

"If they think the test predicts something that will happen at home and they haven't gone to check whether it does that, then they are doing something wrong," Ms. Gourkow said.

Mr. Roney said the only follow-up information they have is that dogs that come back to the shelter are usually the ones that the OHS reluctantly decided to put up for adoption.


http://www.envirolink.org/external....90743270.135347

Doing temperament tests at shelters is a very hard job. I don't think anybody does it because they don't like dogs, and the responsibility and guilt that goes with deciding that a dog should die rather than be adopted are really disturbing. And it doesn't make this horrible job any easier to know that there is always a person waiting to second guess the decision and tell you that you sent a dog to its death needlessly.

I don't think that Sue Sternberg would claim that her test is infallible. I think she would say that some dogs flunk who would likely never go on to bite people (particularly if they are placed in homes with very dog savvy people) and I thin she would say that some dogs who pass her test may go on to bite. I doubt, by the way, that ANY temperament test is infallible in that sense. But so what? Either Sue's test(s) or some variation of Sue's tests are FAR better than the system that was in place before Sue Sternberg came along and introduced the world to the concept of temperament testing shelter dogs. The previous system, after all, was to just decide which dogs the shelter manager thought looked nicest or cutest or prettiest and to kill the rest. Or perhaps just to killed all the dogs who came in after the shelter was full. Or perhaps to kill each dog when his "turn" came up, thus killing the fantastic dog whose perfect family just hasn't come through yet because you want to be "fair" to the unadoptable dog who wants to kill every child who walks by his run and give him his allotted three days before he, too, dies.

All in all, temperament testing is WAY better than that, although every method has its critics.

Most shelter temperament testers are also strongly aware that if they send a dog out to the public with a problematic temperament, when something goes wrong, it affects not only that dog, but the reputation of shelter dogs everywhere. Sue Sternberg is extremely adamant that she wants animal shelters to have the reputation as being the place where the public can go to get the BEST dogs, and every shelter dog who bites undermines that. In the end, I think Sue's approach helps more dogs than it hurts.

One interesting comment was that of the British Coumbia shelter manager who seems to be critical of putting a dog down for biting the hand while he was eating and says " For example, many dogs simply don't like being poked in the nose while they are eating. " Of course this is right. But we do things to dogs that they "simply don't like" all the time and if they react to that by biting us, well...that isn't so good. For example, a presa canario in Florida recently obviously "didn't like" the fact that his owner was giving him a bath. So he killed her.

LavenderRott
September 10th, 2006, 12:11 PM
In the first test, the assessor allowed the dog to jump on a chair and then told it to get down. But the dog would not obey.

When the test was repeated for the couple a few days later, the dog got down, but only after three commands. The couple were told the dog was territorial and the fact that it had changed its behaviour from the first test was not significant.




"They said the dog demonstrated what they called no mental sensitivity and in their view it had no capacity to learn, rehabilitate, change its behaviour at all, or show remorse," Ms. Powell said.

"It was a 'bad dog deep in its soul' and there was nothing we could do about it."

The couple suggested that neutering the dog might help mitigate the aggression, but the idea was immediately rejected.


Ok - well this is the part that I have a real problem with. While I have seen some stubborn dogs or dogs that don't seem to be overly bright - I have never seen one that had "no capacity to learn. And as for showing remorse - of course it didn't - it is a DOG!

Maya
September 10th, 2006, 04:49 PM
Scary isn't it. The chair bit may be simply the dog does not know the command get down, or is frighten about why it is being told to get off.

And jabbing at the dog face , cripes I would snap too if some stranger did that to me

I agree.



The second part of the test involved putting the animal in a room and giving it food. The assessor then used a stick with a rubber hand to poke the dog's food and face. After about four jabs, the dog reacted with a bite and was deemed to be aggressive around food.

If someone was jabbing a dog's food and face, and it didn't bite after about the fourth time, I might actually start to worry that the dog was unwell. Maybe this part of the test is to try to estimate what a dogs tolerance is to abuse/teasing, or how long it takes the dog to become dangerous in that type of situation?

LL1
September 10th, 2006, 04:52 PM
Most shelters do a temp test on dogs,and Ottawa is no different,they also are rescue friendly.

LM1313
September 10th, 2006, 05:32 PM
I'm rather shocked that they would put the dog to sleep just because it failed the food test. The local shelters here do the test, but unless a dog is crazily aggressive, they just tell the potential owners "needs work on food aggression" or something like that. I think the temperament test itself is fine . . . No, dogs don't like being poked when they're eating, but a lot of people don't watch their kids around dogs and their kid could do just that. So informing people that the dog has food issues is helpful and informative.

But it sounds to me like they aren't using the test results in a responsible manner.

"They said the dog demonstrated what they called no mental sensitivity and in their view it had no capacity to learn, rehabilitate, change its behaviour at all, or show remorse," Ms. Powell said.

"It was a 'bad dog deep in its soul' and there was nothing we could do about it."

How many dogs seriously have no capacity to learn and change??

If there was some issue besides jumping up (common in untrained dogs--and this was a lhasa apso, it wouldn't be knocking people over) and snapping at a rubber hand, the Ottawa Humane Society should say so . . . If they really decided a dog was horrible and unadoptable just because of these two things, they're being ridiculous.

LL1
September 10th, 2006, 05:41 PM
Pretty hard to say,given Ottawa has not said,and none of us met the dog

Prin
September 10th, 2006, 06:35 PM
For example, a presa canario in Florida recently obviously "didn't like" the fact that his owner was giving him a bath. So he killed her. Yeah, but there were holes in that story. We still don't know how they got in the pool. :rolleyes:


Lucky Boo didn't have to pass that rubber hand dealy.. He loves rubber hands.:)

Sariss
September 12th, 2006, 09:52 PM
The OHS is fairly strict. I still remember my first class there they put down a puppy because it had food aggression. :(

I go there at least once a week for four hours for my class. I try to stay away from the temperment testing part because it bothers me sometimes. But to play the devils advocate, they are usually filled to the brim with dogs, and really they need to pick the best of the best to be adopted. But then again this dog had a home lined up, so I dunno. I'm sure this will be a discussion on Thursday.

TMac
September 14th, 2006, 08:58 PM
Most shelters do a temp test on dogs,and Ottawa is no different,they also are rescue friendly.

I haven't heard that actually. I have heard rumours to the contrary - ie. that they refuse to work with rescues. But rather than rely on rumour, I've put that question to the Exec Director, Bruce Roney, and so far I have not had a reply.

p.s. Simone has more info on the website www.reformtheohs.ca in case anyone wants to read more.

TMac
September 14th, 2006, 09:03 PM
Humane society to review policies
Public outcry over behaviour test spurs assessment

Vito Pilieci, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, September 14, 2006

Less than a week after a bizarre incident in which a stray dog was put down for failing a special behaviour test at the Ottawa Humane Society, officials with the animal shelter have announced they will be reviewing their policies.

In an announcement yesterday, the humane society said public outcry over the incident has kick-started the review process and officials will now be looking at making changes to the way they assess an animal's behaviour when it is brought in off the street. The society also said it will be looking at how it assesses the suitability of a potential adopter as well as how the humane society communicates its policies and procedures to the public.

"We have a commitment to the community to provide the best possible care for Ottawa's animals," said Bruce Roney, the executive director of the Ottawa Humane Society. "We've received a call to action and we will respond."

The humane society's methods of applying behavioural tests came under fire after Simone Powell and Kevin Skerrett of Ottawa tried to adopt a stray dog they had found, only to learn later that it failed the behaviour test and was euthanized.

Mr. Skerrett said he's "happy" to hear that changes may be coming to the way the shelter assesses strays, but he hopes the review's scope is much broader, including areas such as the shelter's policies around euthanasia.

"There is a huge range of reasons they consider as rationale for euthanizing animals," he said, adding that euthanasia should be a last resort, and he would like to see the humane society release annual figures about the number of animals it puts down.

Mr. Skerrett has joined an organization called Reform The OHS, which is pushing for massive change at the Ottawa shelter.

The upcoming review of current policies will be conducted by the humane society's board of directors. Updates about the review process will be posted on the society's website and a final report will be made public once the review is completed.
The Ottawa Citizen 2006

Sariss
September 15th, 2006, 07:54 AM
I haven't heard that actually. I have heard rumours to the contrary - ie. that they refuse to work with rescues. But rather than rely on rumour, I've put that question to the Exec Director, Bruce Roney, and so far I have not had a reply.

p.s. Simone has more info on the website www.reformtheohs.ca in case anyone wants to read more.

They are rescue friendly. I'm there quite a bit, and lots of their purebred dogs that come in have a "Rescue" card, and are usually sent of to rescue.

papillonmama
September 15th, 2006, 01:12 PM
Most people who adopt shelter dogs expect that they're going to have problems. The assessment should be used for informational purposes like someone else mentioned, no kids under 12, has food or territory issues, etc. Euthanization should be last resort, considering that the people who don't get to find their dog at the shelter may find their way to a BYB or a pet store.

JMO

TMac
September 15th, 2006, 05:04 PM
They are rescue friendly. I'm there quite a bit, and lots of their purebred dogs that come in have a "Rescue" card, and are usually sent of to rescue.

Do you know if they call Rescue when they fail the temperment test? That was my biggest issue with all of this. Bruce told Simone that they don't adopt out 'projects'. But I wanted to know if they call Rescue in that case or do they euthanize? Rescues are usually happy to take a dog who has 'issues'.

LL1
September 15th, 2006, 06:22 PM
Definitely,I know of many dogs that have been sent to rescue,and they are very nice to deal with.
They are rescue friendly. I'm there quite a bit, and lots of their purebred dogs that come in have a "Rescue" card, and are usually sent of to rescue.

Sariss
September 16th, 2006, 09:31 AM
I'm not sure if they call rescues if they fail the test. I don't work there, I just go there to treat their sick animals. But I can *try* to find out.

LL1
September 16th, 2006, 05:29 PM
That is generally something known only to the shelter and rescue.