McHappy Day in CSL and other Pierre Brunet locales supports MAB-Mackay
Wishing Jean-Claude Raby a happy retirement

My report from the 2015 National Animal Welfare Conference

As the Côte Saint-Luc city councillor responsible for animal protection, I was pleased to represent our community at the 2015 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) National Animal Welfare Conference. It was held at the River Rock Casino May 2 to 4 in Richmond, BC and attracted 350 people from across the country. This conference is considered the pre-eminent venue for thought-leadership, sharing of ideas, networking and learning about animal welfare.  

Genevieve Pépin, Alanna Devine and Johanne Tassé

Besides myself, other Quebecers on hand included Johanne Tassé from the Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Québec (CAACQ), SPCA Montreal executive director Nicolas Gillman and Director of Animal Advocacy Alanna Devine and Director of Operations Genevieve Pépin,  veterinarian Dr. Vincent Paradis and Mark  Hagen from R.C. Hagen Pet Supplies.

DR. MARK BEKOFF:   Dr.  Mark Bekoff was the opening night keynote speaker. His subject was Rewilding our hearts: Animal emotions, compassionate conservation, and the importance of individual animals. In his talk Dr. Bekoff discussed the notion of personal rewilding,  how animal emotions and compassionate conservation, for which the guideline is “first do no harm,” figure into what we all need to do in the immediate future. In wildlife conservation, rewilding refers to restoring habitats and creating corridors between preserved lands to allow declining populations to rebound. Dr. Bekoff, one of the world's leading animal experts and activists, applies rewilding to human attitudes. In his book called Rewilding Our Hearts he invites readers to do the essential work of becoming re-enchanted with the world, acting from the inside out, and dissolving false boundaries to truly connect with both nature and themselves.

BC MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE: Norm Letnick is the Minister of Agriculture for British Columbia. Canada nor the provinces have Ministers with actual "Animal Welfare" portfolios. It falls under Agriculture.  In Quebec, Pierre Paradis fulfils this role. Letnick clearly has a soft place in his heart for companion animals and he proudly noted that his Ministry recently gave $5 million to support the BC SPCA’s Facilities Development and Services Plan. The latter is an eight-year strategy, totalling $50.4 million to replace or renovate aging BC SPCA infrastructure in 10 communities across British Columbia – the largest capital plan in the organization’s 120-year history. Projects will include new community animal centres, facilities to house seized farm animals, storefront adoption centres and facilities to promote increased community access to spay/neuter services.  Amy Morris, a graduate of Concordia University and a policy and outreach officer for BC SPCA, hopes the government will continue to contribute the campaign in the coming years,

Letnick spoke out against animal cruelty and listed the heavy penalties that exist for animal cruelty. “Animal welfare is a team effort – and requires governments, organizations like the BC SPCA, and all citizens to work together and be vigilant to ensure all animals in British Columbia are treated with the due care and respect they deserve,” the Minister stated,

 Letnick said that he previously had a shelter dog (a dog rescued from a shelter). The pet passed away and because of his busy schedule as a minister he has not adopted another dog at this time. “When I do,” he promised, “it will be from a shelter.”

PETLAND:  I met with Amy Pawson Blackwell. She is the director of operations for Petland, a chain of pet stores stretching from BC to Manitoba.  A one-time resident of Pointe Claire (and a member of the swim team there and at St. Thomas High School), she told me how Petland has partnerships with all animal welfare organizations and since 2010 has had 10,000 animals adopted “It is our desire at Petland to make a difference in the communities we serve,” she said. “For more than 38 years, Petland has been the retail pet industry leader in the area of animal care with ongoing staff training programs, in-store animal care  systems and community service programs aimed at placing homeless pets and curbing pet overpopulation in the community.”

Petland has taken a leadership role in the area of public education on spaying and neutering as a way to halt pet overpopulation, and implemented a pro-active adoption program for the placement of homeless litters of puppies and kittens, whether from a shelter, pet rescue group or just a member of the local community. Class tours are arranged for schools where youngsters learn to finger-tame a parakeet. Equally gratifying, she explains, is the look on a senior citizen's face while holding a Petland kitten. Petland therapy is a natural extension of their retail environment and the store’s pet counsellors love visiting schools and nursing homes. Store operators collect donations for charities, hold fundraisers for local animal care groups and give generously of themselves with cash donations to select community causes. A number of important community service programs exist at Petland. They include: Adopt-A-Pet; Pets for a Lifetime; Pet Therapy; Stop Pet Overpopulation; and Spay/Neuter Your Pet.  It is too bad they do not exist in Quebec!

CARS, CATS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND “PRACTICAL” ETHIC FOR ANIMALS: Professor David Fraser from the University of BC spoke on the subject.  From his childhood on a farm in southern Ontario, Prof. Fraser has maintained a fascination with animals throughout his 43-year research career. With a degree in psychology (Toronto) and a PhD in zoology (Glasgow), Prof. Fraser did research on the welfare of farm animals (Edinburgh School of Agriculture, 1971-1975) and on the behaviour and management of moose (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 1975-1981) before developing a research team on farm animal welfare and behaviour at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa (1981-1997). He joined UBC in 1997 and is currently cross-appointed between the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics. He is an enthusiastic teacher who mentors many graduate students and takes the leading role in the award-winning course,” Animal Welfare and the Ethics of Animal Use.”  He logs 100,000 km per year in lecture trips.  

Prof. Fraser also works with many organizations to find practical ways to improve the lives of animals. He has served as an advisor on animal welfare to many organizations including the Burger King Corporation (Miami), the Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants (Washington), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome), and within Canada on the Board of Trustees of the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada. Currently he serves as a member of the Animal Welfare Working group of the World Organisation for Animal Health (Paris), and within Canada as a member of the National Council for Farm Animal Health and Welfare.

Prof. Fraser emphasized how the effects of people on animals can be considered under four broad categories:  the keeping of animals for food, companionship and other purposes; deliberate harm to animals in slaughter, hunting and biomedical research; direct but unintended effects on animals caused by crop production, forest cutting, transportation and other activities, and the indirect effects of human activities that disturb natural systems, for example by spreading pathogens, introducing non-native species, using toxic chemicals, and climate change. The first two categories have been the focus of animal welfare science and animal ethics philosophy, whereas the third and fourth categories have been more the focus of conservation and environmental ethics. In reality, the latter two categories cause such classic animal welfare problems as suffering, injury and death on a vast scale, and the harms can be expected to worsen as human population and prosperity increase. Moreover, whereas the harms caused by intentional actions can often be controlled and mitigated, harms caused unintentionally or indirectly are generally less amenable to control. A challenge for the 21st century is to being unintended and indirect harms to animals into the realm of animal welfare and animal ethics. Attention to these types of harm should also help to unify animal welfare and conservation.

One of the beautiful animal companion stamps unveiled at the conference

CANADA POST: Greg Kabatoff, director of retail business (Western Canada) for Canada Post, officially unveiled a new set of stamps under the theme “Pets are family too!” This stamp issue celebrates the companionship, joy and loyalty between pets and pet owners. There are five stamps that serve as reminders of the need for good pet care: spay/neuter; exercise; vet care; hydration; and identification. Designed by Lara Minja and illustrated by Geneviève Simms, this stamp issue is a collaborative effort with the CFHS.  It is now our role to help spread the word to help raise public awareness of pet guardianship with these animated and colourful stamps. More than half of Canadian households are home to a furry, feathered or finned friend—including 10 million cats, 5.5 million dogs and many other types of pets. Our animal companions give us unconditional love and loyalty. In return, we take on important responsibilities for their care

The Love Your Pet stamp issue was developed with the CFHS to promote ways to keep pets happy and healthy. The warm, whimsical illustrations remind us of all the joy our pets give us. They bring to life five  basic ways pet owners look after their furry friends: provide them with exercise, make sure they can be identified if lost, keep them cool in hot weather and never leave them alone in a vehicle in warm weather, spay or neuter them and regularly take them to the vet

AMONG ANIMALS- ENGAGING YOUTH THROUGH A MULTIFACTED HUMANE EDUCATION PROGRAM: Craig Naherniak and Paula Neuman from the BC SPCA gave an excellent presentation on how they go about sensitizing and engaging youth to issues revolving around animal welfare.

The Henrik Sedin cover page.

The ages of eight to 13 represent the most critical point when empathy is developed among children. This process reduces bullying and encourages healing through the human animal bond. The goal is to prevent violence, cruelty and bullying before it occurs. Kids will become leaders and speak up for animals. A challenge is the fact they have way more girls than boys in their programs. The latest Bark Magazine has Henrik Sedin on  the cover with a kitten. We were told when brought into a school they said ‘oh cool, Henrik Sedin.’ Girls said, ‘cool a kitten,’”

All kids in BC learn the Five Freedoms of animal welfare: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst; Freedom from Pain and Injury; Freedom from distress; Freedom from discomfort; and Freedom to express behaviors that promote wellbeing,

Direct experiences with animals helps validate an animal as a subject, not an object and contributes to respect for the species.  

Students can become ambassadors of social change.   

The BC SPCA has 7,000 kids in its Kids Club every year.  They are immediately placed on a mailing list to receive a newsletter or magazine which will be sent out indefinitely. This continues to ensure that they receive the message.

As Paula Neuman pointed out, the program teaches kids about proper care, wildlife issues and farm animal issues. Kids teach their parents, friends and family. “If kids love us, parents usually do too,” she said.  “We can dispel myths about animal issues. We can change attitudes of kids. It is a place for boys to show nurturing behavior and helps socialize some of the animals.”

Setting up Kids zones at community events further helps raise awareness about animal welfare.

Summer camps represent an excellent opportunity to get this message out and I would love to see our city implement something in this area. Camp staff need to be educated first.  Guest speakers, such as individuals with guide dogs, are popular. You can initiate indoor games, such as board games, “Jeopardy,” and crafts.  It is good for kids to take on action projects, such as learning to make presentations.  In some cases, animals are brought in to the camp.

There are also, of course, school-based programs. This reaches kids who might not have experience with animals. Teachers can become leaders and ambassadors while kids can proceed to teach their parents, friends and family.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, wife Laureen and a kitten.

ANIMAL MATTERS - PUTTING ANIMAL WELFARE ON THE POLITICAL AGENDA: Kim Elmslie, Patricia Zaat and Andreas Krebs from the CFHS and International Fund for Animal Welfare (, made this presentation. With the next federal election scheduled for October 19, 2015, it was emphasized how this is the opportunity to make animals matter. An animal cannot go up to Parliament Hill so we need to be their voice. The Federal Criminal Code is not strong enough when it comes to animal cruelty. Lobbying is very important at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.  The Green Party has an animal welfare platform, but none of the others do. It was agreed that candidates from the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP should all be approached and asked for meetings on animal welfare. Why do their parties not have a platform on this? Would they agree to work towards one? Krebs noted that the goal is to elect more animal friendly MPs - there are about 12 now and they wish to double this.  There are a lot of animal lovers in Canada, but the major political parties don’t speak to us. A survey will soon go out to candidates nominated, with a list of five questions. Volunteers are being sought to get involved with this initiative. The IFAW will identify candidates in ridings who have the most to offer for animals. It is clear that Canadians love animals - two-thirds of Canadians have pets at home.

Elmslie said it is important for people to stand up and say how important animals are to us.

There was a story about a cat that wanted to be mayor. In Tux We Trust, Tuxedo Stan for Halifax Mayor.. After the election they secured $80,000 for the Nova Scotia SPCA. Stan died soon after. His brother Earl may now run for Prime Minister. There is a cat in Alaska who has been mayor for nine years

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife is passionate about cats and has secured funding for initiatives. The PM does generally love cats. At 24 Sussex they have a cat room. Laureen pushes for the adoption of feral cats.

Politicians are going out on the campaign trail and they might want to pose for photos with animals at shelters.

IDENTIFYING THE (IMPORTANT) FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE CAT POPULATION CRISIS: Tyler Flockhart and Jason Coe from the Department of Population Medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph gave a presentation of paramount interest to the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee and our partners at Educhat - the cat population crisis.

The speakers alluded to a CFHS Shelter report released in 2013. They studied an overall intake of 103,433 cats brought into 90 shelters: 60 percent were stray, 28 percent surrender by their owners and seven percent transferred. The outcome saw 47 percent adopted, three percent returned to owners and 33 percent euthanized. The true figure of cats going into shelters in Canada is believed to be closer to 600,000 on an annual basis.

What is driving the cat overpopulation crisis? Cats are not valued as much as dogs. Many cat owners are simply irresponsible, much of which can be attributed to a lack of real education. If large scale targeted action is not taken, the cat overpopulation problem will worsen, and there is no one stakeholder or group seeking a solution

There needs to be more accessible spay/neuter surgeries, increased adoption strategies, humane education, appropriate funding, responsible pet ownership and a measureable objectives or goals.

Tyler described a study he did to determine the number of homeless cats in Guelph. A student was engaged for two months. The authors of the study identified 120 potential spots to find homeless cats. From there the student proceeded to spend time at each one of those locales, doing a manual count. Based on the formula established by the authors, it was determined that there were anywhere from 21,240 to 38,576 of what they called “free roaming” cats for a city with a population of 44,710 households. Given the fact Côte Saint-Luc’s population is 32,000, could our numbers be anywhere close to that? As the authors move forward, their goal is to refine their population data and further develop methods to count cats.

STAKEHOLDERS’ INPUT INTO RESEARCH ON COMPANION ANIMAL OVERPOPULATION AND RELINQUISHMENT:    Jason Coe headlined this session as well, during which the entire room was broken up into groups of five people each and asked to share our thoughts on five topics: relinquishment, overpopulation, shelter management, hot topics regarding companion animals and research resources. It was a very interesting exercise. I met Shelley Roche, who run Tiny Kittens in Fort Langley, BC. This started out as a foster home for cats and kittens rescued by a local no-kill shelter, the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS). LAPS has limited space, and relies on foster homes like Shelley's  to care for kittens and other high risk animals until they are able to be adopted. In March 2015, Tiny Kittens became a registered non-profit society in order to continue to develop new cat welfare programs. Their website,, has a webcam operating 24/7.

CATS COUNT IN CANADA: A NATIONAL STAGE FOR A LOCAL ISSUE: CFHS CEO Barbara Cartwright led this session about cats.  She noted that the CFHS has a cat overpopulation task force. This is a very local issue that has been placed on the national stage. The first task was to obtain some data, this being the largest multi-stakeholder research projects on cats in Canadian communities. In 2013 the CFHS went across the country and had meetings in every single province.

Shelters across Canada have been facing a serious cat overpopulation problem for the last few decades. Far more cats are admitted into shelters than dogs. Some are found roaming as strays, and some are pets surrendered by their owners who can no longer care for them. Cats usually take much longer to adopt out than dogs, and some are never adopted. Many healthy, adoptable cats are euthanized in shelters if they aren’t adopted within a specific time or when shelters run out of space in which to keep them. Based on our national surveys of shelters, the CFHS estimates that about half of all cats admitted to shelters in Canada end up being euthanized. While some of these cats have to be put down due to untreatable illnesses, a significant proportion of them would have been spared that fate if they had been adopted.

Many people are not interested in adopting an older cat from a shelter, further contributing to the challenge of finding homes for shelter cats. Even though adult cats have a lot to offer prospective owners, many are passed over in favour of kittens.

The homeless cat problem in Canada is mainly due to irresponsible pet owners letting their cats roam free without identification and/or without being spayed or neutered. It is surprising to learn just how many cats in Canada are not properly identified either through tags or microchipping. In most municipalities, cats don’t need to be licensed either. The result? If an owner doesn’t proactively contact shelters and pounds in their area to look for their lost cat, reuniting the cat with its owner is next to impossible. Humane societies commonly report that only a tenth of the lost cats admitted to their shelters are ever reclaimed by owners.

Un-spayed and un-neutered cats that roam contribute to the overpopulation problem by giving birth to unwanted litters of kittens year after year. Owners of male cats allowed to roam outside may never know that their cat has fathered a litter — or two, or twenty! Many people think that spaying and neutering is unnecessary or too costly, but the unwanted litters cost money by taking up space in shelters; essentially, the cost is passed on to the wider community to bear.

Spaying/neutering is the responsibility of all pet owners, but for some owners, the cost of spaying or neutering can be a deterrent to getting it done. Several municipalities, humane societies and SPCAs are now offering low-cost spay/neuter programs or clinics to address this problem.

The CFHS annual shelter statistics were released last December, revealing that feline adoption rates have increased, euthanasia rates have decreased and fewer cats were taken in by shelters. The 2013 data was collected from 90 shelters across Canada, representing the best information about companion animals in Canadian shelters. Not only has the cat adoption rate increased, for the first time it has surpassed the dog rate. More Canadians are bringing shelter cats into their homes. When the CFHS began systematically collecting shelter statistics in 1993 only 28 percent of cats who entered shelters were adopted, and a staggering 60 percent of cats were euthanized. In 2013 the adoption rate jumped to 53 percent and the euthanasia rate dropped to 37 percent,  Surprisingly, lost cats are less likely to be reunited with their owners now than in the past – in fact the reclaimed by owner rate for cats has actually dropped over time. In 2013 only 3.5 percent of cats in shelters were reunited with their owners. Reclaim rates for cats have consistently been 5 percent or less, at their highest in the late 1990s

Shelters in neighborhoods are overwhelmed with the number of cats in crisis – just like every other SPCA and humane society across the country. The CFHS is working at the national level developing new and innovative programs to help them get more cats off the streets and into loving homes. After months of months of ground-breaking and intense industry research, the CFHS’s Cat Overpopulation task force is preparing a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder report that includes practical, hands-on tools for our members across the country to use as they struggle to address their local homeless cat issue.

The good news is that every Canadian can take action to save cats’ lives. To re-phrase an old anti-feline saying, there is more than one way to save a cat. Here are six:

  • ADOPT. Adopt a cat from an animal shelter or animal rescue group. Remember: kittens are cute, but adult cats are the ones whose lives are most at risk.
  • FOSTER:Give a temporary home to a cat in need by volunteering to foster cats or kittens for your local humane society, SPCA or cat rescue group. By fostering, you save two lives: one of the cat you foster (who might not have survived in the stressful shelter environment), and one of the animal who benefits from an extra space freed up in the shelter.
  • SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CAT.Help cut off cat overpopulation at the source. If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, ask yourself: can you guarantee that each and every kitten your cat might produce will end up in a secure, permanent home?
  • ID YOUR CAT. Even indoor cats can escape and end up lost. By giving your cat permanent identification like a microchip and a tag with your address and contact information, you dramatically decrease the risk that she could become lost and never found.
  • DONATE. The problem we face is deep and it’s complicated. By taking action TODAY and supporting the CFHS’s homeless cat crisis response you are helping us put solutions into the hands of shelters across the country. .
  • ADVOCATE FOR CATS by writing letters to your local government representatives. Ask them to pass by-laws that encourage or require residents to register, ID and spay or neuter their cats. Local governments can also prohibit residents from letting cats roam outdoors, keeping cats (and birds) much safer.

Recommendations included more accessible spay/neuter programs, public education (responsible pet ownership and increase the value of cats), the need for legislation and adequate enforcement of bylaws

Universal accessible spay neuter came up in all meetings. So did relationship building with vets and with municipalities

How can we increase the value of cats? Research determined that besides more education and media attention were festivals - one being the Just for Cats Festivals which now take place at 18 communities across the country.  In Toronto, a thousand people came out to watch free internet cat videos. Launched at the Toronto International Film Festival. The National Post did an entire week of cat-themed stories. There were 18 such festivals. June will be Cat Month.  Real Men Love Cats/ Cats and Bros.

SAVE MORE FELINES...LAUNCH A KITTEN BRIGADE:  Ashley Britton, Manager, Volunteers for the Ottawa Humane Society, spoke about a foster program initiative in 2013 called The Kitten Brigade. May to October represents the busiest time when it comes to dealing with homeless cats.

The Ottawa Humane Society launched the Kitten Brigade in 2013 to deal with the hundreds of felines needing foster homes each summer. The warm weather means cats are being marched into the OHS by the boxful. Intake jumps from an average of 12 animals per day to 50 on the busiest summer days. These tiny kittens, pregnant moms and sick cats need volunteers who can provide temporary homes away from the shelter, helping to reduce their stress and keep them healthy, until they are ready for adoption. Last year, brigade volunteers helped give 119 cats a fighting chance. The brigade fast-tracks new volunteers through training to deal with a cat population that will soon reach crisis levels. Most volunteers leave the orientation with their foster kitty in tow! People wishing to join must fill out a foster application form. Volunteers who meet program requirements will be contacted for a quick phone interview. Organizers then do a mandatory criminal records check. Those selected must attend a foster orientation session

  • Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Volunteers with pets must show proof of spay or neuter and current vaccinations.
  • Volunteers must have a separate room to isolate a foster animal.
  • Volunteer must have time to care for foster animals.
  • Volunteers must have access to a vehicle.
  • Volunteers must abide by the foster agreement signed upon joining the program.
  • All Foster Volunteers must attend a general and foster orientation.
  • Foster Volunteers cannot adopt their foster animals.

The OHS relies on the dedication of foster volunteers to aid in the recovery of animals who may not be ready for adoption due to medical or behavioural reasons. Foster volunteers temporarily care for animals in their home until the animals are ready to be adopted. The goal of the Foster Program is to provide the animals in our care with an opportunity for a happy and healthy future.

The Ottawa Humane Society provides food and litter to foster volunteers. In addition, the OHS also supplies medications, examinations, and prescription diets.The OHS currently has 300 volunteers. Last year they placed 1,633 animals.

Log on to

A REVIEW OF THE FUR INDUSTRY IN CANADA: Alanna Devin was one of the speakers at this very interesting session about the plight of fur bearing animals. Over three million animals a year are killed in Canada each year for their fur, 85 percent on fur farms. Worldwide the number is 100 million, "Keep in mind," she noted, "that every animals is an individual with feelings and personalities."

In terms of federal legislation, Devine emphasized that there is none which governs the raising of animals on fur farms or the trapping of wild animals for fur. She also stated that in Canada it is actually legal to import and sell fur from dogs and cats. 

The labelling of real fur versus fake in Canada is not mandatory. “When I approached some people at the Montreal SPCA one day and advised that they were in fact wearing real animal fur they were surprised that there was no labelling to that effect," she explained.

Some of the animals killed for their fur include mink, beaver, racoons, muskrats, wolves, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, otters, lynx and chinchillas.

CAACQ: Johanne Tassé, the founder of the Kirkland-based Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Québec (caacQ), was in attendance. After spending 10 years as a volunteer in the marketing and adoption-promotion department for a dog adoption agency, Tassé realized that despite all the efforts made by similar organizations, the number of animals in shelters was consistently high. In 2008 she created the caacQ to resolve the problem of animal overpopulation, to implement cost-effective solutions for the well-being of companion animals in our communities. Her organization is working diligently so the killing of healthy animals will only be a sad memory in our collective minds.  “Adoption, sterilization and permanent identification is our message to the public and the authorities.” she says.

The goals of her organization are to encourage municipalities and the provincial government to establish and enforce stronger animal welfare laws; sterilization and micro chipping (educate the public on the importance of sterilization and permanent identification of companion pets); adoption option (promote and facilitate the adoption of homeless pets and responsible animal guardianship); and support members of the caacQ by improving current practices.

The CaacQ was created in order to have a direct impact on reducing the number of companion animals killed in the province of Quebec.

The next identification and adoption clinic organized by the CaacQ will take place on Saturday, June 6 at the Brossard Arena.  I have spoken to Johanne and in conjunction with Councillor Karen Zajdman in Hampstead, I hope to arrange such a day in Côte Saint-Luc in September.

Mark Hagen

HAGEN PET SUPPLIES:  I also met Mark Hagen, one of the owners and director of research for the West Island-based   Rolf C. Hagen Inc., Canada’s largest pet product manufacturer and distributor. Founded in 1955 and fueled by a love for animals big and small, Hagen is a Canadian-owned, independent, family-run business that has become a globally respected manufacturer and distributor of pet food and supplies. Committed to providing the highest quality nutritional pet foods, Hagen stands by its pledge of “No Bad Anything.” Hagen’s commitment to bettering the lives of all animals extends beyond food to include many long-standing relationships with organizations and charities that improves the lives of animals. These include donations of both food and money to underfunded animal shelters, animal hospitals and other organizations that care for animals. Its global head office is located in Baie-d’Urfe and was completed in June 2006.  The company has wholly owned subsidiaries in the United States, England, France, Germany and Malaysia (South East Asia). Joint ventures include Japan, Korea, Thailand and South Africa. There are also numerous strong partnership agreements in quite a few other countries such as Spain, Mexico, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and the Philippines to name just a few.  The company manufactures products related to pets such as aquariums, leashes, cages of all sorts, foods and has created a popular line of aquarium filtration.  

“Giving back to communities across Canada by supporting volunteer-based organizations is extremely important to us," says Mark. "We truly enjoy supporting the volunteer shelters, as they believe in the education and promotion of companion animal health and well-being, which is an important part of our company's very core."

Mark’s father Rolf C. Hagen founded the company.  He passed away in 2011. Mark is the company biologist and formulates and tests the pet food they manufacture.“Pets are not only the heart of our business,” he said, “they are the reason we are in business.”  They are continually investing in their research and development department inventing new and unique products for the pet industry.

In 1955, Rolf C. Hagen started by acquiring bird seeds from the Canadian prairies and exporting them back to Germany. His small export business eventually flourished and branched out into a solid, well-respected pet supplies business that today spans many continents. Soon after setting up his business in Montreal, his focus turned to the most significant import of his life: a beautiful young woman named Marianne Koch, whom he met in Hamburg and married in Montreal in 1959. His brothers Dieter and Horst subsequently joined the company, both of whom brought new energy and innovation to the company, taking it to new heights of success. The trio formed the first generation of an internationally successful family-based company that is now managed by Mark and his brothers Tom, and Rolf Jr.

Mark Hagen notes that cat overpopulation is not just a local problem, it’s rampant across Canada. “Cat ownership comes with many responsibilities,” he says.  “It must be viewed as a lifelong family commitment and every effort should be made to ensure proper and humane care for all felines.”

“Companies such as Hagen can only do so much to help support rescue centres across Canada. I think government agencies, as well as vets, breeders, pet shops, and shelters should come together in every region to address and find solutions for controlling the cat population, thus relieving the burden on cat shelters. Where none exists, a central animal care facility funded by cat licensing could be a practical solution,” said Mark Hagen. “Some cities, such as Calgary, are being proactive and achieving success. Their cat control program could serve as a good model to educate, promote, and support responsible cat ownership,”

Mark received a Master of Agriculture degree from the University of Guelph. He concentrated on nutrition and zoology for his Bachelor of Science degree, and attended a semester at the University of California, taking courses in cage bird medicine, nutrition and avian science. After five years of housing birds indoors in a converted warehouse, he designed the Hagen Avicultural Research Institute (HARI) facility in Rigaud, in 1989, which incorporated the latest techniques in environmental control.  Over the course of the past 26 years, HARI has gained a worldwide reputation for its ongoing studies into captive breeding, maintenance and nutrition of companion birds. Current areas of study include disease control, pair bonding, nutrition, early parrot education, and the influence of temperature, humidity and light cycles on breeding.

A firm believer in sharing his knowledge and experiences, he has published dozens of papers relating to the work at HARI, including egg incubation, oil and nutrition, formulated diets, husbandry and sanitation disease control, cage design, ventilation, and pediatric care. Many of his papers have been presented at most of the avicultural conferences held in the USA, Canada and Australia.

To mark its 25th anniversary, Mark and his team at HARI opened a new division dedicated to the long-term study of the health of reptiles and small animals with a strong focus on exploring new alternatives for dealing with common health concerns that the veterinarian community sees with species found in captivity.

Mark has also been deeply involved in supporting the avian community, providing personal as well as Hagen funding to a variety of organizations, including The World Parrot Trust, Loro Parque Foundation, and Parrots International. He also coordinates Tropican food donations to parrot shelters around the world.

With conservation being one of his main passions, Mark travels widely around the world to directly experience birds in their natural habitat to ascertain ways of improving preservation. He has personally seen over 50 parrot species where they occur on most continents.

CREATING SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS AND AVOIDING PITFALLS: Travis Grant is from the Edmonton Humane Society. He joined the organization’s communications team in 2012, with a specialization in social media.  Seventy-one percent of all internet users are on Facebook. EHS has 54,000 friends.  Twitter, he noted, accounts for 23 percent of all internet users and this is the audience you want for crowd funding (fundraising online).  Twitter has also been used to find lost pets in Edmonton. Instagram can also be a useful tool while Google + is a popular option. YouTube is the biggest investment of your time. In Edmonton it has been very successful and they even do  weekly podcast with Shaw Media. Pinterest, accounting for -28 percent of all internet users, can be useful. When it comes to social media, Grant said to make your goals specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.   Taking an actual inventory of your social media presence is a good idea and determine  the chain of command in terms of who will  handle facebook, twitter, instagram, Google +, YouTube etc.  These tasks need to be assigned. It is then time to decide what you want to use each social media presence for.

It is not a bad idea to actually create a  daily content calendar by social media engine and lisgt the time, topic, post and link.   Social media is a party, he said, so make it fun and engaging and give the online audience material they want.

CONFERENCE RECAP: I met with Alanna Devine and Johanne Tassé after the conference to get their take on things. "It is exciting to see so many people here from grassroots organizations," said Devine. "I have to say that the most exciting thing for me is that this is the first time there has been an entire focus on farm animal welfare. We talk a lot about dogs and cats, but we tend to forget about the animals that suffer the most by virtue of us eating them and what we use them for.”

Both Devine and Tassé expressed hope that this conference could be held in Montreal as early as next year, but that will not occur Cartwright told me. The CFHS looked into possible hotels to host the event and none were able to offer a suitable room rate nor guarantee the number of rooms needed for an event that attracts more than 300 delegates. So they will return to Toronto next year, site of the 2014 gathering, and keep Montreal on the radar for 2017.

BC's Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick did impress everyone on hand with his commitment to animal welfare and of course the donation of $5 million to the BC SPCA. So I asked Devine and Tassé for their assessment of Pierre Paradis, who has been Quebec's Minister of Agriculture for more than a year now.

"I do not really feel comfortable grading ministers," said Devine. "I can certainly tell you that Pierre Paradis has been the first Agriculture Minister since I have been at the SPCA who has made the commitment to improving animal welfare. He has stated that there will be revised provincial animal welfare legislation. He is also pushing for change to animals under the provincial code so this is certainly very encouraging.”

As for the BC government’s generous contribution to their local SPCA, Devine agreed it would be nice to see something similar transpire in Quebec. “Their relationship is not all that different from what we are trying to accomplish with the Minister of Agriculture in Quebec.  We are in close contact with the political attaché for Pierre Paradis and feel we have a vital role to play in animal welfare.

Tassé has this message for Paradis: “I’d like to say to him that he has to look at establishing standards for rescues, SPCAs and human societies. Right now there is no governing body that oversees these type of organizations.

Tassé was very enthusiastic about Canada Post`s new set of stamps for responsible pet guardianship. “I applaud their effort and that of the CFHS,” she said. “I think it is just a reminder that companion pets are part of our family and they deserve some visibility.”  




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