Introduction by Martin Thomas: Some say that the character of a society is measured by how they take care of the needy and vulnerable. I think that includes pets and animals. The Kingston Humane Society originated in 1884. Its objective is to provide shelter and care for animals and to investigate cruelty to or abuse of animals in the Kingston community.
Gord Hunter, Executive Director, Kingston Humane Society (KHS).
Gord began with Big Paws, the KHS fundraiser, September 15th - October 15th, for which the media launch was September 15th, shortly after our meeting. Normally it’s at Lake Ontario Park but this year is online, with participants logging their dog-walking kilometres, aiming to reach right across Canada!
KHS is nearly 140 years old, the longest-running Humane Society in Canada. The Montreal SPCA has been going a bit longer. Generally, the SPCA has been in charge of investigation of cruelty and welfare issues. The Humane Society has helped, but not necessarily been involved in investigations. This year, a local judge decision affected charity involvement in law enforcement, so the SPCA in Ontario couldn’t continue investigations, so they stopped as of June 30 last year. The KHS stepped in and got some provincial funding for involvement in investigations for 6 months. Then the Solicitor General’s office took over in early January.
KHS is a shelter, providing municipal services for seven municipalities in the Kingston area—City of Kingston, Loyalist Township, Stone Mills, Gananoque, and Central, South, and North Frontenac. We usually hold animals for up to 5 days. If animals are not claimed, then they can be put up for adoption. KHS feeds, treats, and spays or neuters as needed before adoption.Last year KHS took in about 1800 animals, 65% cats and 35% dogs. The cat return rate is only 5% but the rate is well over 60% for dogs.Seventy percent of KHS funding comes from the community, including regular donations and estate gifts. Funds are used to treat and care for animals. A veterinarian is on staff four days per week. She does spays and neutering and treats injuries.Funding is obtained through public events such as Big Paws, Bowl for the Animals, a month-long bake sale, and an online auction. KHS lost or changed some events due to COVID-19, through which they lost about $100,000 in funding.
In response to COVID-19, from March 17 to May 6, KHS stopped adoptions. On May 6, they started contactless adoption and fostering, which got a great response. They now have a cohort system for their staff to work safely to avoid another potential shutdown. They use Zoom for placement arrangements. Luckily, they have remained COVID-free. In June, KHS re-started adoptions and taking surrendered animals. They’ve done about 250 adoptions since May 6. The community and staff have taken well to this, although the contactless adoption is more work and is more time-consuming. Cats can be done entirely on Zoom. For dogs, prospective adopters can choose them through seeing them in an off-leash area.
The annual Big Paws event in Lake Ontario Park is very exciting for the staff and participants. It draws a huge variety of dogs. All staff assist. This year it had to be done differently—a month-long Big Paws across Canada virtual event. People track their walks. The goal is to complete a virtual walk across Canada. The registration fee is $25. Walk reporting is done on a Web site.
The staff have done very well, with no infections. They have even covered duties of the usual 200 volunteers.
Greta: Is KHS involved only with pets or also wild-life in the city?
A: We are partnered with Sandy Pines for wildlife and transfer to them.
Rick: introduced Trixie-Lou, who came from KHS seven years ago. What is the hold time? With Trixie-Lou it was an extra five days. She was not claimed, so the original owners' loss was my gain!
A: Hold time is decided by municipalities. If the animal has a micro-chip, we can contact the owner. If there’s a collar, we hold it as long as possible. Strays are usually easily identified as such. We have partnerships with local lost-and-found Web sites and a woman who is a “pet detective.”
Rick: Is having a staff vet new?
A: Yes. Our veterinarian, Dr. Lorie Games, works with us 4 days a week. We don’t want to adopt out unaltered animals or have poor outcomes.
Elizabeth: What percentage of strays have been microchipped by their owners? Do you microchip animals that go out?
A: Less than 30% come with microchips, and about the same portion with tags. We encourage tag purchase. We hold micro-chip clinics, which will resume some time in the future.
John F: Has there been an increase in voluntary surrender during COVID?
A: There has been a decrease. There has been a 40% reduction of intakes across Ontario. All SPCA shelters are still closed to surrenders. Our surrenders are now scheduled, which eliminates spontaneous surrenders. Also, people are around their houses more so are less likely to have problems.
Elizabeth Cohoe: What about unclaimed strays of particular breeds? Do you work with breed-specific rescues?
A: Yes, we have partners. Example:  Great Pyrenees, a protective breed. This dog needs to go to someone who understands the challenges. We work with breed-specific or behaviour-specific rescue organizations.
John Farrow: and do you work with Sheba’s Haven?
A: Yes. Some rescue organizations are familiar with palliative care. We started our own program recently. Some families are willing to provide care.
Martin Thomas: Our son adopted a great dog from Texas. A friend adopted one from Alabama. Are dogs from the southern USA an issue?
A: We’ve helped too; for example after a hurricane, the International Humane Society goes down. We take dogs in shelters there so dogs lost in the hurricane can be admitted. During COVID, you worry about fomite carriers so we quarantine and use full personal protective equipment. (Scribe note: The American Veterinary Medical Association published this, which has a paragraph on fomite  transmission—transmission through touching contaminated surfaces: COVID-10: FAQs For Pet Owners.)
Martin: Are cats in need of therapy during COVID?
A: I’ve seen the jokes about dogs and cats! Cats don’t do as well in shelters, since we can’t let them out for walks.
Rick Fiedorec: As a recipient, I’m truly thankful. ( Rick presented a virtual loaf of bread.)