Anxious animals, vets with headlamps: a look into the dark halls of human society

Mavo the stray found himself going from distress to darkness.

The one-year-old gray tabby was found amid post-storm cleanup efforts by a resident of Carleton Place, Ont., and was brought to the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) building on Hunt Club Road on Tuesday .

She is one of 107 animals admitted to the OHS last week for emergency care, but that care is a little harder to come by these days as human society has been without power for seven straight days.

Staff vet Mary Thompson suspects Mavo has a broken tail after falling from a tree or being hit by something during last Saturday’s severe storm.

It’s been a tough week, she says, caring for Mavo and other animals without power.

“Trying to keep all the bedding clean is definitely a challenge without electricity. When it’s dark and you’re working with a headlamp, it’s harder to make sure everyone is fed and cleaned,” he said. she stated.

Little light, no ventilation

As of Saturday evening, about 16,000 Hydro Ottawa customers were still without power as bad weather after the storm hampered the power utility’s efforts to get everyone back online.

According to OHS communications manager Stephen Smith, only “animals in distress” or those in need of urgent medical attention are being cared for this week.

Another 143 animals were placed in foster care to make room for these distressed animals to be admitted, he said.

Dr Mary Thompson offers food to Mavo, a one-year-old gray tabby cat rescued after last week’s devastating storm. The intensive care unit is one of the few places in the Ottawa Humane Society where the lights are kept on using a generator. (Avanthika Anand/CBC)

Smith says some critical parts of the facility are powered by a generator, which allows them to perform certain surgeries, give animals oxygen and monitor their vital signs.

But most of the corridors are dark and the building’s ventilation is not working.

Lack of potency leads to high levels of anxiety, said animal care worker Marjorie Romance.

“Animals always sense when something isn’t the same,” she said. “They’re getting more restless. You’ll see them pacing, jumping on the cages, being louder than usual. They’re starting to get stressed and they’re stopping eating.”

The hot and humid weather also forces many to sleep through the day or be less active, she added.

New adoptions on hiatus

OHS staff have banded together to give the animals the extra love and care they need, Romance said, adding that she sings to the animals to help them stay calm.

Smith said the OHS was filling out adoptions that had been arranged before the storm hit, but new adoptions are on hold. Their educational programming has been canceled or postponed, he said.

Some surgeries are also performed from their mobile sterilization clinic, in the back of a truck, he said.

A kitten looks out from her cage at the Ottawa Humane Society, which has depended on power from a generator since a destructive storm hit on May 21, 2022. (Avanthika Anand/CBC)

The costs are piling up, with Smith noting that their backup generator is powered by fuel, which is increasingly expensive. Their property was also damaged by the storm, he said.

The organization expects the total cost of the storm to be more than $15,000 and is now appealing to the public for help with donations.

“We are always able to take in animals in distress who need our help. And we will always be there to help an animal in need,” Smith said. “But we really rely on the community to make this possible.”

“A little more would go a long way,” he added.

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