Sunday, June 24, 2012


ORA's gentle big boy loved everybody
On June 20th, 2012, at 4:40 pm, Spencer, ORA’s spokedog, succumbed to Cushing's Disease complications. He was over 12 years old.

Spencer came to us when he was still a puppy. Bought at a pet store, product of a backyard breeder, he was given up soon after by his original owners who found out that a dog was more work than they had anticipated.

Spencer immediately adjusted to his life with us. He had no issues, just an immense joy of life. As a puppy, Spencer used to run up to anybody he encountered in his long daily off-leash walks in the York Regional Forests. The forest with the ponds where he could swim in and fetch wooden sticks was Spencer’s heaven. His puppy cuteness and gentle social manners procured him great popularity amongst the forest hikers and horseback riders. Spencer, on his part, made sure that nobody ignored him. He was constantly in search of attention and affection. He would wait to be patted and complimented by passersby, and then, filled with happiness in his eyes, he would calmly return to us, visibly showing disappointment if anybody would ignore him.

Spencer grew up to be a medium large dog, but he still maintained his way to “greet” all passersby. However, as an adult dog, his rather imposing appearance occasionally scared some people and those were the only distressing moments in Spencer’s life. Spencer liked dogs, too, and he showed curiosity for horses (were they just oversized dogs?), but he was not too fond of cats, although he tolerated them.

Undoubtedly, humans were Spencer’s passion, the ones he knew as well as any strangers. This salient characteristic made him the perfect candidate to participate in all of ORA’s events: he joyfully accompanied ORA’s volunteers to fundraising events, participated in seminars and he was admired for his impeccable behaviour. Spencer was also the designated dog for ORA’s animal educational programs in schools as he loved children and he enjoyed to be hugged by them.

In his 12 years with us, Spencer saw many dozens of dogs, coming and going, of all breeds, small and large, with all kind of different temperaments. He befriended some, while he would just ignore the newcomers at other times. He was never aggressive towards any dog; he never felt that he had to affirm his leadership. He was Spencer, the “Star” behind any possible competition. He was right. Of all the dogs that passed through ORA, although some stayed with us for a long while, volunteers and supporters usually remembered only one name: Spencer. Just a week ago, a horseback rider stopped Corinne Thaw, the co-founder of ORA, and our main caregiver for ORA’s dogs, as she was walking the usual pack of dogs in the forest, and asked whatever happened to that cute puppy named Spencer. The rider had lived out of the country for a number of years, but she still remembered him. Spencer was a memorable dog.

ORA’s gentle big boy loved everybody, but recognized only one master: Corinne Thaw, who was Spencer‘s trainer and caregiver for 12 years. Corinne identified and developed his potential and Spencer dearly loved and followed her.

Although we are mourning Spencer’s death, and memories of him are all around us, we are comforted by the certainty that Spencer was a happy dog and that he had a wonderful, happy life. We just hope that wherever he is now, he can run in a forest and go up to people for a pat or a hug.

Claudia Vecchio, Founder
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals
"For the love and respect of all animals"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VICTORY: Public Pressure on Petsmart Stops Sales of Pups from Puppy Mills

Claudia Vecchio, 6/12/12
Founder of ORA

For over two years, every weekend, puppies bought from puppy mills were “adopted out” at the Mississauga Petsmart located at 5800 McLaughlin Road.

This activity started around the beginning of 2010 at the previous Petsmart location of 5950 Rodeo Drive and continued at the new site on McLaughin Road until very recently. We got inside information that Petsmart finally ended the arrangement because they “discovered” or could no longer hide the fact that all purebred puppies ranging from Shi Tzu to Maltese to Pugs and everything in between brought every weekend at the Mississauga store were not rescued, but rather deliberately bred and bought from puppy mills.

The enquiries from Petsmart customers about the origins of these purebred puppies were getting more insistent and could no longer be overlooked and ignored. The answer, week after week, that the many puppies were all rescued from puppy mills could not satisfy even the most naïve and simple minded person. Where were the mothers of these puppies? “Already adopted” or “too shy and left at home” were the usual answers.

The weekly exhibit of all those purebred puppies, bought at a volume discounted price from puppy mills, as it was then revealed, offered for “adoption” (rather we should say offered for sale, as it does not seem that anybody was ever declined and the puppies were given out unneutered) were bringing in great business to the Petsmart store. Not only were the puppies bringing in curious customers, but also the adopters ended up purchasing all needed food and supplies starting a profitable customer relationship with the store that could continue for the entire life of the adopted puppy. With such lucrative returns in sight, Petsmart managers were closing not one, but both eyes to the despicable activity going on, welcoming with open arms whatever generated the increased volume of business, no questions asked.

A few day ago, I called the store manager, in fact, I called the top manager and the second-in-command on two different days and I asked for an explanation of what went on. The unanimous official version they came up with is that the purebred puppy weekend adoption was stopped because, they say, Petsmart found out that the woman who was taking in the puppies every week did not have non-profit status. Interestingly, her non-profit status was never requested earlier, as she operated as an associate of Kool Kat, a “non-profit” rescue run by a cat breeder. Under pressure from the public, the puppy trafficking has finally been stopped, but Kool Kat, who was associated with that trafficking is still a Petsmart adoption partner, adopting out cats at several Petsmart Mississauga stores.

I asked Jay, the top store manager at the 5800 McLaughlin Road where did he think those purebred puppies were coming from week after week. He replied that they had heard allegations the puppies could have been obtained (not rescued) from puppy mills but they never enquired, Jay said, because they trusted Kool Kat that sponsored the puppy adoption.

The fact that Petsmart now hides behind futile excuses, indicates that they knew or suspected the truth all along, but for business interests conveniently refused to acknowledge it.

The lack of ethics of Petsmart towards animals has been proven on more than one occasion. They still sell small animals, and investigation on their suppliers as well as on in-store neglect towards small animals throughout the years is disconcerting. Fortunately the Mississauga Petsmart sale of puppies from puppy mills has finally come to an end, thanks to the vigilance of animal caring customers and their pressure on the management.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

URGENT, URGENT: Please give Ari a home!

Claudia Vecchio, 19/05/2012
Founder of ORA

ARI was rescued in 2005 thanks to the Neighbourhood Cat Watch Program. This program provides logistic support to people who have stray and feral cats in their neighbourhood and are willing to cooperate with ORA to help them. The cats are sterilized and vaccinated and if tamable are placed in foster homes, otherwise they are returned to where they were originally picked up and the neighbours take care of feeding and looking after the released cats.

TNR (Trap Neuter and Return) is a practice universally used to provide a better life to the strays, ensuring regular checks and feeding - and no procreating. Feral cats are happier living outdoors rather than being taken indoors and having to live in strict contact with the humans whom they fear and mistrust.

Obviously released cats are still exposed to the risk of being killed in traffic or by dogs and wildlife and sometimes they may suffer abuse from people intolerant of animals.

Ari was part of a group of stray cats TNRed in Toronto's West end in a cat-unfriendly area. A neighbourhood leader with rescue experience took charge of deciding which cat, deemed tamable, should be housed in a foster home or await adoption, and which cat, being untamable, should be released back.

Ari, an older, large black cat, was going to be released. He was vaccinated and neutered; a tip of his left ear was cut off to indicate that he had been sterilized prior to release.

But he was not in the best of shape. He had spent many years already on the streets in an hostile neighbourhood. I had never seen him, but as I became acquainted with his story, I intuitively felt that Ari should not be released back to the streets, that he deserved a quiet, protected place to live out the last part of his life.

With all the ORA’s foster homes being full as always, and having to find a place for Ari on a minute's notice, I e-mailed and called anybody I could think of and finally found a place with a rescuer in Bayfield on Lake Huron. Ari spent one full year there, but he was not happy and over time he developed acute kidney issues.

We needed to take Ari back to Toronto right away to get him proper diagnostics and treatment. Again we did not have a single space in any of our foster homes, but we had Bev Smith, one of our best foster moms ever, who was always prepared to find a way to house a cat in need. When Ari arrived at Bev's home, his prognosis was not good, and it took quite a few months for Ari to reacquire his health under Bev’s vigilant eye.

This period gave Bev and Ari a chance to bond and Bev eventually decided to adopt Ari. Although she had quite a few cats in her lifetime and she had quite a few already at home when Ari came into the picture, she considered Ari her best cat - “My Big Boy,” as she used to call him. Ari spent plenty of time in Bev‘s lap and at nights, he would follow her upstairs and lie in bed close to her. Ari finally found happiness.

Unfortunately, Bev passed away, on June 23, 2011, and for Ari, there has been no peace since. We at ORA have taken in all of Bev’s cats, but due, as always, to lack of space, Ari has ended up at a foster home in Stratford. The new fostering woman is trying to do her best, but she has large dogs and Ari is afraid of dogs (probably due to some bad encounters during his previous life on the streets). To avoid the dogs, Ari spends all of his time in an unfinished and unhealthy basement sitting at the windowsill, looking outside, probably wondering what happened to his loving mom.

Ari is an old cat, probably 13 or older. It breaks our hearts that he is spending the last part of his life in such an unhappy situation and we are also upset that we cannot provide a proper home to Bev’s favourite cat. “Ari is very undemanding," his new foster home says, but we know
he just wants a quiet home with someone to love him. If you do not have large dogs, please consider fostering or adopting Ari. He has had such a tumultuous life, please help him; Bev will smile to you from heaven.

Friday, May 11, 2012

ORA's Cats in Need Series: Tilley

Tilley: "Please sponsor me!"
"Please sponsor me and my buddy, Mungo!"
Claudia Vecchio, 5/11/12
Founder of ORA

Taking care of many special needs animals is not an easy task for a small organization like ORA. In strict compliance with the No-Kill principle, we provide all of the animals in our care with any needed medical treatment. Even though we have over 130 animals under ORA at any given time, each of them is treated like he or she was just an only pet, as every life is unique and each of them deserves to live life to the fullest. Obviously this implies high vet bills and as ORA does not receive any public funding we need the financial support of animal caring people who share our vision and our beliefs.

In the last few weeks we have been burdened by several medical emergencies and in just one week, after Mungo's sickness and long hospitalization, we have also had to deal with the inexplicable sickness of our darling Tilley. Mungo is recovering quite well, while Tilley is still struggling too, although he has considerably improved during the week-end.

Financial toll: last week, we paid over $1,500 to the vet and now we have been told that both Mungo and Tilley will again need urgent dentistry to be done within the next two to three weeks. This means another huge vet bill for both of them. Please consider donating to ORA and sponsoring Mungo or Tilley or any of the special needs cats and dogs in our care with a monthly donation. For more information, please email us or contact us at 416-726-5762 or 416-726-8895.

Let me introduce you to Tilley
Tillley is a little more than 8 years old. He was abandoned at just a few days old in a box with Mom and two siblings in front of a vet clinic in Mississauga. ORA was called and one of our volunteers promptly left work to pick up the abandoned family and house them. Tilley and siblings grew up into beautiful, healthy kittens. Tilley's young Mom and siblings were adopted out, but Tilley stayed behind, nobody ever applied to adopt him. All the same, Tilley has had, up to now, a great life under our care. He has bonded with some of the other cats his age, he is easy going and he pretty well loves everybody: cats, dogs and people. Tilley has never had any health issues until last week, when he suddenly stopped eating, became lethargic and developed a high fever. Tilley's temperature is now back to normal and he has started eating on his own. 

Tilley, the kitten nobody wanted to adopt, would be very proud to know that someone out there is sponsoring him.

Donate online with PayPal, or call 416-726-5762 or 416-726-8895 to find out how you can help special needs cats like Tilley

ORA will be running our Cats in Need series all month long this May! Although the objective of ORA is to work for the benefit of all animals, given the compelling need, ORA is heavily involved in the rescue of companion animals. The animals who, throughout the years, have not been adopted out (for reasons of age, health or behavioural issues), live in ORA's foster homes or in ORA's residential sanctuary until the ends of their natural lives. If you would like to help ORA's Cats in Need with a donation, please click here to give. If you would like to volunteer your time and talents to help ORA, please click here to learn more and to apply.

Friday, May 4, 2012

ORA's Cats in Need Series: Mungo

I've had a rough week! | Mungo and Gizmo were given up just before the holidays in 2008 by their owner, a lawyer who had them since kittenhood. He was planning a move to his mother's home with his wife and their newborn child, he said, and they could no longer keep the cats. He signed a contract with ORA to pay a boarding fee of $3.00 a day for each cat until we could have them adopted out. The lawyer delivered the cats to us in cardboard boxes loosely tied up with rope. In the 8 years he has had the cats, he could not even buy a proper carrier for them! We managed to take them to our car somehow without them escaping.

Their health was not good. We noticed right away that Mungo had crusts all over his skin. At first we thought that this was possibly due to an allergic reaction to fleas. "No," said his owner, "just dermatitis." But in fact, the two cats were fed the cheapest of dry foods, which caused and continually exacerbated Mungo's severe skin allergies. He has greatly improved on a healthier and cleaner diet since then.

Soon after his arrival, Gizmo experienced severe diarrhea and had to be put on an IV in the hospital for several days. He made it through, but he still suffers from mild bouts of it every now and then.

Mungo and Gizmo have been with ORA now for almost three and a half years. They are not adoption material. They are older, in precarious health and do not have consistently proper toilet habits (to this day, Gizmo occasionally likes to defecate in front of the litterbox).

The lawyer stopped paying their meager boarding fees after only four months.

Last Tuesday, we noticed that Mungo was unusually quiet in a basket and that he was not going to his food. We took his temperature: 40.4, and nursed him with loving care overnight. The following morning, however, Mungo's temperature went up to 41.2, so we immediately arranged for his hospitalization. Mungo was put on an IV and a series of antibiotics until last Sunday when he was released. Total tab on Sunday: $1,500.

Can you help my big bro, Mungo?
Today, he finally began eating on his own. He moves around actively again and constantly asks for attention - sure signs of a healthier cat! We hope that everything will continue well for Mungo.

At ORA, we spend an average of $2,000 to $2,500 a month in vet bills, but lately we have had several surplus vet emergencies on top of the usual - and this latest one with Mungo has proved too much for us to handle.

Gizmo, in particular, has been very worried about his big brother Mungo, and would be very appreciative of any contribution you would like to give towards Mungo's vet bill, if you can help.

Donate online with PayPal (works best for Internet Explorer users), or call 416-726-5762 or 416-726-8895 to find out how you can help cats like Mungo and Gizmo.

ORA will be running our Cats in Need series all month long this May! Although the objective of ORA is to work for the benefit of all animals, given the compelling need, ORA is heavily involved in the rescue of companion animals. The animals who, throughout the years, have not been adopted out (for reasons of age, health or behavioural issues), live in ORA's foster homes or in ORA's residential sanctuary until the ends of their natural lives. If you would like to help ORA's Cats in Need with a donation, please click here to give. If you would like to volunteer your time and talents to help ORA, please click here to learn more and to apply.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

ORA Honours Treena and Britain Day on April 29th

Claudia Vecchio, 4/29/12
Project Accountability NOW: Stop the Killings at the HAC!
Founder of ORA

On Friday, April 29th, 2011, Treena and Britain were killed at the Hamilton Animal Control (HAC).

Tuesdays and Fridays are killing days at the HAC. Every Tuesday and Friday morning before the pound opens, cats marked for killing are administered horse sedatives and then put down at an average rate of over 20 at a time. Treena and Britain were two of the 2,231 cats killed by the Hamilton Animal Control in 2011.What makes the case of Treena and Britain different?

We do not even have a picture of Treena or Britain. We do not know their story. Were they someone’s beloved pet who was allowed to roam outside and for that reason were they picked up by the pounds staff as no free roaming cats is allowed in the city of Hamilton? Were they surrendered by their owners who thought the pound would have adopted them out? Were they missed by their caregivers who probably just thought they had strayed away and gotten lost, then never thought to contact the pound or never had the time to visit the pound during their short opening hours?

The reality for cats entering Hamilton's Animal Control facility is that there are no second chances. The Hamilton Animal Control is not open for public adoptions and the only possibility for an animal to escape from death is either to be saved by a “recognized rescue” (that means a rescue who does not question the actions of the HAC) or for a few purebreds or especially attractive ones to be handpicked by the Hamilton Burlington SPCA that occupy the front of the building. Interestingly, against all evidence to the otherwise, the Hamilton Burlington SPCA proclaims to be No Kill, while its chair is the vet who, twice a week, does the killing himself at the back of the building at the HAC.

Last year on April 28th, local rescue groups collaborated as usual to save all of the cats marked urgent so we expected that the killing would have been cancelled April 29th. For reasons unbeknownst to us, (and note that what happens at the HAC stays at the HAC, absolute secrecy, even though the staff are just civil servants paid with taxpayers’ money and therefore accountable for their actions), one staff member independently decided, after the pound had closed, to mark Treena and Britain for death. Before the pound opened on April 29th and without, therefore, the possibility for any rescue to know in time to save them, Treena and Britain were killed by the vet (that is, the chair of the Hamilton Burlington SPCA).

Similar episodes, we were told by trusted sources, have happened before, but this is the first time that we at ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals were made aware. We found the whole situation absolutely heartbreaking and disgusting - and we decided to take action.

ORA started two online petitions on Causes and Care2. We called on fellow animal advocates for help and together, we organized rallies to speak up against the murderous modus operandi of the HAC. Treena and Britain’s death and what followed made us realize that while we at ORA have rescued hundreds of animals since our founding in 2002, we must also consider the bigger picture: the thousands of animals we cannot save directly, those unfortunate beings whose lives often end so violently in shelters and pounds. We have to ensure that they, too, can be saved. With vision in mind, ORA invited Bill Bruce to Toronto on September 30th, 2011, and more recently, Nathan Winograd on April 14th, to share their expert knowledge and first-hand experience helping to save the lives of shelter animals.

Animal advocates and animal caring people who attended these seminars have arrived at the realization that NO-KILL is neither an illusion or a dream; it is something that can easily be put into practice. It has been done in so many places where more and more pounds and shelters are embracing NO KILL. No Kill advocates in Toronto and Southern Ontario are now organizing and actively working towards the triumph of the No Kill revolution. There is no going back.

So while we commemorate Treena and Britain’s murder this year in the name of the many thousands of companion animals senselessly, pitilessly and unnecessarily killed every year in pounds in Toronto and in the Greater Toronto Area, we remain optimistic about the future. Treena and Britain are like the “unknown soldiers” who died in our ongoing fight to stop the killing.

Treena and Britain, we deplore the violence that has been committed against you! You will always have a special place in our hearts and we will think of you every time we encounter an obstacle or experience a temporary setback in our mission. You will be our inspiration to remain steadfast, and to see our No Kill efforts through to the very end. All shelter animals have the right to live. No More Killing!

Read more about the cause inspired by Treena and Britain at the HAC-STK Blog by ORA Volunteers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recap of ORA's Nathan Winograd Event!

April 14, 2012, is a date that will be remembered by the animal advocates who attended ORA's Nathan Winograd lecture and workshop in Toronto. This important event for animals signaled the beginning of something wonderful: a coordinated action towards the implementation of No Kill policies in all pounds and shelters in Southern Ontario.

Claudia Vecchio and Nathan Winograd in Toronto
Claudia Vecchio and Nathan Winograd
How could a lecture be so significant? It is one thing to read Winograd’s books in the isolation of our own home. To collectively listen to the leader of the No Kill Movement talking about the many US communities that, with the determination of one person, or with the work of a few people, rose from a very bleak past in animal welfare to became model No Kill communities - is an entirely different matter! What began in the afternoon as a message of hope and perhaps a leap of faith progressed throughout the day to the strong persuasion that it can be done, that Toronto and Southern Ontario can become NO KILL in a short period of time.

The attendees defined the lecture as inspiring, energizing, amazing. Clearly there was such a positive energy in that room! And there were some emotional moments as well when Winograd showed us a long sequence of photos of animals, deaf, blind or with missing limbs, victims of accidents or of human abuse: all adopted! These are animals that in any pound or large shelter will be killed without hesitation, but with the proper community involvement they can all be saved. We know now that this can be done and we are determined together to make it happen.

Animals have the right to live. Cats, dogs, rabbits and other companion animals who end up in pounds and shelters through no fault of their own have the right to live, and people of this age are ready, not only to recognize this right, but also to concretely respect it. We will never talk again about pet overpopulation because it has been proven to us that there is no such problem. Cats, dogs, rabbits and other companion animals are killed by the thousands simply because of the complacency, laziness, ignorance, lack of compassion and lack of leadership of the pound managers. Therefore the problem is easily solvable. We need pound managers who are willing to succeed, willing to be “innovative,” willing to implement the 11 proven principles of the No Kill Equation; we need pounds managers who take their work seriously and who are capable to motivate staff and use their leadership to bring about change. Most importantly, we need pound managers who truly care for the animals. There are pounds mangers who are willing to change, have compassion for the animals, but just miss the knowledge. We can help them. But the ones who consider their position just a job must be replaced. Compassion for animals must be a prerequisite for being hired as a pound director.

What can we do to make this happen? Let us follow all of the precious information provided by Nathan Winograd in his books and review all of the material that can be found on the website of the No Kill Advocacy Center.

We need to do our own research to show the media and demonstrate to the politicians that No Kill is easily implementable and that, in fact, No Kill is not only ethically correct, it also has huge, positive financial effects on the community. Any animal saved from death and adopted out becomes a consumer for the fifteen years of his or her average life span, producing rippling positive financial effects on employment and tax revenues.

As Nathan Winograd said, "a community cannot afford NOT to be No Kill."

Claudia Vecchio
Volunteer Chairperson

ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals
"For the love and respect of all animals."
Tel: 416-726-5762 Email:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

ORA in Corriere Canadese

Special thanks to Corriere Canadese's Simona Giacobbi for putting a spotlight on
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals!

Articolo pubblicato il: 2012-04-20

La fondatrice Claudia Vecchio:

Full story in Italian here.
English version to be published next week in Tandem.

Are you a Friend of ORA? "Like" ORA on Facebook or Join ORA on Twitter today! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tonight at 7PM: ORA on CP24's Animal Housecalls

Must Watch TV!: ORA's Board Member, the lovely Corinne Thaw, will on CP24's Animal Housecalls to speak with Ann Rohmer tonight, Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 at 7:00 P.M., about our upcoming Nathan Winograd event in Toronto, and to introduce Annalia and Cricket, two wonderful rescue dogs looking for forever homes. You can also catch the show online later at

ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals

ORA on Facebook | ORA on Twitter

Monday, April 9, 2012

ORA Letter from the Founder

Dear Supporters,

Toronto's Most Important Animal Welfare Event of the year is just a few days away!

On April 14th, Nathan Winograd will be in Toronto, host of ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals. This is not “just another event.” It is a unique opportunity to change the fate of many thousands of cats and dogs who are killed every year in pounds in Toronto and throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Nathan Winograd has transformed high kill pounds in American metropolitan areas as well as in remote rural area and by implementing a series of sensible measures, he has reduced the rate of euthanasia to less than 10%.

In Toronto and in Southern Ontario, pounds kill every year up to 75% of the animals they receive. This killing is unnecessary, expensive to taxpayers and morally unacceptable. If you care for the animals, please make sure to attend this event. It is a unique opportunity to help stop the killing.

Nathan Winograd is a much sought after speaker on animal welfare issues in the US and an award winning writer. He is in Toronto for the first time. This is not just a lecture it is a course of action to follow for ”Building a No-Kill Community.”

To reserve your ticket, call ORA now at 416 726 8895 or 416 726 5762.
For more information please visit or

Looking forward to see you on April 14.

Cats and dogs have the right to live: let’s stop the killing. Come to find out how on April 14!

Claudia Vecchio
Volunteer Chairperson
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals
Tel: 416 726 5762

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Greetings from ORA | Enjoy the rest of the weekend, everyone. ORA Volunteers wish each other, and all of you out there, a very Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Counting Down to April 14th with ORA and Nathan!

April 4, 2012 -- In ten days' time, Nathan Winograd will be in Toronto for one day only to present his exciting and inspirational "Building a No-Kill Community" seminar and leadership workshop at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre's South Hall (222 Bremner Boulevard) in Room 714.

Only a few tickets remain at this time, and NO tickets will be sold at the door - so don't delay - be sure to contact ORA at 416-726-8895 or to get your names on the guest list ASAP or buy your tickets online soon at

ORA's 10 DAY COUNTDOWN begins today! Count down with us here on Blogger, on Facebook or on Twitter over the next ten days.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

ORA Responds

Lately, some people, including several pound managers and staff in particular, have been angered by our use of the word "kill," referring to the putting down and killing of animals in pounds. A few sources have threatened us with a boycott of the Nathan Winograd event. Even "supporters" have asked us to remove the word "kill" from our Winograd event posters, even though the title of Nathan's lecture is "Building a No-Kill Community."

The first consideration that comes to mind is this: if they are offended by the word, then they must feel that "killing" is wrong. So why not try to change things and stop the killing rather than hide behind euphemisms? Changing the word does not change the reality; one needs to recognize the problem in order to find the will to change. To this end, we have found Nathan Winogard's following passage in "Irreconcilable Differences" aptly interesting as we continue to encounter the same blindnesses here in Toronto and in many parts of Southern Ontario.

"There is a great hypocrisy in the humane movement. While shelters decry the public's irresponsibility, shelters reject responsibility for the animals in their care. And while they tell the public not to treat the animals as disposable, they treat animals exactly that way by killing them-and literally disposing of their bodies in landfills. In fact, they will even deny that they are killing. The Humane Society of the U.S. held a workshop on "euthanasia" at their national sheltering conference in March of 2006. According to the speaker,

"We're not; we're not killing them... in that "kill" is such a negative connotation. It's... we're not killing them. We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death, we're humanely destr- whatever. But we're not killing. And that is why I cannot stand the term "No Kill" shelters."

Animal shelter professionals from coast-to-coast applauded in agreement, but more disturbing is the nation's "euthanasia" expert professing an Orwellian logic: killing is not killing, killing is kindness. And when you deny all responsibility, the impetus to change your own behavior disappears."

Nathan Winograd will be in Toronto on April 14th. Do not miss this opportunity to be truly inspired. Learn how to build a no kill community, put lives first and help save our shelter animals. Register for the one day only event now by calling 416-726-8895 or by visiting ORA at

Monday, March 26, 2012

ORA in the News: Clarifying Our Position

Claudia Vecchio, 3/26/12
Founder of ORA

It is disconcerting and reprehensible that certain members of the mainstream media are more concerned with sensationalism and divulging their personal opinions than with ensuring the veracity of their message and objectively informing the public.

On Thursday, March 22, 2012, I received a call from an ORA member informing me that Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun had published an article about ORA. At first, I was pleased, thinking that the article publicized our upcoming Nathan Winograd event. “No,” corrected the caller, “the article is about ORA and the Toronto Humane Society.” Reading the article, I became very upset. How could Peter Worthington have the audacity to attribute to ORA statements we have never made? I immediately called Peter Worthington to ask for an explanation. In the article, Peter Worthington writes that ORA considers the THS a kill shelter. Worthington, while recognizing that we never made such a statement and that in fact we never mentioned the THS at all, alleged that according to the no kill principle we advocate, the THS is a kill shelter because they put down more than 10% of the animals they receive. This is quite a stretch and I will not hesitate to call it for what it is: pure and simple journalistic dishonesty.

I found out later on that Worthington was previously a board member of the former Toronto Humane Society and that he has a grudge toward the new administration. The article about The Nathan Winograd event was used for a personal attack against the THS fraudulently representing ORA as the source of the attack.

ORA would never have made any representation about the THS. We know that they are in the process of establishing a spay and neuter facility that will open in the summer of 2012, which is obviously a laudable initiative. We were pleased to see the executives and board members attend ORA’s Bill Bruce event on September 30, 2011. The fact that they are registered to attend ORA’s Nathan Winograd lecture and workshop coming up on April 14, 2012, clearly indicates their willingness to keep up-to-date on progressive programs for shelter animals.

Our grievance with some representatives of the media was exacerbated the following day. In the early afternoon of Friday, March 23, we received a phone call from a CFRB radio producer asking if we were available for an interview in approximately 20 minutes. I was working on an offer for one my listings (real estate is my full time occupation of 24 years), so I did not have a radio close by to check which CFRB program was being aired at that time. When they called us back just before the interview’s scheduled time, they told us that the discussion would be about the Peter Worthington article and our position on the THS. I explained the issues and misrepresentations in the article and at that point, they told us that the radio interview was no longer needed. Obviously they were in search of sensationalism, not the truth. They only wanted to hear from us when they thought we were the origin of the attack against the THS. I thought this was unacceptable and called in to the radio station to make our statement on the air, but I was told that they could not fit me in because they were wrapping up the segment. After requesting and listening to a recording of the segment, I realized that the show’s host, Jim Richards, although he was challenging the THS caller on the no kill compliance, failed to mention the Nathan Winograd event that was the starting point for Peter Worthington’s article.

So much for informing the public and researching the truth! The Nathan Winograd event that should have been the focus of the media attention instead became a pretext for publicizing personal disputes.

In reality the Nathan Winograd event represents an amazing opportunity for all of the stakeholders: shelters and pounds directors and staff, rescues, animal advocates, politicians and the animal caring community, to learn and work together towards implementing life saving programs for shelter animals.

For more information, please visit ORA's Upcoming Events.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Paddy's Day update at ORA:
working hard till we see the aurora!
Caring for felines,
small creatures and canines,
No rest for dedicated signoras!

Cheers, ORA Volunteers!

Less than one month away to Nathan Winograd in Toronto, so act fast and get your tickets ASAP before they're all gone: 416-726-5762 / 416-726-8895.

ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Loving Memory of Oksana

Claudia Vecchio, 2/10/12
Founder of ORA

This evening, February 10, 2012, at 9:50 pm, our dear Oksana passed away. Heartbroken as I am, I must nevertheless continue caring for the many cats here at the sanctuary (my residence, that has been transformed into an animal sanctuary for the un-adoptables). We do not have the luxury to stop working to grieve over Oksana’s passing, so I thought that the best homage to our Oksana while helping to placate our pain was to commemorate her on this page.

Oksana was truly a special cat. Naturally all cats are wonderful and special, but Oksana was special in a different way. When she came to us, Oksana was the type of cat that pounds do not hesitate for a moment to kill: a black (therefore less likely adoptable), adult, unspayed cat with behavioural problems.

Oksana was found in the middle of the winter of 2002 in front of a portable used as the headquarters of Wild Care, a wildlife rehabilitation center that unfortunately has since closed its doors for lack of funds. Oksana had been abandoned in a red carrier with an open can of tuna. Corinne, one of ORA's co-founders, used to religiously volunteer for Wild Care every Sunday for an intense four-hour shift of cleaning and feeding wild animals. That particular Sunday, as soon as Corinne appeared at the door of the portable to get her assignments for the day, she was handed the red carrier with Oksana in it.

ORA had not yet been founded at the time, and Corinne was naturally considered the most appropriate candidate to care for Oksana. It soon appeared that Oksana had suffered from major trauma and/or abuse. She was terrified of human hands. We could not even place food in front of her without being fiercely attacked. But we did not consider even for a second to “euthanize” Oksana. We just felt terribly sorry for her, wondering what ordeal she might have endured to be so terrified of human hands. We learned to feed her wearing skiing gloves. After months of care and loving words, Oksana came to understand that she could start trusting us. Oksana started feeling more comfortable in our house although adopting her out was not an option as she would still react with aggression to sudden movements of our hand. Oksana also learned to accept the many felines coming and going. She did not establish friendship with any of them and regarded them as competitors for our attention, but she learned to tolerate them.

Then in 2008 Oksana was diagnosed with breast cancer. A biopsy identified the cancer as being of a particular aggressive type, but we persuaded the reluctant vet to perform a mastectomy. The vet cautioned us that the cancer could return. It did in fact return two years after the surgery and since then it has continually grown larger. However with holistic remedies, large administration of vitamins and supplements and local application of ointments, Oksana was able to keep the cancer at bay for another two years, living, against any forecast, well for four years even after cancer diagnosis and surgery. It is astonishing that the same Oksana who did not even allow us to place food in front of her when first she arrived here, swallowed then, every day, for four years, without even a bit of resistance, all of the pills that I administered to her. She allowed me to place her upside down on my lap to spread the different holistic unguents on her tumors. This procedure was always followed by a brief session of pats and kisses and I will never forget the grateful look in Oksana’s eyes. It is like she understood that I was trying to do my very best to help her to live. And Oksana fought with me to defeat her cancer, but we both failed, although our tacit collaboration prolonged Oxsana’s life for four more years.

At midday today, Oxsana ate half a can of A/D (highly caloric prescription diet food) and this afternoon she ate a bit more food and some treats and as usual she accepted the administration of vitamins and supplements. At 9:30 pm, I saw her sitting on my bed. I gave her a big kiss, then I went downstairs to replenish some cat dishes with new food. When I arrived upstairs, a few minutes later, Oksana was laying down, breathing heavily. I took her in my arms to help her feel more comfortable for a while, but then she suddenly passed away. Our Oksana is no longer with us.

Animals always teach us something if we are perceptive to learn. Oksana’s death, happening now while we are organizing the Nathan Winograd event, while we are trying to raise awareness amongst the general public about the horrors of thousands of animals being killed in pounds every year in the GTA is like a validation of our assertions: Oksana had ten great years with us because we did not give in to clichés. She was entitled to her life and we respected her right to live. Nobody has the right to terminate a life under any excuse whatsoever. So called “vicious cats” are made that way by humans and with human love they can become the most docile and lovable animals.

We will miss you tremendously, dear Oksana. We are glad and honoured that you came into our lives and that we had the privilege to care for you. You have taught us so much. I will miss the loving look of gratitude in your eyes when I was caring for you. Have a good time on the other side of Rainbow Bridge and befriend some kitties there until we can be reunited again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

ORA historic event: Nathan Winograd "Building a No-Kill Community"

Nathan Winograd, the spokesperson for the No-Kill Movement in the United States, has been invited by ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals to lecture in Toronto on April 14. ORA has rescued hundreds of animals in the 10 years we have been in operation, but every year thousands of cats and dogs are killed in Toronto pounds for no reason other than the unwillingness of pound directors and staff to implement life saving alternatives.

In Toronto pounds, the rate of animal killing is horrifically high. In 2010, Toronto Animal Services has killed over 58% of the cats they have received: 5,446 cats have been outrageously killed by Toronto Animal Services in 2010 alone (official data). Other pounds in the Greater Toronto Area kill an even higher rate of companion animals.

Pound directors and staff often invoke "lack of funds" as an excuse for the killing. In reality it is not money that is needed, but good will. They miss the compassion needed to implement alternative measure to killing, such as Trap Neuter and Return for feral cats; aggressive adoption on and off site; working with rescues and the community; promoting volunteerism; implementing low cost spay and neuter programs.

Nathan Winograd has proven that killing animals is unnecessary. He has transformed high-kills pounds in San Francisco, New York and even in rural parts of the States overnight into no-kill shelters.

That is why we have invited Nathan Winograd to Toronto. ORA cannot save the thousands of cats that end in city pounds as we operate without staff, we do not even have a building and no public funding. We operate on a shoe string budget. Any cat in our care cost us $1.40 a day against the preposterous $20 to $30 cost of keeping a cat in a city pounds (that is before killing them)!!! We are sickened by this continued slaughter of cats and dogs and we want to see it come to an end.

Directors of city pounds and Toronto city councillors will attend the Nathan Winograd event and we hope that it will contribute towards changing the fate of the many thousands of poor defenseless animals whose lives are violently ended for no reason, year after year. Nobody should be allowed to do that. We cannot allow it to continue.

Let's Stop the Killing. Join the No-Kill Revolution, and attend the Nathan Winograd event. We have the power to make things change by putting pressure on the decision makers, politicians and administrators. They are paid with taxpayer money, they are accountable to us. We must be informed in order to keep up the pressure to implement alternative solutions to the killing.

This is a very enlightening event. Nathan Winograd, a former criminal prosecutor and attorney, is a very knowledgeable and very sought after speaker lecturing all over the United States. We are very proud to have him in Toronto on April 14!

Nathan Winograd in Toronto for the first time.
"Building a No-Kill Community"

Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Hall, Room 714
Address: 222 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto ON M5V 2W6 Canada
Time: 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Registration starts at 2:15 pm

Book signing event will follow: Nathan's award winning books "Redemption" and "Irreconcilable Differences" will be for sale and he will autograph them at the event.
Redemption has become the Bible of the No-Kill Movement,

A leadership workshop will take place in the evening from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
Tickets are $35.00 for the seminar only, or $50.00 to attend both the seminar and the leadership workshop. Advance sale only. Limited seating. Call 416 726 5762 or 416 726 8895 to purchase your ticket(s) or buy online through Paypal at,
Many thanks on behalf of our feline and canine friends whose lives we are working to save,

Claudia Vecchio
Volunteer Chairperson
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals
Tel: 416 726 5762

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Special Thanks from ORA and Jackson to Moore Park Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Lindsay Paterson of Moore Park Veterinary Clinic in Rosedale recently performed a pro-bono dentistry on ORA’s Jackson, a sweet nine-year-old kitty. Jackson needed teeth cleaning to remove tartar accumulation and prevent periodontal disease.

Dental work is needed more than once in the life of a cat or dog and is very important as it helps to prevent bacterial infections that can lead to liver, kidney and even heart disease. ORA is sheltering a number of special needs and older animals and therefore, we have several animals needing dental procedures every year.

We really appreciate Dr. Paterson’s help to our organization and we hope that more vets will join in performing pro-bono dentistry on rescued cats. Dentistry is an expensive procedure that can range from several hundred dollars to $1,500-$2,000 or more if dental extractions are required. Any vet who performs just one free dental procedure a year helps us tremendously in our efforts to preserve the good health of the animals under our care, so ask your vet if he/she is doing any community work and let us know if he/she is prepared to help rescued animals in need by donating one hour of their time and expertise.

Jackson’s Story: Jackson was rescued from the notorious Hamilton Animal Control (HAC) by ORA volunteers in 2003. The HAC was then, and sadly still is, a high–kill shelter (see ORA's Volunteer Blog for the HAC-STK Jackson, just two days old, was rescued along with his Mom and two siblings. Just born, they were marked to be killed. Jackson, his mom, Dodi, and siblings grew into wonderful, healthy cats under the care of ORA’s foster Mom and they all found great adoptive homes. Unfortunately, two years ago, Jackson’s adopter suddenly became very sick and returned Jackson to ORA. Jackson has not found a new adopter, but he has adjusted very well in our “sanctuary”: he is a sweet cat who gets along great with everybody, be they cats, residents or volunteers.

To sponsor Jackson with a monthly donation, please call 416-726-5762, 416-726-8895 or e-mail

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Join the No-Kill Revolution: Nathan Winograd in Toronto, April 14, 2012! Event proudly hosted by ORA.

In our vision of a Toronto Model inspired by care, compassion and respect for animals, we have invited the North American champion of the No Kill Movement to Toronto.

At ORA, we do not have the power alone to change what is happening in pounds and shelters in Ontario, but we hope that this event, along with the recent Bill Bruce’s event, will demonstrate to the public and to the people vested with decision making power that killing companion animals is morally unacceptable, costly and unnecessary. Animals have the right to live! No more killing!

About Nathan Winograd:
Nathan J. Winograd is the director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and a former criminal prosecutor and attorney who has held a variety of leadership positions including director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA and executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA, two of the most successful shelters in the nation. He has spoken nationally and internationally on animal sheltering issues, has written animal protection legislation at the state and national level, has created successful No Kill programs in both urban and rural communities, and has consulted with a wide range of animal protection groups including some of the largest and best known in the nation. Nathan is the author of three books, Redemption, Irreconcilable Differences, and All American Vegan (co-written with his wife, Jennifer). Redemption won five national book awards and redefined the animal protection movement in the United States.

"Bow WOW! This extraordinary pet-loving former attorney is out to make the world safe for homeless animals—one region at a time.” – Best of the Best, Metropolitan Home

“Millions of healthy animals are [killed] in shelters every year. Nathan Winograd wants that reduced to zero… Winograd is helping to save thousands, even millions.” –Reader’s Digest

“ ‘In 2003, the Tompkins County SPCA saved 100% of all healthy, friendly dogs and cats, 100% of treatable sick and injured animals, and 100% of feral cats. Overall, 93% of dogs and cats were saved’…. This amazing result was accomplished by an “open-door” agency that also contracts to perform animal control. Credit for saving so many cat and dog lives rests squarely on the shoulders of Nathan Winograd.” – The No Kill Nation

“The world owes much to those rare individuals who see things differently – and who then devote themselves to vindicating their maverick conclusions.” – The Bark

Nathan Winograd's will autograph his acclaimed books “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America“ and “Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart and Soul of America’s Animal Shelters,“ on sale at the event.

Nathan Winograd in Toronto for the first time,
"Building a No-Kill Community" on April 14, 2012.

Time: 4:00pm to 7:30pm. Registration begins at 3:15pm.

Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Hall, Room 714, on 222 Bremner Boulevard.

This is a fate changing event for the animals! A must attend for animal advocates, animal rescues and all animal caring people!

To inquire about exciting sponsorship opportunities, please contact ORA at 416-726-8895 or email

Tickets are $35.00. Advance sale only. Limited seating. Register for this exceptional event and buy your tickets NOW by clicking on the "Buy Tickets Online Now!" button below. Consider adding a donation to help with the costs of the event and/or to help ORA to care for neglected, abused or abandoned animals.

Thank you! We look forward to seeing you at this outstanding event on April 14th!

ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals