Saturday, October 5, 2013


Abandoned in an empty apartment without food and water, Bibi has found a new Mom who is taking her across continents.

Anybody affirming that all human beings are equal or similar is delusional. This may be true on the physical level as we all belong to the same animal species, the so called “homo sapiens”, but certainly we are not all equal  on the spiritual and moral level. While some humans are callous, insensitive and capable of the most abominable acts of cruelty, others are caring, altruistic and compassionate.  If Bibi could talk, she would definitely agree with my statement as in her life she has experienced both the cruelty of some humans and the caring compassion and love of others.

On a January evening in 2009, we got one of the many daily “cat calls”, that is one of the many calls asking us to take in some strays or some cats someone wants to give up. The caller was frantically asking us to take under our care an apparently young, but very overweight, all white cat that had been left behind in an empty apartment by some tenants moving out.  The caller did not have any idea on how long the poor  cat had been there without food and water. The tenants had apparently moved out days before and the superintendent had found the cat that evening  when entering the apartment to prepare it  for the following  day  scheduled showing  to new prospective tenants. The cat was found curled up inside an open closet and she was barely moving. 

It is heart wrenching to think about the anguish, terror, hunger, thirst and desperation that the poor cat must have experienced. She was curled up, like embracing herself, waiting to die, we were told. We had to take that cat under our care, there was no doubt about that, but where to put her?

The cat had to be seen by a vet, but it was after hours and since she had eaten the food offered to her, it is was clearly not an emergency.  Cats in liver failure refuse to eat any food. That was a good news. The caller agreed to take the cat in her house and to keep her in a quiet room, but only for a few days.

The following day, after having been seen by a vet and undergoing some diagnostics  that revealed  just slightly higher than normal liver values, the cat was transferred to the  most reliable foster home we had at that time: to Beverley Smith’s. Bev accommodated the cat, now called Bibi, in a heated second floor porch where she could enjoy a great view of Bev’s  large and tranquil treed front yard. Bibi settled in very comfortably in Bev’s  home, she became a very affectionate and playful cat. Unfortunately , she never grew accustomed to share her space with other cats and  she had to be kept separate from them at all times.  Bev tried to spend  as much time as possible in Bibi’s room  and she often commented how sad she felt to have to leave Bibi alone. Bibi would run to Bev for affection as soon as Bev entered her room and used to sit on the other side of the door waiting for Bev’s next visit.
ORA’s volunteers took Bibi to several adoption events, but nobody was interested in her and, on her part, Bibi never showed any interest for any prospective adopter. She was happy where she was and Bev would have kept her indeterminately.   Unfortunately in June 2011, Bev suddenly died.  For the first week after Bev’s death, I boarded Bibi at the vet as I could not think of any foster home where Bibi could have a room for herself. Then I remembered having recently received an interesting fostering application from a young woman, living in Mississauga, who had been extensively involved in cat rescue in her native Brazil. She was now living in a condo with her husband, completely pet-free. That seemed as the ideal situation. Bibi would have had the run of the entire condo on her own with no other cats or dogs in sight. Fernanda, the fostering applicant, accepted without hesitation to foster Bibi and her knowledge of cats has proven very valuable in controlling Bibi’s weght.

Bibi has become  Fernanda’s  baby. She is extremely bonded to her new Mom and so happy to be Fernanda’s  only cat, or at least Fernanda’s only Canadian cat.  As life is always full of twists and turns for some people, so is for some cats. For Bibi there are more changes on sight. Fernanda is returning to live in Brazil and of course she is bringing  Bibi with her.
Tomorrow, Sunday, October 6th is a big day for Bibi. She will board the plane who will take her on a ten hours flight to Brazil.  Fernanda has taken all possible measures  to make the flight easy on Bibi. Bibi’s special carrier was bought much in advance and Bibi has grown accustomed to refuge in it like in her little den. Also Bibi will not travel in the cargo section, but on the cabin, close to her Mom.
Back in Brazil, Fernanda will take over again her volunteer rescue work, that has been continued in the meantime  by Fernanda’s mother and by her associates. There is an endless number of cats and dogs who need help there, but she is planning to live with one only cat, her all snow white Canadian Bibi.

We at ORA wish a wonderful trip and a wonderful life in Brazil to Fernanda and to our Bibi.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Time fades memories, but the teachings and lessons we receive from people we love and esteem remain undeletable in our minds and influence our actions for life on a conscious or on an unconscious level.

My father was born on August 18, 1913.  Today is the centenary of his birth. I remember him as an extraordinarily intelligent man, who although had a “scientific mind”, as it is to be expected from an engineer, also had a variety of eclectic interests such as theatre and politics and  he was not afraid to show his emotions. I remember my father often shedding tears during moving film scenes, which never failed to rise benevolently humorous comments from my mother and from me.
What I admired mostly in my father was that he never made any statement on any subject unless he was knowledgeable on that matter and his statements always allowed space for debate.  Otherwise he would limit himself to listen with interest and humility. He often reminded me the Socrates’ quote “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know”
Born and raised in Piedmont (North Western region of Italy, bordering with France), which is the main wine producing region in Italy, my father naturally grew up as a food and wine connoisseur.  Enjoying  good food  remained a pillar of his life. I still miss our dinners at home that used to last never less than one and an half hour. Food was enjoyed together with good conversation: nourishment of  the body and of the mind.
Although intransigent towards my mistakes, my father was very forgiving of other people’s flaws, dismissing them with a “Nobody is perfect” reminder.  He had a generous heart and he despised people “who have the heart on their left and keep their wallets on their right”, that is they care so much for money that they do not share it even with the ones who say to love nor they give to the causes they say to care for.
My father had a strong sense of fairness and justice and he taught me to stand up against all injustices. If for example, I felt that I had suffered an injustice in school, he pushed me to confront the teacher and if I felt that justice was still not redressed, I was encouraged to bring the matter to the school principal. He would not do it for me and he did not accept any complaints on my part unless I went through all the avenues in my power to rectify any injustice. He, however, warned me that when you fight for fairness and justice, you must be prepared to suffer consequences:  the vindictiveness and retaliation of which human beings are capable. He and his father (my grandfather) had experienced it in first person as result of their opposition to war, violence and dictatorship during the Italian Fascist era.  
Standing up and speaking for what I feel is just, has became a second nature for me and that has  cost me some inevitable consequences, but no matter how detrimental the consequences have been, I never had any regrets for acting as I thought was fair and just.  
Another important lesson I learned from my father was the strong sense of commitment. He never tolerated any ”I cannot do it”  excuse. If you want to do anything, you will commit your energies and intelligence to it and you will succeed. That was his strong belief and it has  become mine. Being an only child, for my father’s election, I grew up getting close supervision and constant inculcation of examples. My father used to bring to my attention and show admiration for career women (even though there were not many while I was growing up), pointing them out to me as examples to emulate. Given the teaching I received at home, I never felt that there was any door closed to me just because of my sex. Unfortunately I was unpleasantly surprised when I confronted “the real world”: my father thinking was light years ahead of time!
When my father died, I was working at the Press and Information Department of the European Union in Bruxelles and my father was proud of me and looking forward to more future brilliant achievements.
Life proceeded a bit erratic for me after my father’s passing as I had difficulties dealing with my father’s death, especially since it was the first death I had to deal with in my life. Fortunately, a cat came to my rescue. One day, while I was working in my office at the Commission  of the European Union, I received a call  from a friend working at the Quebec Delegation in Buxelles. She knew how much I loved cats, although I never had any and that morning she had temporarily stopped her neighbour from taking to the pound a young cat. She had only a few hours left to find a home for her. She pleaded with me. I had no idea how I could care for a cat since I was often travelling, but I could not let that cat die so I accepted to take her. I naively thought that unwanted cats have something wrong and they are sick or not pretty and I was prepared anyway to deal with whatever problem.  I was so surprised when  I was delivered the cat that evening, to see coming out from  the carrier an absolutely adorable,  gorgeous  three to four month old kitten, white and grey, with the most bright, perky eyes. I called her Tiffy and all my life immediately became centered around her. Little I knew that Tiffy was going to be the first of many hundreds of cats coming my way.  Tiffy helped me tremendously to recover from my father’s death.
Two years after my father’s death, I ended up in Canada, with my darling Tiffy obviously. I would have never left her out of sight. Even on my way to Toronto, Tiffy stayed on the sit next to mine in the plane cabin.
I sometimes wonder how my father would have felt about my life’s detour:  living in Canada, working in real estate, founding ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals, rescuing cats and dogs and advocating the fair and just treatment of animals.  Perhaps he would have not been too surprised. After all, he knew that I had always been a bit too “original” and adventurous, to say the least.
My father respected animals, but he donated to orphanages. He felt a lot of compassion for homeless and abandoned children. My compassion is for homeless and abandoned companion animals, pretty well along the same line of thinking. Unconsciously, I followed my father teachings, giving all I had both in terms of energies and finances to my cause.  Just writing this eulogy, I had a revelation. Thirty five years after my father’s death, for the first time, I am realizing that, while I tried to live my life on my own terms, distancing myself from the too rigid upbringing I received, ironically I ended complying with my father teachings more than I would have ever thought possible and probably more than he would have ever expected.

Claudia Vecchio
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals

Thursday, February 21, 2013


In addition to our usual rescue work, in the last 18 months, ORA has done a tremendous effort to stop the killing of healthy animals in pounds.

At this purpose, ORA–Organization for the Rescue of Animals has brought to Toronto in the fall of 2011, Bill Bruce, the former director of Calgary Animal Services who has been able to introduce in Calgary innovative life-saving measures.

In April 2012, ORA has also organized, in Toronto, a seminar with Nathan Winograd, the Leader of the No Kill movement in the United States who has helped and inspired over 70 communities to became No Kill. After ORA’s Bill Bruce and Nathan Winograd’s event we have assisted to the spontaneous creation of countless No Kill groups that are trying either to put pressure on the pounds in their communities to become no kill or have started working with their local pounds, when these are receptive, towards the implementation of life saving measures.

In the late summer and early fall of 2012 even Toronto Animal Services launched a series of public consultations on three topics, one being the feral cats issue. Although feral cats have shared the human landscape for thousands of years, in our modern times , some people have become intolerant towards outdoor cats and often either call their local pound to remove them or take the cats directly to the pound. As feral cats are not adoptable they end being killed. This is an unnecessary atrocity, it is immoral, costly to taxpayer and damaging to the community. because the city rodents are taking over.

As a real estate agent for over 20 years, I have seen the rodent problem taking over. 20 years ago there were complaints of rodents presence in some marginal areas of Toronto , but now even upscale communities often complain about a rodents problem. Cats are the only deterrent, so why killing them, when they fulfill such a wonderful; community service to keep rodents at bay?

ORA’s September 13, 2012 public submission to Toronto Animal Services public consultation was suggesting that:

"No stray or feral cat that arrives to TAS in reasonably good health should be killed. All feral and stray cats should be neutered and returned to the same place where they were picked up…. Feral or stray cats in relative good shape have obviously found sources of food to sustain them and they should therefore be neutered and returned. There is no logical reasons that could justify killing them, especially since Toronto is afflicted by an increasing rodent problem”

Feral cats are not homeless and they do not deserve to die just because they are not someone “pet”. They do belong outdoor and the animal caring people can just help them by supplying food and providing outdoor properly constructed shelters for the winter months. Trap Neuter and Return is a practice implemented worldwide to humanely control cat population and it has been proven to be very successful.

Although weeks ago, a staff of the city of Toronto has already informed us that ORA’s feral cat proposal had been accepted, we were very glad when just a few days ago we received the formal confirmation from Toronto Animal Services in an e-mail to Toronto rescue groups

We are now ready to implement our Feral Cat Policy where all healthy feral cats that enter TAS Animal Centres will be returned to their location of origin or relocated when necessary!”

This is a great progress towards the implementation of No-Kill in Toronto. Lives we be saved and we are applauding this new program, although this is just a first step and the idea of what is a “healthy cat” is subjective and subject to discretion. Would an eye infection, ear mites, or a rotten tooth for instance disqualify a cat from being considered “ healthy” and therefore from being neutered and returned? In any case the acceptance to neuter and return any healthy feral cat who is brought in the pound is a step in the right direction and a great victory towards the embracing of the no kill principle.

We hope that all other pounds in Southern Ontario will follow suit. Obviously that is going to be more difficult to implement in municipalities where free roaming cats are not allowed.((How ridiculous is to forbid free roaming cats, what is coming next, stopping free roaming birds?).

It is important that the animal caring community ask and expect changes. Pounds directors and staff are paid by tax payers and they are accountable. Public participation and intervention is extremely important to bring about the necessary changes to save the lives of all the companion animals ending up in pounds. ORA has offered its support to the everyday implementation of new feral cat program and we will continue to work towards educating the community towards a peaceful coexistence with feral cats. Our offer is out, accepted or not, we will continue tireless our rescue and advocacy work, but please bear in mind we need your help, the help of all our volunteers, supporters and donors. The new feral cat program will likely save hundreds of lives every year, but thousands of companion animals, surrendered and tamed cats, dogs and pocket animals are still being killed: a lot remain to do.
If you wish to volunteer, donate or support ORA’s work, please e-mail us at or call 416 726 5762 or 416 726 8895.

Claudia Vecchio
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals