Friday, June 11, 2010

OSPCA Volunteers Barking Mad Over Rama Retreat

Some OSPCA volunteers are howling mad the charity is spending donor dollars for a three-day retreat to Casino Rama.
The volunteers are livid that although the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals dealt out death sentences to around 100 dogs and cats when ringworm tore through its Newmarket shelter, it still booked a 2 1/2 day conference for around 150 people at the Orillia-area hotel and casino.
OSPCA officials said the event wraps up Saturday with its annual general meeting.
Former Newmarket shelter volunteer Ruth Wozniak called the casino stay, “a slap in the face at this time.”
“During this time when (the OSPCA) is apparently in crisis, it seems to be quite extravagant,” Wozniak told the Sun Friday.
“As everyone there is enjoying their dinners, you have these poor animal rescues that are struggling.”
Last month, the OSPCA ignited a firestorm of controversy when it announced it would euthanize 350 animals inside its Newmarket shelter due to a ringworm outbreak.
Later in the week, the OSPCA said it had “miscommunicated” that number and would only euthanize around 100 cats and dogs.
“It’s a non-profit, charitable organization in business to help the animals,” Wozniak said. “They euthanized the animals and then go off to a resort.”
Rosaline Ryan, director of marketing and communications for the OSPCA, stressed the three days at Rama were not a vacation but an annual education conference, always held at the casino that is in a geographically central spot for OSPCA officials from across the province.
“We offer training and education workshops, it’s a conference for animal welfare that the OSPCA orchestrates,” Ryan said.
“It’s a good thing for animal welfare to bring people together to unite for a couple of days and talk about how to further animal welfare in the province.
“This is about animal welfare in Ontario, not the OSPCA ... we are achieving some economies of scale by having our annual general meeting (at the same time).”
Ryan didn’t have an exact dollar amount for the event but said it was paid for through the OSPCA’s donor-funded budget. Representatives from the OSPCA’s affiliates pay their own way, she said.
Workshop participants are learning about best practices for controlling pathogens in a shelter environment, health and safety, the OSPCA’s spay/neuter clinics and a new scientifically based adoption program called Meet Your Match, Ryan said.
Linda Weir, a former OSPCA board member and volunteer, said the meeting is a necessary tool that she supports.
“I just think the timing is all wrong,” Weir said. “They have more important things to attend to ... we have this catastrophe in Newmarket.”
She learned at a volunteer meeting earlier this week that the shelter had yet to be fumigated almost a month after it was emptied, Weir said.
“We were appalled,” she said. “We thought that would be happening very quickly.”
Former shelter volunteer Sharon MacMurchy said she would have attended the event has she known about it.
“My big beef is transparency,” she said. “We knew nothing about this.”
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Pet Pills A Billion Dollar Market


Like their owners, dogs can wear clothes, eat organic food and even enjoy a day at the spa. Now, there is a growing opportunity for dogs to be like their owners in another way: by taking medication to treat every illness, symptom or pain they experience.
Pain management, obesity, anxiety and motion-sickness drugs are just a sampling of the burgeoning range of pharmaceuticals for canines that have hit shelves in recent years.
Sales of drugs for animals are now a multi-billion dollar market. Many veterinarians, as well as pet owners, say the new drugs are a reflection of the elevated status dogs and other pets now have in their families and are an important way to improve quality of life and longevity.
But to others, rapidly escalating growth in the market is a troubling trend that puts animals at heightened risk for serious side effects, overmedication and unnecessary exposure to powerful drugs.
“I think the reliance on a quick fix by pills is a problem,” said Michael Goldberg, veterinarian and owner of the Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital, which focuses on treatment with a combination of traditional and homeopathic medicine.
The Canadian Animal Health Institute says sales of drugs for dogs are growing every year, although it doesn’t formally track exact figures. In the United States, animal health-product sales reached nearly $7-billion (U.S.) in 2008, according to the Animal Health Institute, which represents pharmaceutical companies and others involved with animal health.
In the past five years alone, Health Canada has approved 40 new drugs for use in dogs.
Among the new approvals are dirlotapide, sold by Pfizer under the brand name Slentrol, a drug that is designed to combat obesity in dogs; maropitant, sold by Pfizer under the name Cerenia, to treat canine motion sickness; and firocoxib, sold by Merial Canada as Previcox, used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs.
But since those drugs were approved, Health Canada has also received dozens of reports of adverse reactions associated with them. The department has received 34 adverse-reaction reports involving firocoxib, five involving maropitant and three involving dirlotapide.
Health Canada is in the process of creating binding regulations that would ensure those four drugs are only allowed to be dispensed by prescription. The move is necessary in large part because the drugs could pose serious risks if not given under proper care and supervision.
For instance, weight management drug Slentrol has “potential for undesirable side effects” when given at normal therapeutic doses, the department said in a consultation document outlining the proposed new regulations. Motion sickness drug Cerenia could mask other ailments in dogs, Health Canada said. It also said there is a “narrow margin of safety” between therapeutic and toxic doses of pain drug Previcox in younger and older dogs.
There are also serious side effects associated with a variety of other veterinary drugs on the market.
For instance, Deramaxx and Rimadyl, two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are in the same family as Vioxx, a human drug that was taken off the market because of serious safety issues, have been linked to hundreds of adverse events and deaths in dogs in the United States and Canada that have led some pet owners to call for their removal from the market.
These problems, combined with the rapid growth in availability of new drugs for dogs, has some veterinarians worried.
“I’m not ignoring the fact there are advances to some of the pharmaceuticals that are produced,” said Paul McCutcheon, founder and director of the East York Animal Clinic in Toronto, which offers traditional and holistic services for animals. “But all of the hype and all of the push that is given by the sales forces of the pharmaceutical industry is just overdone.”
Dr. McCutcheon said he thinks animal medicine risks moving in a troubling direction by placing too much focus on treating symptoms rather than the root cause of a problem. He singled out anti-obesity medication as a prime example.
“Why we have to have a pharmaceutical for that is beyond my comprehension,” he said. “We should address the reason for the obesity that’s the problem in all these things.”
Rick Goulart, director of media relations for Pfizer Animal Health, said Slentrol is designed to improve the health of dogs.
“It’s not a frivolous medication to make a dog look more attractive,” he said. “It’s really designed to address the serious health needs on the part of the dogs and their pet owners who want to deliver good health.”
He added that the company’s animal health division, which had nearly $3-billion (U.S.) in sales last year, is focused on finding new ways to improve and promote the health of animals, including pets, who are considered by many to be part of their family.
While vets have used medication to treat dogs for years, companies are shifting their focus to “lifestyle” drugs that have traditionally been the domain of humans in an effort to increase their sales, said Jim Edwards, who writes about the pharmaceutical industry at business website Bnet.com.
“Because more people regard their dogs as little humans and not just as pets, the amount of money they will spend on their pets has gone up,” Mr. Edwards said. “Drug companies are taking advantage of this trend.”
Despite the problems, many veterinarians still believe recent advancements in animal therapies represent a positive trend toward promoting good health.
“People are much more interested in and willing to take their animals that next step to go into very specialized diagnostics and medication to keep the animal … healthy and alive as long as it can,” said Duane Landals, registrar of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. “I believe it’s obviously just the tip of the iceberg.”
However, some pet owners are wary of the growing emphasis on medication for pets. Geri Marshall, a Dartmouth resident and former dog breeder who owns two dachshunds, said that much like humans, dogs could benefit much more from proper diet and exercise than relying on drugs.
“I wouldn’t say run to the drugstore for drugs,” she said. [But] there’s a lot of people in this world that have to have a pill for everything.”

*Taken from the Globe & Mail