animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog rodeo

Majority of BC residents oppose rodeos, trophy hunts and killing animals for fur

Calf-roping is cruel

A majority of British Columbians are opposed to rodeos, according to a poll by research company Insights West.

The poll found that 56% of B.C. residents are opposed to rodeos, with only 38% in favour of them.

The poll also revealed that large majorities of people in B.C. are opposed to trophy hunting and killing animals for fur.

“Across British Columbia, only one-in-ten residents (10%) are in favour of hunting animals for sport, while 88% are opposed to the practice. Killing animals for their fur is endorsed by just 15% of British Columbians, and rejected by 81%,” said Insights West’s press release on the poll results.

Insights West has also published a more detailed report on the poll findings.

animal welfare fundraising News/Blog

Support Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3rd!

dogiStock_000015058316SmallMost people have heard of Black Friday, which is used by retailers to kick off the holiday shopping season.  But have you heard of Giving Tuesday?  It’s a movement to promote December 3rd as a day to give back and to support causes you believe in.

VHS has joined this important movement and we hope that on December 3rd you’ll remember the work we do for animals.  Right now, any donation to our McVitie Fund for sick and injured animals will be doubled!

animal welfare compassion News/Blog

The power of love – a dog story from the heart


Robbie & Leanne - seawall stroll

The following is a story from VHS’s current newsletter.  Sadly, as the newsletter went to print, Robbie’s condition began to deteriorate. In a final act of kindness, his life was ended peacefully and painlessly. 

Leanne McConnachie has arms even Michelle Obama would kill for. Slim, strong and tight as coiled steel. At age 47 she is a picture of athletic grace.

Yet she never goes near a gym. Or a track. The reason McConnachie, the Vancouver Humane Society’s director of farm animal programs, looks so good is love and the sacrifice that goes with it. McConnachie is the “mom” of a ten-year-old boxer dog named Robbie with degenerative myelopathy. Robbie can’t use his hind legs anymore, which means if he wants to go anywhere — and he does, constantly — he has to be carried there.

Never mind that he weighs 33 kilos, or 10 kilos more than the largest suitcase Air Canada will allow you to take free from Vancouver to Toronto. Never mind that McConnachie only weighs 20 kilos more. Robbie still has to be carried, so McConnachie carries him. It’s what love is about.

Robbie wasn’t always this way. When McConnachie, and her husband, Rob, adopted him from Boxer Rescue five years ago, he was fine. As lively, playful and spirited as most boxers are. But three years later he started to drag one of his hind paws. Then he had trouble moving his legs. Eventually when he was diagnosed with myelopathy, a disease in which his immune system literally attacks his nerves and spinal cord, Robbie became paralyzed.

But not immobile. The McConnachies saw to that. Three times a day they hauled him out for walks. They picked up his hind end using a specially designed harness that let him “run” using his front legs only. The catch was that they had to run too. When that got to be too much, they bought a special doggie wheelchair for him. Now they use it to “walk” him to the beach, where he digs in the sand.

Because the remarkable thing about Robbie, says McConnachie, is that he doesn’t appear to know he’s sick. “I see him trying to stand up all the time,” she says. “Another dog will come by and he’ll want to chase him. Or he’ll want to chase a ball. He’s completely oblivious to the disease. So we joke ‘He’s okay as long as someone’s got his bum’.”

Except it can’t go on forever. One day the disease will reach Robbie’s front legs, and he’ll have to be euthanized before they too become paralyzed. McConnachie knows that day is coming very soon and she will have to summon the courage to do what he needs her to do.

The only thing she is certain of is that when Robbie goes, she’ll never get another boxer. Because like so many other owners of so-called purebred dogs, she’s learned they’re too fragile, too delicate, too prone to illness to lead strong healthy lives. Selective breeding has seen to that. Toys and miniatures suffer from dislocated kneecaps. Large dogs succumb to heat prostration because they can’t cool their bodies properly. Bulldogs’ large heads and narrow hips mean they now can only be born by Caesarian section.

There’s now a genetic test for degenerative myelopathy, so Dr. Andrew Forsyth of Como Lake Veterinary Hospital advises anyone hoping to adopt a dog that’s prone to it — German shepherds, corgis and boxers are among 43 breeds that are — should adopt that dog from a “responsible” breeder who’s tested their breeding pairs.

That’s no longer enough for McConnachie. “So many of these terrible diseases and skeletal problems are the result of us selfishly breeding in genetic traits to achieve an arbitrary look. Maybe if we expanded the genetic pool and allowed them to revert back to a more natural look, they’ve have fewer problems and their owners would suffer less heartbreak.”

In the meantime, however, love is going to see her and Robbie through. It’s what being a good mom — even a good dog mom — is all about.

Nicholas Read is a journalism instructor at Langara College, an author and a former Vancouver Sun reporter.  He is a long time supporter of VHS and a great friend to animals. 

animal welfare compassion cruelty Food and Drink News/Blog

VHS bus ad now on Metro Vancouver routes

087Our ad “Food, Friend, Why?” is now on Translink diesel buses throughout Metro Vancouver.  The ad raises an important and provocative moral question: why do we eat one animal and befriend another? Most of us wouldn’t dream of eating a cat or a dog, but when one considers the intelligence and sentience of farmed animals, it doesn’t make sense to consider cows or pigs or chickens as somehow so different.


Thank you to the generous donors who made this ad possible.




animal welfare cruelty News/Blog

Travel writers, truth and animal welfare

Travel writers should pay attention to animal welfare at events like rodeos

Last week, a travel article appeared on the website of Fodor’s, the world’s largest publisher of travel and tourism information, describing the author’s recent visit to the Calgary Stampede.

The article gushed over the Stampede’s recovery from the flood in June and detailed all the activities to be enjoyed, summing up the experience  this way: “Part rodeo, part party, part fair, part food fest, all fun; the Calgary Stampede’s has bucked and two-stepped its way into stardom. That’s how Canada does the rodeo, come hell or high water. Yahoo!”

A similar article, by the same author, appeared on a Vancouver-based travel website.  In both pieces, not a single mention was made of the animal welfare issues at the Stampede rodeo.  Nor were this year’s deaths of two rodeo animals, a steer and a horse, despite the fact they made headlines across the country.

No one expects travel writers to promote the views of animal advocates when referring to activities involving animal welfare controversies, but shouldn’t such controversies at least be mentioned?  Shouldn’t people who care about animals be warned about any animal welfare issues at an event? Any international tourist reading these pieces would have no idea of the potential harm and suffering animals are exposed to at rodeos.

It is difficult for animal advocates to bring the truth about rodeo to the public’s attention, especially especially when faced with a powerful public relations machine like the Calgary Stampede.  It’s even more difficult when travel writers uncritically accept the Stampede’s public relations agenda.


animal welfare cruelty News/Blog rodeo

VHS response to horse death at Stampede

July 13, 2013

VHS is extremely sorry to hear of the death of another horse at the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races.

It is getting harder for the public to believe that these deaths are just coincidence or bad luck. There is something inherently unsafe about the race.

Nothing the Stampede has done has stopped horses dying.

VHS is reiterating its call for the Stampede to suspend the chuckwagon race and have an independent panel of experts review the event to determine if anything can be done to make it safe.

More than 50 horses have died at the Stampede since 1986.


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VHS response to steer death

Steer death at Calgary Stampede

VHS has issued the following news release:

Steer killed at Calgary Stampede rodeo
Vancouver Humane Society calls for event to be suspended


The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has called for the suspension of steer-wrestling at the Calgary Stampede rodeo after an animal was badly injured in the event and had to be euthanized.  Another steer died in the event during the 2009 Stampede.

“Why should animals suffer and die just to entertain a crowd,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker.  “If these events are so hard on the animals that it can kill them, it’s obvious they are suffering pain and stress.”

Fricker said that rules changes made by the Stampede to make steer-wrestling safe had obviously not worked.  He said the event should be suspended and reviewed by an independent panel of experts to determine if it could be made humane and safe.

VHS says that steer-wrestling has no historical connection to ranching and was invented for rodeos.  “It has nothing to do with agricultural heritage,” said Fricker.  “It’s just a cruel and dangerous circus act.”



animal welfare cruelty News/Blog rodeo

VHS launches ad against calf-roping

Vancouver Humane Society ad against calf-roping

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is running a full-page ad calling for a ban on calf-roping in a Calgary newspaper.  The ad, shown above, appears in the July 4 edition of Fast Forward Weekly on page 3.

The ad contrasts the compassion of basic human kindness with the cruelty of calf-roping and calls on the Calgary Stampede to “have a heart for animals” and ban the rodeo event.

A high-resolution pdf version of the ad is here.

animal welfare compassion fundraising News/Blog Scotiabank

VHS reaches Scotiabank Charity Challenge goal of $25,000!

photo of 2013 Scotiabank charity Chicken Runners from VHS
Some of the Chicken Runners Team after the race: From left to right: Jennifer Kelly, Miles Linklater, Leanne McConnachie, Debra Probert, Alexandra Cadman, Kaitlyn Anderson, Liberty Mulkani, Anneliese Probert, Odie Probert (asleep).

We did it! We reached (and exceeded!) our goal of $25,000 at the 2013 Scotiabank Charity Challenge!

On Sunday, June 23, 2013, VHS supporters walked or ran in support of the Vancouver Humane Society’s work on behalf of animals.  To date, we have raised $25,626 from 273 sponsors of our team members. That’s amazing!

There is still time to donate (and you can check out how much each of our team members raised) – but hurry, donations must be received by July 8th.

Even though we exceeded our goal, your donation will not only make a difference to an animal that needs help, but it will also improve VHS’s chances of winning an extra $5,000 Scotiabank award for the highest amount raised per runner! We won it last year, thanks to many of you, and we’re hopeful that we’re in the running again (as of now, VHS is in 4th place overall).

This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and we’re extremely grateful to everyone for such incredible support. Every single donor will receive a personalized thank you from the VHS Board of Directors and staff.

Maybe you can run (or walk) for VHS next year. Watch this space for more updates!

animal welfare cruelty News/Blog rodeo

Who opposes rodeo?

Events like steer-wresting are cruel.  That's why VHS opposes rodeo.


Rodeo promoters like the public to think that it’s just a few animal rights activists who oppose rodeos.  In fact, mainstream animal welfare agencies throughout the civilized world are opposed to rodeo events like calf-roping and steer-wrestling, as these position statements show:

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies 
Calgary Humane Society 
British Columbia SPCA
Ottawa Humane Society (pdf file – see pg. 9)
American SPCA
Australian RSPCA
Royal New Zealand SPCA (pdf file – see 6.4)
Humane Society of the United States