The Ottawa Humane Society Builds Pawrrific Relations with Kids and Youths

When planning a kid’s birthday, there are some obvious options, like bowling, laser tag, or visiting a local museum. However, one place that has offered parties for years and is a fantastic educational choice is the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS). We recently visited the OHS to learn first-hand about the youth programs the city’s primary animal shelter is running and a few of the other great initiatives the organization has on the go.

The OHS is an animal-focused shelter with a mission to help dogs, cats, rabbits, and other creatures in need, but it also understands the importance of fostering healthy, respectful human-animal relations.

During the pandemic and lockdowns, many people welcomed pets into their homes. Communications Director Stephen Smith explained that the OHS predicted that a large number of those ‘pandemic pets’ would be relinquished to the shelter once there was a return to in-person work and events. But that is not the case. Instead, a whole generation of kids are growing up around animals. Smith says, “Ottawa is an animal-loving city; people here really love their pets.”

Children of families without pets are now more likely than ever to go to the home of a friend with a pet. That’s just one reason why birthday parties at the OHS are great. Kids learn how to safely interact with pets while benefiting from the affection of animals they may not get at home. Animals waiting for their forever homes also benefit from calm interaction and much-needed TLC.

The party room is the perfect space with a kitchenette, large table and plenty of seating, as well as a lot of open space for the kids to learn to handle and play with the animals. Jazzlin Rose Carr, program coordinator at the OHS, showed off the room while discussing what to expect. She says the room accommodates up to 15 children, and during the two-hour party, “kids receive at least one hour and fifteen minutes of animal interaction.”

Kids can also interact with animals and learn about animal safety at OHS PD day camps, which Carr describes as an excellent way for kids who don’t have anything to occupy them during PD day to learn ‘Humane education’ as well as animal safety, like animal body language. Carr explains that the programs help foster a new generation of responsible pet owners. The kids spent most of the time with cats and rabbits, which are easier for children to be around, and dogs that have been assessed as being child-safe. Between the animal handling and interaction, the kids do other activities like arts and crafts and learn about animals from guest speakers.

In addition to the PD day camps during the school year, the OHS also offers summer camps and runs a volunteering program for young adults between 14 and 18 that counts towards high school community service hours. All the funds from the birthday party and camp programs go directly to support the Ottawa Humane Society’s great programs that work to ensure that all animals in the city are well cared for.

Ottawa residents with a newly adopted puppy can take advantage of the OHS’s puppy training classes or one of the dog training programs ranging from basic commands to learning advanced tricks and moves, including sessions that teach older dogs new tricks.

Understanding that pets are linked to human well-being and wanting to keep them out of the shelters, the humane society also runs other programs to help foster animal care and safety in the community, including an income-based reduced-cost spay and neuter program, which Smith stresses as very important to pet ownership. Furthermore, their pet food bank ensures that no companion animal has to go hungry if the owner is not able to afford food.

For more information on the Ottawa Humane Society or to donate, visit

For information on camp programs, click here. To learn more about birthday parties, click here.

Photos: Courtesy OHS