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The love we share

Humane society helps bring out the best in humanity

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Dr. Brian Joseph, with Annie and Sadie, says his favourite place in our city is the Winnipeg Humane Society.

EMILY CUMMING / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dr. Brian Joseph, with Annie and Sadie, says his favourite place in our city is the Winnipeg Humane Society. Photo Store

A house without fur children is not a home, at least in my world.

As a child, I didn't have pets, except for some guppies, but there have been few times in my adult life when I have been without animals in my home. My lovely, intelligent wife Sally and I currently live with three Bernese Mountain dogs (Padi, Annie and Sadie), two house cats (Kitten Anne and Nancy Anne) and a variable number of barn cats on our little farm outside Winnipeg.

For me, going home to a house without dogs or cats would be incredibly lonely and too quiet. I can't imagine life without pets. They are beloved members of my family. In fact, my son once joked that he would have to invite one of the dogs to his high graduation ceremonies to make sure he made it into the pictures. Of course, he wasn't too traumatized, as he is now a small-animal veterinarian in Minneapolis.

My love for animals is what inspired me to become a veterinarian. For a number of reasons, I chose not to enter private veterinary practice, and my career path led me in a different direction. For more than 40 years, I have worked in public and privately-operated aquariums, museums, nature centres and zoos throughout the world. This choice has proven to be a wise one, as it eventually brought me to Winnipeg and the Assiniboine Park Zoo. It also gives me the flexibility to serve in a variety of professional capacities and perform volunteer work in bottlenose dolphin field research in Florida and North Carolina.

I also have the honour of serving as an army reserve veterinarian. I have participated in humanitarian efforts around the world and just returned from a three-week mission in Belize that was an incredible, moving experience. I have had the privilege of caring for military working dogs in a Middle Eastern combat zone -- brave animals that risk their lives to keep troops safe.

I have witnessed tremendous human need and suffering, and I know this to be true: When people struggle to meet their own basic needs for survival, the animals that rely on them also suffer.

Not long after coming to Winnipeg, I had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Winnipeg Humane Society at their beautiful facility in south Winnipeg. It was my pleasure to share with them the Assiniboine Park Zoo's plans for the future, our values and approach to animal care and to hear about their work and their mission.

While our organizations work in different ways, we have one very important purpose in common: We teach people to care about animals.

Outside of Assiniboine Park Zoo, the Winnipeg Humane Society is my favourite place in Winnipeg. The people who work and volunteer there are my heroes. They speak for animals that have no voice and no choice about the circumstances in which they live. These animals are at the mercy of their human caregivers and sometimes, sadly, we let them down. In difficult economic times, pets suffer.

Animals arrive at the Winnipeg Human Society for a variety of reasons. Unplanned litters of puppies and kittens can be just too much to handle. Cherished pets arrive when their owners can no longer care for them and no one else can or will step in. On the worst days, there are cases of neglect and extreme animal cruelty. The circumstances can be heartbreaking. Fortunately, the Winnipeg Humane Society is there to provide care and find new homes for thousands of animals that deserve compassion and deserve to be loved.

There are many great needs in this world that warrant our attention and support. As a society, we must find room in our hearts to care for all those who cannot care for themselves, be they human or animal. If we can do that, the world will be a better place. Thank you, Winnipeg Humane Society.

 

Dr. Brian Joseph is the director of zoological operations at Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2014 A6

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