Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Mr. Jerome has decided he wants to shut down the THS and start fresh. Unfortnately, he seems to suggest (in MY opinion) that a mass cleanout of the animals is in order to accomplish this.

Nice attitude for a man who is supposed to be heading an organization that is supposed to have at its core, an abiding love and respect for animals. Mr. Jerome you are a DISGRACE.  If indeed you don't mean to "clear them" out by euthanizing them - and certaintly the entire tone of your diabtribe suggests that strongly - then please clear that up for us.  Further, explain to us please how after we have already seen the THS population drop from 1100 to less than 200 animals, that any of the remaining animals have issues that mean they can't either be adopted, fostered or treated either medically or by professionals who will deal with possible behavioural issues?

UPDATE: i have been accused of "slandering" Mr. Jerome's name - yet it seems to me in his OWN affidavit he indicates that outside vets suggested SOME animals be euthanized and the pits be transferred - which as we know, did not happen - which he indicated was due to blocking by the OSPCA.  Which would lead one to think, that it MIGHT be the ospca who is at issue here.  However, Mr. Jerome then admits in the letter on the THS website that with the consulatation of ospca/ths vets and personnel, the decision was made to euthanize. 

I supposed in all respects it comes down to a radically different concept of the Toronto Humane Society. Mr. Jerome's mirrors, in my OPINION, many of the shelters throughout Canada and the U.S. which have a high kill ratio and strict regulations as to who is welcome within their walls. From a business perspective and certaintly from the perspective of the OSPCA, that is the "right" model.

For those of us who saw the THS as unique in that it was the only institution that took the animals NO ONE ELSE WANTED; neglected, abused, discarded and yes, sick, then it is heartrending that the ONLY refuge these animals had is GONE.

Did we see the way it HAD been run as great - absoultely NOT. 

But we continue to cling to the basic philosophy- one which if properly instituted woudl ensure that the THS remains a REFUGE as well as a shelter.

I agree with Mr. Jerome that an 'aggrssive adoption campaign' is required. I agree that more vets were needed and vet techs and FAR bettter care be given to the aniamls (as someone who has had "sit-ins" in the vet office to get a dog's ears treated, I LOVE that idea), but, i also feel there is room for compassion and TIME. For dogs and cats with behavioural issues to have those issues addressed. Perhaps they can't be fixed - there will be times when that is true and in that case, HUMANE euthanisia may be the only alternative - but I perceive the THS as a place, unlike anywhere else, where they are given a CHANCE to be rehabilitated.

Nothing I saw in anything written by Mr. Jerome, reported on (and I use that term loosely) by the media or read in the THS website indicates to me that the merciful, accepting THS of the past is even being considered.

When I say "no kill" I am not Tim Trow - I do not mean NEVER kill - I mean that is the answer ONLY if medically the animal cannot be treated, if the behaviour issues are SO severe that the animal will never be able to be rehabilitated. That it is LOW kill as opposed to NO in a sense.

Yet the "new THS" as described in the affidavit, on the website and in the media strikes me as welcoming only healthy, young, QUICKLY adoptable animals. YET,

  • Many old dogs and cats find new homes - I have been it again and again over the past few years.
  • Many dogs and cats with medical issues find loving homes - I have seen it again and again.
  • Many dogs and cats with issues can be worked with, behaviour modification can do wonders. Minimal efforts can yield incredible results.
Perhaps Mr. Jermone does not mean to euthanize our few dogs left - but why then is nothing being said about their fate?  We are worried sick about these dogs - they have a right to loving healthy lives!


Tyson, mastiff/shepherd mix. Tyson is a darling boy, very strong, not many manners but beloved by us all. Not aware of any aggression issues, although all 140 lbs or whatever of him WILL resist going back to a pen as Tyson YEARNS to go home with someone. Has been banned from walkers for many weeks for an inexplicable reason.  Tyson right now is very sad as he watches us watch by his kennel.  One of the long-term dog walkers, Luc, is on his way back from holiday right now and has put in an offer to adopt Tyson. Tyson could not HAVE a better home. 
Pumba - fawn pit bull, medical issues, in clinic for some time. Sweet nature, most of us have walked him with no issues. No one allowed to for undisclosed medical reasons other than clinic staff.  Pumba too is very sad and his kennel in the clinic is almost always full of pee and mess.  Pumba needs to be out with his friends in the park- he is a sweet dog who loves to walk. ADOPTED

Rocky 2 - shepherd cross - some medical issues (undislcosed to us), in clinic. Young, strong boy with lovely long legs and a rambunctious sweet personality. Definitely needs some training but no aggression, just high energy and untrained.  Strong guy with delightful grin and a zest for life that entrances. Please be aware - belly rubs are a MUST. ADOPTED

Rocky 1 - sweet wonderful rottie mix - sweetie pie - ghiardia so he is currently in the back hall. Darling Rockie loves running, balls and kisses.  He is exuberant but not overly strong or does not pull excessively.  Very bright boy with winning personality. Rocky would make someone a wonderful companion for long hikes, cuddles and love!  ADOPTED

Lucas - pit bull - Our Lucas was a return just before the raid. Lucas is a strong-natured (NOT mean), pit bull who LOVES his toys and will play for hours.  I was told just yesterday he is just waiting for his former owner to come for him - yet to be confirmed.

Diesel - chow mix - darling boy, red coat - loves long walks, cuddles and company - has never to my knowledge shown ANY aggression to anyone. Beautiful leash manners.  Diesel is a laid back fellow who initialy intimidates people simply because of his appearance. Five mintues and you realize he is a guy just looking for someone to hang with.  Right now he is Office Boy and is the delight of many staff.ADOPTED

Patience, - lovely old GSD (12 years) with incredible energy for any dog, even one years younger than she is. Patience ADORES running the fence although due to some arthritis has been relegated to on-leash only. She is a wonderful dog, and like any GSD took time to bond, but even with `strangers`NEVER aggressive just not demonstrative. Patience deserves to live her last years in comfort and in the loving embrace of those who love her.  Several of us offer NOW to take Patience if they decide she is "too old" to be adopted. Patience has many healthy and happy years ahead of her! ADOPTED

Cuyita - another beautiful rottie mix - older dog with wonderful manners. Cuyita loves long walks, to sit in your lap in the warm sun and visit with other dogs through the fence.  Yesterday, Cuyita and I hung out in the park on the structure built there, basking in the sunshine, her butt in my lap and her head close enough for those tickly scratches under the chin.  Like many rotties, she is wonderfully affectionate. ADOPTED

Charli- darling rottie mix pup- still a baby - needs some in-depth training but only due to type of breed, not mean, just high energy and needs a firm hand.  Charli is a sweet tempered, high energy bundle of joy - bursting at the seams to find someone to spend some time with her - to teach her some manners but mostly to PLAY PLAY PLAY.ADOPTED

Crowe - wonderful wonderful mastiff mix - adorable with whingey, whiney voice that makes all of us laugh. There is NO mistaking when Crowe thinks it is HIS turn for a walk.  Crowe is a darling boy who would make a wonderfully affectionate companion to anyone! ADOPTED

Princess - pit bull mix - white with an adorable black ring around her eye - she looks exactly like the pittie from the old Our Gang tv show, sweet nature, not tempermental or dominant - lovely dog.. Princess is a perfect advocate for her breed.  She has dignity, is delightfully affectionate and has no aggression issues.

Bandit- poor sad bandit- more lab mix than anything. Court Order years ago, destined to live in Tim Trow's office, never let out on the grass or anything. Very unsocialized but once he gets over his fright, so happy to be out in a park.  Bandit is the one dog in all this that has actualy benefitted from the raid. Relegated as he was a twilight life, he is only now learning there is a great world out there.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Yes Biscuit always asks some excellent questions - please go and check out their blog.
Letter from THS Executive Director, Garth Jerome

To all staff, volunteers, members and supporters,

Our organization is entering a period of rapid change. These changes are for the better of the animals that we strive so diligently to care for. I many cases, change is difficult to accept, I extend my hand of warmth and gratitude to all of you. You are all brave and courageous and I admire you deeply. It is only through your hard efforts that The Toronto Humane Society has endured for so long and will continue to do so.


The Toronto Humane Society’s new euthanasia policy will not make it a ‘high-kill’ shelter. We will continue to treat sick and injured animals and make them available for adoption. Simply because an animal has a problem does not make them ‘unadoptable’.


That does not mean than euthanasia will not take place. The THS has never been a ‘no-kill’ shelter. We are going to focus on positive outcomes for the animals. This means that we will do everything we can to get every animal that comes into our shelter into a new loving home. In certain circumstances, those outcomes are not possible. The THS is a shelter, we are not an animal sanctuary who can house animals, who will never be available for adoption, indefinitely.


However difficult, we have been faced with some important decisions. The current animal population at the shelter consists of many animals who have been in the shelter for some length of time. They include animals whose quality of life is severely diminished due to illness, injury or present with serious behavioural issues which prevent us from placing them in homes, within the boundaries of our responsibilities. Some of these animals, especially dogs, have been a part of your lives for some time. I know that you will bear fond memories of them for years to come.


In the light of these facts, I have empowered the animal care staff to proceed with all reasonable means to deal with those animals who present with these conditions. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the well-being and quality of life of all the animals in our care is our key priority.

The process around assessing the health and well-being of these 6 dogs has been exhaustive. We understand that for many people there is a huge emotional connection to these animals. For that reason, a number of procedures were followed to ensure that the decisions were fair and objective:

1.An in-house SAFER test was performed an all the dogs.
2.A number of rescue groups were approached to assess the dogs, with their own tests.
3.A “scorecard system”, developed by veterinarians was used to assess health, pain, suffering, temperament and many other parameters.
4.Independent consultants were asked to evaluate the dogs, based on their current condition.
5.Once all this data was collated, a panel of 8 persons, comprising veterinarians, representatives of the OSPCA and the THS, met to decide on their outcomes.
6.This meeting was scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 1, 2010. Due to a number of concerns around safety of employees, volunteers and the animals themselves, this meeting was moved to Friday, March 26, 2010, as a matter of urgency.

The Toronto Humane Society was required to consider additional factors in this decision. While tentative agreements were made to place some of these dogs in rescues, there are legal obstacles which have presented themselves. A number of the dogs had severe temperament concerns and aggression. Many had bite orders. All of these factors need to be considered when deciding on the most humane course of action, within the bounds of the law.


Once the animals were evaluated, euthanasia decisions were made on 6 of the animals assessed. These 6 dogs were not able to be adopted, fostered or transferred. The only outcome for them was to live in the shelter indefinitely. That is not an acceptable animal care practice. The THS made the extremely difficult, but appropriate decision.


I wish to assure all of you that no animal in the care of The Toronto Humane Society shall be allowed to suffer at any point in its care. There is clear and positive direction and that is the road ahead.
We understand that this is a very emotional and difficult time for you if you are staff, volunteers, supporter or an animal lover. Here, there have been tears and sorrow as well. Please know that these decisions are not taken lightly.
Garth Jerome
Executive Director


Ethics and the Demise of Morality in Canadian Journalism

Perhaps one of the most salutary and tragic lessons I’ve taken from this entire maelstrom of media and OSPCA/THS doublespeak, is that objectivity in reporting is indeed a myth in the Fifth Estate.

The incredibly biased reporting I’ve witnessed from the start of this tragedy has outraged me and yet, as a former journalist myself (back in the Early Dark Ages), not entirely surprised me. I left the field myself more than 25 years ago when my ideals were demolished against the reality of nepotism and bottom line.

Bias is an inescapable and integral part of any individual’s lexicon. The reality is that each of us carries with them a preconceived set of opinions, based on personal history, influenced by media and formulated through sociological and family influences. “History is written by the victors” said Winston Churchill during the Second World War, a quotation which puts in perspective the veracity or “truth” of any fact; in short, what he was pointing out is that it is all about perspective. To those who seek the “truth”, an awareness of implied bias together with a concerted effort to seek contrasting opinions is the only effective manner to come to an equitable vision of a given event.

But the blatant disregard for querying even the most obvious questions which arise from the OSPCA party line is unbelievable and reprehensible. 1100 animals... less than 300 left, MINIMAL animals available for adoptions, an admitted, reported and confirmed in last week’s meeting, lack of knowledge about how many fosters (but they themselves admit to 45 or so) – and you don’t question WHERE the rest of the animals ARE?

And the ostensible “openness” of the OSPCA as witnessed by their “willingness” to meet with and answer questions was yet another opportunity to confuse and REFUSE to answer questions. There is no doubt that the fates of our dogs were already decided; the meeting, in MY opinion was an attempt to forestall the resultant backlash.

Tell me journalists... did you find it just a wee bit curious you were banned, when you had gold-plated invitations to the arrests made by the OSPCA of Trow, Tre and others?

Yet Kate McDonald HERSELF confirmed AT that meeting that yes, the dogs COULD be moved if an OSPCA officer was with those transporting them. I confirmed at that meeting that there were NUMEROUS volunteers willing to drive in shifts in order to circumvent the ‘law’ (yet to be confirmed) that says we could not stop in Ontario.

Further, if the border crossing was an issue – why not be given the opportunity to bring them to the rescue in New Brunswick – which, within 2 weeks had happily housed the two dogs we had brought down there?

But did anyone in the media question this? Did anyone question the numbers blithely thrown about over the weeks from OSCPA mouthpieces? 25 euthanization, 43, 100, 123, 140, 200 – ALL numbers at different times in different places were detailed verbatim... didn’t anyone see that there MIGHT be a little bit of deliberate obfuscation going on here?

Shame on you Kate Hammer.

Shame on your mainstream media.

The obvious manipulation of fact and fiction was aided, abetted and encouraged by media intent on the most sensationalist word count.

Not once has anyone who has objected to the OSPCA invasion stated that things were “perfect” in the Toronto Humane Society – and in fact, most of us spoke loudly that indeed there WERE MAJOR PROBLEMS as many people have worked hard to dethrone the tinpot dictator that was twisting and destroying what was, at its core, a wonderful policy.

But why the insistence that while Trow is bad, anyone who replaces him is “good”. What happened to objectivity and a moral imperative to looks beyond the obvious?

And it seems now, that the THS brass have joined the fray and are themselves toeing the party line – labelling, healthy, non-aggressive, wonderful dogs as “chronically ill, displayed aggressive behaviour, or whose quality of life due to illness or injury was severely diminished and who had been at the shelter for an extended period of time”.

Bottom line? That is not just subterfuge. That is not just doublespeak. Those are LIES.

Welcome to the land of the morally corrupt, THS brass. Hope you find it salutary and that whatever was promised you is worth the price.

I wonder how you are sleeping at night?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Our Beauties - courtesy of Mel Laking's magnificant photography (from One Bark at a Time)

Captain was just a baby when he came, exuberant, happy go lucky and full of a quivering, beautiful energy.    He was Rosanna's special pet and would leap, almost as high as the kennel wall when he heard her sweet voice.  She and her Captain would go on endless rambles where interesting sniffs, some major hugs and kisses (on both sides) and lots of lovely ball throwing would make his day complete.
There is no question that for many of us, Peti was, remains and will always be the most loving, butt wiggling, face-licking sweetheart that ever existed.  An old gentleman, who came back last summer after years of a successful adoption, there is no dog ever that exuded so much sweet energy and love to the world.  Last week, I slipped into the room where he and the others had been banned and seeing me, he crawled out of his nest of blankets and came wiggling, quivering, stubby tail wagging, ears tight to his head in exctasy and pressed up against the cage. I am furious at myself that, scared of the ospca security guards who usualy watched every step we took (I was already taking a chance slipping into see them as we were banned), I sat on the other side of the bars, scratching behind his ears and under his big chin, grey muzzle whimpering as I hit the "spot", his whole body lengthwise, pressed as much against me as he could get....

Smokey was the Shelter mascot; our longest canine resident (once our Eddie found a forever home - so you see, even long-term residents DO sometimes find their happy endings).  He had the most entrancing, wrinkled, crinkley eared, pig snuffling face that you could ever kiss.  He LOVED his toys and would bound with endless delight to the cage door, then dart back, snuffling under his blankets and pile of treasures to find the one that was the current favourite. Then clasped in mouth, he would trot happily by your side to the parks or (once upon a time and by far his favourite activity), a long rambling walk through the streets of Regent Park or along the waterfront.  There was not a staff member or volunteer that didn't sneak him a pat, a kiss or a little treat and our Smokey was content in his HOME.  While we all desperately wanted a real home for him, he was NOT unhappy nor was his quality of life compromised. Some dogs do not do well in kennels long-term; our Smokey was not one of them.
Boundless energy, steel springs in his hind legs, elegant spats on his front feet (thus his name, Socks), our Socks was Tigger in canine form.  Still with some puppy behaviours (mouthing and jumping), he would look at you with his mischievous eyes and look so contrite, you would slip him his very favourite wiener treats. He would bound around the park, leaping and flying into the air simply for the joy of releasing all that boundless energy and loved nothing better than to stretch his wonderful long limbs by running the fence with another dog.  Our Socks deserved a future - a future full of long walks, maybe canine agility and lots of love and pats - he had so much to offer in return.

LOOK at that handsome, bold face.  Our Tiger.. when I think of him, I think of him standing hopefully by his cage door, brindle body trembling with suppressed energy, his long whippy tail straight up and bent slightly over his back, quivering like an antenna.  Full of boundless enthusiasn, a ball afficiando, a runner par excellent, a sports dog who could leap to the top of the strucutre in the second park and whip along its bridge and then with fly out to land and do it all over again.  In all the time he was at the THS he never once gave any of us a hard time. High energy, endlessly curious, always up for a run and a long, luxurious butt rub ... our Tiger was the poster boy for a perfect, wonderful pit bull.

Again, I am so grateful to Mel Lading for caputuring the essence of our beauties in this wonderful photography (and for Fred's help in dog handling). For now, it is all we have left.

Now a last and final tribute for the dogs murdered last night is to Janey. Janey was a little pug/terrier mix who reminded me so much of my Mr. Darcy it made my heart ache. Out of all of them, she truly was the only one with some serious issues- not, I refuse to believe irredeemable issues (the progress my Darcy has made in the 4 months I have had him is so remarkable that when my vet saw him yesterday, she said she barely reocgnized him).

Our Janey was frightened ... and like many frightened dogs who had known only unkindness, only abuse, the harsh word, the kick, the smack and the hate - she reacted aggressively.  But there was a side to her, when the feral look left her eyes, when you put your fingers through the cage bars and fed her a wiener treat (which she always took gently from me).  Outside, she was a wench, demanding and wiful - a 'devil' dog with personality and a charm that was irresistable ... and there were moments where joyful and excited, feeling the soft spring breeze, the fresh air and the delight of play, we got a glimpse of who she could be ... and tragically, will never be.

For more memories of our wonderful dogs, please go here.

Thank you Mel Laking and Fred at One Bark at Time

for Mel's incredible photography of our beautiful dogs, gone now forever.

The THS joins the ranks of disreputable, uncompassionate KILL POUNDS

Responsible Animal Care Decisions

Our responsibility to provide medical care to the animals sometimes means difficult choices need to be made.

The Toronto Humane Society has euthanized 6 dogs that were chronically ill, displayed aggressive behaviour, or whose quality of life due to illness or injury was severely diminished and who had been at the shelter for an extended period of time.

Our new euthanasia policy is clear that we will not house these animals in the shelter indefinitely as their medical and behavioural condition deteriorates and the possibility of them being adopted diminishes. Our policy dictates that we will continue to provide all necessary veterinary care to all the animals in the shelter. However, there is a time when euthanizing an animal is the appropriate medical and humane choice.

These decisions were made by the THS staff veterinarians as well as OSPCA contract veterinarians in consultation with THS Executive Director Garth Jerome.

RIP compassion.

RIP kindness.

And it is CRAP what they are saying. With perhaps two exceptions, there were NO dogs with irredeemable issues.

The OSPCA kill machine claims another adherent.

I hope all those people sleep well ... but of course they do - because after all, only perfect, adoptable animals deserve to live.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Introduction: A Volunteer's Perspective and Observations ...

[Some sections have been slightly edited based on comments and/or observations by some other individuals at the meeting]
Facts, figures and doublespeak were the detritus of a meeting between the OSPCA and individuals and groups concerned with how they are conducting its investigation into the Toronto Humane Society. From a contentious start – including the heavy-handed and over-reactive response by the OSPCA to a concerned speaker almost resulting in her forcible removal over a very minor transgression - to the highly offensive, obviously scripted closing by a member of ART, some issues were addressed, but in my OPINION, very little was actually confirmed or denied.

For my own clarity of thought, I’m going to address issues systematically, providing links for what, in my opinion, are many of the issues at hand.

In order:
  1. Introduction: A Volunteer's Perspective and Observations
  2. Euthanaiza Policy
  3. Rescues and the Impact of Language
  4. Pit Bulls - Legal and Illegal
  5. Foster Program
  6. Security Guards and Monitoring (and the Kincaid Affair!)
  7. No Returns
  8. No Intakes
  9. Summary

Rescues .. and the Impact of Language

I found myself perplexed by the discussion by OSPCA lawyers present when they referred to rescues as “illegal”. This discussion was engendered in part by two issues: the ostensible “theft” of Kincaid (which was dismissed as “under investigation”, therefore not open to discussion) to the reason why the OSPCA has prevented the illegal pit bulls from being allowed to leave for rescues outside Ontario which have been procured for them.

One of the two THS lawyers at the meeting referred to the whole area of “rescues” as “grey’ then consistently said there was an issue because they were “illegal”. I see this as open to interpretation. While obviously NOT a lawyer, I can’t help but speculate that something in a ‘grey area’ is neither legal nor illegal; but using logic, one SHOULD err more on the side of the legality of rescues as by inference, if they were ILLEGAL, the OSPCA as the government-mandated body policing animal welfare would have dealt with the issue LONG before this. As thousands of rescues operate freely, openly and without interference, I believe it is safe to say, the ‘grey’ area is hardly an issue.

In all fairness, whether the 'legality' is general or ONLY under the Dog Owners Liability Act ("DOLA") is confusing and amongst those I spoke with, there was some disagreement as to whether it is GENERALLY illegal for rescues to operate or only under the DOLA.

The grey area according to one volunteer based on her interpretation, referred to the DOLA. She felt they were not saying rescues were a grey area with respect to legality, just that they are not mentioned in DOLA. Apparently the only places you can legally transfer an “illegal” dog to under DOLA are shelters and to an animal research facility. Again, I'll try to seek some clarifcation on this issue.

As the issue of rescues came up in two instances- safe harbour for our illegal pit bulls AND with respect to Kincaid – it is curious that suddenly ‘rescue’ operations are open to legalities that I have never heard cited with respect to them before.

I ask again – IF rescues are in a “grey” area why suddenly does that “grey” area seem to be an issue; that “grey” seems to have only become problematic when the OSPCA has need of a legal stick to challenge Kincaid’s placement and/or safe haven for our pits.

Language and the Medium is the Massage

This was one of the first (but far from the last) instances of what I deem “offensive language use” – in that they consistently – despite being brought up on it several times – and to my mind, deliberately kept linking the term “illegal” (as in pit bulls who had no papers to prove they were grandfathered before the BSL legislation came into effect) with the designation “dangerous”.

The reality is that language is a powerful tool. From Ms. McDonald’s subtle but frequent references to the investigation into the OSPCA and her use of the word “horrors”, “cruelty”, the inclusion of the audience in appreciating the “terrible, heart-breaking conditions found” to the consistent and offensive linking of “dangerous” and “illegal”, to my mind, this is a clever and effective way of influencing listeners to concur with the moral superiority of the OSPCA to conduct business as it sees fit and to agree with the OSPCA personnel that indeed, intervention was not only warranted but necessary.

The reality is that use of such language is at best, inflammatory, at worst, bordering on influence-peddling. The reality is that MANY allegations have yet to be proved in Court and while there is no argument with anyone who has spent any time in the THS over the past several years that there were issues – some quite awful – I, together with many others would certainly challenge the SCOPE of the ‘abuse’ allegations by the OSPCA.

Dangerous Dog Designation

Another designation I found was never clarified. The ‘dangerous dog” designation was used at will by both Ms. McDonald and OSPCA lawyers. However, when challenged, it was not clearly explained (in my opinion) as to who makes that designation. Despite asking several times for elucidation – and in some cases having the individual backtrack on the allegation – I am still unclear as to what the parameters and criteria are for designating a dog “dangerous” AND who in fact has the legal right to so designate!

As they concurred that none of the kennels (including Kincaid’s) had any kind of ‘dangerous’ designation posted, other than to justify their refusal to allow volunteers and some staff access to dogs with whom we have interacted safely and happily with for many months (and sometimes years), the “dangerous” dog designation appears to me to be simply a convenient way to exert control over dogs either THEY found challenging or that they chose to exert their authority over.

Pit Bulls - Legal and Illegal

From a volunteer perspective, this is, without doubt, one of the most contentious issues.

I was surprised to learn that according to THS lawyers, the REASON why our illegal pits have been refused permission to leave for safe haven in rescues found for them is that TORONTO ANIMAL SERVICES has to sign off to permit them to leave! And, has to date, refused to do so!

This is the first time I have heard this and I would be curious to know the reasoning that allowed two of our pits to go to New Brunswick (where within weeks, they found loving homes) did not extend to the balance of our illegal pits that were supposed to go to Ohio.

I reiterate that I did find it offensive that the designation “dangerous” was consistently and implicitly linked with the term “illegal” when one has NOTHING to do with the other.

In a later conversation after the meeting with one of the lawyers, it was worrisome that he singled out Tiger in particular as a problem. In that he feels Tiger’s ‘biting history’ makes it probable there will be “potential legal ramifications”. First, I want to state categorically, Tiger is NOT a dangerous dog. Tiger is NOT a biter. The ONE bite he gave to a NEW volunteer was without question, due to the inexperience, provoking and stupid behaviour of that VOLUNTEER – who despite Tiger giving her warning after warning that she was provoking him, ignored the signals and continued her inappropriate, unprofessional behaviour.

This is most definitely an issue, we as a volunteer group, MUST keep in the public eye and continue to pursue. Our illegal pit bulls deserve a chance to live a full, healthy and loving life.

Finally, on a positive note, some of the pit bulls formerly designed illegal, have had papers found which exonerate and “legalize” their status.

Princess (whose status was never in questin) is now up for adoption and the lawyer informed me that Crowe was cleared for legal status and adoption several days ago.

Foster Program

In the context of the short suspension of the foster program and the uncertainty surrounding its current and future status, the reasons given were myriad.  Simply put, the chaos of the THS paperwork indicated that there were several questionable issues surrounding the Foster Program. Issues such as lack of paperwork, lack of follow-up of foster placements, no detailing of consistent veterinarian care, etc.

When OSPCA staff were queired as to HOW MANY inspections were done prior to suspending the program, their response was they were aware of "maybe" 45 inspections of foster parents but were extremely VAGUE about how many were actualy carried out. Certaintly none of the fosters present (and simply through counting those who identified themselves as foster parents there were at least 10) had not received even a phone call and were unaware of this inspection.  Conversely, they indicated that another reason for the suspension was that they needed animals to be "cleared by vets" that woudl be placed into home approved by THS and OSPCA - yet again, no one of whom we are aware has received a call!

Security Guards and Monitoring of Volunteers (and the Kincaid Affair!)

It is almost impossible to speculate that the heavy-handed and offensive monitoring of volunteers is, as asserted in last night’s meeting, linked NOT to a belief that dog walkers are going to steal, abuse or otherwise circumvent current OSPCA rulings vis-a-vis the dogs, but to their earnest desire to ‘protect’ us – even from ourselves, which was proferred as the REASON for the offensive security measures.

The lawyers said that there have been many threats made against THS staff, OSPCA staff and the institution in general; as such, they feel compelled to ‘protect’ the perimeter and the people in it.

I might add here that I question why - if there were death threats or threats of bodily harm - that volunteers were not warned. I also wonder if protocol was followed by the OSPCA and these threats were reported to Toronto Police Services? Perhaps anyone reading this that is cognizant can let us know?

They refused to speculate that the rumour perpetuated by the OSPCA that Kincaid was ‘stolen’ had resulted in watching the volunteers to ensure that MORE dogs were not ‘stolen’ or ‘substituted’.

As a dog walker who has had up to FIVE OSPCA officers and/or security guards watching every step I take, I would challenge their assertion that it was “for my own good”.

When I first heard the allegation that a Kincaid has (a) been spirited away to a “disreputable” rescue, (b) a “ringer” had been substituted.. and (c) the “ringers” had a substitute, which substitute then disappeared – I laughed! Such absurdity! Conspiracy theories! Scandal! Of course it wasn’t true – but according to Fred in One Bark at a Time (( – who incidentally, apart from being an enthusiastic supporter of the OSPCA has indicated he has a good “source” – this indeed is what is allegated!

The reality of course, is vastly different but we were not given the opportunity to defend ourselves, as this issue “is currently under investigation”.

So for those who have heard the rumour – dismiss it! Kincaid was legally and openly transferred to a Northern Ontario rescue – under the auspices of a THS vet AND staff members. Transported with full authority by a volunteer to a halfway point where he was handed over to the rescue person – who has since frequently and lovingly given updates as to his excellent progress under her aegis.

I would add here, I am HIGHLY insulted at even the suggestion that we would place LESS value on the “ringer” (who by ‘substituting’ we would place into a dangerous position) than on Kincaid. I can assert with authority that we do not decide one animal has more value than another! We love them equally.

Another volunteer was informed after the meeting by an OSPCA lawyer that they had received warning from another “credible source” that there were threats of stealing dogs from the THS, in particular during last walks. He even said that a mini van had been repeatedly sighted in the parking lot around the time of the warning from the “credible source”.

No Intake

This is another area where I found the vacillation unmistakable and irritating. While offering the “carrot” that perhaps within the week or so they will be considering open to surrenders again, the OSPCA clearly delineated an untenable situation.

Intakes are subject to the following provisos:
  1. Staffing to Animal ratios have to meet minimal standards, but OH LOOK, the THS has and continues to lay off staff! Catch 22!! Adequate staff are needed to take care of the animals but BECAUSE there are NO animals, because finances are suffering due to the FLOOD of bad press, no new memberships (the current Board’s bad in that respect!), no adoptions, etc, there is no income being generated (or minimal income). So how are they supposed to hire staff when they don’t have the animals?
  2. NO Strays – now THIS is something I find questionable! Ms. McDonald informed us last night that TAS ONLY has the right to take in strays – that for what, 20 years? the THS has been doing so ILLEGALLY. Which again begs the question – if that were the case, then WHY hasn’t this been addressed before? As I consider that one of their primary functions – in that strays have a far better chance of rehabilitation and surviving at the THS rather than at TAS – this is something that will need to be addressed!
  3. No clarification on what is considered “acceptable” intakes; but that is simply because that issue (amongst the others) did not come up – we should enquire and get a definitive answer whether there will be parameters on which animals will be ‘acceptable” for intake to the “new” THS.
Again, someone has pointed out to me that until about 8-10 years ago, the City of Toronto contracted the THS to be it’s animal pound for strays. That contract was either cancelled or not renewed by the City – most probably becuase of conflicts with Tim Trow.  We are going to look into the Municipal Act  and see in fact that THERE is a provision that makes it illegal for anyone other than Animal Services to take in strays in Toronto.  That type of proviso would certaintly put a tremendous number of rescues (i.e., Toronto Cat Rescue, Annex Cat Rescue, etc) into a qusetionable legal position - and I find it higly improbably that they do NOT take in strays.

Euthanzia Policy

 No doubt there are going to be those who challenge my opinion on this- but the end result of numerous questions, requests for clarification and enquiries as to a clear and concise (hopefully written) clarification of the OSPCA euthanasia policy, the OSPCA earnestly assured us of the following: 
  • Decisions on which animals were to be euthanized were ALWAYS a veterinarian decision based on sound medical protocol – EXCEPT when those decisions are NOT. i.e. well, yes, they DO (reluctantly confirmed) euthanize healthy adoptable animals simply because there are too many of them and there MAY be other situations where healthy adoptable animals ARE euthanized for something other than medical reason.

  •  AND – while veterinarians ALWAYS make the decision (not lay people, even those with authority) THAT too can vary if there are no medical personnel on-site in the OSPCA affiliate – so YES, actually, decision to euthanize ARE made by lay people in some instances based on factors other than medical issues. 

  •  They have euthanized approximately 100 animals*(see below) since they have been occupying the THS; those decisions were made by vets – either OSPCA vets (9) or THS vets (2 FT, 1 PT). Ms. McDonald assured the audience that there is NO influence by the OSPCA vets (and OSPCA policy) on decisions made by THS vets nor have any animals been euthanized for non-medical reasons.

Figures as quoted by Kate McDonald (and recofirmed). Figures are "ballpark" not definitive.

1100 animals as of November 26
Less than 300 now (not sure of small domestic or cat population but can confirm that as of Monday, March 22, there were 18 dogs on-site at the River Street facility)


100 - euthanized (claims medical issues only)
550 - adopted and/or fostered (however, almost confimred they currentl have records of approximately only
          85 foster homes and it is highly improbable that 400+ cats and dogs were adopted so I do wonder
          about this).
300- give or take now still in facility (and I assume Victoria Park one).

950 animals

Leaving still around 100 unaccounted for and I would like some explanation of the disparity between fosters and adoptions and the rather remarkable number of 550.

No Returns

This is perhaps, one of the “answers” I found most provoking. Simply put, the OSPCA claimed that it was not so much a matter of not allowing “returns” but legally speaking, as the dogs, once adopted, became the property of the adopter – then they were not technically “returns” but ‘surrenders’ and the THS is not, by OSPCA directives, NOT open to surrenders.

This is doublespeak at its worst.

The reality is that EVERY reputable shelter not only takes in their returns but DEMANDS that if an adoption does not work, the animal MUST be returned.

Currently animals – returns and otherwise- are being redirected to Toronto Animal Services (and in a pinch, OSPCA facilities outside Toronto).

The reality of this is that if an animal is returned and re-directed to TAS, it places that animal in a possibly lethal position.

I am not “TAS-bashing”; frankly, TAS has improved remarkably over the past many years. The professionalism of their staff, their attitude towards animals, their efforts to make animals adoptable continue to improve.

HOWEVER, they do not and were never intended to have the same mandate as the Toronto Humane Society.

First and FOREMOST, the THS was a refuge. It was to their doors that the sick came, into our halls that the neglected and abused found succour and love and caring, it was within the environs of the THS that animals with “issues” were provided with an opportunity to learn that the world wasn’t always a terrible place.....

The TAS is not intended to be a refuge. First and foremost its mandate is animal CONTROL. While their efforts to find homes for animals is commendable – they are neither prepared nor qualified to deal with even a quarter of the issues in animals that the THS chose (and overall, successfully managed) to do with animals that anywhere else would be considered “unadoptable”.

Thus, animals from OUR facility that are redirected elsewhere (often for those self-same issues) have very little chance of making the “adoptable” list and run a much greater possibility of losing the lottery ...


While I am grateful that the OSPCA is making an effort to dispel the atmosphere of distrust and secrecy, I am not entirely convinced that their efforts were successful. The obvious bond between the group ART and themselves is obvious and, in my opinion, incestuous; however, at least my reading of the situation between the two groups has been unequivocally confirmed.

So, my reading based on last night’s meeting is as follows:
  • Euthanasia policy is open-ended. Despite assurances that it is medical professionals that make such decisions based on medical reasoning, that (by admission of the OSPCA) is not always the case. The THS has been, proudly, for many years a ‘no-kill’ facility. While under the aegis of Tim Trow, that designation was bastardized and twisted into a form of cruelty, I know myself and many individuals (not just volunteers, but members and donors) want passionately to keep it a “no kill” facility within humane boundaries. The OSPCA does not and has never claimed to be a “no kill” facility in the best interpretation of that term. I believe that the THS SHOULD remain as such, with proper application of that term as it is intended to be applied.
  •  No Returns: Currently still OSPCA directed policy. Many of us continue to see it as immoral.
  • Intakes: We will watch hopefully for the promised opening of the THS (Ms. McDonald indicated it could be as recent as in the next two weeks) to intakes once again. I, for one, intend to pursue with OSPCA and THS staff, what the parameters of intakes will entail. What in fact, are clear delimitations of ‘acceptable intakes’. This is an URGENT issue. Not only because we are all concerned about the animals that are being turned away or never arriving, but for the revitalization of the THS it is crucial!
  • Pit Bulls: Our legal pits must and should be made available for adoption. Our illegal pits are currently in a very tenuous and dangerous position (clearly indicated by last night’s meeting). We must continue to fight for their right to a long and happy life and NOT allow them to be condemned for being born in wrong province. If, as Ms. McDonald mentioned, they must be transported without stopping in Ontario, myself and several other volunteers are MORE than willing to do as many hours of driving as is necessary (even in shifts) to get our beautiful dogs to safe haven.
  • Yellow/Red Designated Dogs: Although only briefly touched on, we feel strongly that these dogs must be revisited for the reason why they are not considered adoptable. With three highly certified dog experts currently on staff, it is a waste of resources NOT to use them to deal with these wonderful dogs! We would also ask that the OSPCA seriously consider our request that certain volunteers (whose abilities they can judge) can sign waivers and be allowed to walk these dogs.
  • Foster Program: As indicated above, no argument with ensuring all foster homes are adequate and the animals are in safe, nurturing environments. 
  • FIV/Medical Issues with Cats: We were happy that the OSPCA confirmed that cats with manageable medical issues and FIV-positive felines CAN be considered adoptable. However, we would appreciate some clarification on what the “URGENT” designation means when the emails and/or website items go up. When finding a home (foster or adoptive) is “URGENT” – does this mean that the cat has a limited time in which to find save haven? And is so, why? 
  • I was told, that part of the issue might be there is now apparently a scoring system in place for the animals. The problem that arises with this system for the FIVs is that “length of stay” and “underlying medical concerns” are on the scorecard. A double whammy for them if they develop other medical complications, especially those that are treatable or minor, since FIV is obviously an “underlying condition” (despite the fact it’s only in the last decade that vets new about it and started testing for it, and many cats are never even tested at the THS or other shelters – our guys just have the mis/fortune of looking a little rough so they get tested) and that condition means it takes a bit longer to find them homes. Plus for so long the FIV room was almost impossible for anyone to see into and there was no obvious notice on the door that the cats inside were adoptable.