Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Keep Toronto Animal Services PUBLIC - back off Ford! - Letter to my councillor ...

Laura (from Feathers, Fur and the Occasional Fang blog) here and here.
Social Mange here.
Pound Dog (also TAS volunteer)  here , here and here.

July 26, 2011


Councillor Michelle Berardinetti
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West, Suite A8
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Dear Ms. Berardinetti:

RE: Toronto Animal Services

As a constituent in your riding, I am writing to ascertain your stand on the Ford-endorsed, KPMG suggestion that animal services in Toronto be privatized.

While already disappointed, with your short-sighted take on the bike lanes in our City, I am hopeful that you realize that to privatize TAS would be morally repugnant and a grievous step towards undermining a moral and compassionate society. Simply by googling Berger Blanc - the 'for profit' animal services in Montreal, you will see how horrific an environment is created when animals are relegated to a commodity. There are a plethora of article on recently revealed atrocities which have been - and continue to be - endemic to this type of organization.

Toronto Animal Services has made tremendous strides towards becoming a truly compassionate, healthy and positive guardian of animal welfare in the City of Toronto, and hopefully will be accorded the opportunity to continue to work towards an even more animal-positive environment. While there are still strides to be made, I have been favourably impressed with the positive changes I have witnessed over the past 15 years. Their trained staff are informed, educated and compassionate while their volunteer base is superlative. The euthanasia rate has steadily declined and most animals are given every opportunity to find a forever home in a welcoming, positive environment while waiting. This excellent care is provided at a very reasonable cost to the City. Further, the recently reformed Toronto Humane Society and TAS have established a positive and dynamic relationship which has resulted in the smooth transition of animals between their facilities in order to maximize adoption opportunities.

Animal services in any city must be a publicly funded and integral part of the infrastructure. A moral society recognizes the philosophical imperative to “do no harm” and an enlightened society strives to embrace an understanding of responsibility to all the denizens of the enclave. Calgary has done a superlative job of creating a publicly-funded service which many cities throughout North America seek to emulate. Strong licensing, cost-effective spay/neuter programs and close to a ‘no kill’ rate of euthanasia are among its successes; Toronto should continue to work towards a similar infrastructure NOT follow Montreal’s outrageous, inhumane and, ultimately, inefficient example.

Please advise of where you stand on this issue and some indication of where you intend to vote. Are you in favour of privatizing TAS or invested in keeping it a public service?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Sheenagh Murphy

(faxed as of 8 a.m. July 26 - not optimistic as my councillor has been remiss in responding to other issues I've brought up)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DESPERATE need for donations and foster homes for LOTS of Bunnies

Rabbit Rescue took on a gargantuan task of taking in, caring for and providing much needed medical attention to more than 100 rabbits from a hoarding situation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario. While the call originally went out to the Sudbury OSPCA, it was in fact Rabbit Rescue who has taken on all the responsibility for dealing with these bunnies, all of which need medical help.

Please DONATE anything you can - medical expenses are expected to top more than $30,000 and the OSPCA has left this wonderful rabbit rescue organization holding the bag.

As per the website:
Of the 103 rabbits we took in last weeks, most are requiring immediate medical attention. All need to be spayed/neutered. Many rabbits have URIs, and urine scald, but many others have much more serious problems requiring extensive medical care. These include: an enucleation (eye removal), GI stasis, dental disease, incisor extraction, molar filings, dental abscesses, mastectomy for abscessed mammary gland. Please help us help the bunnies by making a tax deductible donation today!
The organization is also desperately seeking fosters; cages and other needs will be supplied. Please contact if you can help foster a bunny (or call 905-875-4343). 

Housing is also needed - large dog cages, cubes and other housing would be gratefully received.

The Guelph Mercury article is here and the Toronto Star coverage here.

Rabbits are wonderfully amusing, curious little animals who make loving companions for many years.  Rabbit Rescue faces a HUGE and daunting task to care for these innocent little bunnies - if you can help, every dollar COUNTS!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Urban Desert - Conclusion

(Parts 1, 2 and 3 are here, here and here)

Embrace the Opportunity to Interact

We have a priceless opportunity in this city to teach our children and educate ourselves about a wider world than one constrained by cement and concrete. So many of us today are alienated and removed from the environment. Many children have no concept of where the food on their table really originates. They are oblivious to the realities that milk comes from a cow, that vegetables are grown in a field, that the meat that they see in pristine, shrink-wrapped trays were once living, breathing creatures.

I truly believe that losing contact with the living world around us leaves us lesser for it.

We cover ourselves in the ultimately ephemeral trappings of civilization, seeing in them a hard reality. Yet they are fleeting and transitory, easily derailed and causing chaos, confusion and fear when breakdowns (as they inevitably do) occur.

The cycle of life is often muted and obscured in our urban lifestyle, its reality lost in the frantic rush towards what are ultimately vacuous goals.

We’ve forgotten how to breathe.

We’ve forgotten how to open eyes clouded by smog and the misplaced urgencies created by machines and corporate factories.

We’ve lost sight of the fact that the wildlife so many despise are simply part of the natural order of things – that we too are part of the cycle - our minds, and our spirits connected spiritually and emotionally to the earth we seek to dominate and expunge.

We need to take a deep breath and learn to embrace the creatures who are our fellow travellers in this all too short journey.

Urban Desert… War on Wildlife – Part 3 of 3 (Conclusion to follow)

(Part 1, 2 and Conclusion here)

Lack of Recourse

Perhaps one of the most horrific realities of the lack of effort Toronto puts into co-existing with its wildlife is the LACK of recourse for injured or hurt wildlife.

This was brought home to me a while ago when I desperately sought a place to bring 8 orphaned bunnies.

My first port of call was Toronto Animal Services. While apologetic, they were clear that they deal only with domestic animals and as such, if I brought the bunnies in, they would be immediately euthanized. They were kind enough to give me the number to Toronto Wildlife Services – a completely volunteer-based group with not enough resources despite the caring, passionate people who man the trenches. (Although truth be told, their site promises far more than they can apparently give.)

Unfortunately, after they kindly called me back after leaving a message, they were clear that they had neither the resources nor the people to deal with small bunnies. They in turn pointed me in the direction of Procyon Wildlife  in Beeton, Ontario.

I’m going to do a separate blog entirely on this incredibly wonderful, primarily volunteer-based wildlife services – they ROCK. They also, as founder and incredibly dedicated vet Dr. Cynthia Post said poignantly “may not be open this time next year” as she indicated that as the Centre runs entirely on donations they never know from year to year whether they have enough resources to continue.

So, I did in fact find a place but in so doing realized something awful – there is NOWHERE to go to within this huge city with all its resources to find help with the wildlife which co-exists with the individuals living here.

Seen by a large percentage of the population as “vermin”, racoons, skunks and squirrels are seen as the enemy. Labelled “killers”, coyotes and foxes simply doing what they do are increasingly under threat of being exterminated.

How moral is that? To know we do not exist in a vaccum? That, having displaced these living creatures, we now declare war on them and provide them with no place of refuge nor help when they inevitably come up against the concrete city?

Urban Desert… War on Wildlife – Part 2 of 3

(Parts 1, 3 and Conclusion here)

How to Co-Exist

It is the homeowner’s responsibility to keep possible means of ingress covered – it is not rocket science, nor does it have to be expensive. Keep your trees trimmed, keep your house in good repair, and chicken wire nailed over potential openings is cheap and efficient. When a skunk moved in under my shed (and around the SECOND week in a row when my sweet but far from bright Lass got skunked), I did some research … some ammonia on a rag pushed underneath and refreshed for a day or so and voila! No skunk and NO harm.

Fence your yard with a decent fence – it will keep out most predators.

MONITOR your pets – if you have a small dog, keep it leashed or stay out with it if you’re out for a pee break (to me, that is standard regardless – any animal is put at risk if left unmonitored – not just from wildlife, but from cars and other hazards of urban living).

Keep your cats INDOORS – they’re safer there anyway.

Keep garbage, green bins and recycling bins securely latched. If possible, hang your green bins as it makes it very difficult for the clever and very adept racoons to open them.

DO NOT feed wildlife – not only do you want to discourage them from just hanging out – but it is healthier for THEM if they stick to a natural diet that will meet their nutritional needs. I do confess I feed birds in the winter but once the weather improves, STOP, as the birds need to get what their bodies really need from the environment – not store bought seed.

Urban Desert… War on Wildlife – Part 1 of 3

(See Part 2, 3 and Conclusion here)

The War

The Star’s “Fixer” had a column today on an individual wanting a natural habitat in the Hydro corridor (actually near me) cut down ‘because of snakes’. Unbelievable, simply unbelievable – I am so SICK of the war on wildlife being waged in this city.

Each year, the metropolitan area gobbles up hectare after hectare of arable land, filling it with industrial waste and cookie cutter boxes of houses destroying the environment not only in terms of the land it paves over, but in terms of air pollution from the thousands of cars which commute from further and further distances. (and the subject of another rant, in so doing- due to the massive increase in car traffic, now there is a huge war on CYCLISTS).

Inside the city proper, I watch in disbelief as even the smallest little piece of land is quickly bought up then developed to a ridiculous degree – to a point, in fact, that would have been considered dangerous a few years ago. A small matchbox piece of land on a road near me with a SINGLE family home was bought and 14 TOWNHOUSES were put on it – then people complain when displaced creatures, desperately just trying to live, willing to adapt and just get on with their lives becomes an issue.

We share our limited space here in the city with a variety of wildlife. Coyotes, foxes, racoons, skunks, squirrels, snakes and even opossums, among them. These animals are simply trying to exist, to live their limited lives in the confines of unnatural civilization. They do not consciously choose to piss people off; they do not consciously decide to cause damage or irritate or scare anyone – they simply are – that is the thing about animals – they just ARE.

Yet, when the baby racoon was slashed and bashed with a shovel by an irate homeowner, the comments in the Star overall exonerated the man and excused this horrific behaviour. When the coyotes in the Ravine in the Guild did what coyotes DO and snatched “prey” which happened to be a very small dog, the knives came out and the raucous voice of the mob was heard “KILL THEM”.

We have a moral obligation to SHARE our space – it is we who have displaced the wildlife, not the other way around.

There are many ways and means to peacefully co-exist.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Dog Has Died (Pablo Neruda)

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Silly dogs

Having recently 'sprung' Llyr and Finn from forced incarceration in crates overnight (part of their training regime), there is obviously a period of adjustment required for all.  Finn sleeps beside my bed while the Llyr-boy is relegated to the living room (baby gate securely latched) as he is a counter-surfing, garbage-diving, unrepentent and irredeemable thief.  Today was the first morning that I had to contend with the dogs getting used to my own morning routine...

I get up at the crack of dawn - technically around 10 minutes to 4, often earlier as I have an unfortunate habit of waking too early and then not being able to fall back asleep. Making lunches, cleaning up the kitchen (from late night kid raids), and 20 minutes of Pilates is my morning routine.  The dogs, however, don't get the whole exercise thing ...

First, I lay my yoga mat on living room floor and then put on Pilates DVD.
Push Llyr off mat.
Switch on the routine of choice.
Throw Finn's chewed and drooly ball off my stomach.
Start routine.
Kick Llyr off my feet.
Continue routine.
Push both dogs away as they are now tugging the ball on either side of me and stepping all over me.
Do the "100s", stopping frequently to yell at dogs who are now leaping over me
Push Llyr away, get towel and wipe face from where he has been licking me.
Continue with ab work
Scramble up and pull Llyr away from table where he is raiding my bag with my lunch in it
Put legs in tabletop and start switches
Push Finn's comotose body across floor as she tries to "spoon" with me
Continue routine
Grab towel and wipe up water as Llyr has chewed on my water bottle and punctured it
Realize DVD is done
Shower...accompanied by two dogs, one of whom keeps dropping disgusting chewed toys in the tub ...

Guess there is a learning curve