Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hooray for us

Well, this is a first. Right at this moment, there are no dogs up for adoption at Toronto Animal Services South and even the stray count is way below average - at zero (unfortunately, there are still loads of cats and bunnies and, I think a couple of feathered friends). This is due, in most part, to two things.

The first is that the heating in part of the building has been spotty for the past few weeks because the heating equipment contractors can't seem to do their jobs properly. For a week or more, the heat was completely off then it got "fixed" for a few days and then it went off again. The part of the building affected most by this is in the back where rescue dogs are kept under observation for a few days before being put into adoption. It's freezing back there. They tried area heaters but that just ended up tripping the breakers. The rescue dogs that were back there weren't happy and had to be moved into adoption which of course caused some confusion amongst the public who were wondering why dogs in adoption weren't actually up for adoption. Plus, it's not a good idea to mix the potentially unhealthy dogs with healthy dogs cleared for adoption in the same environment. Anyway, it was a bit of a mess, so, it was decided to postpone bringing in any new animals from other jurisdictions for rescue until there are warmer accomodations for them.

The other reason for there being no dogs up for adoption or in strays is a great reason and that's because, in general, Torontonians take care of their dogs. As much as a big part of this blog highlights abuse and neglect of some of the dogs that come through the front doors of TAS, I have to remind myself that we in Toronto do pretty good by our pets. Now being a typical Canadian, I feel I must curb any self congradulatory enthusiasm by saying something like, "Yeah, but we could do better," which, of course is true of anything, but really, we do pretty damn good. I think most urban jurisdictions would love to have our animal control problems (or lack of them).

I'm not really sure there's any good explanation for this other than for some reason, as urban dwellers of Toronto, we seem to have a good general sense of how dogs should be treated. I don't think I'm sticking my head in the sand when I say that I hardly ever see stray dogs wandering the streets or hear about large scale chronic neglect like backyard chaining or abandonment or starvation or dog fighting. I even asked the staff at TAS about dog fighting and they tell me that they've never come across it, certainly nothing organized.

I don't think we as a city did anything special to get this way, at least nothing explicitly directed to animal welfare. It's not like we have great animal outreach programs better than other places nor do we have much stricter enforcement (at least I don't think so). I have to wonder then if this is because, as a city, Toronto is doing pretty good for itself socially and economically - certainly relative to other major urban centers. That, combined with the fact that, as fairly well educated, liberal North Americans, we have a more (though obviously imperfect) enlightened sense of animal welfare perhaps just naturally creates a better environment for the animals in our care. (I know it's another taboo for Canadians to openly and unironically declare ourselves to be more enlightened than others in anything whatsoever but there you go. I've just gone and done it.)

Our animal related legislation, our shelters and rescues, our outreach programs all help (or in some cases hinder: BSL), especially in acute situations but they don't really differentiate us in Toronto that much from other cities. I'm thinking our animals do well mostly because we do well.


Caveat said...

Congratulations to TAS on doing a great job.

Now, imagine how much more enlightened we'd appear if we could scrap the antiquated, inhumane, costly and useless ban on 'pit bulls' brought in by the McGuinty 'Liberals' (an Orwellian moniker if I've ever heard one).

That would be progressive, educated, intelligent and kind.

Anonymous said...

I hope our heating problem gets fixed fast. It scares me because that was what led to the horrific fire in Oshawa Humane Society. They had heating and wiring problems. Scary!!! I don't know if it's just me but since I've been volunteering with dogs I've noticed so much more pet advertising, Shows on tv about pets, dog spas, dog trainers, dog camps, and a general public concensus that adoption is the way to go. 2 thumbs up for the shift that I have been noticing taking place. Thank you to Cesar Milan "the dog whisperer" and other advocates for pet rescue. Times are changing and we are all responsible for this!! Keep it coming Canada! Animals are the planets' great gift to us and they deserve our respect and protection.


P.S did the puppies get adopted too?

Fred said...

No, the puppies as well as their mother are still there. Still not ready for adoption yet.

Laura Tumak Hickey said...

I agree with Caveat. It is a shame that the real reason there are no "pit bulls" (or lookalikes) available for adoption is because Big Brother in Queens Park will not allow them to leave the shelter alive. I wish there were no "pit bulls" available because of responsible ownership and an end to backyard breeders. *sigh* said...

"That, combined with the fact that, as fairly well educated, liberal North Americans, we have a more (though obviously imperfect) enlightened sense of animal welfare perhaps"

It would be an amazing thing to walk into a shelter and see this. Yet here in Eastern Washington we seem to fill the shelters over and over, and the knee-jerk 100 year old reaction is to kill 'em to resolve the problem. Doesn't, of course. Many of those owners get another free dog from a neighbors unwanted litter, and it begins all over again.

Can you tell me what licenses cost there? They are $20 each here, since last year. Do you have a spay/neuter voucher program? You can get one with your license here, though it may leave you on the hook for another $25 to $100, depending on the surgery. Are dogs mostly picked up and taken to the shelter so the owner has to redeem them, with regular days for killing if the shelter gets full, or is there another mindset?

I heard the head of animal control say "Canadians just like their dogs more". Yet of most of the people I know, they all care a lot for their animals, and make sure there are no unwanted litters. But there are pockets of those who don't, for a lack of money or perhaps motivation or education. It may be cultural, but, if so, are there ways to work against it? What is unique in the Canadian experience that might lead to this? are they much better at building fences?

Thank you so much for this post. While I realize it had somewhat to do with the lack of heating, it is still an amazing thing to contemplate. I don't print many, but that on is on my wall.

Fred said...

If my memories correct, our licenses are between $25 - $60/year depending on whether a dog is speutered or not with price exemptions for older folks. There is a low cost, city run speuter clinic. I'm not sure what the details there are but I wouldn't be surprised if the costs are similar to what you've got in Eastern Washington. From what I hear, the Toronto clinic's also got a long waiting list but a new low cost speuter clinic will soon be opening up.

Speaking only for TAS South, I've never seen it full to capacity. It's been crowded at points but never full. They've never had to euthanize due to overcrowding. As long as I've been volunteering there, the unofficial policy is that no adoptable dog leaves in a bag. The majority of euthanizations are done because they're owner requested (I could be wrong about this but if I am, I don't think I'm too far off - something I should check if the data is publically accessible). Private vet euthanizations cost $300 - $500 here so a lot of people will bring their pets into TAS for the $35 euth but even then, if the pet is healthy and adoptable, it'll go into adoption.

(Note that this is NOT a recommendation for people to bring their pets into TAS for euthanization. Use it as a last resort, not as the main option. A public execution is still a public execution and dying pets deserve as much dignity as they can get.)

I don't know if Canadians like their dogs more. I'm speaking only of the situation in Toronto. There are other towns, cities, provinces in Canada where dog abandonment and exploitation are rampant. I don't know if even Torontonians like their dogs more than the citizens of other cities in North America. We've got a large immigrant population that did not grow up with the same standards of animal care that North Americans generally do. We've got legislators who have foisted BSL on us. We've got many of the same inner city problems that many other cities have. It's just that mass dog related neglect and cruelty is not one of them. I don't know why. I could guess but I it would just be a guess, no better than if I said it's because of Santa Claus. I'm pretty sure, though, that it's not just because of one or two things. It's due to a combination of things, dog related and people related, and we may just be lucky to have hit the sweet spot.

Although, you might be onto something with the fences idea. There are a lot of fences around here.

jtuck004 said...

Thank you for your post. With those hints I did some web crawling. Interesting difference in locations. Shelters here are typcially stuck out away from where anyone goes, on dead end or rarely used roads - you really have to be going there to go there. Toronto South is in the huge Exhibiton Center. A couple of the pictures I looked at make it seem as if thousands of people pass by there during events or at other times. There are lots of factors, but for the government to stick this right in the middle of people's lives seems to elevate the pets importance in the community. Feel free to correct my impressions, but it does seem to stand out.

And there are lots of other factors, of course. I am sure the way we raise our kids and take care of those in our community has a lot to do with it. Maybe some of those differences can be identified and used to influence community behavior and make it a more humane and safer place for all of us.

Thanks again for the information.

Fred said...

You're right in that the location of TAS South is on exhibition grounds and during events thousands of people do walk by but depending on the event, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. For something like the Royal Winter Fair which draws a more rural farming crowd, that's a good thing. Larger, high energy dogs have a better chance of being adopted by people who happen to be at the show looking for rugged farm dogs. For an event like the recent boat show, it doesn't really make a difference. Then there are events like the Canadian National Exhibition (big city fair with midway rides, cotton candy, etc.) it's actually detrimental because a lot of yahoos end up going into TAS for entertainment and create havoc with the dogs, feeding them crap, rattling their kennels, poking them and just generally being too many and too noisy. It can get so bad that during those weeks when the CNE is there, TAS will move the dogs out of the facility.

The majority of the time the immediate area around TAS South is pretty empty which is probably not such a good thing. It would be much better if it had more consistent traffic exposure. Most people in Toronto don't even know it's there - though that is changing I think because people are starting to hear about the excellent pets available at the shelter. Well, usually available.

Ellstar said...

I just wish this was the same case as with cats. :( It's just depressing the number of cats who call 'home' the TAS or Humane Society, not to mention the dozens of independantly run rescues we have all across the city.

Fred said...

Yes, the cat situation is very sad. I suspect that the cats at TAS are barely even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stray cats in Toronto.