A recent Sun article initiated by the Toronto Humane Society's request for euthanasia numbers from Toronto Animal Services blasts TAS for its high kill rate.
I can only speak for the dog side of things but that number is 837 dogs euthanized for 2007. I wrote about the last time THS made this announcement a little while ago in which I compared the rate of euthanasia in Toronto to the rate in Calgary. Calgary animal services is much trumpeted by the animal welfare community, and deservedly so, as a model of how city shelters should be run. As it turns out, the percentage numbers of dog euthanasias per dog population between Toronto and Calgary aren't that different.
Now Toronto Humane Society once again trots out the same number, just presented differently, to try to show their moral superiority over Toronto Animal Services. Specifically, THS compares their own euth rates to TAS' much higher euth rates.
Before I go into the numbers, I think it's important to remember that the mandate for TAS and THS are two different things even though THS may like to imply otherwise when they publicly compare euth rates. THS ostensibly is there for the animals. TAS, on the other hand, is a city run facility which is there to serve and protect the public, ie. people.
From THS' own website:
The difference between the Society and animal control agencies lies in the focus of each organization's protection arm. Your local animal control agency is generally charged with the duty of controlling animals. They are the ones you call when a dog is running at large or barking too much. The license your pet wears comes from your local animal control agency. Most animal control agencies are also the ones you contact if there is a dead animal in your yard, road, or neighbourhood.
The Toronto Humane Society works to ensure quality lives for all animals. Our main concern is for the well being of the animal.
So, comparing euth numbers between these two agencies is, right from the outset, somewhat akin to comparing apples and oranges.
Here are some other differences between THS and TAS.
THS claims to have an open admissions policy but they reserve the right to refuse admission to dogs they don't want. Let's take a look at the THS website again:
Q: How do I surrender an animal to you for adoption?
A: At present our Shelter has no extra room. If you need to surrender your pet, as space becomes available, you will need to make an appointment with a Feline or Canine coordinator.
How does this make THS an open admissions shelter? I'm not sure.
And guess where the owners end up going instead to dump their unwanted animals? Well, to TAS of course, because TAS has an open admissions policy that is actually an open admissions policy meaning they are obligated to accept every animal that is brought to them including the "unadoptable" ones rejected by THS - many of which will end up getting euthanized.
Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me THS gets to keep its hands clean because TAS ends up having to do the dirty work.
Another major difference at TAS is that TAS offers low cost euthanasia to the public for those who can't, or won't, pay the much higher vet fees. While this service, like any service, is open to abuse, it means that people don't have to just watch their old or sick animals endure long deaths simply because they can't afford vet euthanasias. This service bumps up TAS euth numbers significantly. (And FYI, I've never known any TAS staffer to euthanize a healthy, behaviorally sound dog just because the owner brought it in and asked for it to be done.)
And finally, there is court ordered and DOLA enforcement. It's a mighty unfortunate aspect of TAS' mandate but they are required to carry it out. Again, another bump up in euth numbers.
So here are the 2007 dog euth numbers for TAS as presented by THS:
1834 adopted/returned to owner
227 euthanized due to significant behavioural problems
162 euthanized due to health issues
112 euthanized due to court orders and DOLA (anti-Pit Bull laws)
336 owner requested euthanasias
If we take away the euthanasias due to health reasons, legal reasons and owner requested that leaves 227 euths. Even if we ignore the fact that THS can turn away unadoptable dogs which in all likelihood end up at TAS and make up a portion of that number, 227 euths out of 2707 admitted, while still too many, is not nearly as bad as THS would like people to think.
Is everything perfectly hunkydory at TAS? No, of course not. It does have its share of bureaucrats but at the same time there are many dedicated staffers whose main goal is looking after the welfare of the animals in their care while also honouring the public trust.
Rolling out the euthanasia numbers with no context in an attempt to pursuade people that Toronto Animal Services is up to no good is at best misleading and at worst - and this is of course what's important - a great disservice to the abandoned animals of Toronto. Instead of making peace and working together to help further the cause of animal welfare in this city, THS continues at playing negative ad campaign politics.