Saturday, May 30, 2009

The truth will out


Thank you Globe and Mail. Thank you Kate Hammer. Someone has finally got enough guts and moral fortitude to tear off the lid over the stinking rot emanating from the Toronto Humane Society.

And thank you to those brave staffers at the THS who are risking their jobs and their personal finances for speaking out.

If you live in Toronto and have any doubt about the misery the animals over at THS are being put through, then click on over to Killing them with kindness. It's a three part article in the Globe and Mail written by Hammer (parts 2 and 3 yet to be published).

Yes, the article does contain graphic photos but they're not taken from the abode of some degenerate animal abuser or miller. They're taken from the inside of Tim Trow's fiefdom, the Toronto Humane Society.

Died Oct 19 3:15 am. Gasped and jerked and cried last breaths, because there was no one in shelter to euthanize or treat. This is not humane.

When I've talked to people who had worked at or dealt with the Toronto Humane Society, I would more often than not hear ghastly tales about severe animal neglect. I never felt right about publishing anything they said because according to them, they'd be terminated and/or sued if word got out that they spoke against Tim Trow and his THS flunkies. I just didn't have the time or energy to protect this blog against that kind of heat.

Media outlets like the Toronto Sun are often fooled by THS' spin but the Globe and Mail has seen clear and is doing the right thing by taking on this corrupted animal welfare cult.

The Globe also obtained pictures of cats and dogs living in their own excrement and interviewed more than 30 concerned current and former employees, volunteers, members and adoptive families – past and present – who have begged for help from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Canada Revenue Agency. They have also tried to enlist the College of Veterinarians of Ontario and Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General, all to no avail.

They've discovered there is little anybody can do to rein in the THS, an independent organization virtually free from oversight, which is headquartered on River Street in Toronto's east end.

Those who have been reading this blog for a while, know that I've written about the backstabbing politicking that is a THS trademark in their frequent media attacks against Toronto Animal Services. They love to parade euthanasia numbers around and deride the higher TAS euth rates without explaining why it's a misleading comparison. I give an explanation of that here but apparently THS animal death numbers, as revealed by the Globe and Mail, show that their own numbers are actually much worse than reported.

Mislead much?

Data obtained by The Globe from the Toronto Humane Society's Chameleon database, a system used by many shelters and maintained off-site, show that nearly twice as many animals died inside the shelter between Jan. 1, 2008 and April 10, 2009, than were euthanized.

What does this mean? It means that a lot of animals are left to die horribly slow, agonizing deaths inside their filthy cages but because they died "natural" deaths, those deaths aren't counted in THS euthanasia numbers.

Now it's been a pretty bad month at TAS South with the deaths of Bobby and then George but imagine how much worse it would have been for those two if TAS staff had been ordered by management to just let Bobby die "naturally" of parvo in his cage or to just let George die "naturally" of bloat. That would have been unforgivable.

And yet how many hundreds of times has the staff at Toronto Humane been told to just let the animals in their supposed "care" suffer alone in their cages? And how much longer can this be allowed to continue happening? THS supporters love to hear that their money is going to an organization that has low euth rates but leaving animals to die in pain just to keep euth numbers down and trick donations up is pretty sick behaviour.

“There is no column for ‘died in a cage neglected,' ” said Ms. Mathison, the kitten volunteer ...

Yeah, I wish I had had the guts to write this absolutely essential article. The Globe and Mail and Kate Hammer are both exposing themselves to lawsuits, I'm sure, from the litigious THS and I hope they're ready for the shit storm that's going to fly at them from all the bleary eyed supporters of that place. But now the truth is out and I'm hoping it'll start the momentum going to kick Trow's ass onto the curb so that the Toronto Humane Society can become a truly humane society once again.


Barb said...

Just appalling - this sounds somewhat similar to stories about the LA city shelter. It's like these directors hear "No Kill equals increased $$ and lots of public approval" and they neglect to learn what exactly "No Kill" really means.

Or maybe they just don't care.

So instead of working to find homes for the adoptable animals they just let animals die of "natural causes".

In LA there were even reports of healthy animals - especially kittens - being deliberately housed with sick ones, in order that more of them would die "naturally" and not mess up the euthanasia numbers.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the Globe and Kate Hammer for exposing the suffering.

Amy said...

The management of THS sounds absolutely terrible, and I truly hope that this article will make more people aware of what is going on. The citizens of the community should be outraged and demanding change. Is a humane society an ideal place for an animal? No, but the animals should be guaranteed basic care: clean runs, food, water, and veterinary care. Its disgusting that Trow's own agenda of keeping euthanasia numbers low is resulting in slow and painful deaths for animals. There is nothing remotely humane about that, and its a shame that he doesn't realize those animals' blood is on HIS hands. As always, its the animals that lose out in the end. I pray that things will change - for the sake of the animals who deserve so much better.

Social Mange said...

Thanks for the heads-up about the article. It is past time the public knew what went on at THS. The institution has deteriorated sadly since Tim Trow became President. I'm a former volunteer who left.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. It's about time!

Joanne said...

Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for Tim Trow.....bye bye....all those people who gave monthly donations will finally learn what has really been done with their money (not much) and hopefully rise up and demand justice for all those poor animals who died in pain and alone which they mistakenly thought they were helping. Another psychopath in animal there no end to these glory seeking monsters?

Ian said...

This is horrific.
I don`t even know what else to say.

Good for those who have spoken up.

JenniferATemple said...

For many years we donated to THS via monthly debits from my husband’s checking account. We continued to do so even after we took a badly, genetically damaged cat to them. The cat was feral and leaving kittens every where. I Tried get the cat to feed the kittens but the mother would not comply.

I took the cat to THS rather than leave it out on the street to produce yet more unwanted and dieing kittens. They refused to take it in "because it was not adoptable". I explained I knew that and expected it would need to be put down. I asked what they expected us to do, "Put it back out on the street?"

"That's up to your conscience." I was told, BUT in the end request for euthanasia was answered AFTER WE PAID FOR THE SERVICE! Our conscience is apparently greater than that of the THS. We are of very limited means and that procedure was hard on us. It was the right thing to do and the THS should have taken responsibility!

My next run in with the THS was over a dog we adopted from them. It ran off after being startled. It had only been with us a few weeks and I am sure the dog had not had time to bond. We posted that night on the THS website; we searched day and night, over miles of parks and river banks, sometimes at 3&4 AM. A few weeks went by and no word from any shelters I took my lost dog poster down to the THS to make sure he was not there and had been missed on scanning.(He was micro-chipped)
Mr. Smith bellowed at me as I started to show him my dog. "Why are you just reporting him now?!" I said, "Oh, now, he was posted the same evening and I phoned the next day." Mr. Smith would not even consider listening to me. He said "I saw this dog for sale on a website" I was astounded and inquired as to which site. "I don't remember." "Well, what kind of sites were you looking at" "I don't remember but I'm telling you, you can never come here again and you may never adopt an other animal from us."

He took my dogs papers and was going to keep them. I requested the papers back and he went to get a second man to throw me out. I stopped my funding that day and will never give them an other red cent!! EVER. All my donations now go to TAS or the wild life hospital. I support both, financially and ethically! It was a lot uglier than I have described here but I do not want to try people's patience with details.

Andria said...

Thank you Globe and Mail! It's about time this got out! The THS animals need a voice, and Tim Trow certainly can't provide that.

You're right though, these folks are brave for getting out there. I can't imagine the lawsuits they'll have flung at them as a result - gulp.

Tim Trow must go!

Jenna said...

I just hope the animals there don't continue to suffer as donations money is used by them to sue the Globe.

Jenn said...

As I have been looking more and more into rescue, I have been hearing horror stories about the THS. I stopped by there one day and was treated with such a negative attitude that I vowed I would not adopt from them when the time came. Particularly as I had heard they were not being forthcoming with truthful information about the animals.

Unfortunately, I think that donation money will be used for litigation rather than the animals. There is already a note on the article saying they have closed comments for legal reasons.

monica said...

I am so disgusted I don't know what to say - thank God for the brave people who speaking up for the animals & exposing this cruelty.

illona said...

i posted my own response to Kate Hammer's article this morning, and this evening was directed to yours. here's to spreading the word.

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how happy I am that this article came out. I have been a volunteer at the THS in the kitten nursery for five years and have been trying to get an article like this written for the last year. I've talked to shelter staff and volunteers, asking if they would be willing to publicly speak out, and I've tried to organize something through media contacts I knew from a few years back. It has been slow going because everything had to be so covert at the THS, otherwise you would get fired and any hope of helping the animals you had become attached to in a hands-on way would be gone. I hadn't managed to pull it together before this article came out.

I don't care. I'm just glad something like this came out. It is so much worse than even that article describes.

I am interested to see what the second and third parts of this expose will say. Today's article seems to imply that the THS doesn't euthanize enough. While this is COMPLETELY TRUE, what concerns me more is that many of the seemingly small things that help to keep an animal healthy fall through the cracks, which actually causes healthy animals to become sick. Then, instead of euthanizing them, THS lets them die in their cages.

So rather than just pointing a finger at the fact that the THS needs to euthanize sick animals, the problem needs to be recognized as being much bigger than that. In fact, the THS is *creating* sick animals by not doing simple things to help keep them healthy.

Today at the shelter was a perfect example - not enough clean laundry to change the cages, so kittens with severe diarrhea stay in their own feces.

Not enough volunteers, so kittens start missing feedings. Not enough vet techs, so kittens don't always get weighed, and they begin to lose weight and no one notices that they're literally starving to death.

Not enough medication - so the vets can prescribe it, but no one ordered it and the animals don't get it. Not enough vet techs to administer the medication, so the vets prescribe it, we miraculously have it, but the kittens still don't get it.

Not enough time scheduled for mundane tasks like washing kittens, so they stay caked in food and diarrhea for days, ending up with sores, ulcers, and even necrotic limbs. Or worse yet, routine infections go unnoticed and eventually kill the animal in extremely painful ways - once an ear infection got so bad over the course of a few weeks that the brain matter started to leak out of the kitten's ear.

So while I think this article is a great first step, I'm hoping that Kate goes further than just pointing out that sick animals need to be euthanized. Because from the front lines, the larger problem is that through reckless mismanagement of funds and staff, poor treatment of staff and volunteers, and the punishment or outright firing of anyone who speaks up, the THS is actually *creating* the sick animals it then refuses to euthanize.

Simone (lacking a google account)

Anonymous said...

How true, IT'S ABOUT TIME! I just hope it does not trikkle down in the sand and disappear. (As it did a few years ago when the Star had a similar article out). That would be terrible for the animals and the remaining vets, staff and volunteers.
The animals deserve to be treated with true humantiy.
Thank you Kate Hammer and all of those coming forward.

Fred said...

Simone, thanks for that account.

You're totally right, of course. Euthanasia is not the answer. It's a last resort. Better managed care is key. The situation you describe with the kittens is horrific. You've got thick skin to be able to continue working in those conditions. I wouldn't last.

Question for you, if you read this: I can see Tim Trow exerting some kind of control over the board but what about all the regular members of THS? Why aren't they doing anything about the conditions there?

Anonymous said...

One of the Anonymous comments a few posts back caught my attention about the kitten nursery and how, with a few more volunteers or better management, there could be an improvement in kitten health and less need for euthanasia. So you are absolutely right, Fred, better managed care is key. Fix the problem up front and you don't end up with infections and painful conditions and possibly death.

Easier said than done. The euthanasia decision is a very fine line to walk. I bet most of us on this blog have walked that line with our own pets. But it's important to look at opportunities to prevent problems in the first place.

Anonymous said...

In terms of THS members, do you mean the donors who pay the $30 for membership?

I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren't doing something about the conditions there. The first is that THS members are usually people who want to help animals by donating money. This is a very necessary and important role; without financial support from the public, many shelters would close down. But just because someone donates money, that does not always imply they are willing to go to AGMs, start petitions, attend protests, or spend a lot of time and energy on changing the conditions at the shelter.

For example, there was a period of over a year when the Teamsters were picketing outside the THS Some of the people coming into the THS had to have been members, and a ton of people adopting animals saw them over the course of their strike. But they didn’t manage to get enough public support to force the THS to address their concerns about animal welfare. As a side note, the THS was feeding the concerned volunteers (and probably the public too) utter lies about why the Teamsters were striking, claiming that it had to do with salary and benefits!

Also, I talked to someone in the past who had tried to voice concerns at an AGM and they told me that the board is mostly Tim Trow supporters who have a lot of their friends as THS members. This means that there is a circle of support – friends vote friends onto the board, who then vote their friend (Trow) in as president. Because of this, a heavy presence at the AGMs is required to vote even just ONE non-Trow supporting member onto the Board, and even one dissenter in the ranks isn’t enough to get useful protocols passed if everyone else votes against it. I think that ousting Tim Trow is a difficult thing to do without public pressure, which I am hoping this article will help to generate.

But the real, pressing truth is that people who don't have direct experience working on the front lines at the THS just don’t know how bad things really are.

Whenever Trow brings people through on tours, the space he is going to tour is warned in advance to ensure that everything is up to his idea of acceptable. There is always hell to pay if the member/donor tour sees something Trow doesn’t approve of. Some of his ideas of what is acceptable for the donors to see are insane and actually bad for the animals.

Once he brought a tour through the clinic and one of the tour participants asked why there was no water in the bowls of some of the animals. Trow agreed with them that it was a terrible state of affairs and promised to fix it. He came back to the clinic and yelled at a vet tech about the lack of water in some of the cages. She explained that the animals without water were recovering from anesthetic and were still groggy, and that in the past they had had some animals nearly drown in their water bowls while still under the effects of the anesthetic. Trow didn’t care. He yelled and ranted and threatened, and in the end mandated that all cages should always have food in water in them, regardless of the condition of the animal.

So Trow manages to hide the truth about what’s going on at the THS, and listening to him in interviews he sounds like a smart, compassionate person - just the type you would want running a place like the THS. But the truth is that he isn’t a vet, and he doesn’t know what is best for animals. He also doesn’t listen when people who do know what is best for animals directly advise him. All of this adds up to the fact that the public doesn’t really know what’s going on in the back rooms. And if the THS is painting a rosy picture of how things are in the shelter, then why would the average THS member bother going to AGMs? They have no way of knowing that anything needs changing.

Anonymous said...

ps. In terms of my thick skin, I think I have definitely gotten better than when I first started five years ago, but the work still takes its toll. I never schedule anything after volunteering at the THS because you can never tell how long your shift will be (anywhere from 4 to 8 hours), but also because after I am done there I am so emotionally drained that all I can do is lie in my bed for a few hours to recuperate. I know I’m doing the best I can, but seeing the animals in so much distress is always painful.

Still, if I stopped doing it because it’s hard, then the ones who will suffer are the kittens I don’t wash, the kittens I don’t feed, and the kittens whose cages I don’t clean.

So I get up every Saturday and go, even if I don’t really want to anymore. Working under the conditions we do, it long ago stopped being fun, but it still needs to be done.


Fred said...

Simone, thanks for the response wrt donors' perceptions and I also want to say keep up the good work with the kittens, though those words don't do justice to your efforts.