Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Believe it or not, little dogs can get rabies too

I don't read The Toronto Sun but every time a new editorial comes out from Worthington concerning the shelter situation in Toronto, I usually get a few e-mails from readers here telling me about it and like some mind controlled smoker tempted by the next cigarette, I have to go look. There's another one today and it has to do with Toronto Animal Services.

TAS has frequently been a target of Worthington's editorials and usually I read them like I would read an Archie's comic, open to the possibility of humour but not usually finding any and certainly not finding anything based on what I would call an informed reality.

Today's editorial isn't much different. He writes about his stepson, Guy, and Guy's experience in dealing with Toronto Animal Services.

First of all, let me say that Guy is lucky he is speaking out against TAS and not the Toronto Humane Society because he can feel safe knowing that public complaints lodged against TAS aren't going to result in him getting sued by the city agency. If he was Joe Average, not the stepson of Sun editor Worthington, and airing complaints about the THS on the other hand, who knows what kind of legal bullshit he'd be in right now.

There's some back-story about how Guy rescued his Bichon Frise, Diesel, from a negligent owner. Commendable. Unfortunately, Guy one day, about a month ago, leaves Diesel tied up outside a coffee shop where it allegedly bites someone. A security guard there phones TAS about this and an animal control officer is dispatched to pick up Diesel. The ACO brings Diesel to TAS North.

Guy eventually tracks down his dog and goes up to TAS North to retrieve the little fellow but is told that he can't just take his dog home because he's bitten someone and the standard procedure as required by the Toronto Board of Health is that after a dog bite, the dog must be held for 10 days to make sure it doesn't have rabies. Either that or an officer from Toronto Public Health can give his or her stamp of approval and allow the owner to take the dog home.

Now as much as I dislike the idea of keeping dogs separated from their owners, I can appreciate the fact that as a matter of public safety, it's a good idea to take precautions after an unsupervised dog has bitten someone. In fact, public safety is TAS' mandate over and above any rescue/adoption services they provide. If Guy or Worthington have a problem with a ten day hold, then they should take it up with the medical community. If I were bitten by an unknown dog, you can bet I'd want to be pretty sure the dog was rabies free.

Guy did offer TAS North the number of Diesel's vet who he says would have been able to confirm that Diesel had his rabies shots. Unfortunately, despite this, Toronto Public Health is still required to give its okay before the dog is released. This is where Guy's headache starts. No one from Toronto Public Health ever goes to TAS North to check on Diesel to give the all clear and Diesel ends up staying the whole ten days before being released back to Guy.

That sucks. I don't know why it happened. Maybe it was an oversight. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there was a huge backlog of animal related complaints because of the six week Toronto strike that had just been resolved two weeks earlier. Maybe it's chronic systemic inefficiency.

So, yeah, that's a valid complaint to look into. Why did a Toronto Public Health officer never show up at TAS North to clear Diesel? I'm not sure how much that's under the control of TAS, but hey, anything to improve the lives of animals under its roof helps.

As for whether or not the no-show of a Toronto Public Health official for a rabies hold is worthy of editorial space from a major city newspaper ...?

Some of Guy's other complaints concerning his personal ordeal with TAS seem pretty inconsequential, like him having to wait 10 minutes on the final day before they'd release his dog to him because he didn't have proper ID. And as for his suspicion that TAS may be trying to "punish" him by holding his dog for 10 days, well, I don't know about TAS North, but I suspect that at TAS South, if anyone wanted to "punish" Guy, they'd punish him directly, and not his dog, with maybe a fine or something. Usually at TAS South they try to get the dog back to the owner as soon as possible, at the very least even if it's only because that means there's one less animal to feed, walk, clean up after and generally be responsible for.

Now comes the wacky part of the editorial, the part that goes all gangbusters about what an awful place TAS is when it comes to euthanasia numbers. Worthington has several times in the past tried to crucify TAS by using TAS' euthanasia numbers without bothering to explain the reasons behind those euths. This time, he's using his stepson's experience as ammunition.

Guy, while checking out his dog from TAS, overhears a couple trying to drop off a cat (no history provided). They are told that there is no space for the cat in adoptions and when they try to argue the point, they are bluntly told that cats are euthanized on Fridays. No mention is made by Guy or Worthington as to whether this statement is meant as a warning or as a proffering of possible vacancy.

Trying to be helpful to the couple, Guy suggests, “You could try the Toronto Humane Society.”

Ha ha ha. Is he talking about the THS with their not so open "open admissions" policy? Guy wonders why the TAS staffer doesn't suggest to the couple that they turn over the cat to THS. If he only knew how often people walk into TAS pissed off at THS for not accepting their cats because they've been deemed "unadoptable". The main TAS staffer at the South shelter who looks after cat adoptions is a huge rescue person with lots of contacts in the rescue community and who works way too many hours trying to get shelter cats into new homes but I doubt even she would ever recommend to anyone to take a cat to the THS. Actually, I don't know if any of the cat rescues in Toronto would recommend dropping off a cat at the THS.

As much as I write about all the good things TAS South does with regards to animal rescue (and, yeah, only TAS South. The other locations may or may not be much more "police minded" in their duties), TAS is about animal control. That's no excuse to not be compassionate but the hard truth is that when push comes to shove, if there is no room for animals - and cats, in particular, face this problem because of the stray/feral population in Toronto - those least likely to be adopted, will be euthanized.

Is that ideal? No, of course not. Ideally, the overflow of cats should be taken in by an organization focused on animal welfare, not animal control, an organization such as the Toronto Humane Society. Ideally, TAS and THS should be working in partnership to make sure abandoned animals get as good a chance as possible to get into decent homes. I recommend to Guy that he do some personal research, and by that I don't mean just talking to his stepdad, as to why it doesn't work this way in Toronto.


Anonymous said...

If my dog bit someone I'd be all for public safety and want him on bite quarantine for 10 days. Would it be hard as hell to not see him? Yes, but pubic safety is important. Dog/cats/shelter animals get 10 day hold periods outside of Toronto as well - my sister works for the OSPCA (small town, outside of Toronto) and it's a 10 day period there too.

Maybe Guy shouldn't have left his dog tied up outside of Starbuck's... if he's mad at anyone I think it should be himself he is mad at.

Heather B said...

Thank-you for handling your rebuttal like the gentleman you are , Fred.
I do have one question for Guy? Where the hell were the dogs health records with proof of updated rabies shots? I believe that if he had produced such records, the dog could`ve gone home with him and been kept in quarantine there, as is the norm in this area. Its not the vets responsibility to provide info on a biter . The onus is on the owner , is it not?
I was so pissed when I first read that article . Worthington is totally biased and has no idea what he`s talking about. He has lost all credibility with me as have many in the media who choose to report bullshit and not investigate the truth.
And this is a big deal. Guy, you dummy, you don`t tie your dog outside a coffee house, or corner store or anywhere . Why bring your dog if you cant take it in the business with you.??

Falen said...

The THS TAS situation sounds exactly liek our own situation down here with our "No Kill" (ie closed admission) and Open Admission animal control tied shelters.
They just don't get it. The first step to being truly no kill is to be open admission

Fred said...

To be fair, I think Guy does realize his mistake in tying his dog up outside on the sidewalk and unattended in Toronto.

Lynda said...

I wonder why there's no mention of the person that was bitten. Who was this person and where were they when Guy came out of Starbucks to find his dog gone? Interesting how this was never mentioned. (if it's posted in Guy's blog - I didn't go that far - not really interested enough in anything he has to say)

Ian said...

I was just curious about something.
When someone is given a muzzle order for a dog in a case like this is it permanent for the life of the dog or can you do something(take a class and pass a test) in order to have the order removed?
The owner seems to think it`s a bit of a joke to have to muzzle his dog.
I sure wouldn`t want to walk down the street with a muzzled dog.

Anonymous said...

Someone give Worthington and his stepson a course in commmon sense. Poor soul who was bitten, where's the remorse for that?