Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No one told them it was against the law

If the rulers of the Toronto Humane Society are ever brought before a judge to answer for all their allegedly nefarious acts within that institution, I've got a suggested defense for them.

It would go something like this:

"Your honour, we've been carrying on this way for so long and no one ever did anything about it so we figured it was okay."

It's kind of like a squatter's defense. You know, where someone illegally occupies a building for so long and no one kicks them out and then suddenly the property's theirs.

The amount of ineptitude, indifference and you-suck-mine-I'll-suck-yours cronyism several of our public agencies have shown in their lack of handling of the problems at the Toronto Humane Society is outrageous. Pretty well everyone in the animal rescue community knew what was going on behind those doors of supposed compassion at the THS and there were dozens if not hundreds of complaints lodged but no one, until very recently, was ever willing to do anything about it.

A lot of people already knew what was in the contents of what is known as the Draper Report (Mike Draper being the chief inspector of the OSPCA at the time). It was the result of an investigation into possible wrongdoings at the Toronto Humane Society and it was completed and given to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (a division of Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General) in 2006 who promptly filed it away somewhere dark and deep.

Now, it's finally being released (here and here) through the efforts of Kate Hammer at the Globe and Mail.

Here are some excerpts from her article:

- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations meant for animals are being paid to lawyers. In one instance a witness described $8,000 being paid to a lawyer without an invoice for the lawyer's services.

- A former director of fundraising, Tamara Alexander, described being instructed to remove costs and revenue comparisons from a report submitted to the THS's board of directors. Ms. Alexander also described how the THS operated without an investment policy, and investment reports were never circulated to the board of directors.

- A volunteer described money wasted on replacing sod and trees that were being killed by dog urine in the dog runs, and an obstacle course that was too high for most of the dogs, while the shelter went seriously understaffed.

- An animal technician told investigators that understaffing led to unsanitary conditions because animals weren't being fed or cleaned on a regular basis. She said animals were suffering and dying.

- A fundraising employee said that “records are changed on an ongoing basis in the computer,” and “stats are the main concern not the animals.”

There are also examples of what would seem to be apparent animal cruelty but the cases weren't considered strong enough by the OSPCA administration at the time to pursue.

Again, from Kate Hammer's article:

For example, the report tells the story of Lucky, a Jack Russell terrier discovered by THS cruelty investigators in an apartment in Regent Park. The dog's claws were overgrown, he was severely overweight, and his hind leg had shrivelled as the result of an injury that went untreated.

“The dog was so immobile that it was in its own feces and urine, and the smell of the apartment permeated the whole floor of the apartment building,” the witness told investigators.

The dog was seized and taken to the THS. The witness states that it was clear the dog was suffering with no chance of recovery. “The supervisors would not authorize euthanasia and the dog was allowed to sit for days and die on its own,” the report states.

Yeah, that seems cruel to me but hey what do I know. Maybe the dog was writing its memoirs and didn't want to be euthanized just yet.

This begs the question, why didn't the OSPCA step in back in 2006? Any answer that immediately pops into your head right now is probably just as true as the next. The OSPCA is stepping in this time, though - more like stomping in - and all I can say is, better late than never. The helm of the OSPCA under CEO Kate Macdonald has changed direction in the last two years and without being overly optimistic (because I'm just not built that way dearies), it seems to be changing for the better at least with regards to dealing with the THS.

So what's happening now with all this? Well, right now the Toronto Humane Society is holding its annual general meeting where a bunch of Tim Trow's hand picked, mind numbed cronies will likely be re-elected onto the board by an uninformed membership who have sent in their voting proxies to be use by Trow for his own purposes. There is one reform minded candidate running for the board and it'll be interesting to see if she gets on.

Will there be a revolution there today at the AGM? Unlikely, but there might be some yelling and quite possibly a melt-down from someone who can't control his tantrums. If that happens, I wonder how many people will be pulling out their cell phones to record the event for posterity and Youtube.

Yeah, fun and games but the longer it takes for us to kick out that board, the longer the animals at the THS will suffer.

And what does the THS have to say? Let's check out their Tre page breaking news. Oh, hey look, agent Tre Smith got married! And Tre was a guest judge on Last Bride Standing! And Tre was on TV a whole bunch of times! Kewl.


Heather B said...

thanks for sharing that report with us.
I knew things were bad at THS but I didn`t realize just how bad.
I honestly feel like driving down there and slappin` Trow around a bit or crackin him a few times with my cane.
He deserves far more punishment than just being fired .It seems he`s a liar, a thief, a bully and has no heart at all.I may be old but I doubt he could intimidate me or the thousands of other animal people out here that now know the whole truth.I pray that people read this report before they vote.
Sorry for not being as flowery a writer as most but I think you get my drift.

Social Mange said...

I was at the meeting. It was worse than I imagined.

Fred said...

Social Mange, yup. Did you get to ask any questions?

Social Mange said...

I didn't, Fred. I was too busy watching the train wreck that is management, and making notes.

Marcie said...

The Draper report is the tip of the iceberg. The confidentiality agreement with the Teamsters kept many people from addressing their concerns. I read the whole report & I can honestly say it was exactly what I expected.

I was at the meeting as well & it was a mess. Not only because there were people who had questioned that were being ignored but the PR man had a meltdown, a woman in the front wouldn't shut up & swore about 10 times, a heartfelt volunteer letter was called a lie by someone who really had no business saying anything in regards to animal care. There were people who had such great points & there were even a few Trow supporters with good heads on their shoulders that clearly loved animals. I don't expect everyone to agree with our opinion but it did make me mad when there was criticism & his supporters would try to talk over a critic or cut them off. Ya longer story short it was a disorderly, unprofessional mess.

Rachelle said...

The last AGM I went to was about 3 years ago and it was done and over with in well under an hour. At that time, there were only a tiny handful of Tim Critics amongst a small group of people (that meeting was also on a weekday, in the middle of the afternoon so as to make it very difficult for most to attend).

Tim pretty much breezed through that meeting as it was easy enough for him to 'stifle' and shut his critics up. I clearly remember how rushed that meeting seemed and of course the first order of business for Tim was to get the voting done...
Not so this time around. Tim's critics far outnumbered his supporters and he was challenged pretty much every step of the way.

I am hopeful that under the OSPCA's new board, things will be different this time around. I can only imagine that there are WAY more people who came forward for this investigation than they did back in 2006...

On a side note, there seemed to be one 'planted' guy who asked Tim lots of questions which Tim had no difficulty answering and said guy nodded in agreement to everything Tim said (finally when asked, the guy revealed his name and I'm guessing he's the husband of a vet that works there as they share an unusual last name...).

Besides him, his 'supporters' mainly consisted of eldery people, one in a particular a 94 year old who actually said "Hitler had pets too" when referring to Linda MacKinnon (the only board candidate not backed by Trow)...

The meeting was a complete and utter mess and I'm sure if anyone was just seeing and hearing Tim & the rest of the board for the first time, they now realize how unbelievable it is that this group of people is actually responsible for running a multi-million dollar charitable organization...

Fred said...

Rachelle, that Hitler comment in reference to Linda is nonsensical and probably a sign of an unhinged mind. Or perhaps the woman who spoke was actually highly perceptive and commenting in a subtle and round about way on the fact that Hitler was also democratically elected into power by uninformed supporters.

Social Mange said...

The Hitler comment was simply slander. As soon as the woman made that comment, any respect I granted her was withdrawn and I yelled at her (along with many others) to sit down. She was totally out of line and Trow was absolutely wrong to ignore the comment and not apologize to Linda for it. Now, why does that not surprise me?

Social Mange said...

HAHAHAHAHAAA....maybe Linda should send THS a threatening letter for their member's comments.

That would be tit for tat, as THS sent a threatening letter to Toronto Cat Rescue for one of their volunteer's comments (made as a private person, not as a TCR rep).

Anonymous said...

The province called forth a charity (OSPCA) bestowed police powers, subjective legislation and wished them well fundraising, enforcing, training, administering, overseeing themselves AND THEIR COMPETITORS.

This flawed model created bitterness, infighting, abuse of police power, animals and money on ALL fronts all the while protecting the perpetrators' privacy.

As evidenced by the disappointing results of the THS AGM - there is too little public appetite to warrant change.

The Ombudsman, the Public Guardian, the province and the CRA can well afford to remain silent - after all Ontario's dysfunctional, patchy network of OSPCA affiliates, branches and independant shelters successfully solicit in excess of $25,000,000 in public donations annually.

They've elected to let that sleeping dog lie - the price is right!!!