Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ball of confusion at the Toronto Humane Society

Two days before Christmas and about the last thing I want to write about is the mess that is the Toronto Humane Society right now. I've been staying away from blogging about it the last little while because while I've been somewhat involved with it, it's so messy that going home afterward and writing about it is too much like homework. Of course, the thing with homework is that eventually it has to get done.

Many of you have probably already heard about the court ruling yesterday which basically allows almost all the workers on the OSPCA's "do not admit" list back into the building. The OSPCA didn't want them in there because they didn't want people interfering with their investigation. The judge basically told the OSCPA, you've had enough time, let the workers back in. The judge, however, did not give control of the animals back to the THS. The care of the animals is still in the hands of the OSPCA.

I don't know what the work environment will be like now with the old THS staff mixing with the new OSPCA staff along with the old THS staff who switched sides and are now on board with the OSPCA.

Yesterday as well, a separate hearing was made in front of another judge by the OSPCA to remove the old THS board, who are in theory still in charge of the THS, and appoint someone else to run the whole operation until the whole board mess is sorted and a new board is elected. I think this decision is supposed to come down in early January.

Meanwhile, Tim Trow will be making his own court appearance tomorrow to face his charges and do whatever it is that accused persons need to do. In case you're interested in seeing this first hand, show up at Old City Hall, Court Room C at 9 tomorrow morning (no guarantees on the accuracy of this info so phone first to confirm).

If you want to try to untangle this furry ball of confusion further you can read about it here, here and here.

And what of the animals at the THS you might ask. Well, that's one damn fine question to which I wish I could you a damn fine answer but I can't. There are a precious few people who are working their asses off trying to give the best care they possibly can to the animals in need at the THS facility but there are not enough of them. When the OSPCA took over the facility, many of the animals were in abysmal condition and perhaps the OSPCA underestimated the amount of care necessary to bring the animals back to a proper state of health. The vets are run ragged, there are not enough volunteers, the animal care workers are, well, they're doing the best they can. And then of course there's the overriding situation whenever a sudden vacuum is formed in any organization of too many bosses, not enough leaders.

There have been attempts to adopt some of the animals out through the Victoria Park satellite facility but the public hasn't been well informed about that and so animals are not exactly flying out the door. There's been efforts made to find better temporary accommodations for some of the animals but with the threat of legal action from the THS board casting a black cloud over everything, those efforts have been somewhat stymied.

In conversation with several people who actually deal directly with the animals, there's a common opinion forming that the building should be emptied. Foster out the animals to other agencies, rescues, individuals so that all the accumulated filth and shit and disease can be scorched out of the building. Let the animals live in temporary peace while the humans continue their fight. Right now, we can keep telling ourselves that we are doing the right thing, trying to make the future a brighter future, but we need to remember that many of the real victims are still suffering in the background.

Update from Mel who is volunteering several days a week at the THS: The situation is better than it was week ago. The place seems more organized or on the way to becoming more organized. Though still not ideal, the cleaning is better, the feeding is better with discussions ongoing on how to improve the schedule so it gets done earlier in the day. The small domestics have got their own vet now. The vet techs are trying to get caught up on routine care of the cats but there are still too many cats and sick cats. There seem to be a few more dog walkers. No word yet on allowing in more general volunteers (anyone who's tried to volunteer will know how nearly impossible it has been up to now to get on the volunteers list). That may come when the THS staff start working again. After all, if the old THS staff are allowed back in the building then what would be the reason to keep volunteers out?

Let's hope the good news for the animals keeps coming.


Social Mange said...

Having seen the interior of the building, I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of moving the animals out to agencies, rescues and fosters and burning the disease and dirt out of the building. There is no point going to getting the animals healthy and then keeping them in a slum where they'll just sicken and die.

With the OSPCA left in control of the animals' quarters, I'm hoping the animals will continue to receive vet care. From staff comments to me, I'd say the vet care under the OSPCA is 1,000 times better than it was under the THS board and executives. The animals' issues are being attended to within a day, rather than being ignored.

Laura HP said...

Hallelujah for a small domestic vet! One day when we were in need of a small domestic vet the only one we could find was a cat/dog vet, so that is great news.

Not so great about the ruling to get rid of the no-fly list...but thank goodness animal care will still be under the OSPCA. I'm totally in favour of emptying the building at this point. It would really allow them to rebuild the THS into a respectable organization.

Cathy said...

Oh gosh, how will this work out with all those THS staff back in there... I can't imagine it as a "peaceful" coexistence. After all - the animal care and the running of the shelter are closely related. At least I know that my cats rescued from THS are well taken care of.

Heather B said...

I feel that if a call went out to all rescues within a reasonable radius, we could accommodate most of the dogs and cats until such times as that slum of a building was cleaned up and habitable .
All spca needs to do is ask. Most of us are on Petfinder and we have transports every weekend.

Harrry said...

(This comment has been edited)

I spoke to an ex-employee from a year ago, she informs me that the dogs with Giardia have been moved together, following the priniciple of sick with sick and well with well. The stellar THS management team used to pretend that they weren't sick and put them anywhere, so that they would all get sick? - I dunno. Then they would occasionally adopt out a dog, who would come back for biting or being sick, or being adopted out with a broken leg. But they would get the "donation" for the dog, and donations are non-refundable, so it didn't matter if the dog came back, in fact that's a good thing because it saves them having to get them from Nunavut.

But the good news is sanitation is reaching the understanding humans had in the tenth century, when quarantining was discovered.
The problem with the THS - one of the problems - is there are more supervisors and managers and superfluous camera-ready employees then animal care workers (vets, cleaners and vet techs). Of those supervisors and managers most are oppourtunists happy to make $20-$30/hour. Really, the real drain on resources is "fundraisers" who had maybe three events in the past year; animal rescue officers and Agents who were canned from the OSPCA.
I wonder if the volume at TAS is increasing, from what I have heard it is not. Do you know why? It is because the THS actually took in very few animals, and the ones it did take in were returns most of the time, and they closed off intakes all the time, and refused to take in certain animals. The scary thing is that the worse the shelter got, the more overcrowded, the more this convinced people that they must be taking in and caring and processing a lot of animals. It's perverse.

There was a dog named Sage who was recently adopted, and they're calling it a victory, Sage was there for four years. In that case, what is failure? Sage took up a cage for four years, bit countless people causing time off work and less care for other animals, and Sage taking up a cage meant that countless other dogs who might have been adopted were put down elsewhere, probably at TAS, Tim's favourite enemy.

I really hope that the Public Guardian steps in, but it seems unlikely. I hate to think who the next managers at the THS will be. My goodness, the future of the THS is better animal care for the moment, but donor dollars squandered on the continuing litigation, upcoming litigation meant at punishing the whistle-blowers and those who betrayed Tim, the labour litigation brought on by the supervisors who are still there but can't recant their reprimands lest they incriminate themeselves; and the upcoming litigation against the OSPCA when the staff comes back and cries human rights abuse or intimidation.

The OSPCA needs to empty the shelter or systematically clean it, foster or adopt out some animals, and euthanize the rest for space to save the healthy ones.

What a mess.