Friday, January 15, 2010

Some ideas for the Toronto Humane Society 2.0

Okay, enough with the whining and complaining about the THS. What are the answers? Well, a few people have started to brainstorm some ideas to get the discussion going. It would be great if any of you feel like joining in.

Here are some things we'd like to see in a new THS and when it comes to finding a replacement team for the THS, we'll throw our support behind those who understand these issues and think they can tackle them.

Some of these ideas are for the short term. Some are for the long term. They're all over the place but for now, it's a place to start talking.

These are also posted over at The Toronto Humane Society Protest Group site, What the THS Could Be Doing so check out the comments over there as well.

Spay and Neuter

An emphasis on Spaying and Neutering (S/N) animals both at the Toronto Humane Society and in Toronto will reduce the number of unwanted pets in our city. Less unwanted pets means less animals in the shelter system. We believe that the Toronto Humane Society should be a leader in the S/N movement. Here are some ways that the THS can reduce the pet overpopulation situation in Toronto.

1. (S/N) all sexually mature animals before adoption
2. Provide a voucher to all adopters so that they can get their pets S/N at the Toronto Humane Society for free when their new pet reaches 6 months of age.
3. FOLLOW UP with people who have adopted a kitten/puppy from the THS to ensure that the animal is S/N at six months of age.
4. Open a low cost S/N clinic at the Toronto Humane Society.
5. A mobile S/N bus to go into low-income communities.
6. Assist existing trap and release programs by offering free S/N to TNR programs.
7. Create a trap and release program at the Toronto Humane Society.

Getting Animals Out of the Shelter

Getting animals out of the shelter and into homes should be a priority at the Toronto Humane Society. We believe that if the Toronto Humane Society adopts the following polices and practices related to pre-adoption/adoption/adoption after-care, reputable rescues, other shelters, and the foster care program, the THS will see an increase in adoptions and a decrease in return adoptions.


1. Animals need a thorough health and behaviour assessment before they are put into the adoptions program upon admission to the Toronto Humane Society.
2. Any heath issues should be identified immediately and a treatment plan put into place to get the animal healthy and into the adoption program.
3. Any behavioural issues (food possessive, dog aggression, etc) should be identified and a behaviour modification program should be started before they are put into the adoption program.
4. A basic obedience program should be implemented with every dog admitted to the shelter.
5. Puppy school for puppy socialization and very basic training
6. Any person who has any interaction with an animal should be a part of that training.
7. A socialization program should be implemented for all animals in the shelter.


1. Clear, concise, and consistent adoption protocols.
2. Animal information (behaviour, health) should be clear and easily accessible by adoption agents and staff so that a great match can be made between adopters and animals.
3. Partner with other organizations and businesses that are willing to adopt out THS animals directly from their facilities.
4. Partner with reputable rescue organizations and allow them to adopt out THS animals in their care.
5. Create a mobile adoption bus where animals can be adopted out in different communities.
6. Arm adopters with as much information as possible. A large information package should be provided to all adopters with information on how to help their new pet adjust to their new home, introducing a new pet to an existing pet, where to get help with behavioural issues, exercise, how to find a vet, grooming, etc.
7. Develop a committee that will be in charge of creating an adoption strategy (specific to each animal) for animals that have been in the shelter too long.

Adoption After-Care

1. Create a hotline for people to call if they run into issues with their new pet. The shelters involvement with an animal shouldn’t stop once the animal has left the building. Many return adoptions are related to behavioural issues and a system needs to be put into place to help adopters with the issues that lead to return adoptions.
2. Partner up with dog trainers, grooming facilities, and veterinary clinics. These businesses may be willing to donate services or offer a discount to THS animals in exchange for free advertising on the THS website.
3. Start a low cost basic obedience program at the THS. This will foster good relationships with members of the community, prevent surrenders due to minor behavioural issues, and provide revenue for the shelter. These basic training classes should be free for all THS dogs that have been adopted.

Working with Rescues

1. Develop relationships with reputable rescue organizations.
2. Create a manual with the specific criteria animals must meet for intake at each rescue.
3. Contact rescues as soon as a potential candidate for transfer is identified.
4. Create a links page on the THS website where all rescues that work with the THS are listed.
5. Assist rescues with low-cost veterinary care and access to free spay and neuters.
6. Allow rescues to facilitate adoptions of THS animals in their care.
7. Pass along donations to rescue organizations that aren’t needed at the shelter.
8. Organize all-rescue adopt-a-thons.

Working with Other Animal Shelters

1. Identify shelters that share the same standard of care and philosophies as the Toronto Humane Society.
2. Create an animal trading program. If the THS has animals that are best suited to live in a rural environment, send those animals to a partner shelter in a rural environment in exchange for animals that would be well suited for an urban environment.
3. Offer to help relieve overcrowding in other shelters when resources are available at the THS.
4. Develop a positive working relationship between the THS, Toronto Animal Services, and the OSPCA. There is a highly successful model of a potential working relationship between similar organizations in Calgary.

Foster Program

1. Contact all past foster parents and work to get them back into the foster program.
2. Create an active and continuous foster parent recruitment strategy.
3. Create a detailed list of all animals that need to go into foster care for medical/behavioural issues.
4. Start advertising these animals on the THS website, the blog, and public forums.
5. Allow foster parents to adopt their foster animals.


Volunteers are crucial to the success of non-profit organization. By implementing these policies we believe that the THS will see an increase in volunteers, and will create a positive environment for volunteers so that they will stay long-term. A strong and healthy volunteer program will decrease financial strains at the Toronto Humane Society, improve the lives of the animals in the shelter, and will have a positive influence on rebuilding the reputation of the THS.

1. There is no such thing as too many volunteers. The Toronto Humane Society needs to stop restricting the number of volunteers at the shelter.
2. Create a list of every specific role a volunteer can play at the THS, from laundry to cat grooming, to fundraising. Post this list on the website (with the details of each role) so that the public is aware of how their skills and interests can be used to help the animals at the THS.
3. Work harder to match potential volunteers with areas of the shelter that match their interests.
4. An active and continuous volunteer recruitment strategy needs to be designed and implemented.
5. A volunteer retention program needs to be designed and implemented. This should include a support network for volunteers, a liaison to deal with issues between volunteers and staff, etc.
6. Phone calls and volunteer applications need to be responded to in a timely manner.
7. Create a volunteer training program for every aspect of the shelter. Volunteers should be confident in their training before they are asked to handle animals.
8. Start recruiting volunteers who can help the THS with specific jobs. Graphic designers, photographers, event planners, professional writers, etc can offer their specific skills to improve the website, information packages, plan fundraisers, etc. Create a list of these people and their skills so that the volunteer coordinators know who to call when specific jobs need to be done at the shelter.
9. Create a relationship with the directors/professors/teachers of veterinary colleges, veterinary technician schools, and animal care education programs. Ask these schools to inform their students that the THS is looking for volunteers and co-op placements.
10. Work with and create a positive relationship with high school principals and guidance counsellors. To graduate high school in Ontario students need to complete 40 hours of community service. Create a volunteer program that is specific to high school students.

Pit Bulls and the Ontario Ban

The sad reality is that the Ontario government has enacted Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) that renders many Pit Bulls illegal. There are dogs in the shelter system that need loving homes but can’t legally be adopted in Ontario. The Toronto Humane Society needs to develop a strategy to get these dogs out of province and into loving homes.

1. Network and create relationships with rescue organizations and shelters that are out of province.
2. Network with animal sanctuaries in Canada and the USA.
3. Work with out of province rescues and ask them to facilitate adoptions on behalf of the THS.
4. Create a section of the website dedicated to finding homes for dogs impacted by BSL.
5. Help rescues and other shelters transport these dogs out of province.
6. Apply political/public pressure to get the BSL sections of DOLA repealed. The repeal has already been introduced in the provincial legislature but has not been passed.

Community Outreach and Public Relations

1. Re-open the food bank.
2. Create a section of the website dedicated to keeping the public up to date on changes being made to improve polices and procedures in the shelter.
3. Provide access to financial information (this could be as simple as a chart showing what percentage of funds have been spent this month on vet care, on food, on fundraising, etc).
4. Send out THS brochures to all the pet related businesses in Toronto for distribution.
5. Educate the public starting with school kids. There should be huge outreach into the schools from THS staff/volunteers to talk about S/N, what the THS does, responsible pet ownership, etc. The best way to reach the parents is through their kids.

Toronto Humane Society Website

1. Revamp the Kids Zone aspect of the website. Create games for the kids that teach them about the importance of S/N, plants that are poisonous to animals, etc.
2. Revamp the adoption aspect of the website. There should be better images of the animals available for adoption, and better descriptions of them.
3. Create a section of the website dedicated to the distribution of information on how to deal with behavioural issues, the exercise needs of animals, the nutritional needs of animals, how to socialize animals, how to pet-proof your home, animal safety, the importance of veterinary care, etc.
4. Create an Action section with a list of ways people can get involved with animal welfare in Toronto, in Ontario, and in Canada.
5. Create a section for local businesses that donate to the THS.
6. Create a listing of animal rescue organizations.
7. Create a section of the website dedicated to finding homes for dogs impacted by BSL.
8. Create a volunteer section of the website with a list of ways volunteers can get involved at the THS.

Creation of a Real Toronto Humane Society Blog

1. Create a Toronto Humane Society Blog that is updated daily.
2. Ensure that the blog is capable of displaying large images.
3. Use the blog to promote animals that have been at the shelter for too long.
4. Use the blog to promote businesses that are helping the THS.
5. Once a month do a write up on a volunteer who is making a difference at the THS.
6. Once a month do a write up on a staff member so that the public can get to know the people that work at the shelter.
7. Keep the public up to date on new programs, existing programs, what kind of donations are needed, etc.

Create a Second Facility for Long-Term Animals

1. This facility would be for animals with extreme behavioural issues that need more work than what can be provided at the shelter. The goal of this facility would be to rehabilitate animals that are unsuitable for adoption. Animals would stay at this facility until their behaviour has been modified and they can be safely put into the adoption program.
2. In the case of animals where the behaviour cannot be modified enough for public adoption, the new facility would become an animal sanctuary for these “unadoptable” animals where they can live for the rest of their lives.


Anonymous said...

Great post. These are all the ideas that have been floating around my head for the past couple of months but I just didn't put them down on paper...and the thing is, these ideas are all just COMMON SENSE. How long has TT been running the THS? I can't remember the exact number of years but I know it's several. In all those years not one of these ideas was thought of or implemented...incredible!
I think my favourite, though, is the creation of a long-term facility for the dogs who can't be adopted out...just because they don't fit into the niche of 'perfect family pet', that doesn't mean they don't have a right to live. The THS has created or at least contributed to their behaviour problems by keeping them warehoused, so the least they can do for them is provide a decent, comfortable place for them to live out their days.
Let's all hope that one day (soon) this will all be a reality.

Cathrine said...

Fred, you are definitely in top form. This list could be a road map for any shelter that wants to become the best it can be. Clear, concise, comprehensive. Change the header, put it on paper, circulate widely.

This after what I believe is the best 'think piece' you have ever done, in yesterday's post.

So, why not give up your day job and take over the THS?

Clint Cora said...

Great ideas here, particularly the ones that suggest info and training for potential adopters especially if they have no experience with pets. A kind heart wanting to adopt an animal doesn't necessarily make a good potential owner if ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas except for one #2 under spay/neutering. Policy s/b no animals are adopted out unless altered. Dogs and cats can be safely altered at 8 weeks of age (except female dogs 3 months). The voucher system doesn't work and requires resources to follow up and if a shelter doesn't follow up it gets to keep the money. Also shelters should be required to produce not only a financial accounting but also an animal accounting detailling the fate of every indivual animal and also a summary showing save rate yearly.

Fred said...

Anon, speutering very young animals is a contentious issue especially with new studies coming out which suggest the possibility of long term negative health effects, especially in larger breeds. It's something we'll have to take a closer look at, balancing the benefits of speutering (in the very young) on health and on unwanted animal population control and vs possible side effects.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Fred, you do BFAS and Nathan Winograd proud! Could this be your new day job?

Fred said...

Just to be clear, most of these suggestions aren't "mine". The majority of the list was compiled by others and a lot of these ideas are either just common sense or have been put into practice by other shelters.

Rachelle said...

Sadly, many of these things were actually in place at the end of the past president (Jeannie Butler)'s tenure. I started volunteering right around the time Tim Trow became president and saw so many practices and programs disappear over the years.
There are lots of great new ideas here though! The THS has so much potential and I look forward to the day, hopefully in the not so distant future that we will see significant positive changes for the animals.

Anonymous said...

Cathrine said...
"Fred, you are definitely in top form. This list could be a road map for any shelter that wants to become the best it can be. Clear, concise, comprehensive. Change the header, put it on paper, circulate widely.

This after what I believe is the best 'think piece' you have ever done, in yesterday's post.

So, why not give up your day job and take over the THS?"

catherine I had to quote you on this

Fred, I second the nomination, This should be published as a guide for and Animal shelter. Beyond Brilliant