Monday, January 11, 2010

THS update

(A previous version of this post was released before its final edit.)

It's hard to tell where things are at with the Toronto Humane Society these days.

Adoptions are up and running again. Out of the seventy or so dogs at the facility, about twenty five were available and a few of those twenty five have already been adopted out. Let's hope they're in good, permanent homes.

What's happening with the rest of the dogs is another matter. The majority of the dogs there have either behavioural or health problems which prevent them from being put into general adoptions.

While the OSPCA was still in charge of the facility, headway was being made with regards to partnering with rescues and private fosters to find better temporary living environments for the dogs. In other words, they were being moved out of their cages at the THS into real homes.

After the court ruling which allowed the majority of the Tim Trow era THS management team to return to the building, working with rescues has, for the most part, come to a halt. The attitude is that rescues aren't to be trusted because they don't do things the THS way.

No kidding. That's why they're rescues. That's why they're not the THS. And thank God rescues don't do things the THS way. Most of the rescues I've dealt with spay and neuter ALL their dogs (except in the most extenuating circumstances like if the dogs are too young or too sick) before adopting them out. Most rescues send their dogs out to foster homes where the dogs get to live with an actual family 24/7 as opposed to getting only a few minutes of human interaction a day. And of course the great thing about that is that the dogs also don't have to spend all their time in cages going crazy from boredom and anxiety.

Is this not working with rescues a transitional thing with the THS while the new/old management gets back on its feet or are they planning to just go back to warehousing dogs indefinitely? It seems the prevailing attitude with much of the THS management is that rescues are no good for animals. Cautionary tales are heard in the hallways about how rescues take in animals only to have them neglected or abused or euthanized. This coming from an organization whose management has itself been charged with neglect and abuse and with not euthanizing animals only to have them suffer and die in their cages.

There were also plans to revamp the THS adoption site with better photos and descriptions of the dogs. The plan was to have a weekend photo shoot with professional photographers and a team of writers to work on this. All the people were ready to go. All the equipment was made available. Then the old THS management stepped in and all plans were canceled. No explanation other than they wanted to keep things the way they are.

So after all these weeks of turmoil, is it back to business as usual at the THS? Have they not learned anything from recent events?

There is a Cane Corso at the THS. Her name is Jenny. She was pregnant. A foster home had been found for her with a Cane Corso rescue where mother and pups would have been in a soft comfortable home environment with human caretakers to look after them and dote over them. Instead, the old THS management team came in last week and blocked the rescue. Jenny gave birth at the THS. The pups now get to enjoy the first few weeks of their lives in cages, exposed to the less than ideal conditions of a shelter. Jenny, instead of being able to rest and recuperate in a quiet home, now gets to spend her days in the high anxiety infused environment of the THS.

Does THS management view this retention of Jenny as some sort of victory? Are they thinking, "Whew, we almost lost her and her puppies to a home. Good thing we got back here in time to prevent that awfulness from happening."? It's like they live in some kind of massive delusion of what is right and what is wrong for the animals where everything is backwards. It reminds me of Orwell's 1984.

I sincerely hope that last week was a hiccup on the road to THS recovery. There are still efforts being made by certain individuals to get the rescues back in. It must also be said that the THS is still actively trying to find out of province placement for their questionable Pit Bull type dogs and they should be applauded for that. That is certainly a step in the right direction.

But it must go beyond just rehoming Pit Bulls. If the management at the THS want Toronto to know that they've moved on and are onto a new and better chapter, they've got to get with the times and embrace working with outside agencies in a spirit of cooperation and not paranoid suspicion and derision. It's the THS that needs to prove to the wider rescue community and the public at large that they are worthy of respect and support, not the other way around.

If the management at the THS actually think the past and present environment they've created for themselves and their animal prisoners will last, then they must live in a fantasy world. If they really think the public will just sit back and watch the THS revert back to treating animals the same way it's always treated animals and still continue to support the organization, they must be blissfully unaware of their own ignorance.

Here are two possible scenarios which might happen and neither bode well for the THS management team.

1. The old board will be replaced through a legal move or by election. The new board will fire all the senior level relics who supported the bunker mentality of the old THS and who supported the warehousing of animals in those god awful cages for months and years. The last thing a new THS needs are a bunch of throwbacks who continue to think that what they "learned" under the tutelage of Tim Trow et. al is the best they can do to contribute to the welfare of animals. It would be like a bunch of North Koreans claiming they know how to run a democracy.

2. The old board maintains its power. Everything at the THS remains the same. The public completely loses faith in the organization and stop donating. Major corporate donors stay away also because they don't want to risk their names being associated with the same old THS. Eventually, the THS becomes an even less significant player than it already is in the animal welfare community in Toronto. Toronto Animal Services and the umbrella group which represents the various rescues in the city become the major animal welfare organizations in the city.

This is pretty much the last chance the THS management has to prove that it's improved its ways. NOW is the time to show us that the THS can change for the better. NOW is not the time to continue along the same old, dead end path. NOW is not the time to cry indignation and keep railing against recent events. NOW is the time to shed delusions of grandeur and THS-knows-best and get with reality.


Anonymous said...

I must have missed this post...just catching up with it today...but wishing maybe I hadn't because it is making my blood boil. This is exactly what I was afraid of...back to business as usual at THS... especially when I learn that the website (which has always been one my major gripes) was in for a long overdue revamp and now that's shut down... for what??? Heaven mean, actually try something...dare I say it?...NEW? Oh no!!! What the hell is wrong with those people? That website is terrible...the pictures are I believe I've stated here before - they don't even bother to groom the dogs before they take their pictures & what little description they give of the animal gives absolutely no insight to a potential adopter of the temperment, behaviour, health, etc. of the dog. Not everyone who wants to adopt from THS lives in's not possible for them to be running down to River St. a few times a week to see the animals & inquire about them. A good website would be invaluable to attracting adopters from outside the city...and it is such a FREAKING EASY THING TO FIX!
I swear, if I had to work with those neanderthals, I'd be pulling my hair (or theirs') out within a week.

Social Mange said...

Refusing to release the Cane Corso to rescue and a foster home is abusive, and needs to be investigated. Those puppies will not get the socialization they need while incarcerated in the shelter. THS is setting these dogs up for failure, someone else will have to mop up the THS mess, and the dogs as always will pay the ultimate price.

I think scenario 2 is already happening, since everyone I've spoken to has cancelled their THS donations.

The reported membership fee increase to $40 is a cash grab, which will give a lousy $30K based on 3,000 members. Who knows how many members there really are?

Joanne said...

Disgusting but totally predictable. They will never change, they are not willing to learn, they are not concerned about animals in the least and they have to be forced to learn or leave. Pick one. As Winston Churchill so famously said.."Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." You know I had looked at how unattractive their animal pix and was discussing with someone about volunteering to go and take some better pix that would entice people to adopt. Ironic that I now find out that a similar situation was in place and they blew that....this is so sad.

Marcie said...

I'm crossing my fingers for option one. I'm also still hoping that they'll give rescues a real chance. There are so many places that can properly handle challenging dogs, & the THS is not one of those places. Closing the door on rescues that can & will actually rehabilitate & re home these dogs is something that the THS will regret for years to come. There is nothing more damaging to the reputation of the THS than to continue to refuse to properly help the animals in it's care (Well nothing other then being charged with animal abuse). If that care can (and will) be given better somewhere else then the THS needs to pass the leashes on & let those dogs at least have a chance.

Most of the people inside think they are the all knowing when it comes to animal rescue, the lone fact that most of them learnt their animal care practice's AT the THS is a very scary thought. "The blind leading the blind" is the quote that comes to mind.

borderjack said...

I thought the THS staff and board members that were not charged could return (for administrative work, including finance/fundraising) but that animal care and treatment would remain under the control and direction of the ospca. Wouldn't fostering and birthing and after-birth care all fall under the guise of "animal care and treatment" so that the ospca could determine whether animals could be placed in foster homes, etc? Has something changed?

Biscuit said...

Jesus christ. What the hell reason can they possibly have for not letting Jenny go to a rescue? Do you think there would be any value in our calling/writing to them to demand an answer? It's so bewildering and infuriating.

Ian said...

This is just all so sad for their animals.

Rachelle said...

All I can do is shake my head in disbelief. It seems like a never-ending nightmare for those animals... very sad.

Social Mange said...

When will the people at THS get it through their heads that they are there to serve the animals, not vice-versa?

Quite a few people need reality checks written for them.

I believe that THS is scared to deal with rescues because reputable rescues do a much better job with animals than THS. The THS inadequacies would be revealed to all.

Anonymous said...

In the case of Jenny and her puppies, can they be adopted? If so could someone not adopt her and her puppies for the rescue organization? It seems kind of backhanded but if the outcome is right, who is getting hurt?

House of the Discarded said...

Holy crap. I'm so pissed I can't write anything intelligent.

Anonymous said...

The THS has been known to charge up to $600 per puppy adoption. So there is no way those dogs are going anywhere but out the front doors of the THS w/ some sucker who paid breeder price for a shelter dog.

Anonymous said...

"It's like they live in some kind of massive delusion of what is right and what is wrong for the animals where everything is backwards."

You hit that nail on the head. I now have a new name for THS - Bizarro World. Remember that old Seinfeld episode where Elaine meets 'bizarro' Jerry, George & Kramer ( they're kind, thoughful, read books & do charity work ). That's what THS makes me think would automatically assume that an animal 'welfare' society would always do what is best for the animals but the THS does'nt. They do...the opposite.

Fred said...

borderjack, I think the problem is that the court decision was not very clear on where animal care stops and administration starts. Do adoptions fall under animal care or admin? I don't know why the OSPCA has backed down from staking their boundaries on animal care but it may be for legal reasons.

Biscuit, I don't know if letter writing has ever helped change minds at the THS but there's always a first time.

Anonymous, yes, eventually Jenny and her pups can and probably will be put up for adoption. The question is, would Jenny and her pups have been better served living in a home or at the THS facility for the next few weeks/months of their lives? On the few occasions when dogs are about to give birth or have given birth at Toronto Animal Services, TAS always tries (though not always successfully) to find foster/rescue homes for mother and pups to go to.

House of the Discarded said...

I think if a qualified foster-based rescue can take dogs or cats, it's always preferable to a cage.

Laura HP said...

This is why I'm hesitant to go back - when they let the old THS people back in, and then stories started coming out about them going back to their old ways. Now that I'm back at school it's kind of impossible to go anyway, but even if I could I'd be hesitant to get sucked into that.
I imagine that's what a lot of people are thinking, including potential volunteers and donors. What is wrong with these people? It's such a SIMPLE concept - what they've done is wrong, this is their chance to fix it. How can they not understand that? Argh.

Anonymous said...

And here I am getting upset when I see a dog who's been at the TAS shelter for over a month. Some of these animals at THS spend years behind bars!!!!! That thought makes me both nauseous and enraged, especially when they don't even conside the option of Rescues or fostering. Wow, I guess the tears I've shed over the years, when I see commercials for THS on tv were valid. Things are really as bad as they look at THS.
To think that it might go right back to the way it was after the arrests?? This I cannot fathom.
Especially when so many of us have come out of the woodwork with great ideas and suggestions and, above all, a willingness, to change and support a "NEW" and improved THS.

David said...

What is "the umbrella group which represents the various rescues in the city"?

Fred said...

David, that would be K9 Rescue Me. This is their website: