Monday, February 15, 2010

Are the good guys starting to win over at the Toronto Humane Society?

Maybe. There's a lot of back and forth going on at the Toronto Humane Society and lots of gossip and lots of uncertainty so it's been kind of difficult to know whether the THS ship is sinking or sailing or just marooned.

It's obvious from the rumours that keep surfacing that there's still a lot of mistrust of the OSPCA's role at the Toronto Humane Society. The myth cultivated at the THS, and probably still believed by a few remaining hard line Trowphiles, was always that the OSPCA would go in and just slaughter everything willy nilly. There was that ridiculous one floating around a few weeks ago about 300 cats being on the euthanasia list. Over-active paranoid imagination on someone's part as it turned out.

However, suspicions are still there amongst the animal care workers and volunteers and a lot of it is now focused on certain vets being too euth happy. Vets making euthanasia decisions based on valid health reasons is sound policy but vets making euthanasia decisions due to behaviour is a slippery slope. More voices need to be at the table when dealing with animals with behavioural problems and those voices include people who are familiar with the adoption/fostering options, behaviourists, and the ACWs and volunteers who handle the animals more frequently.

The most recent rumour I heard was about the possibility of four Pit Bulls who were going to get euthanized last Friday and I have to admit, I believed it. A few weeks ago, some Pit Bull rescue groups were allowed to go into the THS to conduct assessments on the Pitties to see if they'd be able to go to foster homes. Eight of the Pitties passed their assessments but four did not. In other words, eight of those dogs had places to go but the remaining four were still faced with the dire prospect of living in cages for who knows how long.

A few days later, I heard that those four were going on the euth list. On top of that, there was also news that the fostering of the Pitties who had passed their assessments had stalled. It turned out that they needed to be temporarily housed in Ontario before being shipped out of province and the OSPCA was having none of that. The dogs had to go directly out of province or not at all. The OSPCA wasn't willing to risk an incident in province with any of these dogs that they would've been responsible for releasing (since the OSPCA is still in charge of the animals at the THS). Things were starting to look pretty grim for all the Pit Bulls.

Last Tuesday, some of us tried to get an extension for the four dogs on the Friday euth list, our argument being that they'd never really been given a chance at the THS in the past since the THS had only cared about warehousing them. The request was going to be brought up at an OSPCA/THS management meeting the following day but then next day came along and I was told that there was never any intention to euth the dogs at all and that the Friday deadline was just a deadline to come up with a plan for what to do with them.

I didn't know what the real story was. Maybe the dogs were on the list and then taken off. Maybe they were never on the list. Maybe there were different dogs on the list. Maybe there was no list. It was all pretty confusing but at least the Pitties were safe for a while longer.

(Before anyone starts to fret about why four dogs who did not pass their assessments are being saved from euthanasia, please understand that these assessments are very stringent. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of dogs out in the general public couldn't pass these tests with flying colours. And I shouldn't say that the Pitties didn't "pass" their assessments but that they didn't get high enough scores to qualify them for the rescues involved. Because of pressures of BSL, most rescues only have room to take the best of the best.)

Ever since I've been back from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, there's been communications with a couple of their outreach coordinators about the possibility of them taking some of the Pit Bulls from Toronto Humane Society. I was a little concerned at first about introducing the THS to BFAS knowing THS' history with rescues in general and with BFAS in particular (that's a whole other story) but as it turned out, everyone at the THS, everyone I heard from anyway, was thrilled with the idea.

After several e-mails, applications for two of the Pit Bulls were sent off to BFAS' admissions committee last week. Unfortunately, they were rejected. BFAS gets over 500 applications a week to take in dogs so getting a dog in there is like winning a lottery. However, the silver lining was that BFAS recommended a rescue in the States that the THS could try contacting ...

... which the THS did, along with several other rescues. In the end, the BFAS recommended rescue along with two others came through with admissions for the Pitties.

And now, it seems, all the Pit Bulls have got places to go - just got that terrific news today.

Many people at the THS put in time and energy to get these dogs out of the clutches of Bryant's draconian anti-Pit Bull laws and I'd very much like to list some of them but I'm worried about getting people in trouble. Why would anyone get in trouble for helping save the lives of animals is beyond me but such is life when we're forced to live by unjust laws. And I hear that some of the old guard at the THS are slowly realizing that all the bad rescues out there aren't so bad after all and that working with them instead of against them will help the animals. The Pit Bulls aren't anywhere near finding safe homes just yet but this a big first step.

Congratulations THS for a job well done.

I also want to add that a couple of weeks ago I got an unexpected thank you e-mail from Garth Jerome, then acting head of the THS and now the newly appointed Executive Director, regarding the new dog adoption photos that were taken. It was a very gracious e-mail and an obvious surprise after the earlier one I'd received from McConachie, their communications guy. Suddenly, it was okay to take photos again. Since then, Melanie has taken pics of almost all of the remaining dogs and has also gotten permission from the THS and the OSPCA to shoot inside the facility when she starts on the cats and small domestics.


deakat said...

This is all wonderful news! Thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

That's great news about the pibbles. Do you know what is happening with Bandit?

Fred said...

Bandit is still in limbo. Nobody wants to have to deal with that political can of worms.