Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Garth Jerome's vision for a new Toronto Humane Society

The article is here in the Globe and Mail and the details are here in Garth's affidavit.

I have to say I'm impressed by the affidavit which details Garth's plan for transforming the Toronto Humane Society. There are some points I'd disagree with, especially with regards to the limited membership of the euthanasia committee, but let's pick at that some other time.

If this plan for the THS had come out, say, 5 or 10 years ago, I would've been much more inclined to support it. It hits all the right points, addressing issues that need addressing from animal care to building overhaul to staffing requirements.

This all looks great on paper and that the THS has even gotten to this point where they are willing to admit their past mistakes and ask outside consultants for help is a huge improvement.

The question is, can the present THS board and management be trusted to carry out these changes or is it just a ploy to win favour with the courts and public. In the end, will all this new openness to ideas save more animal lives?

I think we all saw the answer to that on Friday last week.

I'm sorry, Garth, you may have the best intentions but I don't believe they are the best intentions for the animals.

The deaths of the five Pit Bulls, Captain, Peti, Socks, Tiger and Smokey sullied the names of both the Toronto Humane Society and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - the THS because of its role in devising and carrying out an animal euthanasia policy which is too draconian in spirit and the OSPCA for not using its role as animal guardian in the facility to offer alternatives to these dogs.

I am not a believer in keeping a suffering animal indefinitely in a cage but these five dogs were not suffering and had the luxury of many human companions and were well loved. And, perhaps most importantly, they had a rescue to go to out of the province with transport available to take them there. There was significant hope for these five.

Several of the five had bite histories recorded from within the THS facility so they were labeled as dangerous dogs and on top of that, given the fact that they were Pit Bulls in this province where the law kills Pit Bulls, I can appreciate the legal headache they would have presented to the lawyers on both sides but I sincerely hope they were not euthanized wholly or in part for reasons of legal expediency.

I'm not going to debate the validity of those original bite reports as no one knows the truth behind them except the persons bitten and the dogs involved but given that these dogs have had hundreds if not thousands of non-aggressive interactions and indeed highly affectionate and playful interactions with a multitude of volunteers and staff, did that not grant them some degree of hope for rehabilitation, some measure of charity and mercy?

I know, there were legal issues, there were liability issues. Well, there will always be liability issues when it comes to dog adoption. Were all five of these dogs so out of control that they presented liability risks above and beyond most other dogs that have been adopted out of the THS, and so much so that they could not be given a chance in a rescue? As for legal issues, we all know that there is some room to move within the law when it comes to Pit Bull rescue. Was it not within the mandate of both charities, while staying within the constraints of law, to try to provide safe haven for these five dogs?

These dogs were well loved. I don't think the people who signed off on these dogs' deaths really understood this. What they've done is they've taken beloved pets which didn't just belong to one or two people but to several people, euthanized them without any warning and then announced their deaths with a short on-line posting the day after. Not only is this action insensitive, to say the least, but also a gross misunderstanding of the strength of the human-animal bond and the love people had for these animals. In one night, not only were the lives of 25 animals taken, but many staff and volunteers were devastated and the public's faith in the THS shaken.

If this is an indication of how the new Toronto Humane Society will function, then no words on paper will get me to support it.

Actions speak louder than words and so far the actions that have been taken are not in line with any charitable animal welfare organization I would wish to support.


Anonymous said...

The affadavit is laudable but vapourware at this point. What happened on Friday demonstrates this.

Anonymous said...

Your last two short paragraphs precisely sum up my feelings. As usual, you are excellent at clearly communicating the crux of the issue.

selkie said...

Fred, for once, we are in total agreement. I have nothing to add ... you said it beautifully.

Lil'Mac said...

Beautiful, Fred, thank you....I have no words. The memory of our darling pit bulls is still so fresh. And not all of them had any kind of aggressive history. I never heard of Smokey or Captain biting anyone (I didn't know the others as well as I knew those two). I could be wrong, but I volunteered there for a year and Smokey, for instance, was used for beginner walkers. He was an angel: A beautiful food-and-toy-obsessed, oinking, grunting, cuddling, angel with funny old-man eyes....

Fred said...

Lil'Mac, I kick myself for not taking a video of Smokey's oinking.

Houndward Bound said...

At the risk of sounding cliche; Amen to that Fred. These dogs had what some people and animals can only hope for. They were loved.

YesBiscuit! said...

Fred, I'm following this current story as an outsider and like to read views from insiders to help give me perspective. Thanks for this. Well said.

OT: Lovely avatar Houndward Bound!

Anonymous said...

I am scared, I am scared for the remaining animals at THS, their fate up in the air. These are living, breathing creatures with souls and feelings. It's not a friggin clearance sale. The THS/ospca better go above and beyond to find other alternatives besides euthanazia for the remaining animals, if they close down. From what happened on Friday I am less than hopeful. What a mess. Yes I agree the THS needs an overhaul but not at the expense of the sweet souls who still reside in that building.

good god what a mess


Anonymous said...

Everybody keeps mentioning the five pitbulls, what about the one non-pitbull: Janey.

Social Mange said...

Let's all return to our goal; removing the current board and management at Toronto Humane Society and rebuilding the Toronto Humane Society.

That's going to take cool heads and concrete plans.

Look forward, not back.
That's how we can best serve the animals.

Heather B said...

Thankyou for writing in a way that I cant. I`m so glad you can speak to people without the anger that I feel.
Our combined love of animals and in this instance, 5 wonderful, much loved Pitties with a place to go, made it so I couldnt see past the politics to speak of the atrocity.
Please keep speaking for me Fred. The animals are far too close to my heart to remain level headed.
I`m sure many tears are shed at your own home over the unnecessary killing of animals . We share that pain but I cant see through the tears and anger.

Laura HP said...

And the cats - no one mentions the 19 cats from last Friday. Was euthanasia the best choice for them? I mean, some of those cats were leading horrific lives so for all I know, it was, but no one's said.

I would have supported starting from the ground up back when the raid first took place. But now, when all of this has happened and everything's got muddled, it certainly doesn't seem like he's thought this through. Everything about the THS always has to be so complicated.

Anonymous said...

Laura, I agree!!! what about the poor cats too? Why were they all euthanized? were they too sick to recover? or was it just "too much trouble" to try and find other alternatives for them > I hate the way people think of cats as (less than dogs) they are just as special and deserve just as much attention as the dogs. The whole situation has my stomach in knots


Anonymous said...

I came across something I'd posted back on November 29 in another forum, stating that in that day's newspaper, Kevin Strooband had reported that 7 animals had been euthanized and he didn't expect any more. A few days later it was up to a dozen or so. Possibly I misquoted him, or he had no idea how grave the situation was.

Regardless, now 19 cats were killed last Friday and actually more according to other reports. All in an evening's work.

I fear that the six special needs cats currently on the THS website will be in the next round. Possibly it's a weekly thing now.

"Urgent" placement in the write-ups suggests the Rainbow board to me. One of the cats is 12 and needs dental work. One is 13 and has developed a URI at the shelter. Special needs? Is this part of the new assessment system?

Has euthanasia become so ingrained since November 29 that killing is now called cage-clearing?

Anonymous said...

Where did all the THS dogs go? No search results on dogs as of last night, although Patience and Princess can be found under special needs and challenges. Where are the others? And is Patience the same dog that Mississauga Humane is now advertising?