Monday, March 29, 2010

Letter from THS Executive Director Garth Jerome

From here (h/t Biscuit).

To all staff, volunteers, members and supporters,

Our organization is entering a period of rapid change. These changes are for the better of the animals that we strive so diligently to care for. I many cases, change is difficult to accept, I extend my hand of warmth and gratitude to all of you. You are all brave and courageous and I admire you deeply. It is only through your hard efforts that The Toronto Humane Society has endured for so long and will continue to do so.

The Toronto Humane Society’s new euthanasia policy will not make it a ‘high-kill’ shelter. We will continue to treat sick and injured animals and make them available for adoption. Simply because an animal has a problem does not make them ‘unadoptable’.

That does not mean than euthanasia will not take place. The THS has never been a ‘no-kill’ shelter. We are going to focus on positive outcomes for the animals. This means that we will do everything we can to get every animal that comes into our shelter into a new loving home. In certain circumstances, those outcomes are not possible. The THS is a shelter, we are not an animal sanctuary who can house animals, who will never be available for adoption, indefinitely.

However difficult, we have been faced with some important decisions. The current animal population at the shelter consists of many animals who have been in the shelter for some length of time. They include animals whose quality of life is severely diminished due to illness, injury or present with serious behavioural issues which prevent us from placing them in homes, within the boundaries of our responsibilities. Some of these animals, especially dogs, have been a part of your lives for some time. I know that you will bear fond memories of them for years to come.

In the light of these facts, I have empowered the animal care staff to proceed with all reasonable means to deal with those animals who present with these conditions. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the well-being and quality of life of all the animals in our care is our key priority.

The process around assessing the health and well-being of these 6 dogs has been exhaustive. We understand that for many people there is a huge emotional connection to these animals. For that reason, a number of procedures were followed to ensure that the decisions were fair and objective:

1. An in-house SAFER test was performed an all the dogs.

2. A number of rescue groups were approached to assess the dogs, with their own tests.

3. A “scorecard system”, developed by veterinarians was used to assess health, pain, suffering, temperament and many other parameters.

4. Independent consultants were asked to evaluate the dogs, based on their current condition.

5. Once all this data was collated, a panel of 8 persons, comprising veterinarians, representatives of the OSPCA and the THS, met to decide on their outcomes.

6. This meeting was scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 1, 2010. Due to a number of concerns around safety of employees, volunteers and the animals themselves, this meeting was moved to Friday, March 26, 2010, as a matter of urgency.

The Toronto Humane Society was required to consider additional factors in this decision. While tentative agreements were made to place some of these dogs in rescues, there are legal obstacles which have presented themselves. A number of the dogs had severe temperament concerns and aggression. Many had bite orders. All of these factors need to be considered when deciding on the most humane course of action, within the bounds of the law.

Once the animals were evaluated, euthanasia decisions were made on 6 of the animals assessed. These 6 dogs were not able to be adopted, fostered or transferred. The only outcome for them was to live in the shelter indefinitely. That is not an acceptable animal care practice. The THS made the extremely difficult, but appropriate decision.

I wish to assure all of you that no animal in the care of The Toronto Humane Society shall be allowed to suffer at any point in its care. There is clear and positive direction and that is the road ahead.

We understand that this is a very emotional and difficult time for you if you are staff, volunteers, supporter or an animal lover. Here, there have been tears and sorrow as well. Please know that these decisions are not taken lightly.


Garth Jerome
Executive Director


Biscuit said...

Interestingly, they've deleted one of the comments I left on that post. I had wondered what their justification was for claiming to be concerned for the safety of the animals, since "safety" and "death" are generally mutually exlusive concepts.

Biscuit said...


"Comments regarding the safety of employees will not be addresses and will be deleted.

This matter is being looked into by police."

Anonymous said...

There were some threats against staff that, presumably, the police are looking into, but yes, why rush a decision like this that only places greater public scrutiny and pressure on THS? Why did they run out of placement options for these dogs? Did all of the potential rescues pull out? Or was it some form of expediency (like mixing sick and well kittens for efficiency)?

Is this a "ready, fire, aim" management style?

selkie said...

I too will be interested to see if they delete my comment; but just in case this is what I asked:

For 2 and a half years, myself and many other volunteers have interacted with those dogs; not one of us had any issues with ANY of the five pit bulls and we, together with staff, worked hard to find them rescues. I fail to understand STILL why they were labelled and refused a chance to live the lives they deserved. Health issues? None we were ever aware of. Behavour issues? Other than bad leash manners (which are easily correctbile and would have been now without Trow watching every movement), they were, to a dog, loving, affectionate, mischievous advocates of their breed.

I have emailed Mr. Avery (OSPCA lawyer) for clarification on the threats as according to the OSPCA at the meeting last week, that is one reason for the security dogging every step of teh volunteers. That was several days ago, but he has yet to reply.

And incidentally I also cc'd Kate Hammer on that as she is such a fan of the OSPCA. If anyone would like a copy of the email, let me know.

Biscuit said...

And my comments that were deleted only directly quoted the THS's own post.

I honestly don't see how this can ever be sorted out.

Fred said...

Biscuit, I suspect that the deletion is a result of some word detection software which identifies and then removes any email which is found to contain certain words. Sometimes I wish I had that software too. LOL

Anonymous said...

What a load of bunk and double speak........


2. A number of rescue groups were approached to assess the dogs, with their own tests. WHO WAS APPROACHED...CAN WE HAVE THEIR NAMES OR SEE EVIDENCE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE RESCUES AND THS....

3. A “scorecard system”, developed by veterinarians was used to assess health, pain, suffering, temperament and many other parameters. CAN WE SEE THE RESULTS OF THOSE TESTS ALSO. WHAT IS ON THAT SCORECARD SYSTEM. IS IT SOMETHING WIDELY USED AND RECOGNIZED BY ALL VETS.

4. Independent consultants were asked to evaluate the dogs, based on their current condition. WHO WERE THEY AND CAN WE SEE THE RESULTS OF THEIR EVALUATIONS.

Me think not.......just another bullshit tries to obfuscate and baffle.....who even listens to these people and their never-ending pr crap anymore.

Look everyone, buy a THS membership and rather than all this hollow sabre rattling, let's just unite and turf the damn board. If you can afford it, buy a membership for a friend...what a terrific gift and if they are unable to attend a meeting, they can grant you their proxy...Hey, if it was good enough for Tim.....

Biscuit said...

Problem is, you can't buy a THS membership. The link on their website has been broken since last autumn, and when you call to speak to someone about it you're sent to a voice mailbox - and of course, no one ever calls you back. God knows what happens if you show up in person. They probably leave you sitting outside the front door like a box of kittens.

Fred, you may be right! I should try to come up with some wily way to circumvent it.

selkie said...

The last we heard, the Ohio rescue arrnaged 6 weeks ago was ready, willing and waiting -and not ONCE was their refusal to take our dogs said to be an issue. I know that the New Brunswick rescue was also ready and willing to take more of our dogs -as the last two were placed easily and have worked out beautifully.

I'm still awaiting Mr. Avery's response incidentally -as I have asked first, if the threats were so serious, why were we not informed (surely we had a right to decide whether we wished to take the risk or not?) and second, if there was a police report, as someone against whom the threats were apparently diercted, I felt I had a right to peruse what was reported.

Of course, NONE of this brings our dogs back - I dread going in today-

Anonymous said... can buy anything you want in life, any rules can be bent or circumvented, there is a way around every roadblock. Let's not get stuck on bloody semantics...The membership form can be had many places on the internet with a simple search. Perhaps a friend who is already a member can appoint you their proxy if you feel that you would be left as an orphan on the front steps....
I meant BUY the THS membership as a gift.....What's done is done, nothing will reverse that fatal it is time for the "coup de grace" to the board of THS. Come on..unite and toss their skanky asses to the curb..enough!!!!

Biscuit said...

It's funny you say that - shockingly, someone from the THS did call me back, just a little while ago. She says they're not taking any new memberships at the moment.

They are, however, taking down names and addresses of would-be-members, and the next time the Board meets, they'll go over the list and see who they will let in. So democratic.

Dog Foster Mom said...

As an interested bystander, I feel bad for those who knew and cared about these dogs. I foster pit bulls and deal with all the area restrictions and BSL that makes it hard for them to find homes, and I know they're a wonderful breed of dog. However I have worked with a rescue who kept dogs (all breeds) in cages for years, and every day the dogs got skinnier and sicker and went kennel crazy because they didn't have proper care. So I do feel if these dogs were unadoptable and didn't get enough proper care, it may have been best for them to be euthanized. But from the comments of the volunteers who worked with them, it sounds like that isn't the case. An if rescues were willing to take them, then that definitely needs a better explanation why that wasn't allowed. The letter they sent out makes it sound like they did all the right things - but as Anonymous said earlier - they should be able and willing to show proof of those things. They should have a trusted representative from the area rescues who tested the dogs come forward and say they participated and agreed with the decision and tell people why. They should clearly explain the reasons the dogs couldn't be transferred to rescues. Was it due to the liability of getting them through Ontario, or was it because they were worried about liability of sending a dog to a rescue that may bite someone eventually and then they may face being sued? The fact that these were all pit bulls other than the one with known issues makes it appear that there is someone very scared of the breed pushing for this. Or does THS have a lot of other pits that were not euthanized?

selkie said...

I am trying to figure out who is left; that is the bulk of our pits - Lucas, a return pit bull - a challenge but NOT mean, just dominant is still there. Kane, a pit mix (I wouldn't personally even label him that, he is far more boxer)- but he is a SWEETHEART - a gentle, well mannered older dog. Princess, an adorable 6 year old mix (again labelled pit) - legal papers in Ontario and just yesterday put as adoptable (but they don't have her where the public can see her, which puzzles me. Further they won't let us walk her although, like with ALL the pits, we have walked them for months with NO issues!). Finally, there is Pumba who has been in the clinic for undisclosed medical reasons for weeks.

Those I think are the only pits left.

I reiterate again, a group of around 10-12 volunteers have interacted with, loved and had no issues with the majority of these dogs - with NO issues whatsoever. In fact, 2 of the dogs slaughtered on Friday were often used as staff as dogs for "new staff" and "new volunteers" to learn on.

selkie said...

Update: Kane's old owner tracked him down and he went home!! YEAH Kane! I LOVED that dog!! and I forgot our darling Crowe - although they labelled him pit bull, apparently they have now reassessed and said he is a mastiff. Either way is adorable and has the most grumbly, whinging, whine when he wants attention.

Sunny Reuter said...

Download THS membership forms at the link above. Not sure if that helps....

Fred said...

selkie, that's wonderful news about Kane. I've heard lots of wonderful things about him.

Anonymous said...

Was this letter supposed to clear things up for everybody?...because it REALLY doesn't. There are still so many unanswered questions I don't even know where to start.

" A number of the dogs had severe temperment concerns and aggression". Which ones? What are their names?

" Many had bite orders". Which ones? What are the names?

" These 6 dogs were not able to be adopted, fostered, or transferred". Why not? Could you elaborate, please?

" While tentative agreements were made to place some of these dogs in rescues, there are legal obstacles... And what would those legal obstacles be, Garth? Again, could you elaborate?

" We are going to focus on positive outcomes for the animal". Really? Is death a positive outcome?

" Simply because an animal has a problem does not make them 'unadoptable'...Wow, if you don't see the irony in that statement, then I can't explain it to you.

Look, if you truly "understand that this is a very emotional and difficult time" for the the people involved, then give them specifics, not this watered down crap. There's no point in being vague now...the deed is done. Now, the least you can do is man up and give the people who cared about these animals some straight answers.

I don't know about anybody else but I am getting really tired of people projecting their human thoughts & feelings on to animals and babbling on about 'quality of life'. I know these dogs didn't have the best lives living in a shelter but at least they had lives and they were THEIR lives...but they don't get a say, do they?...after all, they're just animals, right?...and you, being a human, know what's best for them better than they do.

I would like for everybody (if you haven't already) to go to selkie's blog and read her touching tribute to these dogs. I know not every dog can tolerate living in a shelter and, obviously, having their own home and family is the ideal scenario. However, at least one of the dogs, Smokey, seemed to have made peace with his situation and considered the shelter his home. According to selkie, he was not an unhappy dog. As long as he got to spend time with the people he knew cared about him and he got to go for his walks, he was okay with that. Why couldn't you be okay with it?

I think the truth is, these dogs had simply become an inconvenience for couldn't be bothered to work out the 'legal obstacles', you couldn't be bothered to work with the rescues who were willing to take them, you couldn't be bothered to work on their so-called 'behaviour problems' and so killing them and calling it your 'new euthanasia policy' became the easy way out...why don't you just admit it?

selkie said...

Fred... did you KNOW about the article coming out this morning in the globe? That bastard Jerome talking about "cleaning up" the facility by euthanizing ALL the reamining animals? I am without words ....

Fred said...

selkie, while I don't think his intention is to euthanize all the remaining animals, I do fear for many of them.

Anonymous said...

Good on Kate for blowing this mess wide open.

Anonymous said...

For heavens sake, in his affadavit, Garth Jerome states that the pit bull rescue was blocked by the OSPCA for reasons unknown to him.

He also states that he plans to shut down adoptions, with the remaining animals being moved out either through adoptions, fostering or the alternative. WTF?

When does the management of this facility start?

Fred said...

(this comment has been edited)

Redstarcafe, The reasons would of been known to Garth if he had asked. I don't believe for one second he cared about the outcome here. The OSPCA spoke about the legalities involved in that ONE specific rescue then Garth had to of known, he likes to close his eyes & hope when he opens them everything will be ok.

All the same idiots minus Tim Trow & a few of his loyal followers are running that place now. Running it right into the ground from what I can see.

Anonymous said...

All I can do is hope and pray is that the media keep pushing this story, making it loud and clear to the general public what is going there!!! CP24 continues to follow it


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Fred. From what you and Marcie have posted about the rescue plans, I don't understand where he thinks the buck stops.

You summed up the vacuity of the affadavit plans so well.

Anonymous said...

I will post a quote from an OSPCA report made about ten years ago regarding Pitbulls. There are those within the OSPCA that really care about all animals, but make no mistake, pits are out and that is who instigates the pit bull ban.

My days of supporting the THS are over and done.