Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rumours and discontent at the Toronto Humane Society

Rumours have been breeding like fleas within the Toronto Humane Society. Most of them are anti-OSPCA with the occasional one tossed at Toronto Animal Services for good measure.

With all the silence in the face of these rumours, even some of the faithful are beginning to wonder what the OSPCA is up to at the THS: still not allowing animal intake, canceling the fostering program, continuing to spend donor money on court costs against the THS, being overtly suspicious of volunteers, treating them like thieves and then dismissing them en masse saying they were no longer needed, directly or indirectly causing the lay off of essential THS workers.

That's a lot of stuff that needs explaining and taking the high road with silence isn't going to cut it. In the absence of any kind of explanation, it's inevitable that people, especially enemies of the OSPCA and drinkers of Tim Trow's kool-aid, are going to start making shit up.

Well, it's taken a while, but the OSPCA seems to have learned its lesson about controlling the message in the face of rampant rumourmongering. They're starting to talk.

Over the past couple of weeks, OSPCA staff have been meeting privately and individually with concerned volunteers to answer their questions and address their concerns and now there's even going to be a town hall meeting tomorrow to discuss some of the issues around the OSPCA's stint at the THS.

As a preview, here are some unofficial responses (the person I talked to wishes to remain unnamed) to a few of the rumours which are being passed around.

1. Anyone who's been volunteering at the THS knows that the OSPCA came in and killed 180 cats in the first month they were there. The OSPCA vets killed them at night when no one was around because they didn't want anyone to see them.

In the first month at the THS, the OSPCA euthanized forty cats (this out of several hundred cats) which vets determined were suffering terribly and beyond help. Generally, cadavers for euthanized animals are stored in a freezer at the THS for a few days until the cremation company comes by to pick them up. The company which the THS dealt with hadn't been paid in quite a while and so had suspended their services several weeks or months prior to the OSPCA raid on the facility. By the time the OSPCA showed up, there were already 140 frozen cat bodies in the freezer.

Once things got straightened out with the cremation company, the pick-ups started again. In that first pick-up, all 180 dead cat bodies were moved out at night because it was felt that moving those bodies through the building during open day hours would not be appreciated by staff or volunteers.

Later, someone from the THS called a local newspaper reporter and told him that the OSPCA had just killed 180 cats. The reporter phoned THS back for confirmation and the real situation was eventually explained. The newspaper story was obviously not published but the rumour was well on its way.

2. The OSPCA treat volunteers like thieves and now aren't letting anyone except for a few staff members walk the dogs.

There was this German Shepherd, Kincaid, at the THS who had a bite history and was under court order to be euthanized. Before this order could be carried out, Kincaid disappeared. In his kennel, someone had replaced Kincaid with a smaller, friendly German Shepherd.

After an investigation, someone came forward and said he saw another person put Kincaid into the back of a vehicle which then drove away. He thought this was kind of strange so he wrote down the license plate of the vehicle.

The vehicle was traced to a rescue in Huntsville. When the Huntsville rescue was contacted, they said that Kincaid only passed through there on his way to another rescue in North Bay. When the OSPCA showed up in North Bay, the rescue refused them access to their property so there was no way to confirm if the dog they took was indeed Kincaid.

The next time the OSPCA checked on Kincaid's kennel, they discovered that the replacement GSD had in turn been replaced by a Yorkie.

A day later, the Yorkie was also gone and the kennel was empty.

From the perspective of the OSPCA, law enforcement agencies and the justice system, a dangerous dog was stolen from the THS and is now in the hands of a criminal. The theft was brazen and a clear fuck you directed at the OSPCA. The obvious and unfortunate response was a clamp down on dog walkers. What else could have been expected? Whether one considers the perpetrators thieves or rescuers, committing a flagrant criminal act isn't going to make things better for the other volunteers or the remaining dogs in the facility.

3. The OSPCA have stopped the THS animal foster program out of spite.

The OSPCA has responded to this accusation with a press release. Among their reasons for suspending the animal foster program are:

* Pets were signed out for fostering without the approval of the appropriate THS official.
* There were incomplete records on the number of animals signed out for fostering, and who they were signed out with.
* Some animals intended to be signed out under the fostering program were instead listed as adoptions.
* Many animals signed out for fostering suffered chronic health issues and needed to be regularly re-assessed to ensure that fostering remained the best care option.
* Diabetic cats that required daily blood monitoring and insulin injections were sent out for fostering. The THS included a six-month supply of insulin and other medicine. There was no follow-up scheduled once these foster homes ran out of medical supplies.
* Animals with medical conditions were signed out to foster homes without training specific to the conditions and without ensuring that the foster volunteer had appropriate medical knowledge.
* Two aggressive dogs were signed out under the fostering program to people with no professional training to manage canine behavioural problems.

Until the OSPCA is able to ensure the safety of the animals and the fosters caring for them, they feel they have no choice but to stop the THS from fostering out more animals. Also, because there are only approximately 300 animals remaining in the facility, they feel the need to foster out animals is not as great as it was when there were over 1000 animals.

4. What happened to all those animals? There were over a thousand and now there are only 300. The OSPCA must have killed them all.

Numbers from both the THS and the OSPCA state that approximately 200 animals have been euthanized. The remaining animals moved out of the facility have either been adopted, are in foster care or have been sent to rescues.

5. The OSPCA won't allow new animals to be admitted into the THS.

By order of the court, there can only be a certain number of animals at the THS facility based on how many people are there to care for them. The THS, most likely due to their financial troubles, keeps laying people off. This means that the OSPCA has to cover the salaries for any extra workers required on site. For example, 6 of the 8 vets at the THS right now are paid for by the OSPCA. It is not in the OSPCA mandate to cover the costs of the THS. Until such time that the THS is able to hire more animal care workers, the number of animals allowed in the facility will be limited.

Also, there is a good chance that unless the THS board resigns or is otherwise replaced in fairly short order, the THS will fail as an institution, financially and politically. If that happens, then the OSPCA will be required to take all the animals out of the facility. The OSPCA feels that they can handle the resheltering of around 300 animals but not much more.

6. The OSPCA won't allow any adoption returns.

When someone brings an adoption return back to the THS, the OSPCA considers this an owner surrender and right now they won't allow the THS to take any owner surrenders.

7. The OSPCA spends too much money on legal costs trying to go after the THS.

Disregarding the irony in this accusation, especially if it's coming from a THS supporter, the OSPCA is actually a law enforcement agency as well as an animal welfare organization. An important part of the their mandate is to go after and prosecute animal cruelty cases. Their donors understand this. If their donors have a problem with anything, it's that the OSPCA is spending too much money propping up the THS.


The OSPCA is not a perfect organization. It is fair to criticize their mistakes like their lack of clear communications or the heavy handedness their on-site officers at the THS sometimes have shown towards volunteers and staff (Here's a suggestion: never have officers from a police or military style organization interact with civilians for too long. Their two power structures are incompatible). However, spreading rumours and lies about the OSPCA isn't going to make them into a better organization nor will it ease the plight of the animals in their care, whether it be at the THS or elsewhere. Spreading rumours and lies about the OSPCA isn't about helping animals. It's just about spreading rumours and lies.

Rumours aren't just an inconvenience. They have real life consequences. The anti-Pit Bull law in Ontario was created in part because of baseless rumours about the breed's locking jaws and other such nonsense and has resulted in the deaths of thousands of dogs of all breeds in this province. Even when presented with facts about the non-existence of locking jaws or how Pit Bulls are less aggressive towards people than most other breeds, supporters of the law still turn a blind eye, refusing to listen to anything which might contradict their unsubstantiated beliefs.

The OSPCA would do well to take a closer look at how successful the old THS was at manipulating public opinion with rumours, misleading messages and intimidation of individuals, not so that they can imitate that behaviour themselves but so they know what to watch out for and what to do before those who are carrying on that sleazy tradition turn around and bite them too deep.

A bigger issue, though, and perhaps this should be another post, but whatever - it's not - is that a lot of the recent grumbling coming out of the THS arose because no one has stepped forward with a clear vision for how to lead the THS out of the hole it's in. The original management is carrying on with a few improvements but mostly their attitude towards transparency and accountability is unchanged. The THS board, too full of themselves, hangs on to power so the THS continues to fester instead of resigning in order to allow the THS to heal. The OSPCA is playing its assigned role of police officer and isn't presenting any way forward because that's not in their mandate. Any would-be heirs to the board of directors' table have remained silent on what steps they would actually take to reform the THS. What good will there was after the initial OSPCA raid has vanished and there doesn't seem to be any hope.

For better or worse, most of the people who care about the animals at the THS, don't care about the politics. They don't care about who's carrying the biggest "I lub animals" sign or who's protesting the loudest or who's got the best lawyers and accountants on side or who's got board experience or who doesn't. Maybe they should care about all that stuff, but they don't. What they do care about is who's got a plan to help out the animals, present and future, at the THS.

The THS is sinking and no one has stepped forward with a life boat. Until someone does, I suspect the rumours and criticisms, deserved or not, will continue and maybe get even worse.

20 comments:

Social Mange said...

Thoughts:

1. It is the THS board's responsibility to dig the organization out of the hole it's in, no one else's. Their behaviour caused the mess, it's their responsibility to clean it up. If the boat sinks, let's see if they jump ship first or stay and get their feet wet. Let's see what happens, aside from the usual shite we've all experienced from the purple kool-aid nutbars.

2. People who care about the animals at THS have to educate themselves on corporate governance, proper board behaviour, and start hitting the lazy-ass Fibs to pass a new not-for-profit corporate law modelled on that for public companies which would require fuller disclosure and greater transparency. Right now, there is far too much secrecy at THS about its board and operations. Yo, dopes, it's not a business with proprietary product. Donors are entitled to know the members of the board, their exact experience - what financial, legal, business experience they bring to the table, exactly how donor dollars were spent, who authorized the legal fees for all the sabre rattling, exact details of compensation for the five highest paid executives including perks, pension plan/retirement benefits, health benefits, car allowance, etc., the corporate governance structure of the organization (for example, is Bob Hambley a director, the President, the Secretary AND the Treasurer?), the controls in place for proper organization conduct - ethics, business conduct, accounts payable policies, volunteer policies, yadda yadda.

3. Whoever moved Kincaid committed theft. Hope the OSPCA finds the person. And publicizes that person's name so if Kincaid bites anyone else, the victim can sue that person's assets.

4. I'm surprised so few cats were euthanized. I saw a lot in THS that had gone insane from extended incarceration and stress and were unsafe for workers and volunteers.

5. The THS foster program was a complete fricking mess. They didn't seem to have records of who had what, they didn't provide promised supplies. I'm not surprised it was shut down.

6. The OSPCA may make mistakes about communication but when has anything like this happened before? One always makes mistakes when doing something for the first time. Let's hope this is the first and last time.

Personally, I think the OSPCA should move the animals out of THS and let it crash. That will be the current board's enduring legacy - that they destroyed a 100+ year old organization.

selkie said...

you know, the more I see the ospca propaganda machine in motion together with the credulousness of the people who regurgitate their BS, the more discouraged and sad I get.

I'm not even going to get into any of this- there is no point as people are so brainwashed they don't listen, but the whole Kincaid thing is ABSOULTE BS - while it initially astonished me and provided a laugh, in hindsight it is outrageous that they can spew lies like that and be believed.

Laura HP said...

Honestly, I was one of the ones who thought they should've emptied the building at the beginning of all this and started from scratch. The problems there are so deeply rooted, it seems almost impossible to untangle without starting all over again. If someone does manage to do that, they deserve huge congratulations.

I'm not surprised at the foster program - from what I saw, it was a mess and a confusing one at that. Animals were being hustled out of there so fast after the raid, it seems unlikely that the best foster homes were found and that all supplies were provided.

The THS just seems like such a sinkhole...they really need someone to step forward, right now.

House of the Discarded said...

180 cats euthanized. Strange that seems like such a big number to the media. Why doesn't somebody take a look at the numbers at Hamilton Animal Control.

180 cats are euthanized every week over there, and nobody gives a shit. No media. Nothing.

lilbear said...

I'm with you, Selkie. Whenever anyone dares to make even the slightest criticism of the OSPCA based on confirmed policies that they have implemented, that person is attacked and accused of "spreading rumours and lies." Yet in the blink of an eye, outrageous and bizarre allegations of animal theft are made and posted online.

Clearly the desire for vengeance against the old board is the overriding concern for many involved, even if it means letting the whole place shut down (and apparently delighting in its demise).

Those of us who have anything to say that doesn't fit within this tunnel vision are dismissed and insulted. There is almost no point in even trying to express another viewpoint. Apparently, if we are not with you then we are against you.

Fred said...

selkie, if you've got credible info contrary to what the OSPCA is alleging, then let's hear it. My source is someone who was involved in the investigation with Kincaid. It's always possible that this person told me a bald faced lie but I have no reason to suspect that. At least I'm more inclined to believe someone who is willing to put their reputation on the line - because if this turns out to be misinformation or a lie you can be sure I'll write about it - than someone who calls someone else a liar without providing any backup.

Social Mange said...

Laura HP, the foster program has been a mess for years. I fostered for THS over a decade ago, and it was a mess then.

Selkie, watch who you malign with your generalizations and rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

KINKAID- If Kinkaid had a bite history, and if Kinkaid was stolen. Why do i have written proof that the dog was transferred to my program? and photographs with him and many different people loving him??? Hogwash....... people can write anything just to cause a stir. Stick with the facts and not all the drama!

Fred said...

Anonymous, a dog doesn't have to bite everyone it meets to have a bite history. It only has to bite one person and then that person only has to report it. And what program are you talking about anyway? Does it have some bearing on the court order? If you've got some legit and pertinent info, then share it.

lilbear, when someone calls a reporter and tells him that 180 cats were killed by the OSPCA when it was clearly not the case, that is, if not a lie, a salacious rumour. Anyone who spreads such tales should be called out.

If you've got specific and valid complaints against the OSPCA, then raise them.

As for your accusation that people here are, in your words, "delighting" in the demise of the THS, let's get a show of hands here to see how many are delighting in its demise. Any of you celebrating the fact that the THS might fail?

What tunnel vision are you talking about? Please be specific. Is it the tunnel vision that says the board must resign in order for the THS to heal? Is it the tunnel vision that says the OSPCA is sometimes heavy handed with staff and volunteers? Is the tunnel vision that says spreading rumours doesn't help the animals?

And if I wanted to, again your words, "dismiss" your opinion, I would have just deleted your comment or not written the post in the first place. Disagreeing with your opinion is not dismissing.

selkie said...

Fred, was not on last night so haven't had a chance to respond (and getting ready for work now) -but I will do so - point by point - when I get a moment (which may be later depending on workload).

Just an aside- Kincaid was a distinct and unmistakable shepherd (he was adorable incidentally, not what I personally would have labelled aggressive at all) - he had a thick shaggy coat and a big head; the dog that went to rescue was the same one - I can't see how anyone could mistake it. And as a shepherd person, I KNOW all the shepherds that have come in and out of the THS over the past several years - and there was "no exchange" ... truly, I really did roar when I heard that it was so absurd.

one bite does not a mean dog make! He is a typical shepherd incidentally, which to some people would make him "mean" - ie. he was wary of strangers (gsds are VERY pack oriented and not interested in people outside it), protective - NOT in a scary way and dominant - you know, a German Shepherd! Quite a few of us walked him with absolutely NO issues and I would never have labelled him a problem dog, but that is personal experience not expert opinion.

I'm actally really confused about the whole story - Kincad was moved out around the same time a lot of other animals were sent to rescues/fosters - under the auspieces of the ospca so not sure how that story originated.

Social Mange- I am entitled to an OPINION like anyone else - why is mine 'generalizations' and 'reheteroic' and everyone else's is 'fact'??

I just want to make one point (damn, going to be late and have to get my dogs out!!) just becaue one does not like what is going on under the auspices of the ospca does NOT make them Trow advocates! Keep in mind, that MANY current and past volunteers and staff (and certaintly some of the current volunteers) were INSTRUMENTAL in getitng the ospca IN in the first place. YOu can dislike a regime without automatically making yourself a proponent of the one it replaced!

lilbear said...

Quote from Social Mange:

"Personally, I think the OSPCA should move the animals out of THS and let it crash. That will be the current board's enduring legacy - that they destroyed a 100+ year old organization."

Maybe delight was the wrong word, but come on? This poster certainly doesn't sound unhappy about the possibility of the end of the THS.

selkie said...

just another note vis-a-vis Kincaid.... the dogs are constantly moved around in the THS - always have been - less so since we are reduced to 18 dogs but depending on their needs and issues they are moved accordingly. So it is not unusual for a dog to be in one kennel, one day and in another (perhaps in a totally different room, another day).

Dominique Rousselle said...

My Dear Fred!
You seem to be sure of your facts, howerver, I can assure you that you are completely wrong on this one my dear!
I am the one one who drove KINCAID to Orillia! (not Huntsville),with full awareness of the OSPCA and THS. I had all the papers and both parties were present when I left.So, YOU ARE WRONG! GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT.

Fred said...

selkie, I agree that one bite should not necessarily mean putting a "dangerous" label on a dog. I don't know the circumstances behind Kincaid's court order. It may have been a fair decision. It may have been unfair. Dogs, unfortunately, can't defend themselves in court.

Thank you for clarifying how the dogs are moved around and how this may have been the source of the confusion over Kincaid's disappearance.

No one is accusing you personally of being a Trow advocate, but there are people who would like to see him back in power. This post is not meant to paint anyone who questions the OSPCA with the same brush and I'm sorry if that's the way it's come across. It's meant to address specifically those rumours which are unfounded, insinuations which border on the defamatory. These things do not help the animal welfare cause in general and definitely do more harm than good for the THS specifically.

Dominique Rousselle, these aren't my facts. If they are untrue, then let's get to the bottom of it. What's the story then behind Kincaid according to you?

Fred said...

I'm going to do some digging to try to get the truth around Kincaid. Someone is either making up some big stories around this dog or there's been some big screw up.

selkie said...

Fred, we're going to be at the meeting tonight and Dominique will be there too.

Fred said...

Hope to see you there.

Kia said...

I would love to hear about the meeting. I'm a six year volunteer in the kitten nursery, but I had a bio lab that if I missed I would be given 0% on a HUGE assignment (a class presentation). I am so upset I had to miss the meeting! What happened?

cittykat said...

I think that some people are missing the big picture here...

The situation between the OSPCA and THS should not be about choosing sides. It should, however, be about what is best for the animals. I would assume that it would be clear to ALL that the THS was not acting in the best interest of the animals.Period.
I am not advocating a high euthanasia policy vs. a low or no kill policy, but I would assume that EVERY animal lover would rather have an animal humanely euthanized, rather than suffer a cruel and most often painful death. If THS was indeed doing "whatever it takes" for its animals, than the OSPCA would not have hundreds of statements and testimonials from volunteers and staff stating the contrary. The OSPCA has an obligation to investigate acts of cruelty and neglect, and no one should be exempt from these, including the THS. For those that are caught up in the politics and rumours, I feel sorry for you. We should all be focusing on the most important players in this battle: THE ANIMALS.

Anonymous said...

Very well said cittykat.I couldn't agree with you more!!Everyone is so busy with the he said she said get your facts straight bull shit that they forget about what's really going on.Please people let's try and get back to what is important here!!!THE ANIMALS