Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Toronto Humane Society decision could leave hundreds of kittens homeless

And dead.

I'll let Jennifer Downe, a long time volunteer at the Toronto Humane Society explain via her e-mail:

I just received this devastating news from the THS. They have decided to permanently close the kitten nursery at THS.

The THS kitten nursery offered a home to immature kittens who required around the clock care (as we witnessed last night with Karen), along with vets and technicians to care for these vulnerable little creatures. Newborn kittens need to be bottle fed every 2 hours for the first weeks of their lives, slowly moving up to every 4 hours. Without this around the clock care to abandoned kittens, they will die.

A properly run kitten nursery will help a far more immature kittens survive, rather than solely relying on a fostering program. Yes, fostering is far preferable to staying in the shelter, but the nature of kitten feeding makes it better suited to a team approach with dedicated reliable volunteers to accommodate an every 2 hour feeding schedule. Fostering immature kittens is a huge commitment - you need to commit to be home to feed them every 2 hours - how many people can do this?? By shutting down the nursery, they have astronomically diminished the number of animals we can help (each kitten season (May - Sept) there are literally hundreds of kittens in the shelter at any given time) as I sincerely doubt we can find this many foster parents (it's a very select group of individuals who can help in kitten fostering- people who work from home, retirees and people who are not currently employed who can be available 24 hours a day). The nursery can be properly run - when James was the volunteer coordinator, he managed the nursery by ensuring he had committed volunteers and held them accountable to their designated shifts. We should be preserving this amazing place and committing more resources to it - not shutting it down.

I don't know of another kitten nursery in Toronto, so without it I feel there is little hope for abandoned kittens. Clearly I am extremely disappointed by this decision on a personal level, however I am more upset because I am confident that it means that abandoned kittens will die.

I am desperately hopeful that there is something our group can do about this terrible decision.

By "our group", Jennifer is referring to the Faces of Change slate for which she is a candidate in the upcoming THS elections.

Meanwhile in other THS election news:

From The Toronto Sun, Who polices the animal cops?:

David Turnbull, a former Conservative solicitor general and a member of Save the THS (Toronto Humane Society), said the tragedy in York Region [OSPCA] pointed out a fundamental flaw in the system.

“Clearly, we have a responsibility to look after animals,” he said. “We want the government to join with all of the opposition parties in developing these laws so that we don’t have a recurrence of (the Newmarket shelter situation).”

And also from The Sun, THS supports changes to OSPCA:

When contacted Tuesday, THS president Bob Hambley said the society called for the OSPCA’s powers to be kept in check two years ago.

“Mr. Klees’ proposal for oversight and controls into the unchecked policing powers of the Ontario SPCA is something that the THS, as well as many other individuals and organizations, requested of the government 2008,” Hambley said.

“Furthermore, we strongly support Mr. Klees in his call for an independent investigation to get answers and determine what went wrong and who is responsible at the OSPCA and led to the plan to euthanize 350 animals for a treatable condition.”

Boys, as much as I'd like to see the OSPCA being held more accountable, you might want to consider fixing what's wrong in your own backyard before buggering around in someone else's.


selkie said...

That is truly tragic. Before we all got kicked out, James had EVERYTHING in place, volunteers lined up, nurseries ready and all he needed was the word and it was a go. The THS was CRUCIAL to saving thousands of kittens. As Jennifer points out, NO ONE is capable of feeding a kitten (or kittens!) every 2 hours for several weeks!

350 is unacceptable. 1000s is even MORE outrageous -do they give their reasoning for this? The THS€ direction is becoming less and less the place i know it can be.

Anonymous said...

From Craigslist

If there is anyone left in this city who cares about the Toronto Humane Society you need to read this. Today the THS sent an email out to the kitten feeding volunteers stating that the Kitten Nursery has been permanently shut down. As most of you are aware, the THS is the only shelter in Toronto that offers this much needed service to immature kittens who need to be bottle fed every two hours.

The Toronto Humane Society has ended the kitten nursery program and have decided to replace it with the already over extended foster parent program.

Ending this program is going to cause hundreds, if not thousands of kitten deaths this year. There are not enough foster parents in Toronto who are able to dedicate half an hour per kitten every two hours. The beauty of the THS kitten nursery was that volunteers could sign up for a bottle-feeding shift (24 hours a day) and feed kittens whenever they had the time.

What is going to happen to the kittens who need to be bottle fed but have no foster home to go to? Euthanasia. Whether the THS sends the immature kittens to another shelter or puts a needle in their veins themselves, perfectly healthy, adoptable kittens will be euthanized because the THS is closing the kitten nursery. The kitten nursery volunteers are devastated as the cancellation of this program has nothing to do with a lack of volunteers. There are more than enough volunteers to keep this program running.

I know that a lot of you are sick to death of all the events with the OSPCA and the THS, but I am begging you to take five minutes out of your day to send an email or a fax to the Toronto Humane Society to tell them that cancelling the kitten nursery program is unacceptable. Please ask your friends to do the same.

Toronto Humane Society
Phone: 416.392.2273
Fax: 416-392-9978

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Tim Trow instituted the kitten nursery because the Board at that time felt that more kittens would be better served by continuous feeding and attention by volunteers. Problems developed as time went on because large numbers of kittens needed to be fed but there weren't always enough volunteers to do it. Perhaps it would have been better to have a staff vet tech on duty with the volunteers at all times as it was a lot of responsibility to put on the shoulders of volunteers. You may wish to speak with one of the THS vets as I understand that the kitten nursery wasn't as successful as it could have been because newborn kittens in a shelter are exposed to viruses, etc. that they would not be in private foster homes. I understand that the kittens' immune systems are very delicate. This may well be the reason why the outside foster program is being expanded for the kittens.

Social Mange said...

A very eloquent summary by Jennifer of the devastation this inhumane decision will cause. This has set back cat rescue by decades.

What kills me is that THS bleated and sputtered about the OSPCA when this was undoubtedly on the table.

Bob Hambley & Co. will have a lot to answer for when they meet their Maker.

Thε Countεss said...

This has turned into politics. I am also a former kitten nursery volunteer, especially in the URI section. These kittens, like Jennifer explained, need 24-hr care. Some of these kittens come in with real bad URI (upper respiratory infection), and trust me when I say that the volunteers providing their love and care helps most of them pull through - as some of them come in already too sick and they're taken into the 'clinic' area which is restricted to volunteers. I cannot believe the THS has made such an irresponsible decision - kittens will die on the streets. It is a very inhumane decision. Good samaritans find kittens and rescue them - as I have done many times, reason why I started volunteering at the THS, because I brought in a few litters that I rescued from the street - and their lives are saved. Yes, we have an overpopulation of kittens and cats, and dogs amongst other critters just alone in the GTA, but this is NO solution to the issue. Are they short of volunteers? I think not. Despite not many people being happy with the Board right now, as never we were before, I am very confident that the volunteers - myself included, as a former volunteer - always made it to their shifts (and stayed past their shift hours) solely for the animals.

I utter to think of how many kittens will die roaming and sick on the streets. Not to mention that female kittens may become pregnant after 6 months of age - and it happens! - and there goes the overpopulation issue getting worse. We have enough animals dying on the street in Toronto alone, not to mention in all of Canada. So much for a developed country. I love my Canada, but we're failing at taking care of our animals.

Thε Countεss said...

I also have a question: What will ever happen to the kittens born inside the walls of the THS? The shelter often has mom cats (queens) dropped off, abandoned, and rescued, that are about to give birth. What will they do with the kittens born inside the THS? Will they take them to the streets? Some queens are so malnourished that they cannot feed their kittens and need the help that the volunteers provide. What then? What will their fate be? Will they be turning down any pregnant felines as well? What is the purpose of this?? I sent an email to Ian McConachie, I doubt I get a response. Hopefully, a new slate will bring back the nursery and allow kittens to survive. How dare the THS criticize the OSPCA - and with given reasons, of course - if they are about to let our kittens die on the streets. Baby animals need NOT go through such things.

Joanne said...

No wonder STHS is trying to distance themselves from Hambley. This latest decision is just monumental stupidity. It is almost as if Hambley sits around conjuring up ideas that will do the most harm, kill the most animals and alienate the most people possible. What sane person would withhold feeding from the most helpless? Even animals will adopt and feed cross species in an attempt to save the life of an infant. And for god's sake, will someone please provide Michelle Whatsherface with a link to Nathan Winograd's site or give her a copy of one of his books. STHS has to stop thinking that all the rest of us are a bunch of uninformed yahoos that they can just blantantly lie to and we will swallow it hook, line and sinker. Talk about being out of touch. For all her so-called business acumen, she is woefully ignorant in the arena of animal rescue. My cable crapped out last night right at 9 p.m. Perhaps that was a blessing. Who I feel very sorry for in this whole mess is the little kids who gave up their birthday presents, sold lemonade or whatever to raise their $100 for THS because they wanted to help the animals. I wonder what they would think if they knew THS fed the animals expired food, didn't have money for medications, etc. Talk about how to kill someone's innocence and wipe out a future generation of donors.

Kate said...

What really causes hundreds, if not thousands, of kitten deaths each year, is lack of free or very low cost (geared to income) spay/neuter clinics. The fostering program is commendable, but if it's overextended, this is why. Spay/neuter is where the money should be spent. I'm not defending closing the nursery. But re-routing the money would save so much misery.

Social Mange said...

Anonymous, how many people can take on feeding kittens every two hours? Most people work for a living; they can make feeding shifts, but they cannot take on what is essentially a 24/7 feeding routine.

This is just another example of where animals rank with Bob Hambley & the board and senior management of Toronto Humane. And that is NOWHERE.

Thε Countεss said...

The latest I've stayed at the THS is 2 am. Trust me, kittens could be fed in different shifts, although sometimes there was a back-up since kitten season can be quite populated. However, the THS was not spaying or neutering most of the pets before adopting them out. HECK! They weren't even checking anyone and handed out kittens left and right. I have been a witness of such stupidity. Why did I stop volunteering? I was 'suspended'. Why? Because I asked too many question in regards of a kitten that was obviously dying in its cage. I held that kitten and it was cold, lethargic and basically gone. 'Put it in the oxygen tank', my supervisor told the vet tech. All of that has to change as well. I dont agree with closing the nursery, and yes, we need to have the THS and other city owned shelters have a low fee for spaying and neutering, at least for a few years until the situation of the overpopulation can be somewhat controlled. Ok, fine, re-release feral cats, but they have to be spayed-neutered, even if it means darting them to sedate them. I am so sick of animal neglect EVERYWHERE.

And that woman, Michelle Whothewho.. I cant even begin to express what a dingbat she is.

Carol said...

I’ve been in cat rescue for over 10yrs now. Rescue groups are NEVER able to find sufficient number of foster homes during NON kitten season.

When kitten season hits (which it has) we are desperate. DESPERATE. And the hardest HARDEST foster space to find is for immature kittens needing bottle feeding. Does the THS think foster homes are in abundance and there are people sitting around with nothing better to do that bottle feed even ONE kitten every two hours 24 hours a day for weeks?

Foster homes are essential to rescue groups but for immature kittens they are few and far between. The THS has been a $10million a year organization and you're telling me they can't work to hire sufficient staffing to monitor a kitten nursery, to put in place and enforce proper infection control and ensure proper kitten feeding protocols are not only put in place but monitored and followed?

The kitten feeding volunteers at the THS were so essential and highly dedicated - but they also are VOLUNTEERS. They had obligations outside the shelter. That’s the appeal of volunteering AT the shelter. People can fit bottle feeding into their schedule. To take on the full responsibility of bottle feeding even ONE kitten at home, you’ll be hard pressed to find enough people to do so.

Plus it’s a VERY delicate operation that requires close attention and protocols. You can’t just hand off a litter of kittens to a foster home and hope for the best. That’s wrong in SO many ways. Just how many staff are they going to have to hire to monitor all the supposed foster homes they are going to find to take on this responsibility?

I realize the THS has rebuiling to do - first and foremost addressing their inability to take in strays in the first place. But shutting down the nursery and presuming that they can not only find foster homes to take this on, but to rely on them soley, that's irresponsible and I've yet to hear an argument that justifies this (even the 'they're prone to disease because they can't be vaccinated' argument - that's what disease/infection control protocols are for and that's why staff presence needs to be put in place for every shift and that's why volunteers shouldn't be training volunteers as they did in the past - they should be trained properly by trained staff).

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone who sent an email or faxed the Toronto Humane Society about the closing of the kitten nursery. The THS has now sent out an email to the volunteers stating that they have decided to review the closure and will leave the decision up to the new board of directors who will be elected on May 30th.

Now we all need to keep our eye on the situation once the new board is elected.

EV said...

"Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members - the last, the least, the littlest."