Friday, May 28, 2010

Toronto Humane Society elections - 2 days to go

I'm guessing that the majority of Toronto Humane Society members who are going to vote have already voted while the remaining keeners will be going to the Special General Meeting to listen to the candidates for the board of directors speak before casting their ballots. By Sunday evening the election will all be over.

Thank God.

These past weeks of politicking have brought out some particularly low blows and only goes to show that the most disreputable animal is a political animal - and we can all become political animals given the right circumstances. The most outrageous deceits were carried out on Facebook - no surprise there - one with independent candidate Margaret Ann Johnson concocting all sorts of ludicrous fantasies tying the OSPCA to Faces of Change, and another with someone impersonating Michelle Wasylyshen of the Save the THS slate and implicating herself with ties to Tim Trow and friends. Even though the judge stated in the court settlement in no uncertain terms that denigrating other candidates would not be allowed, his words didn't carry much weight with the election supervisor who saw the flying accusations as all part of the process.

Even when an obvious abuse of privacy came up when the STHS slate used members' e-mails addresses inappropriately, the election supervisor only sent out some minor verbage. In other words, there were no rules and it was getting to be like the Wild West of campaigning out there. Another week and I wouldn't be surprised if gunfights at noon started occuring.

Save the THS has a strong governance platform, not surprising given the expertise and interests of the candidates on its slate. It even mentions a whistleblower policy which is quite good if not somewhat ironic given how STHS is constantly harping on about how too many members of the Faces of Change slate complained too loudly about the past conditions at the THS under the old board.

While governance was sorely lacking at the old THS and establishing proper governance will be of great importance at the new THS, an animal welfare agency isn't just about governance. While STHS arguably may have a better handle on governance issues (I say "may" because I'm not an expert), the heart and soul of the THS belongs to the Faces of Change slate. They are the ones who will put the animals in highest regard. The currency in animal welfare is not dollars or property or position. The currency in animal welfare is compassion and Faces of Change has got compassion to spare.

Some would accuse them of being too compassionate about animals but I say you can't be compassionate enough and being compassionate doesn't mean you can't think logically at the same time. Those two attributes are not mutually exclusive.

I'm not going to go into all the reasons why I support Faces of Change, as I've already done that in a previous post, and I hope they do well on Sunday. Having said that, I believe that regardless of which slate or combination of individuals wins the elections, the Toronto Humane Society will be a much better place than it was. The question is how much better. A new board of directors can build a decent shelter, decent enough to dress up someone's resume certainly, or they can create an amazing shelter that will be a great and lasting refuge for innumerable animals and a model for shelters all over North America.

This will depend on the dedication and ability to work together of each individual on the new board. I don't envy them their work. It will be a long, hard slog and, courtesy of the old board, we've seen what can happen to them on a personal level if they fail. Ideally, these fifteen individuals will be able to forget about the politics and roll up their sleeves and get to work bettering the situation for animals in Toronto.

Forget about the politics?

Yeah, right.


Anonymous said...

Depending on the outcome on the weekend, I know where my donation money will be going.

I received yet another mailing from THS today for donations, even though the shelter has hardly been open since last year. Lots of happy talk about sanitizing the place, but I have serious concerns about the way things are going for the animals with the new management procedures, which will hopefully have an abrupt course correction with the new board.

If enough Faces of Change people get in to make a difference, THS may have my support. Otherwise, they'll have my minimal membership dollars so I can keep after them to raise the bar. Frankly, if FoC doesn't get in, that bar will be set way too low.

My donation dollars will be going to no-kill places that believe in what they do, like Toronto Cat Rescue and the other smaller shelters and rescues that aren't paying huge sums to their lawyers and spinning BS to members.

I think Liz White made a good point on The Agenda last week. Why throw donations at the OSPCA and THS at all? Unless they can prove that they're doing what we expect for the animals.

Social Mange said...

Good post.

I am honestly starting to think that we should dispense with THS and put our political will into making TAS no-kill. We've done without THS for six months, and the city hasn't collapsed. Do we really need it?

Anonymous said...

My volunteering is contingent on who wins the election. I'm hoping for Faces of Change but I am NOT confident about STHS and will probably be heading over to help a rescue or TAS if they win.

Fred said...

Unless the THS becomes a world class shelter, the funds going into it could be better spent elsewhere.

While I don't know if we'll ever be able to get TAS no-kill, donor dollars that go to TAS for their animal rescue programs are highly leveraged in the sense that those programs are heavily subsidized by the city. Donor dollars to TAS go to things like spay neuter, vaccinations, etc. but a lot of the heavy lifting, eg. the day to day care of the animals, upkeep of the facilities, food, etc. is covered by the city. At an institution like the THS, donor dollars would have to cover all that.

In terms of animal lives saved for your dollar, TAS or a reputable rescue is definitely the way to go. The only reason I would give money to the THS is if they were doing more than just being a mediocre city shelter. They would have to be playing an enlightened leadership role in the local, if not national, animal welfare community.

Houndward Bound said...

TAS is now a reputable rescue? I thought it was the city pound with a euthanasia rate bouncing around 50%.

Fred said...

Houndward Bound, TAS, taken as a whole is definitely not a rescue. It is the city pound as you say. But, there are people within TAS, especially TAS South who do an excellent job of rescue within the framework of the organization. That's why I started this blog in the first place - to help spread the word on that. They have excellent relationships with local rescues including Speaking of Dogs, Canine Rescue Me, Happy Tails, Bullies in Need, only to name a few, and have established informal partnerships with rescues in Quebec and the States.

Yes, they have a high kill rate. That is the unfortunate part of their official mandate but I invite you to look at the break down of that number. The important thing is not just how many are euth'd but also why. A significant portion of that number, for example, is due to Pit Bull kills because of DOLA. TAS South works with rescues to get Pit Bulls out of province but only the best of the best ever make it out. Another significant portion of that number is due to owner requested euthanasias. Many people in the city can't afford or just aren't willing to pay the $300 - $400 most vets charge to euth an animal. TAS offers low cost euthanasias for those people and while the details of how such a service should be run can be debated, I believe that in principle, it is a good idea. If you're interested in this, I've posted on this here,

Houndward Bound said...

Thanks for the information Fred. I'm glad things aren't as grim as they sometimes seem.

Anonymous said...

Fred, your insider's view of TAS is always interesting. The place is full of potential.

I must say I do like the Calgary model. They've launched an IHeartMyPet discount card for licensing your pet, and of course licensing increases the chance of returning lost pets, taking pressure off rehoming efforts. Another move in the right direction is the launch of no-cost s/n, available to low-income Calgarians.

Although low-cost owner-requested euthanasia services are valuable, I expect that a number of the animals being turned in are actually adoptable or could be with a little rehabilitation, and I would like to see that at TAS. Someone commented on Facebook about a woman who had brought two older Westies in to be euthanized and reported that she was checking out replacement dogs on the way out of the shelter. The old guys might have been perfect companions for someone.

Come June 1, as you say, THS could have the potential to become a world class shelter, or not. With the THS investigation and election of an entire board, we can no longer keep hitting the snooze button.

Marcie Laking said...

"The heart and soul of the THS belongs to the Faces of Change slate."
You bet! The politics are exhausting, childish & irrelevant to anything. I wrote a statement to the OSPCA about the neglect inside the shelter a long time ago & the STTHS slate thinks that is something they can hold against me. Well screw them.

I refused to go home & go to sleep knowing that animals were suffering & it's something I would do again in a heartbeat. If they think I'm a bad person because I spoke up against neglect them screw them again.

It's easy to point fingers in hindsight but the reality is that the OSPCA was the only policing body to help those animals. The reality is that the OSPCA came in & charged animals abusers. The reality is that the animals are better off now then they were when Trow was in control. That's not a political statement that's a fact.

I could care less about the political BS & spreading of lies. None of these people know me, know how much I've put into making Toronto a better place for animals & I doubt they could see through their politically clouded glasses to see me or anyone else on our slate as the compassionate animal loving people that we are.

At the end of the day I did my best to bring about positive change at the THS. If we win tomorrow obviously that's exciting for the future of the THS but regardless of the outcome I hope the animals are the real winners here. I hope everyone voted on the board can finally make the animals a priority. No matter which slate they came from they have a chance to really make a difference.

Thε Countεss said...

I just wish people overall were more responsible. I am having such a problem with someone I know. I advised them on how to licence, spay and do all the medical work for their dog, a female poodle under 1 yr of age, and how to house train her and what? They think it's all complicated and so much work, etc. It angers me that people always 'want a dog' but aren't willing to do right by that dog. Or cat.

I hope FoC gets in and the THS becomes a much better place, as well as the TAS to get those programmes going. I used to go to the Sheppard Ave (at 1300 Sheppard Ave West) TAS and check out their kitties and dogs. Applied to volunteer there but never got a call back. People should try and volunteer at the city places as well.

Rescues around Ontario need to work with city-owned 'shelters' as well.

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