The melodrama over the Toronto Humane Society elections went into overdrive these last few days with a couple of communiques just sent out. One was an email written by Bob Hambley and the other was from someone or some people who obviously don't like Bob Hambley very much - at least they don't like the idea of him being on the THS board.
Bob really should change his name to Bobo the Clown-O because he makes people laugh so. If you don't know, Hambley is a cohort of Tim Trow who's already been on the Toronto Humane Society board for eons and he's running for re-election again because I guess he figures he hasn't done enough for the place. You'd think that someone who has been charged with animal cruelty (not proven in court yet) would take a step back, if not for his own good then at least for the good of the THS with respect to regaining the public trust.
I had this whole super snarky thing written up about the ludicrousness of Hambley's e-mail blast to the THS membership (though not quite as ludicrous as the innuendos spouted by another ex-board member hoping to get re-elected - won't get into that here) but I've nixed it because I was getting a stomache ache writing about it. Suffice it to say, Hambley basically takes personal credit for most everything positive that's happened at the THS recently - and it ain't much from what I hear - and disparages the hell out of the Faces of Change slate.
Anyway, whatever I write can't possibly outdo the other mail out I got. Much of this other mail out is a compiled list of allegations against the THS under the old regime's watch. Social Mange has got it up and you can read it here.
It reads like a horror show. Here are some excerpts:
THS Veterinary Technician Jessica Newall
"One person to do the feeding of approximately 200 baby squirrels and raccoons ... she states that animals were not getting fed ... and were constantly crying because of hunger and they were dying due to starvation"
"Animals are brought in that should be euthanized but are left to die in cages."
Dr. Vivian Ungar
"As a veterinarian at the THS, I have witnessed numerous animals ... that were in distress and suffered needlessly because they were cared for by veterinary assistants who lacked the proper professional qualifications and are improperly trained."
"In my expeience as a veterinarian at the THS, it is very common to find animsls suffering in cages and dying slow, agonizing deaths ..."
"... countless cases in which animals being housed at THS were found in extreme distress, and suffering from medical conditions that could have been prevented ..."
Former THS Veterinary Technician Lindsay Neilson
"When you're a 16 year old cat dying of renal failure, and you've lost patches of fur, and you can't get up, and you go to the bathroom all over yourself, and you're just lying in your cage, no one comes to see you for days ... you can't even lift your head into your bowl to eat, these are the times that you do need to euthanize. Unfortunately, a lot of these animals are not euthanized and they die slowly in their crates, and five days later they're found."
THS Senior Administrator Laura Hendy
"When referring to adoptions versus deaths in cages and the misrepresentation and concealment of facts the witness makes the following statements "He (Tim Trow) has told me himself to play with the numbers until it comes out the way it should""
And on and on. Not a worthy legacy for Hambley and his board if these allegations are proven true in court.
Hambley openly supports the Save the THS slate. If I were on the STHS slate, I'm not sure I'd want his support with allegations like that floating around. He's got this plan in his head where he's going to partner up with the Save the THS slate and ride their wave back onto his throne. I don't know what the STHS people think about that but last I heard and read, the STHS claims no affiliation with Hambley so someone's not getting their messaging correct. Either STHS isn't telling the truth about their non-affiliation with Hambley or Hambley is trying to cuddle up to a team that is publicly denying anything to do with him.
I haven't been writing about the upcoming THS elections because the drama for the last couple of weeks hasn't been over which side has got the best animal welfare platform but over who's got the best political machinery to win the election.
That's the problem with having slates which are basically political parties. Everything gets hyper politicized and instead of issues coming to the forefront, it's strategy that wins the day. I really wish that the politicos over at Save the THS had never come up with the slate idea in the first place but I guess being politicians and politcal strategists, that's what they're comfortable with. Because they decided to run a slate, it forced the other major candidates to form slates as well. Power in a group and all that.
Here are my problems with slates:
1. Monothink - on the one hand this might be good for moving actionable items along but too often it also becomes a repressive force where dissenting voices are told to keep quiet and toe the party line.
2. It makes the process become more like a competitive sporting event. Individual egos are enough of a problem but group egos are titanic. People who have no reason being opponents (especially in this case where, for the most part, everyone is fighting for the same cause) find themselves on opposing sides of an artificially created fence. Too much energy goes into winning this team competition and not enough goes into deciding who are the best individual candidate suited for solving the problems of animal homelessness.
3. Weaker links on each slate get a free ride. There are strong candidates on both the Faces of Change slate and the Save the THS slate but there are also not so strong candidates. If members vote by slate, and many probably will, they will be ushering in the not-so-brilliant candidates along with the exceptional ones.
4. Individual candidates get shafted. Individuals who are not aligned with a slate generally won't have the same shared resources as the slates where candidates can pool their resources for campaigning. This is obviously the case in these elections with both FOC and STHS sending out mailings to members which would have cost thousands of dollars and days of work. I doubt most, if any, of the independents will be able to do this.
Be that as it may, we're stuck with slates so I'm just complaining to the wind here.
From what I understand, THS members don't necessarily have to pick a complete slate. They have the option to cast support behind individual candidates. That's what I would do. There are some amazing people on both slates who I think would be of huge benefit to the THS. Will the members have time enough to individually research each of the over thirty candidates? I doubt it. I suspect the majority will vote by slate.
If I had to pick a slate, hands down I would pick Faces of Change. Here are my reasons:
1. Most importantly Faces of Change has a well researched animal welfare policy (Faces of Change - Animal Welfare Plan). Save the THS has got a few points they've put up on their website but it's not nearly as comprehensive. I want to know that people on the slate care enough about animals at the THS to have put in the hours educating themselves and coming up with solutions to end animal homelessness.
2. There is a better balance between animal welfare oriented candidates and business oriented candidates on the Faces of Change slate, almost fifty/fifty. I believe you need both on a board. The business people bring in much needed funds and organizational skills. The animal welfare people ensure best practices are followed for helping homeless animals.
3. The combined THS experience the candidates on the Faces of Change slate bring to the table is very impressive. They've got on the ground experience and know what the problems and strengths are at the THS. I would never vote for anyone who bragged about their lack of THS experience and their lack of a plan and I think it's a mistake for STHS to be promoting this as a positive with regards to their slate. Would you vote, hire or entrust something important to a group who has less direct experience and barely a plan?
4. There are several members of the Faces of Change of slate who have spent much time and energy in helping the THS become a better place for animals and I know those people will continue to do so whether or not they get elected to the board. That shows real dedication to the cause. Most of the STHS slate aren't even members of the THS and I'm not so sure would contribute anything to the shelter if they are not elected to the board. I hope they prove me wrong.
5. It's possible that the STHS slate will say that since a board should be hands off the actual day to day running of a shelter, the directors don't actually need hands on experience. This is basically implying that any group of managers can manage anything equally well from a soap factory to an animal shelter. Sorry but I disagree. An animal shelter is not a soap factory. Experience and specific knowledge about the task at hand is always preferable. Faces of Change has got that experience and that knowledge. I can't say the same for STHS.
Also, it must be taken into consideration that the THS is not a well functioning agency. In fact, it needs a lot rebuilding. Sure any board can go out and hire someone to do the rebuilding but how are they going to know who to hire if they don't themselves understand the problems that need to be resolved and the way in which those problems need to be resolved.
It's like hiring a general contractor for the reno of your house. You may not be doing the work yourself but it's always advantageous to know how the work should be done properly before signing someone up to do the job.
6. Faces of Change doesn't have old guard Bob Hambley rooting for them.
The one big criticism lobbed against the Faces of Change slate is their connection with the OSPCA. It's well known that several of the members supported the OSPCA's actions when that organization raided the THS late last year precipitating all that has happened there since, including these elections. Supporting the raid, though, does not equate with supporting the OSCPA's animal welfare policies in general. I supported the raid. I do not support their animal welfare policies. Several members of the Faces of Change slate have been and still are very vocal opponents of the animal welfare policies of the OSPCA.
It's also rather disingenuous for any candidate (well except for those old board members seeking re-election) or slate to wholly disparage the role the OSPCA played at the THS. Without them, there wouldn't even be any elections so all the candidates have benefited equally from the OSCPA forcing the old board out.
Whatever happens, whoever gets voted onto the new board can't but do a much better job than the old board. The quality of all the candidates is in general very high. These are pretty much all individuals who are successful, ambitious and have got reputations to maintain. I can't see them bowing to any of the old shenanigans the THS was known for regardless of whether or not any of the old board members get re-elected.
Whoever wins, the animals at the THS will be better off.
1. The Save the THS has added as one of their priorities a demand that the OSPCA be separated into two agencies, an animal welfare agency and a separate policing agency, as there is a conflict of interest when it essentially polices itself. This is a great idea if the practicalities of setting up two agencies can be worked out. However, I'm not quite sure why this is a THS election issue. Shouldn't a new board be more concerned with getting their own house in order first considering what a mess it's in? Check out STHS' news headlines on their website:
Sun: Who Polices The Animal Cops?
Save the THS Calls on Province to Clean Up Problems with Animal Welfare Enforcement
Save the THS Slate To Province: Separate Regulator and Operator
‘Save The THS’ Saddened By Events At The York Region OSPCA
Save the THS – a new team for a new Toronto Humane Society
Four out of five attack the OSPCA with the one lone heading that actually talks about the STHS. This is obviously an attention grabber to get some political points and I certainly hope that starting a war right off the bat with another animal welfare agency isn't indicative of the STHS' priorities because that does smell too much like the old board's tactics.
And yes, there are other major headlines out there to grab if the STHS were actually in tune with animal welfare issues in Ontario and truly concerned about disseminating news regarding those issues, like the movement to improve animal cruelty laws, for example, after the recent discovery and later euthanasia of a dog tortured and dumped in Windsor.
2. Wednesday night, I'm told, there is going to be a live debate broadcast on CP24 at 9 (but check your listings to make sure about this) between an FOC candidate and an STHS candidate. While I enjoy a lively debate, I suspect that STHS is going to stick David Turnbull, their spokesperson, in front of the camera to rep their side because he's a seasoned pro, being a politician and all, and if he's a good politician, he'll be able to talk his way around anything and come out sounding good but saying nothing. Let's hope substance wins over style tomorrow night.