Thursday, December 31, 2009

Toronto Humane Society and the world of rescue

Kuba - may or may not be up for adoption just yet

If you've been keeping up with the Toronto Humane Society news recently, you'll probably already have heard that while the downtown facility will likely be opening up to the public for adoptions next week, the majority of animals there are not currently adoptable. Out of the seventy plus dogs, for example, right now only about twenty are considered suitable for adoption. This number may go up once more assessments are done but basically too many of them have got behavioural or health issues which exclude them from being good average family pets. That doesn't mean they will never be suitable for adoption. It just means we need to work harder at getting them there.

Some of these dogs have got lingering medical issues that were never properly addressed but are now being looked after or at least acknowledged. Some of these dogs have been at the facility for months if not years, living their lives out in their pens. Some of them were irresponsibly adopted out to mismatched adopters only to be returned and adopted out and returned again. This cycle of animal mismanagement would have continued on unabated if the old management had been allowed to carry on the way they were.

With the old ways gone or going, even in the state of flux the THS is still in right now, like an organized confusion, things are looking up. One big change is that rescues are openly being sought out to foster dogs from the facility. Several dogs have already been taken to their foster homes. That's several that no longer have to spend their days in those concrete cells listening to the desperate barks and howls from all the other dogs and who can now finally relax into a home environment.

I never did understand what pathology it was going through the heads of the former THS rule makers who decided that working with rescues was some kind of a signal of failure. How utterly selfish and egotistical to even contemplate thoughts like that. How can anyone possibly think that it's better to warehouse dogs in cages for months or years rather than allow them to spend time in decent home foster care where they aren't going to go cage crazy or be more susceptible to shelter disease, where they are going to get hours of human interaction as opposed to the few minutes they might get at the facility, where they are going to get real walks in real parks, where they are going to get car rides and can bark at cats and squirrels and raccoons, where they can drool for dinner scraps and surf countertops, where they can sleep on beds and sofas, where they can be dogs and not prisoners.

What kind of people would deny that to a dog?

Sure there are some risks with working with rescues but most of those worries can be alleviated with some straightforward reference checks. It's easy enough to figure out who the wackos are and cross them off the list. With some simple due diligence, working with rescues, networking with rescues is a no-brainer. In fact, it's a necessity if the THS ever hopes to be a highly functioning animal welfare facility.

Several people working and volunteering at the THS right now are responsible for the push to partnering with local rescues. You know who you are and thank you for leading the change.

Lost dog notifications

I seem to be getting more lost dog notifications recently so I'm adding a sidebar heading at the top left to link to them. The latest one is for Zappa, a red Cocker Spaniel lost in the Islington/Lakeshore area. Unfortunately, there's no photo but I can't imagine there are too many free roaming red Cocker Spaniels out in the west end of Toronto so if you see one, that's probably him.

Update: Zappa has been found and returned to owner.

Update on Fan Fan

From the owners of Fan Fan, now Rocket:

I'm forwarding some recent pictures of Rocket. He's very much loved by the whole family and has felt very much at home from day one. As a young dog, Rocket is much more agile than our previous 12 year old Schnauzer. He's well behaved in the house and, thankfully, doesn't bark at squirrels! He alerts us to doorbells and distinguishes friend from stranger.

Outside, Rocket was initially nose to the ground acquainting himself with all the new smells, but he is now much more familiar with his new neighbourhood. He is comfortable being on a lead and takes directions well. In the specified off-leash area of the nearby municipal park, Rocket can be easily encouraged to do wind sprints for exercise.

We have recently noticed that Rocket can sometimes be quite assertive (dare I say aggressive) with other dogs. Generally, this occurs in one-on-one situations, often with seemingly friendlier breeds like Labradors or Retrievers, both when he is on-lead and off-lead. In a situation with a group of dogs, however, Rocket is much better behaved and more wary of larger animals. I'm not sure whether Rocket's reactions are purely circumstantial or whether he would benefit from even more socialization with other dogs on his walks.

We would welcome any recommendation you might have for Rocket, and his human handlers, to receive training for adult dogs (rather than puppies).

Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sleeping in

I sometimes wonder what my neighbours think about me, especially the ones who don't know me at all but just get to hear me whenever I yell at my dogs, Rocky mostly, in the backyard.

"What are you eating?" I'll yell from the patio door to Rocky who is at the far end of the yard gulping down something I can't make out.

"Don't put that in your mouth you dumbass!" is another favourite of mine and, no, I would never call Rocky a dumbass if I thought for a moment he knew what the insult meant but I know he doesn't because English isn't his mother tongue plus he's terrible at languages, at least compared to Stella, and overall, well, he is kind of a dumbass.

Sometimes, when I can sort of see what he's eating and I don't really want to know, I'll yell something like, "Jeezus that's disgusting, Rocky! Get away from that!" and Rocky will look at me with his "who brought this guy to the party" expression as he finishes chewing and gulps.

I suspect the neighbours think I'm like the parent who raises the sort of kids they'll want their kids to stay away from. If I had kids, this might be true but then if I had kids who made a habit of going into the backyard to feast from whatever they dug up, I'd probably dress them up in dog costumes, drop them off without any traceable ID at the pound and then make sure I never had anymore. Being a somewhat responsible dog owner doesn't guarantee that I will be a responsible parent.

Rocky's favorite thing is when he discovers some tasty morsel left behind by squirrels in his backyard. I'm talking about half eaten, rotten apples, stale, moldy bread, slimy corn on the cob, cheap ass birthday cake, nuts - all sorts of nuts. It must be like some kind of miracle for Rocky to run beserkers into the backyard, scaring the bejeezus out of the squirrels, getting them to dump their edible treasures into his mouth. So, maybe he's not a complete dumbass after all, except when he eats something really bad and he throws up his supper afterward.

My plan for this morning is to sleep in. This would be a real luxury and it's what vacations are for after all. Stella is still very much asleep but Rocky starts grunting and snorting and farting at eight a.m. so I get up, thinking that if I let him out now for a bathroom break then I can sleep in a bit longer afterward before having to take him and Stella for a real walk. I slip on my slipper and put on my bathrobe for warmth and then I take Rocky downstairs, while trying to hang onto my sleep daze so I can get back to sleep easier, and let him out. I see him run to the back of the backyard where he pees on some firewood (I find it gives the wood an interesting aroma when burned) and then he begins nosing a pile of leaves a little too intently. Then I see him lift his head and chew and swallow something. So, I yell at him.

"Rocky, stop eating whatever you're eating and get back in here! Now!" and I add for good measure, "Don't make me come out there," which I wouldn't do anyway since it's bloody cold out and I'm in my pajamas and I don't want to completely lose my sleepy state. Rocky, always somewhat good at recall, comes trotting back and follows me back upstairs to bed. I take off the bathrobe and slip off the slippers. Rocky crawls back into his bed. I crawl back into mine. I put my head down on my pillow hoping to snooze at least another hour.

Rocky starts to make slurping noises. I figure he's just cleaning his feet or his penis which he seems to like doing in the morning so I try to ignore him, waiting for him to finish. Except he doesn't finish. Five minutes later, he's still slurping away. I look up from my pillow and see that he's just slurping his tongue out of his mouth and then trying to swallow. I'm thinking maybe whatever thing he gulped down earlier was sticky and got stuck on the roof of his mouth kind of like peanut butter. Yes, I know, a totally gross thought to be having when I'm trying to get back to sleep but now you understand why I yell at him in the backyard. It's because he's a slurpy dumbass and it's for his own good so he doesn't get gross stuff stuck in his mouth which I then have to pull out.

Slurp slurp slurp. I get up and go over to him and pry open his mouth prepared to look inside and find some horrible remnant of disgusting yuckiness but I find nothing. His mouth has the all clear as far as I can see. So next thing I'm thinking is that he's eaten something poisonous and this slurping is his reaction. He's going to slurp himself to death, I'm utterly sure of it and now I'm feeling bad about calling him a dumbass though part of me, the evil lizard part, is thinking that at least if he did expire, I'd be able to get some more sleep.

I pry Rocky's mouth open again and I still don't see anything but then I get a whiff of something nasty and I figure whatever it was he ate can't be anything toxic because nothing toxic smells that bad. I'm back to my something is stuck in his mouth theory or maybe at the back of his throat and that's why I can't see it.

Elizabeth is already up so I ask her if she'll take Rocky downstairs and give him some treats to hopefully dislodge whatever it is that's bugging him. She takes him downstairs and I get back into bed still certain I can will myself back to sleep.

Five minutes later, I hear Rocky's footsteps back into the bedroom and he plops into his bed. Elizabeth walks by and I ask her if he's still slurping and she says, No, he's stopped and she goes back downstairs.

Aah. Sleep again finally.

You know that blissful feeling when you're just on edge of sleep and it's like you're falling slowly into a pool of pillows?



Slurp, slurp.

I sit up and whip off the covers and go over to Rocky. "What the hell is wrong with you?" I open up his mouth and look in. Nothing on the roof. Nothing at the back. Nothing in between the teeth. Nothing under the tongue. My hand, however, is completely covered in slimy drool by this point. "Rocky, why'd you have to eat whatever it was you ate? Why this morning of all mornings?"

Rocky looks at me, expressionless.

I'm flummoxed. I go wash my hands. I go back to Rocky.

He's stopped slurping.

"Holy shit, are you done?" I ask and he looks at me wondering what I'm going on about. He lays his head down. "Yeah, I think you're done. Thank God."

I walk over to my bed and get in and put my head down on my pillow and close my eyes. I open my eyes. I close my eyes. I open my eyes. I'm totally awake.

"Aargh!" I throw the covers off and slip on my slippers and put on my bathrobe and walk into the bathroom and turn the portable heater on and brush my teeth and splash water on my face. I change into my dog walking clothes.

I look over at Rocky. He's snoring.

Stella looks at me looking at Rocky for a moment then she tucks her nose under her paw and closes her eyes and goes back to sleep as well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Method actor


I was a little worried about this guy when he didn't pass his medical. His wonky knees on his back legs failed him. It's almost like there's no muscle development there so when he walks, he's a bit wobbly but when he has to go up stairs or some other incline, it's really apparent that he has a hard time.

Luckily, there's probably going to be some room for him at Bullies in Need (how many dogs have these guys saved now?) although I'm not sure if they're going to have the funds to fix what's wrong with his knees or if they're just going to try to find him a good home "as is" - which is mostly fine as far as the dog is concerned. Stairs are over rated anyway. If there's no elevators to reach the upper floors then it's better to be carried. At least that's what Rocky, my own rear end wobbler, tells me - although, I usually just tell him to suck it up unless he wants to lose ten pounds first.

But back to the dog at hand. This American Bulldog really should be in movies. He's full of expressions, a truly dramatic thespian, and his preferred role is that of constant companion. Despite whatever physical ailments this guy might have, I think someone is going to fall big time for his soulful mug.

More on Sparky here.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Monday, December 28, 2009

B.C. RCMP shoot dog during training exercise

(h/t Marcie)

Terrible, all round terrible.

From the CBC news video Police killed pitbull

Times are hard. People need support especially this time of year. I don't need to look on the news and see pictures of my one year boy bawling his eyes out because people are insensitive to the fact that his dog was just killed. I don't need my four year old daughter saying, "Oh they're going to shoot me tomorrow". I don't need my eight year daughter hiding in a closet at her auntie's house because she's too scared to come over because her doggie was killed. I don't ... we don't deserve that. You know ... my wife is about to have a child. This is supposed to be a happy time. And all we know now is ... we don't. I feel so silly because ... we were ... we were ... my wife and I were arguing a bit about money for Christmas ... we both feel silly now. You know what. I just want my dog. I just want my dog.

The following news video is graphic:

From CBC, B.C. RCMP probe police shooting of pitbull:

The Mounties said the pitbull crossed into a neighbouring property where a police dog handler and police dog were conducting a training exercise. The pitbull then attacked the police dog, biting its throat, police said.

“As a result of being unable to separate the two dogs and in an effort to get the pitbull to release the police dog, which was suffocating and in danger of losing its life, a member of the Chilliwack RCMP discharged his service pistol hitting and killing the civilian dog,” the RCMP said in a statement.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Just one dog

(h/t Heather)

I usually hate this shizz cuz it makes me break down like a girlie man but what the hell, it's still Christmas time so get out yer hankie and get emotional. From Camp Cocker:

Update on Stanley, the Pit Bull, here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chase has been found!

From Jackie:

Chase Found Safe!!!

After 14 days on the run Chase was found safe today. He is home here with me now & VERY happy!!

Details to follow > we just got in & need to get settled and get everyone fed.

Those details may end up on the Facebook before they end up here so in case you feel like checking, it's here.

Thank you Santa!

Update: From the Facebook site:

By the time I got there Chase had moved to another backyard but the team had eyes on him and had blocked all potential escape routes. Chase had made his way down the side of a house in a space approximately 2ft wide between the house and the fence. He was lying down in the back corner. As I approached him he looked worried and for a moment I thought he might bolt. I talked to him and brought my retriever, Kahlua, up to the fence line. Chase & Kahlua are buddies so it was my hope that if he didn't recognize me, he might recognize her. At first he leaned away but I kept talking to him & then his little tail started to wag. Kahlua put her nose to the fence to sniff him, and his little tail wagged faster. Recognition!!! He came right up to me & took the hotdogs I had for him. And when I stood up, he stood up to the fence wagging and I was able to reach over and take hold of his harness. Mitch looped a leash onto him and we lifted him out. Mitch had him in her arms and we just hugged and kissed him and cried. And he wagged. I cannot describe the feeling of relief. Nor the feeling of gratitude that I have for Mitch (& hubby), Dora, Christine, and Natalie who rushed to the scene to secure the area until I got there. They were determined that we were not going to lose this opportunity to catch him!

Actually, skip Santa. Thank you Jackie and her dog Kahlua and thanks to Mitch, Dora, Christine and Natalie and everyone else who spent some part of their Christmas time helping out in the search for Chase.

A dog's life in Dhaka, Bangladesh - part 2

from Cathrine continued from here.

Ready for the world

It's been six weeks since Rani and her pups moved into the Staff storage room at the Residence. They have been educational weeks.


Rani's mate turned up at the gate within hours of our rescue, and hung around every day, watching how we handled his mate and his pups. He is a big boy compared to most street males, with a wide skull and thick neck that make it clear why he has few scars from mating battles.

The father

He isn't aggressive, in fact, he is clearly someone's dog, with a string around his neck as a sign of 'ownership'. But he would not leave until he was sure his mate and her pups were in no danger. We ended up under his watchful eye for over three weeks.

Rani is a great mother. She is attentive and affectionate, but takes no nonsense when it comes to things like learning to eat and to do the business outside! One night when I was exercising her, one of the pups set up a yipping that sounded like trouble: I have never seen a dog move so fast! I had abrasions on my leash hand for two weeks. Fortunately, it was nothing serious, just one of those fights that children get into. Once she was sure everyone was really okay, both culprits got nipped on the ear, and told in no uncertain terms not to scare their mother that way!

The only danger to these pups was the stampede of people wanting them. Admittedly, a big part of this eagerness was the source: it's a status society, and getting a dog from the Canadian High Commission is a lifetime conversation point. But it means I have been able to be picky about who gets to take a puppy.

The first one to be placed was Runt. She went to a US couple who came to Dhaka 25 years ago and liked it so much they took out citizenship. They had glowing references from our veterinarian and several long term members of the expat community. They know how to care for dogs and cats, not merely feed them. A good beginning to what I thought would be an arduous search.


My staff proved that one should never, ever underestimate the Bangladeshi. The Cook and the Bearer both asked if they could be considered for a puppy. Both wanted to take the pup back to their respective villages to be family dogs. Both have had dogs before, and produced evidence of care for previous dogs to back their
applications, including, in one case, a letter from the local veterinarian, assuring us he had experience with dogs.

I've visited one of those villages, and my husband has seen the other. The dogs are healthy, accepted and cared for. However, they are also not sterilized. Negotiations ensued.

Rajah is now in the Garo tribal lands: if cellphone photos are anything to go by, he thinks he is in puppy heaven.


Goldengirl will, if the family agrees to sterilization in Dhaka at the right age, go with our Bearer, who is up there for the holiday, fencing his yard so the puppy can be secure until she is old enough to mingle with the older dogs.

Rajah and Goldengirl (at right)

This leaves Goldenboy. Ali, our driver, has a friend who is seriously interested. Like Ali, he loves animals and, like Ali, he is willing to make his dog, if he gets one, a member of the family. If he agrees to the conditions, he will get the last puppy.


That's not the end of it. The old lady on the bridge has a new puppy. I can't blame her: begging is a lonely, harsh life, and two months is a long time to be without your dog. But it means I have to find a place for Rani after her sterilization. And that will be tough. Even with a little weight on her, she is not a beautiful girl. She's scrawny and has scars from being hit by a car. And she's not a puppy anymore.

However, after this experience, I have a little more faith that it can be done. Already the veterinarian and Ali are out looking for the right situation for an active, affectionate street dog who will guarantee not to have a lot of puppies for people to worry about.

Now, if only it were this easy to find homes for kittens!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas puppy

From Carol at Happy Tails Rescue, an update on the Shih Tzu puppies:

This is Flander, one of Dolly's babies. They are all equally cute. Two are spoken for but we are holding back Poppy the female with "flat puppy syndrome" until we are more clear as to what, if any, limitations she may have. She will need an extra special home. She is doing well but is smaller than the others right now and takes more naps.

Well, Carol, I must have "flat human syndrome" because taking more naps sounds like an excellent plan right now.

Never mind the holiday intake of fat, sugar and heavy cream; this is a heart attack's worth of cuteness right here.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Let's give a thought to Chase who is still not home.
Give a thought to the ones who have no home.
Give a thought to each other.
And give a thought to the furball who is drooling a puddle on your lap as you eat your Christmas turkey (or tofurkey as the case may be).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Toronto Humane Society sues OSPCA for $15 mil

From the Globe and Mail, Humane Society sues OSPCA/.

The Toronto Lawsuit Humane Society embarking on another legal attack against those who would dare criticize it? It's not much of a surprise but like death and taxes, it's still not an event anyone looks forward to.

I could go on and write pages about how sick this whole situation is but I'm just not in the mood for this bullshit. This lawsuit will only prolong for who knows how long whatever hardships the animals in the THS facility are enduring and just so that eventually they can go back to the way things were? Is that the grand plan of the old THS clique?

Fuck that.

I say save the animals and let the old THS fall if it is going to get this mired in shit and mud. We need a new animal welfare organization in the city.

More THS fail here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ball of confusion at the Toronto Humane Society

Two days before Christmas and about the last thing I want to write about is the mess that is the Toronto Humane Society right now. I've been staying away from blogging about it the last little while because while I've been somewhat involved with it, it's so messy that going home afterward and writing about it is too much like homework. Of course, the thing with homework is that eventually it has to get done.

Many of you have probably already heard about the court ruling yesterday which basically allows almost all the workers on the OSPCA's "do not admit" list back into the building. The OSPCA didn't want them in there because they didn't want people interfering with their investigation. The judge basically told the OSCPA, you've had enough time, let the workers back in. The judge, however, did not give control of the animals back to the THS. The care of the animals is still in the hands of the OSPCA.

I don't know what the work environment will be like now with the old THS staff mixing with the new OSPCA staff along with the old THS staff who switched sides and are now on board with the OSPCA.

Yesterday as well, a separate hearing was made in front of another judge by the OSPCA to remove the old THS board, who are in theory still in charge of the THS, and appoint someone else to run the whole operation until the whole board mess is sorted and a new board is elected. I think this decision is supposed to come down in early January.

Meanwhile, Tim Trow will be making his own court appearance tomorrow to face his charges and do whatever it is that accused persons need to do. In case you're interested in seeing this first hand, show up at Old City Hall, Court Room C at 9 tomorrow morning (no guarantees on the accuracy of this info so phone first to confirm).

If you want to try to untangle this furry ball of confusion further you can read about it here, here and here.

And what of the animals at the THS you might ask. Well, that's one damn fine question to which I wish I could you a damn fine answer but I can't. There are a precious few people who are working their asses off trying to give the best care they possibly can to the animals in need at the THS facility but there are not enough of them. When the OSPCA took over the facility, many of the animals were in abysmal condition and perhaps the OSPCA underestimated the amount of care necessary to bring the animals back to a proper state of health. The vets are run ragged, there are not enough volunteers, the animal care workers are, well, they're doing the best they can. And then of course there's the overriding situation whenever a sudden vacuum is formed in any organization of too many bosses, not enough leaders.

There have been attempts to adopt some of the animals out through the Victoria Park satellite facility but the public hasn't been well informed about that and so animals are not exactly flying out the door. There's been efforts made to find better temporary accommodations for some of the animals but with the threat of legal action from the THS board casting a black cloud over everything, those efforts have been somewhat stymied.

In conversation with several people who actually deal directly with the animals, there's a common opinion forming that the building should be emptied. Foster out the animals to other agencies, rescues, individuals so that all the accumulated filth and shit and disease can be scorched out of the building. Let the animals live in temporary peace while the humans continue their fight. Right now, we can keep telling ourselves that we are doing the right thing, trying to make the future a brighter future, but we need to remember that many of the real victims are still suffering in the background.

Update from Mel who is volunteering several days a week at the THS: The situation is better than it was week ago. The place seems more organized or on the way to becoming more organized. Though still not ideal, the cleaning is better, the feeding is better with discussions ongoing on how to improve the schedule so it gets done earlier in the day. The small domestics have got their own vet now. The vet techs are trying to get caught up on routine care of the cats but there are still too many cats and sick cats. There seem to be a few more dog walkers. No word yet on allowing in more general volunteers (anyone who's tried to volunteer will know how nearly impossible it has been up to now to get on the volunteers list). That may come when the THS staff start working again. After all, if the old THS staff are allowed back in the building then what would be the reason to keep volunteers out?

Let's hope the good news for the animals keeps coming.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Twenty nine and three

The trucks from Hamilton Burlington SPCA are already there at Toronto Animal Services waiting for the delivery from Montreal. Twenty nine dogs and three cats are coming, rescued, many a hair's breadth away from euthanasia. Usually, TAS would be taking in a bunch but not this time. It's got lots of dogs waiting on health checks and speuters already and then there's the closure over Christmas, so this time all the animals will be going to HBSPCA.

The truck from Montreal is late - missed the DVP turnoff and they need to turn around. I go inside the facility and go upstairs to get Kipper, the red Doberman, to take him out for a walk. I like Kipper. He's young, energetic, just ever so slightly ill-mannered and friendly in that Velcro Doberman type of way where he makes sure that a part of him is always in constant contact with you.

I see a family in the adoption office. The older son has one of the puppy mill Shih Tzus cradled in his arms. An older woman is fussing over the dog, brushing it. Another woman, younger is overlooking. "Are you taking him?" I ask even though I know the answer and she says, "Yes," with a big smile and I say, "Congratulations." The boy holds onto the dog who is a little overwhelmed, I think, by all the attention but he'll do fine. The family is already in love with him.

I get Kipper and take him downstairs. He slips a bit on the smooth floors in his puppylike eagerness to get outside.

In the main foyer, a woman hands over her Boxer. Her eyes tear up but she gets no sympathy. She's leaving the country and can't be bothered to take her dog. "Will he get a new home?" she asks. "We'll do what we can," says the staffer. The woman reaches out for the dog, who is wagging its tail thinking it's on some great new adventure, and the staffer turns away with the dog and leads it upstairs to its cage.

The Boxer will get a chance at a better home but there have already been five owner requested euthanasias this morning. They were all old dogs, unhealthy dogs but not necessarily at their last breathe. It's Christmas, though, and I suppose it must be inconvenient for these people to keep old dogs around when there's so much shopping and celebrating to do. Who wants to be reminded of the precariousness of life at Christmas when there is the sanctity of consumer orgies and feeding frenzies to attend to?

Kipper and I go outside. The air is cold, getting colder. The trucks from Hamilton are still waiting. They've been waiting for an hour now. One of the drivers sees Kipper and she opens her door and she tells me that if her sister saw Kipper, she'd take him home. We talk about dogs for a few minutes and then I move on. Kipper is getting impatient.

Half an hour later, we are back inside TAS and Kipper is sitting beside me on the new sofa, quite happy to watch all the comings and goings. Another dog walker sits and we talk for a bit. A man walks by and tells us that the people upstairs didn't give him the dog he wanted because he didn't have a letter from his condo landlord giving him permission to keep a dog in the building. He seems a bit pissed. "I thought my word would be good enough," he says. The other dog walker asks him when he's going to bring the letter in and the guy says he's not going to. It's too far to go. How far? she asks. It's like 40 minutes away, he says. This is the guy who earlier said he wanted a white Shih Tzu because his kids are afraid of dark coloured dogs (referring to the tan coloured Shih Tzu). They think darker coloured dogs are evil, he said and I had wondered if maybe he was talking about his own preferences.

Someone runs in and announces that the truck from Montreal has arrived. I put Kipper back in his kennel and head outside.

The back door of the truck is open and the barking of dogs fills the air. Chow Chows, Labradors, Great Pyrenees, Boston Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Chihuahua, happy mutts, Great Dane, Huskies, unidentifiable puppies, Shih Tzus, I can't remember them all. Twenty nine dogs all excited, nervous, happy, scared. The members of the TV crew from Global are moving around, the cameraman trying to get the best angles, the reporter trying to get the interview.

The volunteers get to work uncrating the dogs, taking them for quick pee breaks, then recrating the dogs to be transported to Hamilton. One of the guys from HBSPCA likes the bigger dogs, you can tell. He spends a bit more time them, let's them hang out just a bit longer on the grassy patch. He's got the Great Dane with him. The dog has open sores on his body, mostly at pressure points like at both his hips as the bone rubs through his too delicate and undernourished skin. About a third of his tail has recently been torn off, a knob of flesh protrudes, slimy and bloody.

Someone unloads a beautiful Pyrenees mix and hands him to me. He is thin, with black speckled white curly hair. His coat is urine stained but otherwise he seems healthy. His demeanor is that of the ideal family dog, something in his open attitude, the way he carries himself. I bring him over and hand him off to one of the HBSPCA workers.

There is an old Chow Chow staring out at me from the back of the HBSPCA van. He was just taken out of the crate he arrived in from Montreal and put into the HBSPCA crate. The bottom of his original crate was covered in thick gobs of feces. His hair is filthy, matted. He stinks of course. How could he not? His face is graying, the corners of its eyes drawn downward in what seems like an impossible mask of sadness for a dog. I want to reassure him, tell him that this will be a Merry Christmas for him. I want to promise him that, that he and all the rest will be saved. I wish there was a way I could do that. I wish I knew how to do that.

Newsreel at Global Toronto.


Much thanks to all the workers and volunteers at Companion Animal Adoptions Centres of Quebec, Hamilton Burlington SPCA and Toronto Animal Services. The caacQ's French Connection Highway of Hope has rescued 433 dogs to Toronto since it started in May 2008.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas card

(h/t borderjack)

Original from here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Update on Rusty

I'm not sure if I saw this guy before he got adopted out but regardless, it looks like he's found himself a great new home. From Rusty's new owners:

We could not have asked for a better dog. He gets lots of love and gets plenty of walks each day. He also gets to play with other dogs on a daily basis at our off lease park. His temperament is very good with other dogs. He has settled into a good routine.

Thanks again.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday review, Dec. 18

There are some great dogs at TAS South this week starting with this chubbo West Highland Terrier who wants to make a career out of lap sitting.

Here are three more Shih Tzus who have come in from puppy mills. They are a little overwhelmed by the outside world still because until a couple of weeks ago they knew nothing except the inside of a cage. They're coming around, though, and it's great to see when their curiosity overcomes their anxiety and they start to explore.

These two super friendly Beagle siblings were recently found wandering the streets of Toronto dumped by owners who don't get the meaning of Christmas.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Search party to find Chase

From Jackie:

Hi Everyone,

Chase the beagle mix went missing from his new home last Saturday evening. He was lost on his FIRST NIGHT home!

I want to organize a search party for Saturday to do a sweep of the area that Chase was lost in. He was lost from Van Dusen Blvd in the Bloor/Islington area of Toronto.

It would be a terrible tragedy for him to have been saved from death row in Athens, Ohio only to have him die alone, cold, hungry, and frightened somewhere on a Toronto street. We simply MUST find him!

So if anyone could take some time away from xmas shopping & come out and join the search party it would be so greatly appreciated. The more eyes looking for Chase, the higher the probability of finding him.

If you can spare the time and are able to come out please contact me here at besslin@ We will form a plan, meeting time/place tomorrow & hopefully we will find Chase on Saturday.

Thank You

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Golden years ahead

Stella is seven and a half which for a Great Dane is tipping into old age. In the mornings now, especially the chillier ones when our house is infiltrated by the promise of frozen air outside, she doesn't rise up out of her bed without some encouragement. She gets colder faster when she's outside so I'm having to put double layers of jackets on her or else she starts to shiver. I have to help her - just a little - when she takes that big step up into the car. And this morning, when she crouched down to take a pee, she was on a grassy slope and somehow lost her footing and balance and slipped and then she just lay there on her belly, looking at me, somewhat confused. "This has never happened to me. What is happening?" she asked.

She still grumbles at the new dogs at the park but the edge is off. She still barks at the squirrels and raccoons and possums in the backyard but instead of running at them full tilt, it's more of a trot. Even Rocky, with his own set of stiff hips, overtakes her in their pursuit of these backyard intruders. I use to worry about them possibly catching one of these critters. Now I know they never will.

Sometimes, when she is doing nothing more than lying in one of her beds, I hear Stella let out a sigh verging on a whimper. This is new behaviour and I wonder if she's doing it as a new stratagem for attention or if there is some new ache in her bones which is causing discomfort. Especially after that last round of mystery affliction, I am cautious and always trying to decipher the meaning behind every noise she makes.

But there are new curtains opening as well, revealing new prizes. Stella, always affectionate with her human friends, is even more so now, making more effort to appreciate her companions through nose nuzzles and body leaning and hello barks.

There's been a subtle shift on our walks. It seems our communication is better. Like when she wants to go left and I want to go right, she doesn't pull. She just stops and stands there and looks at me then looks in the direction she wants to go and she waits. If I am not in a rush to get into work and the weather is not too unpleasant, we go. I follow her to whatever scent pulls her. Other mornings, I say "No, not today" or "Leave it" and we go the way the clock pulls me.

At home, there's not just a sense of comfort in her routine and manners, there's a sense of security. If she clears the backyard of all interlopers, all will be safe. If she gets a bone to gnaw on after supper, all will be well. If she gets to sleep in her own bed, meaning I have to kick Rocky out of it (he's got his own but he prefers Stella's), the night will pass peacefully. During the day, Stella is most happy and pretty much immobile under her covers beside a window through which to look out and occasionally bark at the world. In her own mind, she is still the queen. She may be willing to give up the crown eventually - but just not today.

So, while I worry about her health, I am always hopeful that Stella's slide into her golden years will still be a smooth and uneventful ride.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Someone needs a haircut

I always like to make sure the profile photo shows the eyes. No such luck with this guy. I just couldn't get his grunge punk hair to behave properly.

Finally, after about 75 clicks of the camera, a breeze blew by and lifted a curl of hair off his left eye and that's all I got to prove he does have eyeballs, well at least one anyway.

This Shih Tzu and a load of other dogs are newly arrived from a puppy mill so it looks like I'll be visiting TAS a bunch over the next few days to take their photos.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chase - Lost dog notification

The dog is a 13mth old beagle mix named Chase. He is brown with a black saddle & he was (& hopefully still is) wearing a red collar with silver reflective paw prints and an Ohio Rabies tag & a yellow microchip tag. He also has a recent neuter incision as he was just neutered last Tuesday.

He went missing in the Bloor/Islington area of Toronto. He is in around Van Dusen Rd and seems to be sticking to that area.

Normally Chase is totally food driven .... he's one of those dogs that thinks he's starving 24/7 even when he's getting two meals a day, but he's so frightened right now that he's not taking food. Mind you I think really good people food might do the trick. My advice to anyone finding him is to NOT try to pick him up or grab his collar as that could be very threatening to him & make him react badly. I would suggest noosing him with a leash so that he's not overwhelmed. Or if he wanders into a yard, close the gate so he can't get out but don't try to engage him. Call me at 519-443-0137 or email me here at besslin @ & I will try to drive into the city to retrieve him. I'm a couple of hours outside the city but if Chase is contained somewhere I might be able to get him to come to me > he was quite attached to my retriever so maybe he would come to her.

If you can't get me then call Toronto Animal Services to come and get him.

The owners names are Frank & Kathie Deknock & they can be reached at 416-239-0331. This dog is severely traumatized right now & is being driven by fear. We simply have to find him before he gets killed or starves/freezes to death.

Animal welfare donation options

Several people have e-mailed asking about where they should divert their THS donations this year.

First, thank you for considering a donation to animal welfare and thank you even more for spending the time to research your donation options.

Here are some suggestions in no particular order.

1. Continue donating to the animals at the THS but do it through the OSCPA. You can donate specifically to animal care at the THS by writing a cheque with "For the THS" in the memo line (send it to: OSPCA, 16586 Woodbine Avenue, R.R. #3, Newmarket L3Y 4W1) or you can make a donation over the phone (1-888-668-7722 ext.322) and tell the person taking the donation that you want the money to go to the animals at the THS. The OSPCA maintains that this money will not be going into the THS budget which the original THS board may or may not still control but will go directly towards animal care at the THS.

2. Donate to Toronto Animal Services. 100% of donations that TAS receives go directly towards the animals. TAS is municipally funded, but doesn't receive a budget for things like medical care that is above and beyond what is necessary to humanely sustain life or for pre-adoption spaying and neutering of pets. Their goal is always to provide as much care for the animals as possible. Since they spay/neuter every adult animal before they are re-homed, they absolutely rely on donations. However, the fact that they are municipally funded means that none of the donations they receive go toward salaries or any other administration costs.

3. Donate to a local rescue. There are loads of rescues in Toronto who do an excellent job of providing exceptional homes for animals at minimal costs until they are adopted. Here are a few run by people I have dealt with:

Speaking of Dogs - specializing in but not limited to older dogs

Happy Tails - specializing in small dogs

Anne and Pete's Foster Home for Dogs - These guys are so amazing. They're kind of like a mini Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I can't quite figure out if they take donations directly but you can always phone and ask.

Big on Beagles headed by the most excellent Marna Gale.

Toronto Animals Services works quite often with Loyal Rescue especially in the transport of dogs from other shelters to be adopted out in Toronto.

Labrador Retriever Adoption Service Inc. has also partnered with TAS.

And of course, CAACQ whose logo is on display at the top left of the page. Partnering with TAS, they've helped rescue from Quebec over 400 dogs last year. Unfortunately, they are not able to issue charitable receipts as they are not a charity because they lobby on behalf of animal welfare issues (lobbies can't be charities).

And if you can't decide on a specific rescue, K9 Rescue Me is an Ontario umbrella rescue organization where you can search and donate to a reputable rescue or have your donation split between all the K9 Rescue Me member rescues.

I'd think that you would get the best bang for your buck donating to a rescue. They have no staff to pay, no buildings to maintain and heat and minimal bureaucracy to deal with. Also, the animals are living in a home environment, not a kennel or a cage. As with any charitable organization, though, you do need to be careful to choose a reputable rescue to support. While the majority of rescues are well-intentioned, some may be poorly operated. You can research their website and since you're probably going to call them up anyway to donate, you can always ask them a few questions first.

How many animals have they adopted out last year? It's not strictly a numbers game but if all things were equal, would you rather give money to a place that adopted out 2 animals or 50?

Will they give you references? Some rescues may have strict privacy policies but not to have at least a couple of references on hand, well, it may not imply anything bad but it doesn't say anything good either.

Do they make sure their animals are spayed/neutered before adoption? Reputable rescues don't want to see more unwanted pets being born and will ensure that their animals are spayed and neutered unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Are they vaccinated and health checked and are their records available for viewing? Rescues spend money on vet care to maintain healthy animals. If a rescue does not do this or is not able to do this, then it might be best to choose another recipient of your donation.

How do they decide whether or not a potential adopter is suitable? While some rescues have been accused of giving potential adopters the third degree, a lot of questions do have to be asked to ensure the animals aren't being sent into bad situations. If a rescue gives away animals to anyone for free or sells animals to anyone with enough money, then move on.

Do they do home checks before adopting out an animal? Not all rescues will have the resources to do home checks but the best ones do go this extra mile to make sure the animal's new potential living environment is suitable.

Where do they get their animals from? How do they choose the animals for their rescue? Many rescues will specialize by breed or size and that's fine. You probable want to stay away from ones that have questionable intake strategies like only purebred puppies from puppy mills - that would make it more like a pet store, not a rescue.

Hope that helps.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Update on Boomer

Great letter from Boomer's owners:

Hi there, we adopted this awesome dog from your shelter back in May and I tell you this, I have never ever seen a dog quite like this! I am so grateful that nobody took him before we got there. This dog is too much!

We are now management of Green Acres Campers Group (a seasonal live in trailer park for mostly Seniors/Snowbirds)! They all love Boomer (aka Ronnie)! Boomer is mouthy, but the biggest suck ever! At night he watches for any lil bit of movement here at the park, plus listens! We had no clue we were going to get this job, but I tell you, Boomer is a star here! He plays well with the lil dogs of the park, he drives in a Golf Cart so proudly! Claude takes him around the park for company at night times and Boomer is the guy! Listening for any sort of movement!

He talks to us! Really talks to us! He has fields and fields of green grass to run! He sleeps with us too, perhaps that is not the right thing but do you want to tell him to get down? He talks with his eyes as well and sits on Claude like a baby! He has to touch Claude everything Boomer does! Even if it is his foot on the couch! After we lost Bumper after 18 yrs, Claude was reluctant to get another dog! Well I want another one now! hahahahahaha

Thank you so much again guys, you did an awesome job with Ronnie, and we cannot thank you enough for giving us the opportunity to enjoy our new family member!!

If we had to get another pup, it would definitely be worth the drive again to tend to your shelter and adopt 1 of your guys! I totally promote rescued dogs now, as well, I tell them where to go and get one, your shelter!!!

I wish we had known more about Boomer's background though, as he shows signs of his past with things we do! Driving through Tim Hortons for the first time, he knew exactly what was in that building, TIM BITS... omg omg omg! lol Many things, and I wonder if he does not leave Claude's side because he does not want to be separated again from his owner! I don't know, but I do know this, we all love Boomer so much, he definitely brightens our days!

Have an awesome holiday everyone down there at your shelter! I hope Santa spoils you as he has spoiled us with the gift of Boomer!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kind of unbelievable

(h/t Sabrina)

A pup living in a cage with a metal grill floor.

Here's their Kijiji ad:

(click on image to enlarge)

You'd think that if they were going to sell "non puppy mill pups", they'd at least try to pretend they cared about their dogs by putting them in decent crates.

Did you notice their new location? Yeah, Toronto. Downtown Toronto. It's like they don't even realize people actually give a shit about their dogs here in the city.

Here's the most surprising part, from their website:

Right at the bottom. Toronto Animal Services along with KWHS and Royal Canin and others. I bet they don't know about this. I wonder how long those "endorsements" will stay there. I wonder how long those puppies will stay in the store. I guess we'll find out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday review, Dec. 11

After the hundreds of dogs at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and then the plight of the dogs at the Toronto Humanes Society, it's kind of nice to just be back at Toronto Animal Services to walk a few dogs and take their photos. I only managed two photos this week as it's been busy.

Here's Deacon's photo but I look on the TAS adoption site and he's not there so I'm thinking he's already been adopted. Good for him.


Luv this guy's ears.


For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Update on Dakota

Some short videos from Dakota's new owner:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Toronto Humane Society Want to Remind Public North York Animal Adoption Centre Open

From Marketwire:

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 10, 2009) - Working together, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA) and the staff at the Toronto Humane Society (THS) want the public to know that animals are available for adoption into loving, caring homes from the THS's Victoria Park centre.

The animal care staff at THS wants to assure the public that the animals at the Victoria Park adoption centre are highly adoptable and ready to be taken into the care of pet lovers.

"Adopting from the Victoria Park location could help alleviate some of the problems we see that are caused to the animals by the severe overcrowding at the 11 River Street location," said the OSPCA's Director of Marketing and Communications, Rosaline Ryan.

The facility currently has 48 cats, four dogs, two birds and 11 other domestic animals.

Among those available for adoption are Maxine and Francine, two female spayed Jack Russell Terriers less than two years old.

Another dog that would make an ideal pet is Ping, a white four-year-old American Eskimo male, who has been neutered.

Those looking to adopt pets can now visit the THS's North York adoption centre at 2802 Victoria Park Avenue, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Call ahead at 416-392-2273.

The Ontario SPCA would like to assure the public that the staff and volunteers operating the Victoria Park adoption centre are qualified and dedicated.

The Ontario SPCA is still conducting a search of the Toronto Humane Society's main headquarters at 11 River Street, which also has an adoption centre and clinic, due to an ongoing investigation of cruelty and mismanagement. The Ontario SPCA will notify the public in advance when the THS's headquarters will reopen.

For more information, please contact
Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Rosaline Ryan
Director, Marketing & Communications
(416) 428-9886 Mobile
Click here to see all recent news from this company

Give a Christmas gift to the animals at the Toronto Humane Society

The Toronto Humane Society Protest Group is organizing a HUGE donation drive for the animals at the Toronto Humane Society this weekend! There are over 1000 animals at the shelter right now that need your help. The animals will really appreciate the donations and the staff and volunteers will put them to good use!

Between the hours of 7am and 7pm on Saturday December 12th and Sunday December 13th please drop off donations at the Toronto Humane Society. The address is 11 River Street, which is at the corner of Queen Street East and River St.

Here is a list of supplies that the animals in the shelter desperately need.

For the Dogs

Used and new blankets. Please avoid down filled comforters as some of the dogs like to destroy their blankets. Feathers make a huge mess.

Dog beds of all sizes.

Good quality leashes and collars of all sizes. Please make sure they are strong. We wouldn’t want any dogs to break away from their collars while on a walk.

Plastic basket muzzles of all sizes. Pit Bulls need to wear them on their walks.

Plastic bags for the dog walkers

Strong dog toys of various sizes. Kongs, and squeaky toys for the cages, frisbees and large rubber balls for the dog parks.

Grooming supplies. Hair clippers, nail clippers, brushes, shampoo,

For the Cats

Plastic cat toys. Plastic ones are better than fabric ones as the plastic ones can be disinfected properly. The cats and kittens have been living in small cages with almost no stimulation. Some of these cats have been at the shelter for years and would appreciate a toy.

Towels and small cat beds for their cages.

Powdered KMR (Kitten Meal Replacement).

Large plastic litter boxes with no hood.

Cat treats

Grooming supplies like nail clippers and brushes.

Metal Bowls (no plastic please)

For the little guys in the small domestics department

Hideaways and Houses





Exercise wheels

Water bottles that clip to the cage

Cages of all sizes

Bedding and Litter

Anything else you think that a rabbit, rat, mouse, guinea pig, hamster, gerbil, or chinchilla would enjoy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How important is the Toronto Humane Society?

It took me a minute to find 150 dogs put up for adoption on Petfinder by private rescues in Toronto.

At full capacity, the Toronto Humane Society only has around 100 dogs, many of which are not immediately suitable for adoption. Some of which may never be suitable for adoption if significant improvements aren't made with respect to how they deal with their animals.

If the new THS just becomes another mediocre institution for warehousing dogs before adoption then why bother? Take that $10 million annual budget and redistribute it to the rescues in Toronto. At least with the dogs in rescue, most of them are living in homes with loving caregivers, and not in small, hard institutional kennels where each dog might get a few minutes of interaction with a human a couple of times a day.

I walked through the THS a couple of days ago and while it may be better than it was before, it was still unquestionably depressing weaving through the rooms full of dogs behind thick, double wire mesh cages with huge warning signs on each door. The overcrowding of cages in the hallways, the murky lighting and dinghy paint, the multitude of surveillance cameras. There is very little that is friendly or inviting. The place doesn't make me think of a shelter. It makes me think of a prison and it is only fitting that the dogs there behave like prisoners. Some of the dogs were quiet and just stared back at me. Some were withdrawn. Some bared their teeth and growled. A few tried to attack through the bars if I lingered too long or looked at them the wrong way.

I talked to one TAS staffer who in the turmoil after the arrests had worked at the THS - TAS donated a few staffers for a few days - and then volunteered for a few days more and then couldn't go back anymore. It was too disheartening, not so much the health conditions, though that was bad enough, but the living conditions.

Some of those dogs there, especially the ones who snap and growl and stare hard through the cage doors at people passing by, what life do they have in there? What will happen to them? They are the ones I feel sorry for most. Some of them will never know a good life.

At Best Friends, I was talking to one of the trainers about their few unadoptable dogs. I'm not even sure she'd use the word "unadoptable" because they have the luxury of never having to give up on a dog. These dogs who have been there for years who are still dog aggressive and human aggressive, who feel rage and fear or whatever combination of misplaced emotions constantly and with almost everyone, who know no happiness. The trainer wonders, What kind of a life do they have even in their indoor/outdoor runs and regular meals and health checks when they feel so little joy because they don't know joy is out there?

And what life do dogs like that have at a facility like the THS where there is no space to run or feel the sun and wind or real ground under their feet or see other animals though they can hear them well enough on the other side of the concrete wall, barking for attention, barking for boredom, barking because their pent up energy relieves itself as aggression. Can these dogs ever be saved and if they can be saved, will the THS ever be up to the job?

The THS can really only justify its existence if it becomes a superb facility and a leader in the animal welfare community in Toronto. With its budget and the tremendous public support behind it, there's no reason why it can't be both those things, unless politics once again rears its ugly head.

The one thing that is going to make the THS great is us. The one thing that might stop the THS from being great is us. We need to get our act together.

Angel's Rest

On my drive back from Kanab to Las Vegas, I make one last stop at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to drop off the water bowl and blanket which came with Monique on her sleepover and which I'd forgotten to return the day before. There aren't a lot of people at Dogtown's main building but the ones who are there look busy so I just leave the stuff behind on a counter, say "see you" to a recognizable face and walk out.

I drive around the road which rings BFAS for one last look and stop at Angel's Rest, the pet cemetery.

Generally, if someone had just described Angel's Rest to me, with its wind chimes and cutesy animal art, I would have relegated its sentiments to the same shelf which holds ceramic nursery rhyme figurines and pictures of puppies and kittens painted on dishes. I would have put it in the same league as diamond tiaras and pink tutus on teacup poodles.

But then I can be an idiot sometime.

I take a walk around the graves and and I quickly understand that there are no shallow sentiments here. And there is nothing in these grave sites that speak to filial responsibility or respect for the dead or religious tradition because people don't bury and memorialize their pets for any other reason than love.

There are hundreds of graves. Some are indicated by a strip of bent aluminum with the pet's name on it. Some have a photo, many faded, of the pet. Some are marked by carved stone memorials with some words of emotion and wishes for reunion one day. The majority of the graves are covered with one or more polished gems and stones left behind by people as acknowledgment of pets lost but remembered.

These pets have given abundant joy to their owners. This place then is a celebration of that joy and a mourning for the passing of that joy. It is the heaviness of ashes and bone but it is also the freedom of mountains and sky. It is a memory of that joy. It is the breeze that moves the chimes but it is the memory that makes them sing.

So, I listen to the chimes and then I leave.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Links to Toronto Humane Society articles - updated Dec. 8

(Yes, I just got in to Utah after a night in Vegas, but I can't stay away from what's going on in Toronto.)

Tim Trow doesn't know why they'd be looking through his financial records. Umm, maybe it's because they don't trust him.

But the most interesting thing about this article comes from volunteer vet Johanna MacNaughton.

"We are going from cat to cat, looking up treatment records and doing what needs to be done."

About 10 vets were at the shelter Saturday; one was able to examine about four or five cats an hour, McNaughton said.

A big concern was the severity of upper respiratory infection among cats.

It's common in shelters, she said, "but if you follow certain procedures for isolation and treatment, you can certainly minimize the severity.

"The rate of infection is very high here."

Financial records sought in Humane Society raid

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I have seen things that have made me cry and haunted my dreams in that building," said Marcie Laking, a former animal-care worker who has spoken out numerous times against the society.

Laking started working at the society as a volunteer in 2001, and became a staff member in 2005. By 2006, what she had seen in the building had taken its toll.

"I remember taking dead animals when my shifts would start, and dead kittens," said Laking. "These animals are dying painful deaths – from ailments that are not being treated, are not being treated properly or can't be treated – and they are dying in their cages."

Humane Society: 'It seems like a house of horrors'

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This article is very insightful in talking about the kind of neglect that went on at the Toronto Humane Society. It's not just the acute cases but the daily mismanagement of the facility that really took a toll on the animals:

Mummified cat found in Humane Society ceiling

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Buried in all this is the sad story of Bandit, the dog who bit and kept biting:

Bandit: Serial killer, beloved office pet

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Whenever the public has questions, I think it's good to reassure them and let them know that we're not merely saying 'everything is fine, nothing to see here' — we are going take an internal look at ourselves," Ian McConachie told The Canadian Press.

"I don't think there's any problem reviewing our practices and determining if there's anything we can do to improve the shelter. I think all businesses and organizations should do that on a regular basis."

McConachie says this as though the old THS board voluntarily decided to do a self review like it was the next item on their to-do list. I don't suppose the arrests had anything to do with it:

Toronto Humane Society to review operations

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

More about the Ontario agency that stayed home. What do they do again?:

Provincial agency refuses to step in at shelter

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cats may be eating 6 year old expired food but the board still thinks it's doing a fine job. Now that's what I call good self esteem:

Humane Society cats ate six-year-old food, investigation suggests

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In case you want to know even more about Tim Trow:

The volatile volunteer who ran the show

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Holy shit, a somewhat insightful editorial in The Sun about the whole situation. Oh, no wonder, it's not written by Worthington. It's by Snobelen.

For all of that Jim will tell you that many owners wait too long to euthanize. As an animal lover and a vet he believes strongly when an animal is in significant pain and can't be made comfortable we have an obligation to euthanize.

And that's the case against the Toronto Humane Society; prolonging pain by avoiding the decision to euthanize is cruel.

I don't know how the legal battle with the Toronto Humane Society will turn out but I hope that the dogs and cats suffering in the shelter will find some peace. They deserve no less:

Toronto Humane Society arrests expose killer conundrum

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And last and least, some words from the horse's lawyer's mouth:

Statement from the Toronto Humane Society and Hospital

By removing the animal care attendants in this fashion you are putting the health and welfare of the animals who require care at risk. We understand that you are planning to remove a large number of animals that would normally receive care over the night shift. We would ask that you advise your client to bring back the night shift employees immediately.

We will hold your client responsible for the health and well being of any animal moved out of the premises by this illegal and unwarranted exercise.

We hold your client responsible for any costs that may result from this and the death of any animal caused by the OSPCA's illegal activities.

Firstly, note that the name of the place has been changed by the board to include the word "hospital". Ha ha ha. At most other large city humane societies and SPCAs, a functioning, internal animal hospital is taken to be a matter of fact. Why did the Toronto Humane Society feel the need to add that word to their title? Is it because they never regarded it as hospital before? Or do they really think that just because they've suddenly added the word "hospital" to their name they can now be excused for mixing sick animals with healthy animals? Does "hospital" excuse them for feeding their animals six year old expired food? Does "hospital" let them trap feral cats and then have them die in cages in the ceiling? Suddenly, I see a trend of a whole lot of animal abusers and hoarders out there calling themselves "hospitals".

And it looks like the old THS board is back to using scare tactics and already threatening to spend more money on more lawsuits. You might be able to teach an old dog new tricks but this board is unsalvageable. I say kick them out and let them eat bags of mouldy old fish.

As for the usefulness of the THS being open overnight ... Yeah, right. How's a skeleton staff of two to four people supposed to be able to deal with the public when they've already got a thousand plus animals to look after? Guess what would have happened if someone walked in off the street with a dog in distress after midnight especially if there was no vet available. Marcie Laking can tell you about the time she was on overnight and had to hold a dog as it died in her arms because there was no one there who could do anything about it.

Bravo THS. Your pathetic overnight service was about as useful as your public spay/neuter clinic.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Update Nov. 30:

Omigod! Money gone mysteriously missing from the coffers of the THS? How ever could that have happened? I mean they give receipts for all cash and gift donations right? Right?

Ontario probes alleged employee theft, kickbacks at Humane Society

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'd almost feel sorry for this old vet with no backbone, except that I don't.

Cruelty charge stuns 'fantastic' vet's friends

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I thought that the OSPCA's initial deadline seemed a bit optimistic. I'm hoping it'll take a few days longer and not a few weeks to get done everything they need to get done.

The most ominous statement coming from the OSCPA so far: There are approximately 1,000 animals at the shelter - 800 cats, 100 dogs and some 100 smaller animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs and raccoons. About half of those animals will be available for adoption when the service resumes, Strooband said.

On a happier note, the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee has finally taken their viagra and is now stepping into the fray.

Humane Society closed indefinitely

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Update Dec. 1

More on the OPGT getting their hands into the mix.

"We are concerned with the stability and management of the THS and protection and preservation of the charities' assets," wrote Cynthia Spencer, counsel to the guardian's office, in the two-page letter obtained by the Star.

Arriving at the party kinda late but at least they arrived:

Humane Society warned by province

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The wildlife centre, located within the THS building on River St., opened in the mid-1980s and has been the target of frequent criticism. In 2006, veterinary technician Sandra Prins, who had resigned from the THS, told the Star she and other veterinary technicians had been asked to do wildlife work for which they had received "no training." Veterinarian Sue Carstairs, who had also resigned, said managers had failed to replace wildlife staff who had retired or been reassigned.

The centre, Prins said, was "an absolute mess. Sometimes there wouldn't be anyone to clean or feed there."

So the complaint was lodged 3 years ago and is only being taken seriously now. What's that saying about how evil succeeds when good people stand back and do nothing?

Wildlife taken from humane society

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

More on Casper, the mummified cat found in the ceiling of the THS.

... investigators for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals identified the remains of a cat found mummified in the shelter's ceiling, and THS records that indicated that the cat had been euthanized in October of 2008.

Huh? How fucked up is that?

Toronto shelter's use of donor funds questioned

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And now even more guests are showing up at the party.

The Ministry of Natural Resources executed a search warrant at the Toronto Humane Society’s River Street facility yesterday, becoming the latest provincial agency to launch an investigation of the charity.

A source said that the MNR’s conservation officers arrived with officials from the Ministry of Finance in tow, and that they would likely apply to have their warrant extended beyond its 6 p.m. deadline.

Raccoon release prompts new search of the THS

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Update Dec. 2

From Addario, lawyer for the THS board of directors:

"It's known in the animal-care industry that the OSPCA and the Toronto Humane Society have been at odds for several decades. The dispute between them is legal, professional, jurisdictional and philosophical ... especially animal care philosophies," Addario said.

True, if by "the OSPCA and the Toronto Humane Society have been at odds" Addario is refering to the fact that the OSPCA wants the THS to stop letting animals die inhumanely in their cages amongst a list of other disgusting practices, then yes, they are at odds with one another. Just because Trow has been doing whatever Trow does for so long and getting away with it doesn't mean it's not still just as horrid.

[Addario] also denounced what he called "tabloid style" investigation by the OSPCA, which has "unfairly demonized" the shelter.

Trow's THS knows all about the tabloid style and unfairly demonizing other shelters. The whole reason the THS ever caught my eye was because of all the crap they were spewing and still spew about Toronto Animal Services. And no, it's not another case of politics when it's just a one sided attack.

Humane society hires top criminal lawyer

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Reached at his home in Toronto, Walters readily acknowledged that raccoons had been released on his farm. He said, however, that it had not happened recently.

"It has happened in the past, but a long time ago," he said.

Told that cards appeared to show that raccoons were released on his farm in 2007, Walters said: "Not to my knowledge. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen, because they have access here any time they want. Heavens, I don't lock things up. It's all forest, 90 acres of forest. I've got three ponds – it's a perfect spot for animals."

Walters, 85, struggled with his memory during the evening telephone interview, at one point having difficulty recalling that the three-minute conversation was about raccoons.

Told that raccoon releases at his farm would violate provincial regulations, he said, "I don't know anything about that, anyway."

Oops. I think Bud just got his name crossed off of Trow's Christmas gift list.

Animals' release violated rules

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dec. 3

Three months before the Ministry of Natural Resources removed all the animals from the Toronto Humane Society's wildlife department, a former shelter employee warned them of unprofessionalism and inhumane conditions.

In an eight-page letter, Nicole Richer detailed such violations as:

No employee had wildlife training, and only one had a rabies shot.

Raccoons were kept in the same room as domestic dogs, potentially exposing the pets to parasites.

The department was understaffed, preventing employees from feeding wildlife in a timely manner.

But it wasn't until Tuesday – days after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided the shelter, arresting five people including its president and chief veterinarian – that the ministry removed the wild animals.

And Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield's reason for not possibly acting sooner: she didn't see the report.

Warnings about humane society shelter ignored

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From one of the volunteer vets working inside the THS right now:

just a quick update on today. it was a great day inside the shelter. we are slowly but surely getting organized and getting the animals back on track.

we met with an X rep this morning and have accepted their very gracious offer of pro-bono lab work for a month!!! a few hours after the meeting they had couriered over 5 huge boxes of supplies to get us started (blood/urine fecal collection ect...)

the X rep is also trying to enlist X to donate some free products.

one of my classmate came in to volunteer and she is absolutely amazing!!! she is extremely organized and see's the big picture/vision of what we are trying to accomplish. she has taken the reigns to help organize all the vets/techs that we hope to be volunteering in the coming weeks.

another amazing team from X animal hospital came to help us out. the vet has connections at the OVMA and there is now a notice going out to all vets for a call to help. he is also bringing in a vet tomorrow to do some emergency surgeries. an amputation and two enucleations.

X's clinic sent him and two techs over for the day to help. they got A LOT accomplished between the three of them.

we have ordered a lot of supplies to organize ourselves for the team of volunteers and also many supplies that have been in chronic shortage at the shelter for a long time.

the X pet sitters came in and groomed a few very matted cats. they are lovely and really keen to keep helping in the coming days.

i have created a few standardized forms for the vets to be filling out as they examine the animals so that evidence can be submitted to the investigators in an organized fashion and to flag animals for needed diagnostics and procedures.

things are pretty rough in there for the cats. for many of the long term cats in adoptions that i have examined, my medical notes from the beginning of the year (jan/feb) are the last notes. these poor cats haven't been seen by a vet in almost a year even though they have many ongoing medical problems.

ok, i should try to get some sleep now,

All the names of people and organizations have been X'd out in case some THS lawyer tries to sue them for helping out the animals.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dec. 5

At scandal's core is a legitimate debate

Historically, it's part of a long-running dispute over the direction of the Toronto society, between those who want it to take a more aggressive stance in support of animal welfare and those who would prefer that it stick more closely to the simple business of running a shelter.

Given that the Toronto society pulls in close to $10 million annually, it cannot help but be a dispute about money.

But underneath, the core of this battle is about which animals should be denied the right to live.

Should animals be killed only when they are terminally ill and in intense pain?

Or should they be killed at the point when they become expensive – either because the shelter has run out of room or because no one is willing to adopt them?

Talk about muddying the waters.

I wanted to write a comment to this editorial by Thomas Walkom in The Star but there are no comments allowed for this piece.

I wanted to write a blog post rebutting this editorial but then I'm thinking why bother? It's not as if Walkom reads this blog. If he did, he'd know that the "debate" with respect to the THS, isn't just about when to euthanize. It's about much more than that. It's about animal care in general. It's about what we as a city are willing to accept as minimum standards of animal care in a facility claiming to be an animal welfare organization. It's about what constitutes animal neglect. It's about what kinds of policies result in animal neglect whether that be due to brow beaten vets, staff and volunteers or due to funding priorities or due to any number of other factors.

And if Walkom actually thinks that the OSPCA and the attorney general's office would go ahead and lay charges of animal cruelty and obstruction to justice, charges which carry possible jail terms, just because of a funding spat between animal welfare charities, well, maybe he could show some proof of that.

It seems to me, though, someone's been drinking too much of THS' PR hooch.

I'm too tired right now to go on with this. If anyone wants to find out what the real state of the animals are in - and I'm not talking about the headline grabbing stuff, I'm talking about the day to day miseries they've had to endure that will never make the papers - then go talk to vets, workers and volunteers who have witnessed the conditions at the THS. Go talk to the vets who are working there right now trying to look after the 1000 plus animals. Go do some research deeper than just reading an ad put out by the THS board (p. 65) in that freebie tabloid Metro.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dec. 6

I don't think it surprises anyone who has had any dealings with the THS that they were having financial troubles. Being in arrears doesn't necessarily mean that the management is directly neglectful of the animals at the THS but it does add to the burden of trying to provide decent care. It's going to be hard to get vet help if vets don't think you're going to pay up. It's going to be hard to get businesses to deal with you in general if you get a reputation for not being able to pay bills on time.

Humane Society was behind on paying bills

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dec. 7

Sick and sickening.

News release from the OSPCA.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I come back 15 minutes later, and the dog was dead in its cage. It suffered, and it choked on its own vomit until it died because they wouldn't euthanize it."

Exerpted from the The Star article, Animals suffering, Society workers say

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dec. 8

THS managers key to decline: volunteers

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The trash that led to Toronto Humane Society arrests

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *