Monday, June 29, 2009

Toronto Humane Society protest videos

From the June 20 protest outside the Toronto Humane Society (much thanks to Danielle Just-McCarthy for putting this all together):

A look back at Burt and Ernie

It was almost a year ago that the five feral Border Collies were brought into Toronto Animal Services South. All five were sent out to rescue for rehab as there was no way they could have been adopted out as they were, so anxious and frightened around humans.

Four of them eventually came out of their fearful shells but a fifth one never made it and eventually had to be euthanized.

Over the weekend, I received an e-mail from Luan of Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue. She had taken two of the Border Collies from TAS and she writes about what happened with Burt, who is still with her, and Ernie, who remained wild at heart.


Hi Fred;

I was browsing your blog and thought I'd update you on the Feral Brothers, Burt and Ernie.

When James asked me to which of the pups I wanted to take, I said 'give me the best one and the worst one". So he did, based on his assessment of them. It soon became apparent that while they were both extremely fearful, they had very different ways of coping with it. I named them Burt and Ernie, after the two benign Sesame Street characters. Burt was the "best one" with the happier outlook on life, and Ernie was the "worst one", more pessimistic.

It turned out that Ernie had little use for humans. This became most apparent the day he tried to chew my hand off. Both of the nervous pups ate leashes and harnesses. Nothing survived on them for long. Moving them was so traumatic; they would feel even gentle pressure of the leash and collar and go ballistic, strangling themselves in terror, eliminating, and scrabbling so frantically that they wore their nails to bloody stumps on the pavement. Another dog had startled us as I was moving Ernie from one run to another one day and Ernie decided that my hand on his collar was just another form of leash. I knew if I let go I'd never catch him again, so I hung on trying to calm him down....thankfully my doctor knows me well and what I do, and when I arrived with a hand that is swollen three times normal size with multiple punctures and tell him it's a "job related injury" he rolls his eyes and writes a script for antibiotics. Ernie demonstrated on other occasions that he was willing to bite to get away/his way. Things were not looking good.

We worked with both pups for several months. Their fear of leashwalks started to subside as Johnathon kept up a routine of short walks around the property every day. Both were terrified, but Burt would show glimmers of curiosity and interest in interacting with humans, and would follow me around. His way of dealing with his fear was to pee everywhere. It never occurred to him to use his teeth (except for all those leashes). But Ernie wanted little to do with us. I had separated them, hoping that this would stop them feeding off of each other's fear. Both seemed to be relaxed and happy in the company of other dogs, so we let them play and socialize with happy well behaved dogs, and let them see those dogs interact and be happy with us. As they grew older, they were starting to chase and nip the other dogs a bit, displaying some bad herding habits. Nothing to cause injury, just being controlling and annoying. But one day in October that changed. Another resident, an elderly foster dog who is a bit of a prima donna, was squawking and carrying on because she was (in her opinion) on the wrong side of the gate while we were using a chop saw to cut lumber. Ernie and another foster dog attacked her, and injured her quite severely when she tried to run away.

How do you train a dog to stop such behaviour and be safe when they have no interest in interacting with humans? I had to accept at that point that you can't. And so the next day, with heavy heart, Ernie was no more.

Burt, while egging on the proceedings, had not participated in the attack. His behaviour continued to improve in small baby steps. While he was prone to shredding dog beds in his kennel, he was actually quite well behaved in the house, surprisingly clean and not destructive. He had a fear of doorways, and would not go through one if people were standing nearby. Sometimes he would stay outside for hours before building up the courage to rush through the door. But slowly, his fears were starting to diminish, and he always follows me everywhere, bumping his nose against the back of my knee. If I turn and look at him he will race off, but fall back into step behind me once I resume moving. In the house I started to seek him out to pick him up and put him on the bed in the morning. He would lie there like a sack of flour while I read the paper and bolt off if I moved quickly. But one morning he came and stood by the bed and nuzzled my hand. When I went to the loo and returned, he had jumped up by himself, looking nervous but pleased and not leaving when I lay down beside him. After that he was happy to claim the bed and the dog's sofa as part of his space.

Owning a Boarding Kennel in "the country" just N/E of Newmarket, we don't have sidewalks or Dog Parks. The traffic rushes by at the end of the 150' driveway doing 100km, so walks on the road are not such a good idea. I've taken Burt on walks in the regional forest with my own dogs, and he has done quite well on a long line secured to my waist.

I've had some calls about Burt, but none of them seem to have read the Petfinder listing very closely. When they realize that he might never fit their definition of a happy, social and cuddly dog, they are not interested. One couple did try him. After 3 visits to their home to acclimatize him, I left him on trial placement. 3 days later they called me. "it's not working out" I was told. "Why, what's he done?" I asked, envisioning a cowering, peeing dog that was hiding in the back yard and refusing to come in the door. "Well, nothing. He's not had any accidents. He just sits in a corner and looks at us. We want a dog who will keep us company and help us feel secure". I wanted to scream "AUUGH do you have any idea how long it took me to get him to sit calmly in a room with scary humans, and you want a perfect dog in 3 days?" but instead I just sighed and said "fine, I'm coming to get him".

So Burt is still here. He is happy here. He is confident here. He is welcome here. As far as I am concerned he can stay here the rest of his life if he needs to. But it saddens me. Burt deserves a family of his own. He can and will adjust and settle into a new environment if he is given the time and patience he needs. No, he not everyone's cup of tea. But he is a sweet, curious, interactive dog who will charm the socks off of the right people, and eventually want to sleep on their bed too.

Yours in Rescue,


Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue
We make a living by what we get
We make a life by what we give

Burt's Petfinder listing can be found here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sleeping and eating

It's Sunday. It's rain day. I've finished walking and feeding Stella and Rocky. I've finished feeding myself. I go over to the couch and sit down. It's especially comfortable today. I look over at Stella and Rocky in their respective dog beds. Stella's licking her toes. Rocky's making smacking noises with his mouth as he runs his tongue around the inside of his mouth, seeing if there are any bits of food left behind in the nooks and crannies.

The couch is especially comfortable. I push some of the cushions aside and stretch out. Thirty seconds later, I'm asleep.

Stella: Look at him.

Rocky, still mining for food bits: (shmeck, shmack) I think I found some chicken.

Stella: I can't believe he's asleep.

Rocky, disappointed: No, just a piece of soggy kibble.

Stella: He should be hard at work and instead he just goes back to sleep.

Rocky: Well, it is Sunday. There's no work on Sunday.

Stella: Sure, there's no paying work on Sunday but there's still work. He could be brushing us, or cooking for us or giving us massages. He could be taking us for another walk.

Rocky: Ooh, I'd like that.

Stella: Not to mention all the yard work that needs to get done. I've never seen so many weeds back there.

Rocky: And none of them taste any good either.

Stella: You know, I heard from the dog next door ...

Rocky: I bark at him.

Stella: Yeah, whatever, tough guy. Anyway, I heard, he gets taken to the cottage every weekend.

Rocky: I thought you didn't like the cottage. Too many 'squitters.

Stella: Yeah, all that nature stuff is retarded but that's not the point. The point is that lump on the sofa should be bonding with us, strengthening the relationship, spending quality face time with us.

Rocky: (shmeck, shmack) I think I definitely found a bit of chicken this time.

Stella: You know, our lives are not reaching their full potential because of his laziness.

Rocky, seeing a bit of food on Stella's muzzle, sniffs at her with interest: Are you going to eat that?

Stella: You touch that, I'll smack you, I swear.

Rocky: Hey, that's pie on your face. How'd you get pie on your face?

Stella: None of your business.

Rocky: Hey, no fair. How come you got pie on your face and I don't?

Stella: Look, lazy boy there had pie for breakfast and he left some on the counter and ...

Rocky: Ummm, I'm telling ...

Stella: It was just crumbs, jerko. And if you say anything, I'll tell about the hot dog ...

Rocky: But that was from the garbage.

Stella: Oh as if that's any better.

Rocky, sighs: What kind of pie was it?

Stella: Boston creme.

Rocky: Aww, nooo way. That's my favorite.

Stella: Whatever. You don't even know what that is.

Rocky: But is sounds like my favorite.

Stella: You know, you're such a moron sometimes.

Rocky: Do you think there's any left?

Stella: Doubt it.

Rocky: Sure?

Stella: Well, uh, yeah, pretty ... hey where're you going?

When I wake up, the rain has stopped. I see some hints of sunlight glistening off the drops of water on the magnolia leaves outside the window. The dogs are asleep, Stella in her sphinx pose and Rocky stretched out stiff on his side like he's in rigor mortis.

I get off the couch and walk into the kitchen. In the middle of the floor, there lies a shiny, well-cleaned pie tin.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What was said. What was heard.

(Continued from here.)

No doubt it's been bugging me. What actually happened between Ginger and Buddy that night many years ago? For me, it's not even so much about Ontario's absurd Pit Bull laws anymore, as it is about trying to suss out the facts and along the way seeing what goes on inside Ontario courtrooms. Plus, with Toronto Animal Services South closed, I've got some extra time on my hands and you know what they say about idle hands and the devil.

To recap:

First trial: Justice of the Peace Madigan, determines Ginger the Pit Bull was off leash and unmuzzled and attacked Buddy. This determination is in large part based on testimony from Buddy's owner, Jody MacDonald. Justice of the Peace Madigan orders Ginger to be euthanized.

Ginger's owner, Phillip Huggins appeals. Note that on the night of the incident it was not Huggins himself who was walking Ginger, but his mother, Bernadette Razac.

Three years later, Second trial, first part: Justice Hogan presiding, determines that Ginger was actually leashed and Buddy who was not, the opposite of what Justice of the Peace Madigan had determined. Justice Hogan then calls for a time out while she tries to figure out just what Ontario's uber vague DOLA is all about.

A few months later, Second trial, second part: Having decided that the point of DOLA is not to simply kill Pit Bulls but rather to protect the public from dangerous dogs, Justice Hogan cancels Ginger's euthanasia order based, in part, on her determination that Ginger was leashed and did not start the fight with Buddy in the first place.

Reading the newspaper accounts of the incident (National Post, Toronto Star, CTV) and the court determinations made me curious. What was it that made Justice Hogan change the ruling to back Ginger instead of Buddy? I mean it's like going into court one day and having the first judge say, "That dog is white" and then going into court another day with a different judge and having that judge say about the same dog, "That dog is black."

This would never happen on Law and Order.

I shoot off an e-mail to Nick Aveling of The Toronto Star. He's the reporter who's been covering both sides of this case and he'd just written an article over the weekend presenting MacDonald's side of the story. In my e-mail, I basically ask him if he's got some inside scoop on MacDonald's testimony, as he'd just interviewed her, and also what he thinks about the opposing judgments stemming from it.

While waiting for a response, I decide to try and find a copy of that ruling by Justice Hogan for it's in this document where it will be revealed the thought process Justice Hogan went through in deciding to support Ginger's innocence.

I look and look but, unfortunately, I can't find it anywhere and by anywhere, I mean free and on-line. Why isn't this document at my fingertips? I wonder as I pound on my desk and curse the inadequacies of the internet. I contact a couple of friends and they look everywhere as well, and by everywhere, I mean free and on-line, and they too come up empty handed.

I'm temporarily at a loss, but then, a thought. I decide to do the unthinkable: I pick up the phone and actually make a phone call.

I call Terrance Green, the lawyer who represented Huggins for those trials with Justice Hogan.

I've never talked to a lawyer before and have very little working knowledge about them aside from some memorable television experiences. I wonder how I should address him. Terrance? Too informal. Mr. Green? Too Reservoir Dogs. Terrance Green? Yeah, that's the ticket.

(The following is a dramatization of a telephone conversation I actually had but since I can't remember what was exactly said exactly, I'm just sort of making stuff up)

"Hello, Terrance Green speaking."

"Hi. Uh, may I please speak to Terrance Green please."



"Oh hi, my name's Fred and I'm doing some research for an article about Ginger? the Pit Bull? and I'm wondering if you have a couple of minutes to answer some questions about her trial? since you represented her owner? uh, Huggins? about what happened that night with Buddy? the other dog? and why did Miss, uh, Missus, uh, Ms MacDonald say one thing and the judge, uh, the justice of the peace Madigan? interprete it as something else?"


"Umm, what's your name again?"


"And what's your involvement with this?"

"I'm writing a blog?"



And then we really hit it off and a few minutes later he e-mails me a couple of court documents, the first being the one I'm looking for.

I scan the document and find the information I want, well sort of. From "Ontario Court of Justice, Old City Hall, Toronto Region. Between Her Majesty the Queen and Phillip Huggins. Before Justice M. L. Hogan. Ruling released on December 15, 2008", Justice Hogan:

In this case I do find that some of Justice of the Peace Madigan's evidentiary conclusions were clearly wrong and not supported by the evidence and thus find he did make palpable and overriding errors. The most significant example is his finding that the dog "Buddy" was leashed and the dog "Ginger" was not. Clearly, the evidence was exactly the opposite and I base this finding on the following excerpts from the transcripts: Examination in chief of J. MacDonald, June 8, 2006 at p.14, line 20, p. 15 lines 30, 31, p. 39 lines 6,7 and the cross examination of J. MacDonald June 8, 2006 at p. 47, lines 25 to 27, 40, p.48, lines 1,2, and p. 51 lines 14 to 16 and discussion between the Court and J. MacDonald at p. 52 lines 14 to 31. I find this evidentiary finding to be critical to his ultimate decision in the case and one that taints the rest of his evidentiary findings.

Ah ha! So, Justice Hogan is basically saying that the testimony given by MacDonald in the first trial actually corroborates the claim that Ginger was leashed and Buddy was not, the opposite of what Justice of the Peace Madigan had determined.

But what exactly was that testimony? How could two different judges interpret the same piece of testimony so differently?

I want to see the testimony for myself.

The next day, I e-mail Terrance Green again to ask if he might be able to forward me the testimony but he writes back that his hard copy has already been sent forward to Huggins' new lawyer on the case, Ruby Clayton.

I try the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General's websites to see if I can obtain a copy of the testimony through them but the websites aren't not much help except for a phone number.

Once again into the breach, I dial the phone number.

I explain my situation and the kindly woman on the other end puts me on hold and after a while I wonder if she's just gone back to watching reruns of Ally McBeal.

But no. It turns out she was trying to track down where exactly I could go to get the trial transcripts.

Clerk: DOLA is a provincial law but it's administered by the city so you'll have to go down to the court office at .... (the address isn't a secret, I just don't have it with me at the moment) ... and ask them to see if they can get you a copy, which you'll have to pay for, or they can tell you where you have to go to find it.

Me: Okay, maybe I'll just e-mail them first.

Clerk: No, you can't do that.

Me: Oh? Why?

Clerk: They don't have e-mail.

Me: No, e-mail? That's kind of ...

Clerk: No, e-mail.

Me: Oh, okay. What's their phone number?

Clerk: No. No phone number.

Me: What?

Clerk: They don't have a phone.

At this point, I check my wall calendar to make sure it says 2009 and not 1909.

Me: So, if I want to talk to someone there, I absolutely have to go see them in person?

Clerk: Yes.

I find that a very dissatisfying answer but I say thanks anyway and hang up. I mean it's not the clerk's fault that she works for an organization that makes access to information so bloody difficult. I'm surprised they haven't actually located the office in some subterranean cavern with the only access being a long, dark, nasty tunnel protected by a troll.

Actually, maybe they have put the office in a deep cave. I don't know. I haven't gone yet. At this point my enthusiasm for this mythic quest is starting to fade.

I have an internal debate about making the trip downtown to the lair of the court records and the thought of all that bureaucracy starts making me sleepy when I notice that Nick Aveling, the Star reporter has e-mailed me back.

He says that as far as he knows, MacDonald's testimony has remained consistent. According to MacDonald, Ginger was indeed leashed, but only initially, until she broke her own leash when she charged at Buddy. MacDonald says this is what she testified in court. Somehow, the first judge, Justice of the Peace Madigan, misunderstood her, and interpreted this as Buddy being leashed while Ginger wasn't.

Justice Hogan, though, in her latest ruling, sees it that Ginger was leashed and thus could not have provoked the attack and since she has the final say on this, legally, on record, this is what happened.

But not according to MacDonald's testimony.

A Dalmatian is brought into a room. One person says the dog is white. The other says the dog is black. Who is right?

What do I think? I think I feel sorry for Buddy that he had to suffer through Ginger's attack and that according to the law, he was made out to be the aggressor. But I also feel sorry for Ginger that she had to spend more than three years in a cage and now still has a death sentence hanging over her head.

The law may be binary but the truth isn't black and white.

In the end, I never got the trial transcripts so I still don't know what was said, exactly. Maybe I never will. Maybe it's one of those mysteries better left unsolved. Maybe to solve it would require so much effort and in the end that search for truth might still be overshadowed by the unfathomable idiosyncrasies of the human mind. Maybe ...

Oh, time to let the dogs out. Rocky's farting like a garbage truck on fire.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Toronto city strikers

Continued from here.

You know you read in the news about all the Toronto city workers going on strike and their union making all these demands and it's easy enough to paint all the city workers with one brush. What colour that brush is of course depends where on the economic policy spectrum one likes to plant oneself. That loaded socio-economic discussion is beyond the scope of this blog but I was talking to someone yesterday from TAS who was walking the picket line at "the dump" and he was telling me about the situation on the ground. It's not as monochromatic as people may think.

Apparently, walking the pickets is not compulsory but if you don't, you won't get paid your ten bucks an hour or something like that from the union. So, if you're savings are non-existent because, say, you've just spent your last cent on getting another dog rescued from some high kill pound somewhere, then it's either picket or find another job. For those working at TAS who are more flexible in the monetary department, some of them have chosen not to support the strike (by not picketing) because of its impact on the animals, not just the animals in the facilities at the moment but also the ones which aren't being rescued because the South Shelter is closed.

That's something that the union heads might want to take note of. If they want to get the public onside, and right now, I think they need as much help in that regard as they can get, they might not want to implicate themselves with cute puppies and kittens rotting away somewhere because of their strike action. If not now, then next time, and I'm sure there will be a next time, they might consider letting at least an essential crew of TAS staff stay on the job so that animals don't end up suffering.

For most of us, the city strike is a matter of inconvenience. For the animals, especially the ones not being rescued, it can be a matter of life and death.

As a side note, I just want to give a huge thanks to all the readers here who contacted me, or TAS South directly, volunteering to foster dogs and cats for the duration of the strike. Your generous offers are sincerely appreciated and if you don't already have a new temporary family member, there's a chance you might get a call in the coming days if the strike goes on longer than expected. Thanks again so much.

Ginger and the many shades of truth

When the news broke about Ginger's recent battles in court a couple of weeks ago, I didn't write about it immediately partly because I was too busy with other stuff but also because I had a feeling that something was missing from the story - namely, the other side.

Well, the other side spoke out over the weekend. From The Star article Dog owner laments the day she met Ginger:

"(Ginger) broke the leash the minute she saw us and ran toward us. She slammed into me. Buddy had stood up and they were sniffing each other and both tails were wagging. I figured they'd have a nice little chase," she said. "I looked down at my feet not knowing the world was going to collapse in the next five seconds."

Blood soaked the mud as Ginger tore into Buddy's neck, said MacDonald. She smashed her coffee mug against the dog's jowl, but the biting continued.

Buddy survived the incident.

But when he died last spring, MacDonald couldn't help but feel cheated. "I think he went too soon ... he never came back fully from the injury."

MacDonald said she never saw a muzzle on Ginger, a legal requirement for pit bulls in Ontario.

When Philip Huggins was brought to court the first time, Justice of the Peace, Kevin Madigan, sided with MacDonald's account and called for the death of Ginger under the Dog Owner's Liability Act.

Huggins decided to fight that decision and took his case for another round through the courts, this time with Justice Mary Hogan.

From the Star article, Death row dog learns fate today, this is Huggins' account of the dogfight:

"My mother [Bernadette Razac] took her [Ginger] out for a 6 a.m. walk in the park," said owner Philip Huggins, 28, a truck driver for a graphics firm. "Ginger (a 69-pound dog) was muzzled and leashed. Another dog (Buddy, a 45-pound dog) ran over to her and started sniffing her. The dog bit, and went and tore (Ginger's) left ear, then ripped off her muzzle." Ginger bit the dog back, then bit its owner, court documents show.

... which is, of course, a clear contradiction to MacDonald's account. The court under Justice Mary Hogan agreed with Huggins' version of events:

She also found the justice of the peace erred in his judgment in several instances, "the most significant example in his finding that the dog Buddy was leashed and the dog Ginger was not. Clearly the evidence was the exact opposite."

I wish I knew what the evidence was because someone's either lying or in a grand hallucinatory state of confusion or denial.

Looking at the court records for both decisions doesn't help either.

In the first decision, where Ginger was found guilty of being off leash and instigating the attack, the Justice of the Peace, Kevin Madigan, admits that the evidence provided by the person walking Ginger, Bernadette Razac, and the person walking Buddy, Jody MacDonald, are contradictory and difficult to confirm or deny. In the end, he decides to believe MacDonald and not Razac for what seems to me to be somewhat arbitrary reasoning.

In my opinion, the main problem with Ms. Razac’s testimony was that it seemed very scripted and rehearsed.

So apparently, if Razac had been a more believable actor, Ginger might be free right now. Never mind innocent until proven guilty, it's all about acting natural. Who knew?

When answering a question about how Ginger’s muzzle came off, Bernadette Razac made the implausible claim that Buddy had actually pulled the muzzle off with his paws during the fight. Quite frankly, I find this very difficult to believe and I don’t believe it. It is unlikely that an older, smaller dog like Buddy would have the dexterity for such an intricate maneuver during a rather vicious dog –fight.

This guy obviously doesn't know muzzles. Everything breaks, everything eventually falls apart, especially under stress. I've had the plastic clips of two dog collars break on me while walking the dogs at TAS even without the added benefit of another dog's paw. It's also entirely possible that the muzzle was not secured tightly enough to not slip off during a dog fight. That would still put the blame on Ginger's owner but it wouldn't be an intentional oversight.

Further, as I mentioned above, the photographic evidence certainly suggested that Ginger was more likely than Buddy to have started this fight. The scenario attested by Jody MacDonald was consistent with what one would predict after viewing the photographs of the two dogs. The scenario attested by Bernadette Razac was not.

This I really don't understand. Unless the photographs were taken of the dog fight (and they weren't) what would they prove one way or another with regard to which dog started the fight? Is Madigan basing his opinion here on the fact that Ginger looks like a Pit Bull and Buddy does not? Or that Ginger is a few pounds heavier than Buddy? Hey, how many of you have ever seen a Chihuahua go after a Great Dane? I have, almost every week. Crazy Chi around the corner going beserkers after anything else on four legs. My Dane just ignores it but in Madigan's court, would the Dane be deemed the instigator simply based on the relative sizes and breeds?

In my opinion, Madigan's judgment seems biased and unfounded.

Apparently, in the appeal, Justice Mary Hogan felt the same way as she overturned the verdict by Madigan. I can't get my hands on the exact reasoning she gave for overturning his decision so I don't know if it was based on new, hard evidence or she just went through the same arguments I just did.

Here's the thing, though. Unless there is actually hard evidence to prove events went one way or the other, if I had to choose whose testimony I would believe, I'd have to toss a coin.

Neither Madigan nor Hogan, in my opinion, provide solid enough arguments to prove things one way or the other. In Madigan's case, I disagree with the reasoning behind his judgment but that doesn't mean the judgment itself is incorrect. Ginger may very well have been off leash and unmuzzled and started the fight but Madigan's reasoning to support that claim doesn't do it for me.

And as for Justice Hogan, she may very well believe that it was Buddy who started the fight but unless I see solid evidence, there's no reason for me to trust in her judgment either.

And I'm kind of suspecting there is no hard evidence especially given lawyer Ruby's somewhat, uh, legalesque response to MacDonald's assertion that Ginger started the fight:

"The judge (in 2007) had it sorted out, but he did so erroneously according to the appeal court. No one's in a position to now say this version [MacDonald's version] is true."

Huh? Isn't that kind of like saying because no one can't disprove the existence of Santa Claus, Santa Claus must exist?

In the end, I don't know which dog started the fight. I don't know, but that doesn't matter because, in my opinion, regardless of which dog started the fight, or which dog was or wasn't leashed, or which dog was dog friendly or wasn't, neither dog should be put under penalty of death for what happened. Whatever events took place, it was the fault of one or both of the owners. Their dogs should not have to pay for their owners' mistakes.

Dogs fight. If a proclivity for fighting were the only criteria necessary for destroying an animal, there would be a lot fewer humans left on the planet. Most dogs I know have problems with some other dogs. Just like people, they don't always get along with one another. There are loads of reasons.

Sometimes it's an older dog who doesn't like nuisance puppies, sometimes it's a dog who's had a bad experience in the past with a particular breed, sometime it's a big dog who thinks a little dog might be a rodent, sometimes it's a little dog who doesn't like big dogs because it's been stepped on one too many times, sometimes it's just plain nastiness.

But, in all the non-BSL identified dogs (ie. non-Pit Bull type dogs), DOLA accepts the fact that dogs don't always get along and says, look, if your dog gets into a fight, we'll still give it a chance. You may have to muzzle it and keep it on a leash and possibly take some extra precautions but we realize that the value of a dog is not completely erased by the fact that it got into a fight with another dog.

With Pit Bull type dogs, however, no such allowances are given by DOLA. Pit Bulls don't get a chance. They get killed.

By all accounts, Ginger is a sweet dog with people. The photos and videos in the online newspaper reports certainly seem to suggest that. Did she attack Buddy that night nearly four years ago because Razac did not adequately have her under control? Possibly. Did she cause Buddy harm? Yes. And if Razac is found to have been negligent in properly controlling Ginger, resulting in injury to Buddy, then she should have to compensate Buddy's owner for vet bills at least (she should also do the decent thing and apologize and clear Buddy's name if only for the sake of Buddy's owner, MacDonald). Regardless, Ginger, should not have to pay the ultimate price because of her owner's lack of caution.

If the events had been reversed, if it was indeed Buddy who was at fault, there would be no discussion of the death penalty. At worst it might be, "Next time muzzle and leash your dog".

Ginger's fate will be argued in court again later in the year. If she loses that battle, then she dies and what good does that do? If the thinking is that at least Ginger won't be alive to attack another dog, well, that would only happen if Huggins is an irresponsible owner and if he is, there's nothing to stop him from just going out and getting another muscle dog - or any dog for that matter. If the thinking is purely legalistic, that Ginger is a Pit Bull and according to the law, she must be killed for biting regardless of cause, then that's absurd, as Justice Hogan would say, and just means more blood on the hands of the people who created and still support this ridiculous law - not that they would care.

(Continued here.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Update on Susie

A couple of pics from Susie's (now Maggie's) owner:

Ginger and the Pit Bull law

Maybe you've heard already about Ginger, the Pit Bull. First accused of being off leash and attacking another dog, Ginger was condemned to die by the City of Toronto but her owner, Phillip Huggins, with help from lawyer Terrance Green, who specializes in DOLA, fought the ruling.

The legal wrangling has taken over three years, during which time Ginger has been kept in likely isolation at Toronto Animal Services East as dogs housed under court orders aren't allowed to go outside or otherwise interact with the public.

Earlier this year, in April, when Huggins and Ginger finally saw their day in court, it was determined by Justice Mary Hogan that it was the other dog, Buddy, who was actually off leash and instigated the fight. The court decided that Ginger was leashed and muzzled and only lost the muzzle when Buddy tore it off.

This is the piece of Ontario legislation, the breed specific portion of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, which applies to this situation:

(8) When, in a proceeding under this section, the court finds that the dog is a pit bull and has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal, or has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals, the court shall make an order under clause (3) (a).

with (3)(a) being

(3)(a) that the dog be destroyed in the manner specified in the order;

I'm no legal expert but I think what that basically says is that if a Pit Bull type dog is found to have bitten a person or a domestic animal, regardless of cause, it must be euthanized.

In Justice Hogan's own words, this is "absurd". In her decision, she states:

For example, if an individual were breaking into a home where a pit bull resided and that pit bull in the course of protecting his owner and his owner’s home bit the burglar, that pit bull would have to be destroyed. Surely, given the stated purpose of the legislation this absurd result was not intended.

Justice Hogan was also concerned that "such a dog [referring to Ginger] would be ordered destroyed in circumstances where the dog had no culpability whatsoever". Or, in other words, since Ginger was leashed, muzzled and did not initiate the fight, she did nothing wrong, was not a threat to the public and therefore should not be punished for protecting herself against an aggressor dog.

Thus, Ginger's euthanasia order was overruled.

Justice Hogan should be given a big gob smacking gold medal for interpreting this fuzzy piece of breed specific legislation in a way that is fair and which better serves the public interest.

It's interesting to read in her decision that she actually debates the intended purpose of the Pit Bull specific amendments to the Dog Owner's Liability Act:

If the lawmakers intended the second interpretation [the euthanize Pit Bulls no matter what interpretation] then this would shift the purpose of the amendments to the DOLA away from the protection of the public and the ban on breeding of pit bulls to the destruction of pit bulls. This was not the stated purpose in the Committee proceedings to which I was referred by all counsel.

In other words, Justice Hogan believes that the purpose of the law is foremost to protect the public and is not a carte blanche to massacre all Pit Bulls in the province. This decision is a huge deal because it sets a precedent that says a jurisdiction in Ontario can't just kill a Pit Bull type dog for no good reason.

I'd call that pretty damn enlightened.

Unfortunately, the Pit Bull death cull supporting lawyers and politicos in this province do not seem as encumbered by the weight of fairness and justice. This decision to not kill a Pit Bull just because it's a Pit Bull must have made the haters shake with spittle laced anger as they sat reading it in their too tight little undies. They are fighting back.

City of Toronto lawyer Kirsten Franz: "If the court uses the same discretion for pit bulls as for other dogs, the legislation has no meaning."

For some reason, Franz thinks that if we treat Pit Bulls and Pit Bull type dogs fairly, or at least as fairly as other dogs, then the DOLA has no meaning. Since when is fairness of treatment equated to "no meaning"? So, in the city's view it is preferable for the law to be prejudicial to the point of death? Perhaps they would also consider taking away women's right to vote, re-introducing the head tax on immigrants, bringing back indentured servitude for the poor. I mean really, if you're going to fuck fairness, you might as well fuck it all the way.

A motion was granted last Wednesday allowing the city and the province to appeal the decision to spare Ginger. They still want her dead. Come this fall or early 2010, they're going to try again to kill her and if they succeed, then they can keep on killing the rest.

In the meanwhile, Clayton Ruby, who has taken over the case and is now representing Huggins pro bono, has managed to get Ginger released from her prison and back into the custody of her owner while she awaits her fate. How he did that, I don't quite understand, but I'm sure a lot of other Pit Bull owners would definitely like to know.

Clayton Ruby has been working hard recently for the Pit Bull cause, attempting to challenge the BSL portion of DOLA at the Supreme Court of Canada. The SCC decided against hearing the challenge.

That matters but it also doesn't matter. The battle against BSL can't be won in the courts anyway. Even if the SCC found the BSL portion in the DOLA to be too vague, the province's lawyers could have just changed it around to be less vague, to be more inclusive, possibly including your breed of dog. They could have just rejigged the law a bit while keeping it basically the same piece of dog killing legislation. Then we'd have to challenge it in court again. Then they could just rejig it again. And each time, it would have to be fought in court and eventually, the money to fight to law would run out and the law would still be there killing dogs.

The only way to fight this law is to fight public perception. Only when the majority of the public understands that BSL kills too many innocent dogs and is too unwieldy a hammer to effectively catch the dangerous ones, will the thick headed, populist politicians be moved to strike the law from the books.

But that's the big picture. Right now Ginger's life is very much on the line. I hope Huggins is working on an exit strategy.

From Ruby:

"This is a sentient being and we shouldn't be killing a dog unless it's done something wrong. Automatic killing without looking at the context is morally wrong."

Continued here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Toronto Animal Services South - Empty

Continued from here.

All of the animals at Toronto Animal Services South have been relocated to fosters or the north shelter while the staff await the strike decision to be made Sunday night. They're still hoping for a resolution but things aren't looking too good right now.

Continued here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chanting in the rain

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon at the Toronto Humane Society Protest.

Some of the main organizers of the protest: Nikki, Mel, Marcie, James, Sam

Marcie talks about her experiences working the night shift at the THS. "The dog died in my arms."

Sam talks about governance at the THS

Marna, from Big on Beagles rescue, talks about the importance of working with rescues and also plugs Toronto Animal Services. Yaay, Marna!

The last time I was in a protest (maybe I should say, caught in a protest) I was tear gassed and the riot police were doing that baton on shields banging thing but that was an age and a country away.

Today's protest at the Toronto Humane Society, was, by my rough estimate, around 200 people. It was an afternoon of interspersed chanting, mostly directed at Tim Trow, and listening to speakers talk about their experiences with the Toronto Humane Society. The bicycle police stood around with us in the rain trying not to smile and every so often would remind someone to please stay within the marked off areas.

The speakers did an excellent job but unfortunately the megaphone they were using did not and I'm pretty sure the people at the edges of the crowd couldn't hear most of what was said. Still, being the polite Canadians we stereotypically are, everyone remained courteously quiet whenever someone was at the stand.

Tim Trow was nowhere in sight. Actually, no official from THS made any kind of appearance as far as I could tell - although I hear a few THS vets were in the crowd, incognito, giving their support. When I left, the pile of donated goods from members of the protest group for the shelter's animals hadn't yet been picked up by anyone inside.

Most of the local news stations showed up and there were videographers who captured the whole thing so I'm not going to go into details about what was said as I'll just post the link as soon as it becomes available.

Here's a little taste, though, from someone who wasn't officially listed as a speaker but felt strongly enough to take the stand:

The important thing to remember is that this protest is just round one. It's going to take a lot more than just a few voices on a Saturday afternoon to unseat the entrenched directors at the THS so that the much needed changes to animal care can be implemented. Today, people were just testing their voices, testing their alliances, testing their strengths.

Round two is coming up.

Tim Trow: "Frankly, I don't think I need a reference."

That's because he can't get one.

From Toronto Star article, Humane society chief admits 'I'm not a saint'.

Toronto Humane Society

Looks like it's going to pour.

300 people are going to show up and stand in the rain for two hours in front of Toronto Humane Society to voice their discontent over the way they feel some of the animals in that shelter have been allowed to suffer. It's kind of wacko, if you think about it, to stand out there, holding up slogan signs on a perfectly good Saturday shopping afternoon, chanting who knows what shit just to help a bunch of sick animals.

They could be checking out cel phones or sipping latte or punching their Playstations but instead they're going to act like a whole lotta yahoos kicking up a fuss just cuz they don't like the way things are at the THS.

And remember, that's H for Humane. No one protests the Humane Society. That's untouchable. You get the word "humane" in your name and you're like the King James edition. You could be clubbing baby seals for laughs, burning down rain forests for parking lots, destabilizing minor nations for oil and diamonds and people would still think you were the holy love child of Mother Mary and Sis Theresa.

Check this out. Instead of General Motors, how about General Humane Motors? Doesn't that name just make you want to dig deep into your pockets and throw more money at them? Doesn't that name make you want to support their board of directors who have done such an excellent job ru i nning that company?

Or check this one. North Humane Korea. Suddenly, missile nukes in their xenophobic, peasant starved hands doesn't sound so bad.

Or this biggie. Global Humane Warming. Who needs carbon taxes? I feel 2 degrees cooler already.

This stuff don't fly? No, course not. Name don't mean shit unless you got something to back it up with. Humane don't mean shit unless you got something to show it.

Animals living in shit and piss ain't humane.

Animals moaning in pain ain't humane.

Animals caged for years ain't humane.

We got to put the humane back in Toronto Humane Society. We don't do it now, who knows if it'll ever get done. That's what this bunch of crazy, tenacious sumbitches is protesting for.

Skip your shower today. Come stand out in the rain with us.


Today Saturday, June 20, 2 p.m. Toronto Humane Society at 11 River St.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Going north

I'm sitting with Bach on the little patch of grass that is still accessible. Bach, with his striking ice blue eyes, watches the workers put up barricades for the Indy track. Off around one of the bends, I hear someone squealing his car around a corner, really squealing, action flick, car chase like. The guy's just driving some beater but I guess because he sees the track being set up, his X-Box brain kicks in and he figures he can try out some moves.

Bach lies down on the grass. He's hot in the haze of the sun and the grass probably helps cool him down. He rolls over on his back and paws me for a belly rub. I'm spending some extra time with him because this will probably be his last day down at Toronto Animal Services South before he gets transferred up to the north facility for the duration of the city workers' strike.

TAS South has been busy getting ready to shut down. The other three shelters are remaining open. This doesn't make sense to me as I think the south shelter is the best facility - not that I'm biased or anything - but I'm told part of the reason is because the Indy will make access to the South shelter difficult if not impossible. Given that there will be enough worries with no regular staff to look after the animals, the city wants to keep things as simple as possible.

The plan, then, is to move all the animals from south to north. Thing is, TAS South staff would prefer to not put their cats and dogs through the turmoil and anxiety of being housed at the north shelter because no one really knows who will be looking after the animals there when the strike starts. Managers probably, but managers of what? Accounts, trucks and H.R.?

Jen, the person looking after cats at TAS South, has done an incredible job finding temporary cat fosters for the duration of the strike. More than forty cats have already gone out and the few remaining will hopefully be picked up sometime soon.

Most of the dogs have been fostered out as well but there are a handful remaining who will be kept up on the TAS adoption page, so who knows, maybe they'll get homed before the shelter transfer.

But Bach is definitely going up to TAS North. He was adopted out a few weeks ago but returned because his owner discovered he had heartworm at their first vet visit. Her vet told her that his treatment would cost $3000. I think that's a bit padded considering the drugs, while expensive, only cost a few hundred dollars, but hey, everyone wants to make a buck.

So Bach is back and he won't be put up for adoption until he gets put through the heartworm treatment which will last six weeks. And the treatment won't start until after the strike so that's probably another 2 - 3 weeks.

I'm a little worried for him. It feels like sending a sick kid off to summer camp not knowing what the camp facilities are like, not knowing even who's running the camp.

But Bach being Bach being a dog, is presently doing just fine. He doesn't appear to be showing any symptoms. No coughing, no lethargy. He's just enjoying his belly scratches and soaking up the sun, relishing what could be his last few minutes outside for many weeks to come.

He better make it back okay.

(Bach was one of the last out-of-province rescue dogs to be adopted out before TAS started doing heartworm testing on all their rescue dogs. TAS used to test all their dogs but never got any positive results so they figured they might as cancel the tests, at $20 a pop, and put the money elsewhere. Now heartworm seems to be much more prevalent, hence the testing once again.)

Strike stuff ontinued here.

Bach stuff continued here.

Toronto Humane Society Protest Alert

From CNW:

TORONTO, June 19 /CNW/ - On Saturday, June 20, starting at 2 p.m., more than 300 people will be staging a protest in front of the Toronto Humane Society at 11 River Street.

The protest, organized by former THS staff, volunteers and concerned citizens, is calling for the resignation of the entire THS Board and the appointment of interim management to correct the turmoil inside the THS.

"This protest is being organized out of love and compassion," says organizer Marcie Laking. "We want the MOST humane and ethical treatment of every single animal inside the THS at all times, we are standing up for their rights and lives and are demanding positive changes inside FOR them."

The THS has been in the media spotlight since the Globe and Mail ran a three-part series on the situation. That series lead to an ongoing OSPCA investigation of the THS (which suspended the THS's affiliate status). The newspaper articles and OSPCA investigation have in turn caused hundreds of people to step forward and demand positive change.

Please consider covering this protest.

For further information:

or visit:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Feathers, fur and the occasional fang

Laura, one of the other volunteers at TAS South has just started blogging about the smaller critters that get left at the shelter. That would be mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, bunnies, birds and maybe a reptile every now and then.

Do reptiles enjoy a pat on the head? I don't know but if you go over to Laura's blog, you can always ask her.

Feathers, fur and the occasional fang

Update 2 on Travis

I'm really happy for this guy. Travis had been at Toronto Animal Services for weeks and was beginning to develop signs of cage distress/aggression. No one was interested in adopting him and hope was running out.

So, he was transferred to a rescue, Nickquenum Dog Adoptions, and almost immediately his luck changed.

From Travis' owner:

Travis has gained weight - tipping the scales at a little over 24 kilos 10 days ago. This translates to an increase of about 3 kilos since he was adopted. The other dog is Gunther, a rescue from Kentucky. He is about 3 years old. He has a bit of a limp which, when I had his left foreleg x-rayed, turns out to be metal fragments - so the vet thinks that he had been shot sometime in the past.

These two dogs along with Ethan (the Newfoundland X) go with me to Clairville about 5 to 6 times per week where they go off leash and run to their hearts content. All return when called, although sometimes it takes two or three times being called before they come back. They are often out of sight.

Five times a week some friends take them out for an hour on-leash walk in the evening.

Foster cats

The impending Toronto city workers strike date, June 22, next Monday, is fast approaching. While most of the dogs at Toronto Animal Services South have found placement with rescues or fosters, a lot of the cats have not. That's not from lack of trying but there are just a lot more cats than dogs at the shelter.

If you're so inclined, you could really help out by fostering a TAS cat for the duration of the strike. There are no guarantees but it's unlikely the strike will go for longer than three weeks. If it's not settled by then, city workers will probably be legislated back to work. That's what happened last time.

The animals who don't find their way into foster care will be transported to one of the other city shelters where they will be managed by a reduced staff of who knows who. It sounds like it's going to turn into something more akin to a warehousing environment than a shelter environment. Sure, it may not be the end of the world for the animals but it won't be very nice.

If you're interested, this is the TAS South number: 416 338 6668. Ask to speak to the person looking after the cats (if you get the answering machine, hang up and call back later, otherwise, you'll be waiting a very long time). Or you can drop me an e-mail and I can give you the direct line to the person trying to find fosters.

Continued here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Broken and discarded

Maybe someone kicked her, hard and several times. In the head and at the legs. And then, when she could no longer walk, the person picked her up and threw her into the garbage.

That would have been the end of the pup, suffering the same fate so many other dogs must suffer at the hands of some malignant tumour that disguises itself with a human face. But not this pup. Not this time. This time, the pup is discovered and ends up at Toronto Animal Services.

She has a contusion to her left eye and a fracture in her front left leg. No other scrapes or marks. The eye will heal on its own and a cast is put on the leg. She walks around like a peg-legged pirate.

It's hard not to fall for this little one. She's got everything going for her: cuteness, sympathy, comedic factor, ebullient personality despite the handicap.

In the interest of Karmic justice, I invite you all to say two prayers tonight. One of hope and good tidings for the pup, that she may find a good home and a loving family, that she may forget her early trials and grow into a fine healthy dog, that she may live a long and happy life.

The second prayer, for the person who broke and discarded her, I invite you to be as creatively extreme as you feel the need to be.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cancellation notice

This was sent in by a reader. Seems like THS has been failing donors for quite some time now.

Toronto, ON XXX XXX
March 13, 2006

Toronto Humane Society
11 River Street
Toronto Ontario
M5A 4C2

Dear Sirs:
I have not yet received my tax receipt for contributions for the year 2005. This has held me up in filing my taxes and I am not pleased.

Also, I adopted a cat in December 2005 which I brought home and kept isolated (as I had been advised he was recovering from URI) for the recommended period of two weeks. At the time I adopted the cat I asked for copies of his medical records to provide to my own vet. As I was leaving, I was handed an enveloped which I assumed contained the documents I had requested but in fact contained only his personality assessment from volunteer groomers. After the two weeks of isolation I let him out with my other cat who then developed a serious case of URI and cost me $270 at my own vet.

In light of both of these incidences, I will be canceling my monthly sponsorship starting April 2006. Please make sure that you withdraw your pre-authorized chequing with respect to my donation.

Tim Trow and his board cronies should be turfed just for squandering the trust and good will of so many Torontonians.

Protest this Saturday at 2. 11 River St.

Mad dog

The first time I meet Keenan, he is at the front of his kennel barking furiously, snarling, kangaroo hopping. I don't remember the last time I saw a dog act like this. Dogs have hard stared me through their kennel doors, they've low growled and bared their teeth. Some have moved forward and barked and snapped when I got too close but this one, it looks like it wants to break down the door with its ferocity. The hand written comment on the door says, "Barks a lot" to which I want to add, "and acts like he wants to kill you a lot".

I wish I had taken a video of all his carrying on because it's hard to fathom what happens next.

I stand there for a second, debating whether or not to pass on this guy. I've got no problem with passing on a dog for a walk. I don't do it very often, probably only 2 or 3 times that I can remember, but if a dog acts like it's going to try taking a bite out of me for whatever reason, I'll walk on. But, with Keenan, there had been no warnings from the staff. There had been no additional notes on the dogs-to-walk list other than "Keenan is a bit hyper."

As I stand there, something about Keenan changes, some little thing. He's still barking, still kangaroo hopping but now maybe the snarling has subsided. It's like his attitude has changed. I get a different feeling off him, not that I'd stick my fingers in his mouth exactly, but now it seems he's just wanting to get out, not so much wanting to get me.

So, I open the kennel door and let him out.

He runs right by me, to the room door, which is closed. He runs back to me. I put the leash on him, take him out and this is him 5 minutes later:

After his walk, I pass by one of the staffers and she asks me how it went. I tell her about what happened and she says that when he first came in, because of his apparently aggressive behaviour, they were treating him like a dangerous dog, moving him around with the catch pole, keeping him at a distance. But, she said, she saw something in him that made her think he wasn't so bad so she kind of did what I did and just took him out for a walk with a regular leash and it was fine. He was totally fine.

I bring Keenan back to his kennel and put him inside and shut the door. I stand there waiting for his cage aggression to reappear but it doesn't. He just sits there, waiting for me.

Two days later, when I go back to Toronto Animal Services, I have my camera ready. I walk into the room where his kennel is located and walk up to his door. This is what happens:

So much better. I'm amazed he has the discipline to sit for me even in his excitement. Not many of the dogs who have passed through TAS have been trained this well. I'm hoping that by the time Keenan makes it into adoption, his unruly kennel behaviour will be totally gone. He's a good dog and it would be a shame if he doesn't get adopted just because his bark is so much worse than his bite.

Continued here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The cheese stands alone

Toronto Animal Services (the City of Toronto) on the other hand have taken a very progressive stance on reducing the number of stray animals euthanized, particularly cats, by updating the adoption practices in its own five shelters. Overpopulation caused by irresponsible pet owners who see cats as disposable pets cannot be blamed on TAS any more than it could have been blamed on THS in the days when it provided "pound" services to the City of Toronto.

No, I'm not the one who wrote that. It's actually from an OSPCA letter to the editor of the Toronto Sun in reference to Worthington's column a few days ago where said columnist raised suspicions that he and Tim Trow, president of the Toronto Humane Society, may both be skipping along in the same alternate universe, a universe where the problem of animals dying in cages under one's own roof can be ignored by diverting attention to the purported wrong doings of the city shelter, TAS.

The rest of the letter is pretty good too.

Mr. Worthington's statement regarding THS's 7% euthanasia "...making it arguably the world's most "humane" humane society," again reflects Mr. Worthington's reliance on only one source of information. Comparing apples to apples with other Societies which do not provide Animal Control services for their municipality (THS does not) would show they are no different than most and higher than some.

We are pleased to see voting members of THS expressing their concerns through groups like the Association to Reform THS (ART).

Mr. Trow's insistence to the media that decisions on euthanizing sick animals rests solely with the senior veterinarian conflicts completely with statements made to the media by former THS veterinarians.

Now that Trow and the THS cronies have made enemies out of so many in the animal welfare community, it seems, they're on their own.

Big bunny Sunday

There's always a few bunnies hanging around Toronto Animal Services South and every so often I'll go over and check them out. About a month ago, I looked over at the bunny wall and thought someone had put a fat cat inside one of the cages. It turned out it wasn't a cat but the biggest bunny I'd ever seen.

I'm sure for anyone who's familiar with bunnies, this would've been no big deal, but for me, not knowing anything about them other than they eat carrots and say "What's up doc?" I was kind of fascinated.

Compared to the other bunnies, she seemed pretty friendly but she also had a bowl full of chow in her cage and after a 3 second hello sniff, she returned to her food.

For the next couple of weeks, I'd go over and give the bunny a quick visit every time I was in at TAS and then one day, she was no longer there. Adopted.

A few days ago, I got an update. From Alice's new owner:

Sorry it took so long to send the photos. We were trying to find an appropriate size comparison!

Alice is a Giant Chinchilla rabbit. She was given to the shelter as a stray and stayed there for a few weeks. I had the benefit of getting to know her right away, and we'd already grown quite fond of each other by the time we decided to take her home. I think this helped her adjust (or perhaps she was just glad to get away from the shelter and all those barking dogs - no offense to the dogs!), but she certainly settled in fast.

She is completely unflappable, not bothered by anything (thankfully including the three parrots). Her favourite place in the world is out on the balcony, where she can attempt to eat our entire garden.

We tried a few things to show off her size. Our first idea was the dwarf hamster Strauss (also from the shelter - don't ask me why you'd give up a tiny thing like that), but unfortunately neither of them would stay still. We tried a few other things, but eventually we settled on a good old-fashioned tape measure, stretched out to two feet.

I also sent a photo of her stuffing her face with some home-grown parsley, because that really shows her true personality.

She really is a friendly, gorgeous rabbit, so I'm happy we can give her a nice forever home.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A comedy of errors

I can hardly believe this. From this morning's Globe and Mail, further evidence from reporter Kate Hammer that sanity at the Toronto Humane Society is fast slipping away.

Mr. Lambden said he was asked to participate in this choreography of tiptoeing: moving sick cats out of rooms that had yet to be inspected into rooms that already had.

Holy cover-ups batman! Moving cages of sick cats around from room to room to avoid detection by the OPSCA inspectors? Reminds me of a sketch routine the Marx Brothers might do. Who exactly is the mastermind that thinks up these strategies at the THS? Well, you got to give that wunderkind an A for effort. And possibly 2 years in jail as well.

... interfering with an agent or inspector in the course of their duties is a provincial offence.

It carries a maximum penalty of a $60,000 fine and two years in jail. "It would be significant to the investigation - it would mean that we were not able to see every animal there, which of course was our objective," she said.

Now you see, that cage moving thing, that's the kind of thing that can be orchestrated when you give someone a day's warning that there's going to be a "surprise" raid. Next time, maybe think about doing what the real police do. Show up at the door at 4 in the morning without first letting the whole city know about it the day before.

Kristin Williams, a spokesperson for the Ontario SPCA, said she didn't have any knowledge of animals being hidden from inspectors ...

Marx Brothers, meet the Keystone Cops.

Thank God for brave employees like Michael Lambden who refused to participate in the dirty tricks. If his allegations prove true, he should be given a Toronto citizen's award for sticking his neck out and talking to the Globe about what happened during the raid.

And one for Kate Hammer as well, who continues to jack hammer away at the once seemingly impenetrable fortress THS. Its masters must now surely be trembling behind their wall of silence.

Update 2 on Daisy

Before you scroll down to look at the photos, take a look at Daisy, the Great Dane, when she was first transported here from Montreal in this video. You may remember that her foster was surprised to find that super skinny Daisy was actually pregnant at the time and eventually gave birth to six puppies.

Well, most of the puppies have now been adopted and Daisy herself has blossomed into a truly majestic dog. Amazing work done by her foster mom, Rita.

Hi Fred, how are you, I'm fine but very busy, I moved to a bigger house because of the dogs, LOL Daisy is doing real good she looks in perfect health and weights 125lbs now, she is finished with the babies so I will be getting her spayed in the next week or so.

The babies are big. I've enclosed pics of Sam and Bambi, the two I still have, when they were 7 weeks. I want to keep Sam but Bambi is still available for adoption. I had a hard time adopting the babies out because I wanted to keep them all.

I wouldn't make a good breeder. When I adopted out Daisy's babies, my daughter and I cried for hours for each one. So I'm in no rush to adopt out Bambi, maybe then I can keep her too LOL.

The two fawn pups are Sam and Bambi (not sure which is which)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Toronto Animal Services Friday Review, June 12

Because of the impending strike by city workers, TAS South isn't taking in any additional out of province rescue dogs until things get resolved so there were only a couple of new faces this past week, both Toronto natives.

This is one of them. Her name is Daisy.

While she's a love bug with people, she's ferocious with most other strange dogs but for some reason, she quite likes Lucy. I walked them together and they're like best buds.

When I passed by one of the staffers, she was like, "Holy shit you're walking Daisy with another dog?" and I was like, "Yeah, I just walked Daisy with another dog," and she's like, "Wow," and I'm like, "Yeah." Our conversational skills are so awesome sometimes.

Daisy and Lucy's kennels are both in the same room so maybe they talked in the night after the lights were turned off, got to know each other. Everybody needs a friend.

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

Give the dead a voice

We need to start personalizing this slaughter. Simply saying a thousand Pit Bulls killed or even ten thousand isn't going to get the public's wandering attention. They'll just file those numbers onto their starving kids in Africa list of problems they don't want to be hassled with.

The dead dog needs a name; it needs a face; it needs a personality. People need to know that the innocent dog was killed on their behalf. They need to feel that the dead dog is not much different from their own. In fact, it could be their own if and when the breed specific legislation portion of the Dog Owner's Liability Act in this province expands its list of banned breeds.

From Nathan Winograd's blog post, The Killing of Puppy 43063 (h/t Yes Biscuit):

Your Honor, on June 19, 2007, a 12-week-old brown and white puppy … entered the Loudon County shelter and was given number 43063. He was never given a name… the puppy was killed by the shelter, never having been given a chance to live, never having been given a name. Why? Contrary to state law and contrary to local law, puppy number 43063 was never put up for adoption and was killed for one reason and one reason only: Puppy number 43063 was identified by the shelter as a pit bull mix. On the puppy’s pre-euthanasia report, the official reason for euthanasia is typed in as “breed.” Let me repeat that. The recorded reason for why puppy number 43063 was killed under current shelter policies was “breed.” That reason at some point was crossed out in ink and “behavioral observations” was written in its place. Behavioral observations. The shelter’s canine behavior assessment for puppy number 43063 notes that the puppy, “Approaches the front of the kennel seeking evaluator’s attention. Happily greets evaluator. Is sociable. Initiates gentle, physical contact. Wanted to be in evaluator’s lap. Moves closer for further attention. In evaluator’s lap playing. Wiggly. Leans against you. Bouncing around. Very lovey. –Counsel for Plaintiffs, Animal Rescue of Tidewater vs. Loudon County, Virginia, May 5, 2009.

This happened in Virginia. This happens in Ontario. Not because sadistic psychopaths are murdering pups in their basements but because our laws demand it.

Every dog deserves to be evaluated on its own merit. When our laws command us to kill innocents, we must fight the law.

We lost. Fuck em. Keep fighting.

While the rest of the world is slowly coming to grips with the fact that breed specific legislation does not work, that it kills innocent dogs while not properly targeting the dangerous ones, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that's just fine.

From CTV's SCC will not hear appeal of Ontario's pit bull ban.

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a bid to quash Ontario's ban on pit bulls.

The attempt to take the fight to Canada's highest court was launched in April by lawyer Clayton Ruby.

In his submission to the Supreme Court, Ruby argued there is no scientific or statistical basis to conclude that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs.

He asked the Supreme Court to review a decision from Ontario's Appeal Court last October that upholds the province's ban.

Today, the high court dismissed the application to hear the appeal.

The Ontario Appeal Court concluded that pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable dogs that have the potential to attack without warning.

The Ontario government enacted the Dog Owners' Liability Act in 2005 to ban the breeding, sale and ownership of pit bulls after several incidents in which the dogs attacked people.

Yeah, except that it don't take a rocket scientist to see that this shit law ain't working. The scumbags in our neighbourhoods are changing up their Pitties for other breeds to break bad. Filas, Corsos, Mastiffs are easy options. I've even seen the skanks walking around with a Great Dane pup recently.

So, we here in Ontario will probably keep stewing in the toilet of dog welfare legislation for a few years longer, killing hundreds if not thousands of innocent dogs, shipping the very few lucky ones out of province to more compassionate locales.

Sometimes you just gotta fight the law. Here's a good start:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Letter from an ex-employee of the Toronto Humane Society

I wanted to apologize for something from the meeting. I was talking with my sister and I realized that when I was talking about certain not funny things, I laughed.

Starving raccoons are not funny, kittens gasping for air are not funny, working side by side with someone for months on end to have them die from a cat bite is not funny. Listening to a black lab that was in the parvo room screaming for help in the middle of the night, finding that poor cat in the clinic that had laid in it's cage for almost 24 hours slowly bleeding to death alone and scared - those experiences were not funny.

Falling in love with a dog and watching it slowly change, go kennel crazy and give up hope is not funny. It is a very painful experience watching the spirit leave a dog, when adopters come in and walk down the aisles and they don't even raise their heads anymore.

None of my experiences at the Toronto Humane Society are funny & this is the first time in a long time I've sat down and cried thinking back on the things that have haunted my dreams many many nights.

Those experiences will never ever leave my mind. They sneak up on me sometimes and I try not to think about them. When I see you in person I'll share a story about a dog named Aztek, it was one of those days that I'll remember when I'm an old lady. You are right, these are the stories that need to be told and I told some of them this morning at the dog park at 6:00 when I was handing out flyers.

I received an email from a stranger this morning and in it there was a powerful quote that read: "Truth and perseverance can never be defeated by lies."

I cried. I can not express how grateful I am. Not only to everyone who has been supporting the cause but to the people who have sent me messages just like this and pressed me to work harder, to stay up later, wake up earlier and to remember the faces of all of those animals I've seen suffering instead of putting them so far back in my mind and trying to forget about them. They deserve a voice & they deserve to be remembered.

I am not sure what prompted me to write you this morning. I just wanted you explain why you didn't see any tears at the meeting when we were talking about our experiences. It is not because we are cold or emotionless, it's because we have trained ourselves as best we can not to feel those experiences.

If that makes any sense. Sorry this is so long and random.