Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No one told them it was against the law

If the rulers of the Toronto Humane Society are ever brought before a judge to answer for all their allegedly nefarious acts within that institution, I've got a suggested defense for them.

It would go something like this:

"Your honour, we've been carrying on this way for so long and no one ever did anything about it so we figured it was okay."

It's kind of like a squatter's defense. You know, where someone illegally occupies a building for so long and no one kicks them out and then suddenly the property's theirs.

The amount of ineptitude, indifference and you-suck-mine-I'll-suck-yours cronyism several of our public agencies have shown in their lack of handling of the problems at the Toronto Humane Society is outrageous. Pretty well everyone in the animal rescue community knew what was going on behind those doors of supposed compassion at the THS and there were dozens if not hundreds of complaints lodged but no one, until very recently, was ever willing to do anything about it.

A lot of people already knew what was in the contents of what is known as the Draper Report (Mike Draper being the chief inspector of the OSPCA at the time). It was the result of an investigation into possible wrongdoings at the Toronto Humane Society and it was completed and given to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (a division of Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General) in 2006 who promptly filed it away somewhere dark and deep.

Now, it's finally being released (here and here) through the efforts of Kate Hammer at the Globe and Mail.

Here are some excerpts from her article:

- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations meant for animals are being paid to lawyers. In one instance a witness described $8,000 being paid to a lawyer without an invoice for the lawyer's services.

- A former director of fundraising, Tamara Alexander, described being instructed to remove costs and revenue comparisons from a report submitted to the THS's board of directors. Ms. Alexander also described how the THS operated without an investment policy, and investment reports were never circulated to the board of directors.

- A volunteer described money wasted on replacing sod and trees that were being killed by dog urine in the dog runs, and an obstacle course that was too high for most of the dogs, while the shelter went seriously understaffed.

- An animal technician told investigators that understaffing led to unsanitary conditions because animals weren't being fed or cleaned on a regular basis. She said animals were suffering and dying.

- A fundraising employee said that “records are changed on an ongoing basis in the computer,” and “stats are the main concern not the animals.”

There are also examples of what would seem to be apparent animal cruelty but the cases weren't considered strong enough by the OSPCA administration at the time to pursue.

Again, from Kate Hammer's article:

For example, the report tells the story of Lucky, a Jack Russell terrier discovered by THS cruelty investigators in an apartment in Regent Park. The dog's claws were overgrown, he was severely overweight, and his hind leg had shrivelled as the result of an injury that went untreated.

“The dog was so immobile that it was in its own feces and urine, and the smell of the apartment permeated the whole floor of the apartment building,” the witness told investigators.

The dog was seized and taken to the THS. The witness states that it was clear the dog was suffering with no chance of recovery. “The supervisors would not authorize euthanasia and the dog was allowed to sit for days and die on its own,” the report states.

Yeah, that seems cruel to me but hey what do I know. Maybe the dog was writing its memoirs and didn't want to be euthanized just yet.

This begs the question, why didn't the OSPCA step in back in 2006? Any answer that immediately pops into your head right now is probably just as true as the next. The OSPCA is stepping in this time, though - more like stomping in - and all I can say is, better late than never. The helm of the OSPCA under CEO Kate Macdonald has changed direction in the last two years and without being overly optimistic (because I'm just not built that way dearies), it seems to be changing for the better at least with regards to dealing with the THS.

So what's happening now with all this? Well, right now the Toronto Humane Society is holding its annual general meeting where a bunch of Tim Trow's hand picked, mind numbed cronies will likely be re-elected onto the board by an uninformed membership who have sent in their voting proxies to be use by Trow for his own purposes. There is one reform minded candidate running for the board and it'll be interesting to see if she gets on.

Will there be a revolution there today at the AGM? Unlikely, but there might be some yelling and quite possibly a melt-down from someone who can't control his tantrums. If that happens, I wonder how many people will be pulling out their cell phones to record the event for posterity and Youtube.

Yeah, fun and games but the longer it takes for us to kick out that board, the longer the animals at the THS will suffer.

And what does the THS have to say? Let's check out their Tre page breaking news. Oh, hey look, agent Tre Smith got married! And Tre was a guest judge on Last Bride Standing! And Tre was on TV a whole bunch of times! Kewl.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pee pee puppy

(h/t Susan)

Mad skillz.

Three for the road

Toronto Animal Services South is holding three Pit Bulls while they await placement with Bullies in Need.

I always used to hear what seemed to me to be outlandishly biased stories about Pit Bulls and their behaviour and I never really quite believed all those stereotypes but now that I've met Malakai, Nitwit and Spike, I have to admit those stories are pretty accurate. Pit Bulls are the most ferocious cuddlebugs I've ever met.

At the end of every walk, I usually like to bring the dog over to a bench and have a bit of a sit down. Sometimes the dog is affectionate and comes over for pets. Quite often, though, the dog is so starved for time in the outdoors that it's too excited looking around and sniffing the air to pay a whole lot of attention to me unless I make a point of calling it over.

With Malakai and Nitwit, however, they took every opportunity to nuzzle up to me during their walks and as soon as I sat down, they hopped up on the bench and draped themselves across my lap and then they relaxed. It was like they were saying, "Finally!"

They tried to lick me several times but because we were outdoors in Ontario, they had to wear muzzles and so their kisses felt more like nose butts.

The third Pit Bull, Spike, is gorgeous though I can see how he would intimidate some people, especially those who don't really like dogs in the first place. He's got a big honkin' head for starters with small ears which his previous owner cut to make even smaller. He's also ridiculously muscle bound. He's like the dog version of a steroid sucking body builder.

When he jumped up on the bench with me, he didn't slump over my lap and maul me with affection like the other two but instead sat quietly beside me and calmly looked around and enjoyed the feel of the warm sun. We could have sat there all afternoon if I didn't have to go back to work.

Spike had his muzzle on but people were still giving him the eye more out of admiration than anything else I think.

One big guy came up to me, but not too close, and said, "Beautiful dog."

"Yes, he is," I said.

"They're really misunderstood. They've been given a bad rap, those dogs."

"Oh yeah," I said.

"We used to fight those dogs. Long time ago. But they can be great dogs. It's all up to the owner, how they're treated."

"Uh huh," I said and I wondered if when the guy said "we" he meant himself personally or he meant a collective "we".

"Yeah, anyway, great looking dog. See ya later," he said.

"See you later," I said.

I didn't bring my camera with me today to TAS, thinking it was going to rain all day making outdoor picture taking difficult. I'll try and take some photos of the three Pitties tomorrow and post them up.

Photos here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kennel Cafe Adopt-a-thon

Toronto Animal Services South is starting to hold regular adopt-a-thons in a few locations in the city and this weekend it was at the Kennel Cafe. The Kennel Cafe on Roncevalles is one of those great neighbourhood pet supply stores, privately owned with a caring and attentive staff. You immediately get the feeling it's one of those cozy places where the owner gets to know her customers by name.

There's a small yard in the back of the store where TAS sets up the crates and cages and it can get crowded pretty quick but that's okay because it's like a friendly social gathering with lots of chatting and laughter and saying hello to neighbours.

Three dogs and about a dozen cats were adopted out at the event but I think almost as important is that a lot of people got to meet and talk with some of the animal control officers and got to hear the scoop about the adoptions available at TAS. Events like these really help spread the word that 1. Toronto Animal Services exists (because a lot of people still don't realize that or don't distinguish TAS from THS or OSPCA) and 2. TAS isn't just a pound where unwanted animals are thrown away.

These neighbourhood adopt-a-thons, smaller and more intimate, create a real bond between the community and the agency. Every time I've been to one, I always see someone drop by with a dog they adopted from a previous event to proudly show off what a wonderful pet it's become. Now that's heartwarming.

Emmy, Foxy and a small Eskimo Dog who seemed to have accumulated a few different names, depending on who was holding it, are all now with their new families around the neighbourhood.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jane Goodall, synthetic biology and the end of nature

I think for most people who own pets, and who don't view their pets as only utilitarian beasts or dress-up dolls, there is a sense of connection through them to the "natural" world. I think we recognize something primal in our animals which is missing or buried in ourselves and through them, we can still get a glimpse of what we have lost.

Perhaps this isn't even a conscious thing. I'm not suggesting that every pet owner likes to go camping or even likes the outdoors. This isn't some ode to running naked through the forest howling at the moon but I feel that a connection with nature, that which is outside the bounds of human civilization, is like a vitamin requirement. We might not even realize we need it and the effects of not having it may go unnoticed for years, even decades, but eventually, something inside gets sick and life becomes less alive and more just existing.

Or maybe I'm just off my rocker.

Anyway, a couple of news items I came across last week got me thinking about that stuff and they both have to do with human interaction with nature or rather the end of nature.

The first one is an interview with Jane Goodall, famed chimpanzee scientist, now playing a bigger role as a wildlife conservationist. Her interview on CBC's The Current is both sad and inspiring. She talks about how, through the hard work of various people and organizations, certain species which were at the precipice of extinction, were brought back. Unfortunately, those species are still highly endangered and of course it was mostly because of people that they were facing extinction in the first place but aside from that, Goodall holds out hope.

I wish I shared her optimism. Still, the interview is worth a listen even if it's only to hear the wise words from one of our most compassionate wildlife stewards.

The second thing I came across is an article from The New Yorker called "A Life of its Own".

You'll need a few minutes to digest this one but if you've got any curiosity at all about what will likely be the next big technological advancement on par with, say, the proliferation of computers or the invention of the wheel, this is an essential read. In short, we are at the cusp of being able to create life and I don't mean breeding Poodles with Labs.

There is serious talk about bringing back extinct, prehistoric creatures like woolly mammoths:

A team from Pennsylvania State University, working with hair samples from two woolly mammoths—one of them sixty thousand years old and the other eighteen thousand—has tentatively figured out how to modify that DNA and place it inside an elephant’s egg. The mammoth could then be brought to term in an elephant mother. “There is little doubt that it would be fun to see a living, breathing woolly mammoth—a shaggy, elephantine creature with long curved tusks who reminds us more of a very large, cuddly stuffed animal than of a T. Rex.,” the Times editorialized soon after the discovery was announced. “We’re just not sure that it would be all that much fun for the mammoth.”

There's been successful research into creating a malaria vaccine, artemisinin, using DNA combined from three different organisms and transplanted into the ever populous E. coli bacteria.

That research helped Keasling secure a $42.6-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Keasling had no interest in simply proving that the science worked; he wanted to do it on a scale that the world could use to fight malaria. “Making a few micrograms of artemisinin would have been a neat scientific trick,” he said. “But it doesn’t do anybody in Africa any good if all we can do is a cool experiment in a Berkeley lab. We needed to make it on an industrial scale.” To translate the science into a product, Keasling helped start a new company, Amyris Biotechnologies, to refine the raw organism, then figure out how to produce it more efficiently. Within a decade, Amyris had increased the amount of artemisinic acid that each cell could produce by a factor of one million, bringing down the cost of the drug from as much as ten dollars for a course of treatment to less than a dollar.

But synthetic biology goes beyond even that. The growth and advancing technology of synthetic biology rivals that of computers. The prediction is that in the near future we will be able to buy the building blocks of life and create life forms unheard of before. It'll be like picking out lego blocks and snapping them together. Yes, your kids will be doing it:

It is only a matter of time before domesticated biotechnology presents us with what Dyson described as an “explosion of diversity of new living creatures. . . . Designing genomes will be a personal thing, a new art form as creative as painting or sculpture. Few of the new creations will be masterpieces, but a great many will bring joy to their creators and variety to our fauna and flora.”

Biotech games, played by children “down to kindergarten age but played with real eggs and seeds,” could produce entirely new species—as a lark. “These games will be messy and possibly dangerous,” Dyson wrote. “Rules and regulations will be needed to make sure that our kids do not endanger themselves and others. The dangers of biotechnology are real and serious.”


“Many a technology has at some time or another been deemed an affront to God, but perhaps none invites the accusation as directly as synthetic biology,” the editors of Nature—who nonetheless support the technology—wrote in 2007. “For the first time, God has competition.”

Much of the article debates the risks versus rewards of this technology. It's the usual arguments on both sides but for me, here's the most telling detail about where this science will take us. It's right at the end:

The industrial age is drawing to a close, eventually to be replaced by an era of biological engineering. That won’t happen easily (or quickly), and it will never solve every problem we expect it to solve. But what worked for artemisinin can work for many of the products our species will need to survive. “We are going to start doing the same thing that we do with our pets, with bacteria,” the genomic futurist Juan Enriquez has said, describing our transition from a world that relied on machines to one that relies on biology. “A house pet is a domesticated parasite,” he noted. “ It is evolved to have an interaction with human beings. Same thing with corn”—a crop that didn’t exist until we created it. “Same thing is going to start happening with energy,” he went on. “We are going to start domesticating bacteria to process stuff inside enclosed reactors to produce energy in a far more clean and efficient manner. This is just the beginning stage of being able to program life.”

That line "A house pet is a domesticated parasite” may just be a turn of the phrase but it gives the game away. Even as we are on the verge of creating new life, we mostly still demean and diminish the worth of the life which exists around us right now except in terms of how it can be of use to us as a commodity. It doesn't matter how advanced our technology becomes, we still remain selfishly and blindly human. Perhaps, before we look at how we can use this technology to create more stuff for us to consume and possibly take us closer to the precipice of extinction, we should use synthetic biotech on ourselves and evolve.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Toronto Animal Services Friday review, Sept 25

Liam looks like a Hound crossed with a Dobie to me but I wasn't sure until he voiced his opinion and it sounded like a long baleful woof. He isn't overly talkative, though, and I think if you could get him to sing in key, he'd make a nice accompaniment to a piano.

Coburn is another high energy, kinda crazy, I-luv-everyone black Lab.

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

This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Toronto Animal Services South will be having an adopt-a-thon at the Kennel Cafe on Roncevalles so if you're in the neighbourhood, please drop in and say hello to some of the dogs (and cats too). Please check their website for hours and location.

PSAs go to the dogs

(h/t KC Dog Blog)

Now head on over to the Shelter Pet Project website and check out the snazziness. We need to put together sites like this for our shelters up north here. Yeah it's all just surface polish but lots of people will be attracted by the shine and anything that shines up the shelter dog image is fine by me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A very exclusive club

I wonder if anyone on the board of directors at the Toronto Humane Society still reads The Globe and Mail or The Star. If so, they must shudder every time they open the paper and see another article about the failings of the place they're supposed to be running.

For those of you still keeping track, here's the latest installment. It's about the upcoming elections to the THS board and the hurdles one particular person, Linda MacKinnon, had to go through to get her name on the ballot allegedly because she's doesn't have the backing of THS prez Tim Trow.

Ms. MacKinnon said she submitted a request for the charity's membership list in April so that she would have a way of reaching voting members. She said it took more than three months and the help of a process server and a lawyer before she got the list.

Soon afterward, when she tried to obtain a copy of the charity's by-laws she says she wasn't allowed to make a photocopy of the 20-page-long document.

And two weeks ago, when the 5-foot-6 widow went to the THS to drop off her notice of intent to run for the board of directors, she was physically blocked from proceeding beyond the shelter's lobby.

Well, at least they're not beating around the bush about their feelings.

Ha ha quickie

From the Sept. 28, 2009 edition of The New Yorker which always has the funniest dog comic strips:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Runaway dog

Sheba found me when I was 12 and then she was with me until she died 13 years later. She saw me through high school, university and the first two years of a career. There were a few four month periods while I was going to uni or working between terms when for some reason or another I couldn't have her stay with me but other than that, she was my constant companion. When I was a kid, I didn't fully appreciate the duration of that friendship nor the scope of it and it wasn't until a lifetime later, after Sheba was gone, when I finally understood companionship was more precious than pretty much anything else that I realized what a thing it was to have had her by my side through all those formative years.

She showed up one day in the winter when I was tobogganing in the nearby ravine back in the days when kids could still go out and do stuff like that without having to have their parents there supervising. Of course I didn't know her name then. She was just hanging around, like a kid who didn't have any friends, curious about what we were doing and wanting to join in but not daring to ask for fear of being rejected. I didn't know much about dogs but I was pretty sure she was a Husky of some sort. When it came time for my friends and I to leave, instead of going back to where ever she came from, she followed me a ways and I beckoned her a ways and in this manner she ended up at my front doorstep.

I told my father that a dog had followed me home and that she had frostbite on her feet and that she was obviously lost and could we maybe let her into the house for a bit just to warm up and give her something to drink and feed her something and to my surprise, my father said yes to everything. After watching her gobble down some leftovers, I was sure my father was going to put her out again but instead, he let me convince him to let her stay the night inside.

That first night, she was kept in the basement and my father slept beside her on the couch. I'm not sure why my father did that, not sure if he was watching over her or keeping an eye on her.

I enlisted a couple of friends and we paraded Sheba around our suburban neighbourhood for the next three days after school, knocking on doors, trying to find her owner. I figured it would be a good thing to return her but of course I wished for failure.

We didn't find anyone who knew anything about the dog during our door knocking but a few days later, some kids knocked on my door and announced that they knew the owners of the dog and they'd bring her back to them. I asked the kids (who were even younger than I and looked rather shifty to my biased eye), since they said they knew the dog, if they knew what her name was and they said "Sheba" and when they said Sheba, she ran over to them. That was that then. I let them take her.

Two days later, one of the kids showed up again at my door. He had brought Sheba back.

"They don't want her," he said.

"What do you mean they don't want her?" I asked.

"They said she ran away and they don't want her anymore," he said. "They just said to let you have her." And that was fine by me.

After that first night in the basement, Sheba never had to sleep down there again, though she did anyway once summer came around because it was much cooler underground. Generally, she slept in the kitchen on the linoleum floor. After I took her away to university, she was allowed on the futon but she didn't like sharing so she eventually found her own favorite spot on one of the soft armchairs.

There was nothing like a dog for putting order and routine to my schedule. Except for those few months when we were separated, I pretty much walked Sheba twice a day, every day of her life. Her fur, while beautiful and luxurious, was a pain and if I wasn't brushing it off her, I'd be vacuuming it up off the floor which, as was the fashion back then, was mostly shag carpeting. Once a day, I fed her crappy kibble because that's all that was available and I didn't know any better. I took her to the vet once a year for check-ups and for her annual rabies shots which was excessive but again, I didn't know any better and that's what we were told was the right thing to do. I brought her to dog training classes where I was taught how to train her to sit and down and heel - sort of - and stay - sort of - and come - hardly and only if she wanted.

I never could get Sheba to give me a consistent return when called. There was always something inside her that wanted to pull away a bit, wander, explore. I suppose it was the same thing in us as kids that made us want to stay out just 10 more minutes or beckoned us into the derelict house at the end of the street.

Back then was a time when people would frequently just let their dogs out the front door for a roam around fully expecting their dogs to return and I guess usually they did. I never did that with wayward Sheba, though. Even when I let her off leash in the backyard, I'd keep a careful eye on her, never daring to leave her to her own devices for even a minute.

One time, I slid open the patio door without looking first and then when it was too late, Sheba and I both saw the neighbour's miniature poodle pissing in our backyard. Sheba tore off after it and chased it Loony Tunes style in circles around our yard then out of our yard and into the neighbour's front yard then into the neighbour's backyard where well dressed grown-ups were having an afternoon cocktail party. Yes, bad things ensued. The two dogs had already outrun me and so I stood there on the other side of the opaque fence listening to the yelling and screaming and breaking. Then there was a splash. The neighbour's had a pool and something big, maybe a person, maybe a dinner table, had fallen in. I never dared ask. Later, I was forced to go over and apologize even though to my reckoning it was the poodle's fault for pissing on our lawn.

I did lose Sheba a few times. She'd slip her collar or run out the front door or find some new way of escaping the backyard. Each time I'd call animal control or whatever it was called back then hoping they'd found her and each time they had and they'd tell me to come by and pick her up. It was a big deal losing her but it also wasn't a big deal. Dogs were just animals back then, not family members, replaceable and cheaply held. And I was also immature. I'd not suffered through any great loss, didn't fathom the possibility of it and so just assumed that everything would always turn out okay.

Her running away stopped for the most part after a few years. I don't know if she just decided that roaming around on her own wasn't really all that exciting or if I just got better at hanging onto her. In the later years, Sheba only ran away twice. One time was during a term away at university. I'd left her with a friend while I was off campus for the weekend and when I got back, he told me she had run off on one of their walks. They had been out in the field across the road from the dorms where I lived and there had been a thunder strike overhead. Sheba freaked out and pulled out of her collar and tore off. My friend tried chasing her but couldn't catch up and pretty soon she was out of sight.

I was frantic after he told me. It was a Sunday and when I called the pound, I got a recorded message saying they were closed. I didn't know what to do so I worried for an hour or so. I finally decided to call the police which, looking back on it now, was a ridiculous idea. Anyway I called them expecting not much at all but I had to do something.

I explained the situation to the person who answered the phone and he listened patiently enough and was in the process of telling me there was nothing he could do when he decided to humour me and turned around and asked someone in the background if there were any reports of a lost dog in the last while. I heard some mumbling and then some laughing and then he came back on the phone. Yeah, he says. Some dog, soaking wet, ran into someone's house while they had their front door open unloading groceries. The dog, a wet hairy thing, ran straight into the living room and crawled under a coffee table. The husband tried to coax the dog out but it wouldn't budge. They tried calling animal control but animal control was closed. They ended up calling the police to remove the dog and the police went and leashed the dog and then had to call the pound manager away from his Sunday dinner to open up the kennels so they could put the dog inside for the evening.

I wasn't actually sure it was Sheba until I arrived at the pound the next morning. Well, it was her and when I got her out of the kennel, she still looked damp from the day before and she stank of the pound, probably having to sleep in her own piss for the evening. She was happy to see me but I ruined the welcome home by giving her a bath.

That was the last time Sheba ran away until the end, until the very last time.

I was in Toronto by that time. I shared a house with three others up on Finch. Sheba lived with us and she had finally settled down it seemed. I could walk her off leash in the open fields just north of us and she'd do a pretty good job of following. She was at least fourteen years old at this point but I never noticed a decline her health or spirit, however those days she was as happy to lie on the grass in the backyard with her nose up in the air as she was to go for a walk.

One weekend, I went on a canoe trip and left Sheba at home with one of the roommates. When I got back and walked in through the front door, the usual hysterical dog greeting I always got didn't happen. Then my roommate came downstairs and told me that Sheba had been struck by a car. My roommate had taken Sheba for a walk in the fields. She hadn't even taken Sheba off leash when Sheba heard the rumble of a low flying plane overhead. I guess she mistook it for thunder. She pulled the leash out of my roommate's hands. Sheba ran across Finch and when the car hit her, she was killed instantly. Sheba was running away but she was running away for home.

A few days later, I got a phone call from the person who had hit her. He was extremely apologetic. He wanted to buy me a replacement puppy but I knew it wasn't his fault and I turned down his offer. Anyway, it wasn't a good time for me to be getting another dog (as it turned out, I wouldn't get another dog until Stella).

As unfortunate as the accident was, it saved me from having to make the hard decision I would've had to have made in the not too distant future. You see, a couple of months earlier, during Sheba's annual check-up, the vet had found some lumps on her underside. He did a biopsy of one of them and it turned out to be cancer. Cancer treatment for dogs back then wasn't an ideal option, at least the vet didn't talk much about it. He basically just said that her time was limited.

I never saw Sheba's body after she died. She had been taken away and cremated by the time I got back from the canoe trip. I never said goodbye to her. There was no closure and in a way that allowed me to not have to face the emotional turmoil of her passing all at once. In my head I knew she was gone but that was an abstract thing. In my heart, I told myself that she could still be out there running towards the next scent, towards whatever it was she'd been searching for all her life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toronto lawsuit society

It seems hardly a week goes by without hearing about another Toronto Humane Society lawsuit. I wonder if they've worked out a deal with the attorney general where they get some kind of bulk discount. Maybe they have one of those frequent buyer cards where it's like for every ten lawsuits, they get the eleventh one free. Or maybe they're going for Air Miles. Does anyone know how many Air Miles you get for a lawsuit?

Anyway, this time THS lawyers are going after the OSPCA. Something about how the OSCPCA shouldn't be able to tell the THS what to do and how to do it. I always thought the OSPCA was kinda like the boss or the licensing body for animal welfare facilities in Ontario so aren't they allowed to tell the THS what to do? Aren't they supposed to tell the THS what to do? Isn't that kinda like their job? Otherwise, I suppose any Dick could open up a warehouse and hang a sign out front calling itself a humane society regardless of what actually goes on inside the building. But hey, what's a minor point like that when it comes to the dark side of lawyering.

With so many lawsuit and threats of lawsuits up in the air, you gotta wonder just how much time and money and effort is spent by the THS bosses on this stuff. How much does a lawyer charge per hour? How much are all the court fees?How much is that in terms of bags of dog food or vaccines or spay/neuters? How much is that in terms of lives lost or saved?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Three for the good guys

The nightmares for Capone, Maddie, Carter and their owners are over. All three dogs will be released by Sarnia animal control back to their owners after three weeks of totally unnecessary detentions and threat of death.

From The Observer, Dogs released by city:

[Sarnia animal control] will release three dogs that were scheduled to be euthanized.

The suspected pit bull canines were picked up by animal control because they possessed "similar characteristics" to the provincially-banned breed.

The animals, named Capone, Maddie and Carter were examined by an expert of the owners' choice and one of the city’s choice.

Both examinations found that the dogs were not pit bulls nor do they have the appearance or physical characteristics of the breed.

The situation got pretty tense last week when a CKC judge was brought in by the owners of the dogs who examined the dogs and determined them not to be Pit Bulls but SAC didn't feel that was good enough and waited for a determination by their own expert. Apparently, the SAC expert also sided with the dogs.

I'm surprised SAC didn't push to bring in more dog breed experts at that point for a best three out of five.

I just don't get what it is that compels some people to want to go out and snatch puppies off the street just so they can try to euthanize them when they can't even identify breed properly, never mind that the puppies have done nothing wrong. What would have happened if the owners hadn't protested or if they hadn't protested to a sympathetic ear at The Observer?

A huge congrats to Korinn Seabrook and Sonya Pimentel for standing up for their dogs and bringing them back home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Every so often a dog comes in and immediately everyone wants to take it home. This is Foxy, an all Canadian Mutt. Her history is unknown other than she was left to fend for herself in Montreal. She's a gentle soul. She bonds quickly. She gives and receives affection eagerly. She's great with other dogs, other animals too probably. Walks well on a leash.

There's something demure about her, almost cat-like. She's not shy but she doesn't take things for granted. When she wants something, like a spot under the desk or a lap to sit in, she first looks at the person, pauses, like she's asking if it's okay.

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

Update on Foxy here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yeah, I know. I'm adorable

Stewie, Jack Russell extraordinaire, is a precocious little bugger, not above using his good looks to get what he wants and what he wants is some attention NOW!

He'll get it too, no doubt. I have a feeling he won't last the weekend in adoption if he's not gone already.

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Toronto Animal Services Friday Review, Sept 18


Luna is a Doberman crossed with a laughing Hyena by the looks of her. She's whip smart and wants to be buddies with everyone but she's got a wild streak in her which will have to be properly tempered by an experienced owner.


Fidel, a Field Spaniel, is my childhood ideal of a dog's dog. Goofy, furry, fun and full of energy. He loves ducks but I don't think ducks love him.


Is Emmy a Pug? A Puggle? An Pugnificent accident? I don't know. All I know is that when you see her face, you're going to want to squeeze it.


Dakota is a sorta Beagle, very well mannered and friendly and gets along with other dogs no problem.


Brutus is a quasi German Shepherd. He's in his long, gangly stage with loping limbs but his face is still very much puppy and he's very affectionate. There's a long scar across the top of his muzzle, the result of a too tight head harness perhaps.


Rhonda is a way too skinny Rottweiler. She's wonderful around people but likes little critters a bit too much if you know what I mean.

This batch of dogs rescued from Montreal and transported to Toronto by:
For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Update on Emmy here.

Update on Luna here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Based upon true events

It's called a creative reinterpretation. Tim Trow, prez of the Toronto Humane Society, or one of his website content lackeys must have had a major brain fart this morning when they came up with their newest "headline".

From the THS site which I'm not going to link to because I don't want to catch anything (click to enlarge):

What follows the headline is a complete reprint of yesterday's editorial in The Sun by Peter Worthington, who will hereafter be known as Tim Trow's personal typist, about the bad experience Worthington's stepson, Guy, had with Toronto Animal Services a few weeks back. (If you haven't read the editorial, you might want to make yourself do it now - don't worry, it's no worse than, say, washing week old dirty dishes - or else this post will make no sense.)

So, first thing I gotta ask is, How did David Miller get dragged into all of this? Is the mayor's name ever even mentioned in the editorial? Did Trow read the same editorial everyone else did or did he get the special David-Miller-isn't-allowed-in-our-treehouse-nyah-nyah-nyah version? Maybe I missed something, but does Trow have a hate-on for the mayor now? If Miller walked into the THS and asked to adopt a puppy, would Trow personally scream at him and get Tre to throw him out?

Their staff tells people to take them to the Toronto Humane Society as they ‘euthanize on Friday’s’

Git yer reading glasses on there laddie. No staffer told anyone to take their cat to the THS. If you read s-l-o-w-l-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y, you can make out the words: "You could try the Toronto Humane Society," Guy interjected. No, really. They're right there. On the printed page. On your printed page (click on image to enlarge):

So, unless Guy, who is the stepson fellow in this contaminated story, has suddenly transmorgrified himself into a TAS staffer and then failed to mention it to any of his readers, I'm guessing that it was not staff telling people to bring their animals to the Toronto Humane Society, it was Guy - cuz, you know, that's what it says.

What's that called again when you put words into someone's else mouth in an attempt to defame their reputation?

They kill 50% of the dogs and cats that come through their doors.

Excuse me while I spew. Can a person get callouses on their tongue from spewing too much? Trow should change the name of the THS to They Kill 50% of the Dogs and Cats that Come Through Their Doors because then he wouldn't have to find flimsy excuses all the time to print those words. They'd just be staring everyone in the face 24/7.

P.S. Yesterday while reading the Worthington editorial on its original Sun webpage, I noticed there were a bunch of comments posted about how the readers thought the piece was a big pile of doo-doo. Today, those comments are all gone. Technical glitch much?

P.P.S. About that ten day rabies hold thing and how ha ha isn't it funny that anyone would think a little bite from a little dog could be any danger at all, I was reminded today about the poor pup purchased from Dr. Flea's flea market last year. It was cute, it was cuddly and it had rabies. Anyone care to guess how much time and money it took to vaccinate everyone who came in contact with the pup? At something like $700 per rabies vaccine, not to mention all the detective work it took to track everyone down, all the time spent with doctors, all the legal paperwork, etc., etc., it came to something like a few hundred thousand dollars or more. That's pretty darn tootin' funny alright.

And FYI, a Public Health officer may allow a dog under a rabies hold to go home with the owner if the owner can prove to the officer that the dog will not come in contact with any other human or animal during that period. At the very least, that would require living in a non-communal environment (eg. not an apartment building or anywhere else with a shared exit) with direct access to a private backyard.

Vintage dog photos

Monochrome beauty from with Smudge in yard - old dog photos, lost and found:

I noticed that the dogs — frequent subjects of those black and white images, on purpose and not — seemed somehow to remain alive. Though strangers too, they seemed familiar, even friendly. - Colleen Steffen

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Believe it or not, little dogs can get rabies too

I don't read The Toronto Sun but every time a new editorial comes out from Worthington concerning the shelter situation in Toronto, I usually get a few e-mails from readers here telling me about it and like some mind controlled smoker tempted by the next cigarette, I have to go look. There's another one today and it has to do with Toronto Animal Services.

TAS has frequently been a target of Worthington's editorials and usually I read them like I would read an Archie's comic, open to the possibility of humour but not usually finding any and certainly not finding anything based on what I would call an informed reality.

Today's editorial isn't much different. He writes about his stepson, Guy, and Guy's experience in dealing with Toronto Animal Services.

First of all, let me say that Guy is lucky he is speaking out against TAS and not the Toronto Humane Society because he can feel safe knowing that public complaints lodged against TAS aren't going to result in him getting sued by the city agency. If he was Joe Average, not the stepson of Sun editor Worthington, and airing complaints about the THS on the other hand, who knows what kind of legal bullshit he'd be in right now.

There's some back-story about how Guy rescued his Bichon Frise, Diesel, from a negligent owner. Commendable. Unfortunately, Guy one day, about a month ago, leaves Diesel tied up outside a coffee shop where it allegedly bites someone. A security guard there phones TAS about this and an animal control officer is dispatched to pick up Diesel. The ACO brings Diesel to TAS North.

Guy eventually tracks down his dog and goes up to TAS North to retrieve the little fellow but is told that he can't just take his dog home because he's bitten someone and the standard procedure as required by the Toronto Board of Health is that after a dog bite, the dog must be held for 10 days to make sure it doesn't have rabies. Either that or an officer from Toronto Public Health can give his or her stamp of approval and allow the owner to take the dog home.

Now as much as I dislike the idea of keeping dogs separated from their owners, I can appreciate the fact that as a matter of public safety, it's a good idea to take precautions after an unsupervised dog has bitten someone. In fact, public safety is TAS' mandate over and above any rescue/adoption services they provide. If Guy or Worthington have a problem with a ten day hold, then they should take it up with the medical community. If I were bitten by an unknown dog, you can bet I'd want to be pretty sure the dog was rabies free.

Guy did offer TAS North the number of Diesel's vet who he says would have been able to confirm that Diesel had his rabies shots. Unfortunately, despite this, Toronto Public Health is still required to give its okay before the dog is released. This is where Guy's headache starts. No one from Toronto Public Health ever goes to TAS North to check on Diesel to give the all clear and Diesel ends up staying the whole ten days before being released back to Guy.

That sucks. I don't know why it happened. Maybe it was an oversight. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there was a huge backlog of animal related complaints because of the six week Toronto strike that had just been resolved two weeks earlier. Maybe it's chronic systemic inefficiency.

So, yeah, that's a valid complaint to look into. Why did a Toronto Public Health officer never show up at TAS North to clear Diesel? I'm not sure how much that's under the control of TAS, but hey, anything to improve the lives of animals under its roof helps.

As for whether or not the no-show of a Toronto Public Health official for a rabies hold is worthy of editorial space from a major city newspaper ...?

Some of Guy's other complaints concerning his personal ordeal with TAS seem pretty inconsequential, like him having to wait 10 minutes on the final day before they'd release his dog to him because he didn't have proper ID. And as for his suspicion that TAS may be trying to "punish" him by holding his dog for 10 days, well, I don't know about TAS North, but I suspect that at TAS South, if anyone wanted to "punish" Guy, they'd punish him directly, and not his dog, with maybe a fine or something. Usually at TAS South they try to get the dog back to the owner as soon as possible, at the very least even if it's only because that means there's one less animal to feed, walk, clean up after and generally be responsible for.

Now comes the wacky part of the editorial, the part that goes all gangbusters about what an awful place TAS is when it comes to euthanasia numbers. Worthington has several times in the past tried to crucify TAS by using TAS' euthanasia numbers without bothering to explain the reasons behind those euths. This time, he's using his stepson's experience as ammunition.

Guy, while checking out his dog from TAS, overhears a couple trying to drop off a cat (no history provided). They are told that there is no space for the cat in adoptions and when they try to argue the point, they are bluntly told that cats are euthanized on Fridays. No mention is made by Guy or Worthington as to whether this statement is meant as a warning or as a proffering of possible vacancy.

Trying to be helpful to the couple, Guy suggests, “You could try the Toronto Humane Society.”

Ha ha ha. Is he talking about the THS with their not so open "open admissions" policy? Guy wonders why the TAS staffer doesn't suggest to the couple that they turn over the cat to THS. If he only knew how often people walk into TAS pissed off at THS for not accepting their cats because they've been deemed "unadoptable". The main TAS staffer at the South shelter who looks after cat adoptions is a huge rescue person with lots of contacts in the rescue community and who works way too many hours trying to get shelter cats into new homes but I doubt even she would ever recommend to anyone to take a cat to the THS. Actually, I don't know if any of the cat rescues in Toronto would recommend dropping off a cat at the THS.

As much as I write about all the good things TAS South does with regards to animal rescue (and, yeah, only TAS South. The other locations may or may not be much more "police minded" in their duties), TAS is about animal control. That's no excuse to not be compassionate but the hard truth is that when push comes to shove, if there is no room for animals - and cats, in particular, face this problem because of the stray/feral population in Toronto - those least likely to be adopted, will be euthanized.

Is that ideal? No, of course not. Ideally, the overflow of cats should be taken in by an organization focused on animal welfare, not animal control, an organization such as the Toronto Humane Society. Ideally, TAS and THS should be working in partnership to make sure abandoned animals get as good a chance as possible to get into decent homes. I recommend to Guy that he do some personal research, and by that I don't mean just talking to his stepdad, as to why it doesn't work this way in Toronto.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A pair of dirty mops

This must be the week for bonded pairs. These two were previously a breeding pair who got dumped once the breeder moved on to a younger pair of producers. They are seriously in need of some grooming and seriously adorable nevertheless and seriously sweethearts for each other.


The female, Maggie, is a bit shy at first but once she knows you're a friend, she'll be trying to crawl into your lap first chance she gets.


Her partner, Bingo, is a lot more forward but then boys are like that aren't they?

Maggie and Bingo will be adopted out together.

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Crazy pair of evils

Well, they're not that crazy and they're not that evil but they lookit sometimes with their odd but endearing shaped heads. These two Miniature Pinschers are a bonded pair of shrimpkins and will be adopted out together. Butch, the male, needs to lose a bunch of weight as his head no longer looks like it's the right match for his porker paunch. His platonic soul mate, Angel, doesn't need to lose weight but she does seem a bit lumpy. Maybe he could pass some of his food her way to help her fill out a bit to round out those bumps.

Whatever it is, I'm sure they can work it out. As far as couples go, they seem pretty stuck on each other.

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

More on Butch and Angel here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Keep on keepin' on

Pressure continues to be exerted on the Toronto Humane Society by a second round of protests at the facility's location on River St. Not having to deal with cold drizzle or a temperamental sound system, this protest went off even better than the first one three months ago.

Several speakers took the microphone to talk about their experiences dealing with or working at the THS and as could be expected, not much luv was thrown the way of THS management. Stories went on for a good two hours about THS leader Trow's outrageous temper towards Joe Public, neglected animals dying, excessive lawsuits. As someone said, if all the complaints about the THS were to be aired, the protest would never end.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Here's something from Greyhounds in Need of Adoption. They're an Ontario based Greyhound rescue group. Check out their website. It's pretty cool.

(I don't know much about these guys so please do your own due diligence.)

From GiNA:

GINA is Greyhounds in Need of Adoption – a non profit, volunteer run organization in southern Ontario dedicated to finding responsible, loving homes for retired racing Greyhounds.

After racing Greyhounds retire they have the potential to make great pets. But the transition from ‘Racing Greyhound’ to ‘Pet Greyhound’ is easier said than done. Most retired racers have never spent time in a house before and they need to learn things like how to walk on stairs, that windows are solid and that floors are slippery. Luckily, GiNA has a network of foster families all over the GTA and southern Ontario dedicated to training retired racers as pets. GiNA even pays all food and medical bills for the dogs while they are in foster care.

But GiNA’s dedication doesn’t end there. Someone from GiNA meets with every adoption applicant and interviews them to assess whether they are right for a Greyhound, and whether a Greyhound is right for them.

As far as retired racing Greyhounds go, they make great pets. If you’re looking for a quiet, laid-back and friendly dog, a Greyhound could be the breed for you. Yes, they’re a bit bigger in size, but they take up a surprisingly small amount of room and are just as comfortable in an apartment as they are in a house. Even more surprising are a Greyhounds exercise requirements. They require no more exercise than most other breeds of dogs; 1 or 2 good walks a day is all they need. In fact, they’re affectionately known as “40-mph couch potatoes” to many of their owners. The chance to go off-leash in a fenced-in area is a welcomed treat, but not necessary.

There is lots to learn about GiNA, retired racing Greyhounds, and how to adopt one at their Annual GiNA Picnic and Fundraising Event, Sunday Sept. 13, 2009 at Meadowvale Conservation Park - Area C, 1081 Old Derry Road West, Mississauga. This is a Greyhound exclusive picnic, but is open to the public, with no pre-registration required, and is free to attend, but donations are encouraged.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Toronto Animal Services Friday Review, Sept 11

The CNE is over and Toronto Animal Services South is taking in rescue dogs again. A whole bunch came in from Ontario pounds but they are all going to an adopt-a-thon at Petsmart this weekend so I haven't taken their photos yet. If all goes well, maybe I won't need to.

Maggie and Baby, though, are local dogs and came into TAS together almost a month ago, the day before the CNE started. They were both shy with Maggie, the Australian Cattle Dog mix, being especially so. Back then, even when I just looked at her, she backed away and crawled behind a chair.

Four weeks later, though, Maggie's doing much better. She still backs off to any sudden moves and takes a few moments before approaching calm strangers but she's learned to accept affection and treats from people.

These two dogs are bonded but will be adopted out separately. Their bonding, while strong, also makes them behave badly. When they're around each other, Baby, a Rottie mix gets snarly around other dogs while Maggie becomes quite protective and will start to growl and nip at people. It's unfortunate they need to be re-homed apart but the risks are too high keeping them together.

Still, it's sad. As I was taking out Maggie, I walked her by Baby in her kennel and Maggie immediately stopped and pulled over and they touched noses through the wire mesh door and she gave Baby a whole bunch of I-miss-you kisses.



Update on Maggie here.

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

"Pit Bull Blues" by John Stipe

(h/t Lynn)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Omigod it's another one

I was listening to CBC Radio this morning where three reporters were talking about how, due to newspapers downsizing or completely closing down, journalists are having to find work elsewhere and many are turning to PR companies. News purveyors and PR firms both deal with getting the message out and journalists are particularly good at that, hence the easy transitions betwen the two fields. The obvious difference, though, is that while news tries to reveal the truth, PR feeds you spin. News requires diligent fact checking while PR requires creativity. News focuses in on a topic; PR is sometimes used to distract attention away from a target. But while the differences are obvious in the definitions, it's sometimes harder to discern when confronted with it.

For example, there's today's Sun editorial by Peter Worthington entitled Independent inquiry needed at THS and OSPCA - another in a long line of editorials by Worthington in support of Tim Trow's leadership at the Toronto Humane Society.

The title itself lends an air of balanced respectability to the words which follow but the words themselves are anything but balanced. Nowhere in the text is it even suggested that the THS needs investigating but rather that its leadership is simply the victim of a bunch of media bullies. The editorial basically points fingers in all directions except at Tim Trow which it commends for saving five puppies from Nunavut.

The editorial brings up the six individuals who recently had their membership applications rejected by the THS brass. It parrots Trow's words, saying "six individuals were rejected, all of whom were disgruntled former employees". That's very interesting because from what I'm told, that statement is untrue. Two of those six, never worked for the THS and another was a volunteer. Of course acknowledging that the THS denied membership to certain unwanted people in the public at large doesn't sound as good as denying membership to "disgruntled employees".

As if to further explain the membership denial, there's this: "I don't see why we should take in people who dislike us and want to disrupt our goal of helping animals," says Trow, which puts a much more positive spin on the fact that people dislike the THS management not because THS' goal is to help animals but because people feel the THS is currently failing in its mandate.

Trow's attitude is reminiscent of ex-Prez Bush' with-us-or-against-us bunker mentality and goes a long way to explain why the THS is in the trouble it's in.

Continuing on: After an editorial in the Toronto Star suggested barring certain people from membership was anti-democratic, Trow reversed the decision and admitted the six. True, and if The Star hadn't published that editorial, you can bet yer ass that those six would still be barred from the THS. So The Star did its job. Good.

If they raise a ruckus at the annual meeting, he hopes other members will rebut or refute critical allegations. What isn't mentioned here is that even though there may be six dissenting voices allowed in at the AGM, Trow has disallowed any other new members from joining and speaking out. I guess he figures he can handle six people given all the proxy votes he's expecting to hold in his hands come election night.

Trow can be excused if he feels some paranoia. Sure, if he's the type of guy that can't tolerate criticism, then, yeah, he should be paranoid because there's a helluva lot of criticism about his management.

Why would the Globe focus on the THS blocking new memberships on the eve of a vote, when the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) doesn't allow any of its general membership to vote for directors? This is just a lame attempt at deflecting criticism away from the THS. The Globe piece was about the Toronto Humane Society and not about the OSPCA. I mean I could fault the Globe for not bringing up the lack of a transparent democracy in Iran but that's not what their story was about. No one is saying the OSPCA is perfect but their faults don't make the problems at the THS any less appalling.

I could go on dissecting this Sun editorial but it's getting tedious. It's like complaining about bad weather.

I will say this, though, about those five Nunavut puppies. The situation up north for dogs is deplorable with too many dogs left outside to freeze to death, starve or be shot. From the looks of things, the transport and rehoming of those pups, and others, is the result of a partnership between the THS and the Iqualuit Humane Society. That's a worthwhile THS project and alongside that effort, the THS shouldn't just use those puppies as some sort of media distraction (note to Worthington: lots of local rescues bring in unwanted dogs from far away places to rehome here. Why don't you ever write in support of them?). THS should use those puppy adoptions as a way to educate us southerners about the plight of northern dogs, maybe generate some funding for them, maybe effect some positive change. That would be doing the right thing.

The best way, though not the easiest way, to counter criticism is by doing the right thing. The Toronto Humane Society is for helping animals. The Toronto Humane Society needs to take care of its animals. It is not a playground for power politics or bloated egos. Do the right thing, Mr. Trow, and facing down criticism won't be a problem. Keep on going the way you're going and no amount of spin is going to silence those who will see you replaced.