Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bang head against wall

The Toronto Humane Society has recently been importing dogs from other jurisdictions for adoption in Toronto (looks like they're learning a few lessons from TAS) and they've been blowing their horn about it which is great if it results in more animals being saved.

Their most recent northern batch is a group of puppies from Cobalt. Here's the ad:

So, they've been health checked, vaccinated, micro chipped. But something's missing and you probably already know what that is. These dogs are being adopted out without having been spayed or neutered. Once more, the THS is adopting out potential breeders.

So, I give the THS a call. The woman who answers the phone is very friendly. I ask about the puppies and how they're doing and about their health and breeding and their vaccinations and the micro-chipping and then I ask about the spaying and neutering. She tells me it's my responsibility to get it done at which point I've got about a dozen more questions like what if I don't want to get my pup speutered, or what if I change my mind after I adopt, or what if I say I'll get them done but really have no intention of doing so, or what if I give the pup away before I get it speutered ... and on and on ... except that at that point I'm told there's an emergency call on the other line and I'm put on hold. I wait a few minutes and the woman comes back on and asks me if I want to keep holding but I tell her thanks, I've got the info I need.

I can't help but think it can't be just penny pinching but that THS management might actually be against spaying and neutering on a philosophical level. If you look on their website, at almost any given time, there are several unspeutered dogs up for adoption. Why? If there's a good reason to not speuter or delay speutering in a particular case, then what is it?

One of the core principles behind reducing the number of abandoned animals is to spay and neuter thereby guaranteeing that more of them aren't produced in the first place. Why is it that Toronto's largest multi-million dollar a year animal welfare agency continues to set such a poor example of that?


borderjack said...

Hi Fred,
My eyes have really been opened about THS lately, but I have a question: is spaying and neutering a new/newer policy at TAS? The reason I ask is because, when I adopted my dogs in 2005 and 2006 from TAS, they were both unaltered adults. I had them spayed as soon as possible. As with THS when I got my cats there years before (unaltered), I got a certificate toward the procedure for a nominal amount. I didn't mind, and it didn't deter me, because I've always believed spaying and neutering is the responsible thing to do, but I had it done on each of my pets after adoption from both agencies. I think it's fantastic that TAS is offering animals spayed and neutered, but was just wondering because mine weren't...

Fred said...

I really don't know much about TAS from back then and I don't know much about what the protocol is at TAS locations other than the South shelter though I'm guessing that now the rules should be similar.

In my time at TAS South, the very few times I've ever seen a dog leave the facility unaltered (like maybe 3 times?) is if it's in very poor health and cannot undergo the surgery. In those cases, they're generally not, strictly speaking, "adoptions", but either fosters or compassion holds.

What location of TAS did you get your dogs from? I'll ask about it next time I'm in.

borderjack said...

I got them both at TAS north region (Sheppard and Allen).

Social Mange said...

Toronto Humane is trying to ensure its own continuing existence by adopting out unaltered animals that will breed and result in more strays, abandoned animals, cruelty cases, etc, etc.

Then THS will whore the animals on its site in an effort to suck donations from people - as far as I can see,for their legal bills rather than animal welfare.

Thank heavens people's eyes are being opened to the madness at THS.

Anonymous said...

If the THS is indeed selling intact animals, one would think the OSPCA would speak to that issue?

It appears in Ontario, the inmates (read OSPCA branches and affiliates) are running the provincial animal welfare system.

In southwestern Ontario the OSPCA turned a blind eye as its branches and affiliates busily feathered their nests by importing and selling 3,000 "hurricane puppies" which, according to the OVMA, are the cause of a 280% spike in heartworm cases.

Last week the THS hauled the OSPCA before the Animal Care Review Board complaining the OSPCA dared to actually oversee and inspect them.

Does anyone wonder how much the OSPCA and its dysfunctional network of branches and affiliates actually spend on animal CARE versus suing each other, suing the public, suing employees, marketing themselves, funding megalomaniacs and confidential settlements? We'll never know - those tens of millions of dollars are not subject to Freedom of Information.

Without indpendent oversight, this is as good as Ontario's animal welfare system is going to get!!

Meaghan Edwards said...

It's actually hasn't been proven if the Louisiana dogs are the cause of the heartworm increase. There has been a record rainfall this summer; tons of mosquitoes and it boggles my mind that people don't use heartworm preventive, and then of course, BYBers and millers who I doubt would give their animals heartworm preventative.

I adopted a Louisiana dog last June and she was tested twice for heartworm, both came back negative. She is the healthiest, happiest dog I've ever had. The people who were responsible for bringing her up to Hamilton are some of the most dedicated animal lovers I've known, and they have encourage Peter Worthington (who we know loves Trow) to come down and visit them. They pulled her out of a shelter which was going to GAS her. How archaic :( I don't mean to make this sound as an attack to you, Anonymous, just thought I'd add my two cents :)

THS and speutering . . . Ugh, don't get me started. I wonder how many animals that are handed out on those free adoption blitzes actually do breed :/

Heather B said...

I`m hoping that TAS has adopters of intact animals sign a contract that states when and where the said animal will be speutered. We do this for pups and kittens and also do follow up calls to ensure the contract was honoured.
I`d like to know how many of the hundred or so animals THS adopted out last week were intact.

Fred said...

Hi borderjack, so here's the unofficial short history of speutering at TAS. Back in the day when TAS was basically a pound, little, if any, speutering was done. At some point, 5 or 6 years ago, speuters were done when there was enough money in the donations boxes to cover the procedures. More recently, starting 3 or 4 years ago, I guess, before I started volunteering there anyway, all general adoption animals are speutered unless there are specific health reasons for not doing so - but then they probably wouldn't be in general adoption anyway.

You must've gotten one of the last dogs to be let out the door unaltered. If you're interested, you can privately send me your contact info from back then and the names of your dogs when you adopted them, and I can maybe get someone to look into the histories of your dogs (if they're still in the computer).

Anonymous said...


How wonderful that your dog is heartworm free, happy and healthy. Enjoy her!!

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association issued a news release entitled: "Ontario Veterinarians Call for Urgent Action to Stop Spread of Heartworm"

HAMILTON, ON, Nov. 3 /CNW/ - The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) and the Hamilton Academy of Veterinary Medicine (HAVM) are alerting all Hamilton-area humane societies, animal shelters and other organizations involved in animal adoption to the serious risk that dogs imported from heartworm-endemic areas of the United States pose to the general pet population.

Veterinarians are extremely concerned about a 10-fold increase in the number of "seen and treated" cases of heartworm disease in Hamilton and the surrounding area in 2008. This dramatic increase was particularly evident in dogs that had been imported into Canada from heartworm-endemic areas of the United States, specifically but not limited to Louisiana. In 2009, veterinarians are seeing the same type of dramatic increase in heartworm disease in dogs born and raised in Canada. It is believed that these dogs were infected by mosquitoes that had come into contact with imported dogs carrying the disease.

Anyone seeking to profit from the sale of thousands of freshly imported, puppies with one negative heartworm test only (instead of three) would be shut down, criminally charged and labelled an animal abuser. Multiple OSPCA press releases filled with gory details would agressively solicit donations seeking to prosecute the perpetrator whose actions endangered Ontario wildlife and domestic animals for years to come.

No one BUT the OSPCA could approve and orchestrate the sale of dogs in stacked crates in a parking lot. No one BUT the OSPCA would have the nerve or the power to try.

Read this story, it will break your heart.

Because there is no independent oversight, the OSPCA is capable of anything.

Until the public demands change, the Ontario SPCA and its network of branches, affiliates and inspectors will continue to do and spend as they please.

Fred said...

Dogs from Louisiana may or may not have led to a spike in heartworm cases in Ontario but it only would've been a matter of time before heartworm came to Ontario regardless. Dogs in Montreal are experiencing heartworm which means dogs in Ottawa will probably start getting infected soon if not already and once Ottawa gets it ... well, you get the picture. No excuse not to test, however.

As for the OSPCA, oversight, affiliates, etc., I can't really speak to that much but if its other affiliates are anything like the THS, then it's not good news. That said, the article from Better Farming is 6 years old and I believe there's been some major overhauls to the management at the OSPCA since then. Whatever problems they had, I suspect it's not going to be easy to solve them overnight. THS is a case in point.

Social Mange said...

Hey, Anonymous, what's your interest and connection? I never trust "anonymous" comments; usually a hidden agenda.

Heartworm is not news in Ontario. I was giving my last dog heartworm preventative starting over 10 years ago.

Meaghan is right about the rainy summer, primo 'skeeter breeding time. Plus, heartworm is showing up in cats so anyone who lets their cat out (aside from the irresponsibility of that) is exposing their cat to the possibility of heartworm infestation.

Meaghan Edwards said...

I think owners (along with greeders -- why have they not been blamed?) who don't test and give heartworm preventative should be held accountable. If it was up to me, it should be as mandatory as rabies vaccines. I don't know about the other rescues, but as I said, BARK goes above and beyond with their animals; regardless of the media reports, most dogs they have brought up weren't young puppies, when there were pups brought up, they were mostly 8+ plus months old). Heartworm prevention is really not all that expensive when one considers the price of treatment. I like the idea of there being heartworm clinics. (not saying OSPCA is perfect but methinks OLA has a grudge . . . )

This would especially be helpful in the Six Nations area where (I'm trying not to sound racist here), according to my vet, many dogs are left outside and many are not given heartworm preventative. According to her, HW has been also been a big problem in Lake Erie region, well before any rescue dogs were brought up from the US. I think it'd also be a good idea if there was a way to control HW like they do with West Nile, with drops placed into the water which are otherwise safe for the environment -- just not skeeters! Finding a way to sterilize the buggers wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Are the dogs that THS imports from Nunavut (I think that's where it is) tested for heartworm? I find it ironic they slam HSPCA (who they're trying to sue for completely frivolous reasons) and then turn around and get dogs from outside their region.

I think I babbled enough ;) Pictures of my Matilda girl can be found here:

Anonymous said...

Hi Fred
Heartworm was always present in Ontario at a minimal level. Social Mange, I purchase heartworm prevention tablets. (10 years+)

The OSPCA is a non-governmental organization. A self-funded charity with autonomous powers of enforcement and warrantless entry not subject to Freedom of Information.

It oversees Ontario's network of affiliates and branches. Some, like the THS, don't much like that!

Dear Social Mange my hope (read interest, connection, agenda!) is transparency, accountability and independent oversight. Of specific concern, is inspector/agent training and demeanor.

The province is reluctant to provide long term stable funding or to oversee the OSPCA.

That being said, the OSPCA cannot be expected to equitably enforce legislation province wide and oversee its vast network of branches and affiliates while soliciting funding, administering and overseeing themselves.

Fred, you're absolutely right, the problems won't be solved overnight. I am thankful for your blog.

Darling Magpie said...

Not sure about all this heartworm stuff...

I always assumed they didn't fix pups that young because they are adopted out before they are ready to be spayed/neutered?

What does Animal Services do if the animal is too young to fix but ready for adoption?

I've gotten 2 cats from THS, one was a 1 year old male unfixed, when I asked about this, the response was that he was a shelter transfer from Hamilton, and when they come from another shelter like that, they are not fixed. (This was in 2005) Weird. But my female 3 year old cat which I got from them last year, was fixed before adoption.

It's inconsistent at least, at best :/

Fred said...

Hi Ellstar, some vets say pups can be speutered at 6 weeks, some say 6 months, some say 2 years (for giant breeds like Great Danes). Personally, I would think 6 weeks is too young but I don't know for sure and as far as I know, there is no reputable research - as opposed to anecdotal - on this (if anyone knows of any, please post link).

TAS will not adopt out a pup until it is at least 8 weeks old at which point it will be speutered first before adoption. Same with kittens - though the timing may be different for kittens.

Even if THS held to the theory that pups at 8 weeks are too young to be speutered, they've got no such excuse for all the older dogs which aren't speutered. When I phoned them a few months ago regarding an unneutered dog, the person on the phone told me that if a vet had time to do speuters then they'd be done, otherwise it would be left up to the new owners.