Sunday, November 29, 2009

Toronto Humane Society: Animal Cruelty Charges?

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On Thursday I came across an article in the Globe and Mail that was depressing and disappointing and crushing and made me so effing irate it made me want to scream:

Humane Society Officals arrested, face animal-cruelty charges

To sum it up for you:
  • the Toronto Humane Society's president, Tim Trow, chief veterenarian and three senior staff officials face criminal charges of animal cruelty;

  • the Ontario SPCA's lawyer says the shelter is "disease-infested";

  • the Humane Society vehemently disagrees (of course) and says the animals are under "excellent veterinary care."

During an investigation in June 2009 animals in poor condition were allegedly hidden from view inhibiting the investigators ability to complete their inspection. There have also been reports that the society's euthanasia policy is too strict, resulting in suffering animals dying in their cages rather than being humanely put down. The Globe and Mail suggests they keep euthanasia rates low (at 6%) to attract private donations "that are the society's sole source of operating funds."

Holy shit. How is this even happening? I'm not sure where to start.

How on earth did this get so out of hand? Trow was first pushed out of his position as president back in 1982 when he and other society officers were accused of implementing policies that, amongst other things, caused cruelty to animals. HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU GET A JOB WITH THAT KIND OF THING ON YOUR RESUME? I'm not sure he could get a job at Starbucks with that kind of track record, who thought President of a Humane society would be a good fit? Especially after it seems he screwed it up the first time.

Why are we only hearing about this now? Apparently current and past employees dismayed with the Humane Society's practices turned to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Canada Revenue Agency, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario and Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General, to no avail. Let's just assume they didn't just write one measly email and actually put some real effort into being heard. Why didn't anyone listen? Why didn't anyone want to help? If these pictures are representative of the dismal conditions at the society (and not just cherry picked to sensationalize the issue), why weren't the voices loud enough to be heard and the ears sensitive enough to pick up on the injustice and do whatever needed to be done to stop it?

There is all kinds of political back and forth but the crux of the issue is this- when we put ourselves in the position to take care of someone or something, it is our responsibility to carry out that obligation to the best of our abilities. I've ranted on about this before (here): I believe we all know the difference between right and wrong. If Trow and his team neglected the animals in their care this is clearly wrong. Given the positions of trust they held, and the fact they were supposed to uphold the mission of a HUMANE SOCIETY, this act of wrong is beyond excusable.

Not only will they have wronged the animals in their care, they will have cast a shadow of distrust every other humane society out there.

If these humane society employees are found not guilty, what does this say about the duty of care a humane society has for its animals? What does it say about the society's detractors and the Ontario SPCA making these charges in the first place?

If they are found guilty, how much of it is our fault for letting it carry on?

Either way it stands as a reminder that we cannot afford to sit back and assume that things are being taken care of. We must always demand transparency, investigate and hold our leaders accountable to their actions.

If I am missing something, by all means, please share.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 update: Humane Society court cases put over until Feb 2 (via CBCnews)


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 update: New arrests in investigation of Humane Society (via National Post)


Sat, Dec 5th update: At scandals core is a legitimate debate (via

Summary: There has been a long standing rivalry between the Toronto Humane Society and the OSPCA. Part of the story is about money (the Humane Society pulls in over $10 million a year, another part is about euthanasia policies...


Wed, December 2nd update: Humane Society hires top criminal lawyer (via


Tues, December 1st update: Humane society's raccoon handling probed (via CBCnews)

Summary: There are suspicions the society may have violated laws on releasing raccoons. Authorities are also not able to adopt the approximately 1,000 animals at the society until it reopens (which could be weeks).


Mon, November 30th update: Cruelty Charges stuns "fantastic" vets' friends (via

Excerpt: "Past and present colleagues describe Stephen Sheridan as a dedicated animal activist..."


Mon, November 30th update: Toronto Humane Society remains closed (via CBCnews)

Excerpt: "The Toronto Humane Society will not reopen Tuesday and could be shuttered for 'at least three weeks,' according to the chief investigator for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals... There are about 1,000 animals in the shelter. They were initially scheduled to be put up for adoption Tuesday."

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  1. There seems to be more and more of these kinds of stories in the news lately. The New York ASPCA under fire for the euthanization of Oreo the Pit Bull after several rescue organisations offered to take her.

    The pictures of the conditions and the poor animals at the THS are reprihensible and will surely fuel the distrust that is building about the quality of care, or in many cases, the lack thereof, that occurs at many of these "Humane" Socieites.

  2. I'm not really surprised. I gave my boyfriend a membership to the Humane Society a few years ago because of something I received in the mail. Unfortunately, they took that $20.00 and wasted it on printing and more labels, etc., etc. that we got more than once a month for the next few years and sent "letter" with heart-wrenching stories asking for MORE MONEY rather than just doing something valuable with that $20.00. Now, I just prefer to support local, small organizations that I've volunteered with who I know take better care of actually providing for animals and their welfare.

    It's kind of like the Red Cross for me. The executive in charge makes a fortune and I always see them asking for donations, but I've never seen them actually out DOING anything. (I know they do stuff, but I think they could do a lot more to actually uphold their core values.)

  3. Wow, talk about a double standard! Animal rights groups demand no-kill shelters. Animal rights groups assert that every animal has the right to live and be cared for. Yet, when the Humane Society creates a strict policy against euthanasia they are charged with animal cruelty. Can't have it both ways. You either work to save an animal, or you put them down. If you work to save animals, you're not always going to be successful. Some will die in their cages. Its sad. Its unfortunate. But it is what will happen when every animal, except the 6% that are beyond treatment, is given the right to live and be treated.

    It appears to me that there is a really fine line between animal cruelty and no-kill. Perhaps that topic needs further exploration.

    The Humane Societies across the country do an excellent job. They are often overwhelmingly understaffed and over-burdened. They take heat every year for killing too many animals, but apparently the Toronto HS is taking heat for not killing enough.

    The fix is obviously to educate people. Stop breeding 30 million dogs and cats every year so 20% can be slaughtered. Donate to your local humane society so 1) they can stop advertising for donations and focus on the job at hand, 2) they can provide the proper care for the animals in their care.

  4. @Paul- THS's mission: “To promote the humane care and protection of all animals and to prevent cruelty and suffering.” The issue for me here, is if their actions are not upholding their mission then they need to take a hard look at their actions or their mission or both. If animals are left to suffer against the recommendation of vets for the sole purpose of keeping euthanasia rates down, that is wrong. That is cruel actually. Animals die, yes. Some will die in their cages and some, as heartbreaking as it is, will die in pain. Statistically that is bound to happen. However, if more animals suffer than need be for an administrative reason that is unacceptable. And again, it goes against the Society's mission.

    I think you are right- we need to think about what we mean by "no-kill." In my mind, I don't want to see a healthy animal put down. I don't think "no-kill" however means keeping animals alive long past what is compassionate.

    I also agree with your point that EDUCATION IS KEY... education on so many points & levels... that is another post I think.

    Thank you for sharing your views!

  5. This is unexcusable. To have statistics run which animals should be humanely put down and which shouldn't is appauling. Statistics should be set as the percent of adoptable animals destroyed. That would prevent anyone having to fudge the numbers and would take the temptation away from places like these.

    Now that they are planning on shutting the shelter, what is going to happen with all the animals that haven't found homes?

  6. Hello Shauna,

    your story is very powerful and I have always questioned authority, in today's society, we put too much trust into "Doctors" and what they do is considered the right thing and many people do not question them, even though you know they are psycho. Some Drs. could be mentally deranged and it may take a long time, like you say, for someone to have the strength and courage to take action or pursue it. This is a valuable lesson for people with pets to ask A LOT of questions before they leave their animal/pets with a "Doctor" Have you heard about any updated if they are going to evoke this assholes licence? The only good that could possible come out of this is that the public is now aware and good people like you spread the word further. This is a great thing that you do.
    I will spread your story also so people here in the state can get this message.
    Here in NC once a story like this hits the news and it almost always does. Hundreds of calls will come in from people who want to help and adopt the poor innocent babies.

    Thank you so much

    Valerie Leuba

  7. Shauna, I can not get your share button to work?
    I will keep trying


  8. @Valerie- I hope the Share button started working for you! I tested it and it seemed to be working, so hopefully it got sorted for you?

    I agree- I think it's important to always question and challenge. I'm not talking about questioning people for the sake of being a pain, I mean doing our homework, knowing what our questions are and having the balls to follow up in order to educate ourselves. There are a lot of people doing a lot of good out there- we just have to be aware that we have the right to ask questions.

  9. I happened to be in Toronto when this whole story broke and it was the only news we heard all weekend! There are a lot of issues to be worked out, but I don't understand why any animal was allowed to suffer. They even found a mummified cat in a humane trap in the ceiling! And this is just a small part of a huge problem. Puppy mills, pets who aren't spayed or neutered, breeders who will sell an animal to anyone as long as they have the up front money!! It just makes me sick.