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 thestar.com)
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 thestar.com)
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 thestar.com)
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."