Toronto Humane Society Faces Animal Cruelty Charge Dec 4, 2009 15:59:43 GMT -5
Post by DogGoneGood on Dec 4, 2009 15:59:43 GMT -5
Toronto Humane Society faces animal cruelty charges
December 1, 2009, By Natalie Ann Comeau, ARTICLE, LIFESTYLE
After a five-month-long investigation by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Tim Trow, embattled president of the Toronto Humane Society (THS), was arrested in a raid on the shelter on November 26.Trow is charged with two counts of cruelty to animals, two counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, and three counts of obstruction of a peace officer.
Also arrested were THS general manager Gary McCracken, head veterinarian Steve Sheridan, business manager Romeo Bernadino and shelter supervisor Andy Bechtel. Members of the board of directors also face charges of animal cruelty.
Christopher Avery, a lawyer for the OSPCA, stated that animals had been left to die in their crates as a result of the shelter’s low-kill euthanasia policy. OSPCA investigator Kevin Strooband added that animals were not being given adequate food, water and care. THS denies the accusations, claiming political motives and disgruntled former staff are behind the allegations.
THS has been embroiled in controversy since May, when The Globe and Mail published a three-part story by investigative reporter Kate Hammer about chronic mismanagement, overcrowding, and atrocious living conditions. A subsequent OSPCA inspection found animals in distress and, as a result, the shelter’s affiliate status with the OSPCA was suspended. Shortly after the November arrests, Hammer told CFRB’s John Tory that she was overwhelmed by the large volume of calls and emails she received from current and former staff and volunteers wanting to share their stories of abuse and neglect at the shelter.
Many who spoke to Hammer were former THS staff who risked legal action because confidentiality agreements they were required to sign forbid them from disclosing details about the shelter. But that didn’t stop them from revealing horrific conditions they allege are the result of the shelter’s low-kill policy – as low as seven per cent, according to the THS website.The Globe’s investigation found that more animals died at the shelter than were euthanized between 2005 and 2009.
In October 2007, a group of THS members, current and former volunteers, and past staff formed the Association to Reform the Toronto Humane Society (ART).
Their website chronicles the group’s efforts over the past two years, and documents THS’s long history of litigation, controversy and high staff turnover.
Lack of transparency
According to ART, members are concerned about secrecy and lack of transparency at the shelter. In a letter to Trow dated March 27, ART alleged millions of dollars donated for the care of animals was being used to fund legal fees in almost a dozen active cases. Trow’s curt response in a two-sentence letter: “Legal costs at the Society are appropriate.”
Trow, a retired lawyer and provincial civil servant in his 60s, has been on the THS board of directors since 1979. He was elected president in 1982, but resigned under pressure from the board a year later amidst allegations of financial mismanagement, improper conduct and mistreatment of animals.
To become a voting member of THS requires payment of a fee and board approval of the member’s application. The 1,800 members – who THS has refused to name – elect the board of directors for three-year terms. However, some of Trow’s supporters have been on the board for decades – including THS secretary treasurer Bob Hambley, who has held his position for 30 years.
Combative and controlling
After being re-elected in 2001, Trow moved to gain total control by eliminating the position of CEO and taking over the day-to-day management of the shelter himself, in a volunteer capacity. Notorious for micromanaging, Trow has a reputation for being combative and controlling. He enacted a policy requiring veterinarians to obtain approval from management prior to euthanizing animals – a policy that contravenes the professional standards of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario. A 2006 Toronto Star investigation reported that THS veterinarians were concerned about overcrowding at the shelter, insufficient staffing, and management interference with medical decisions.
Following the arrests, OSPCA veterinarians entered the building to examine and treat the animals. The shelter is closed to the public while officials conduct their investigation.
Natalie Ann Comeau is a freelance writer with a special interest in working canines. She lives in Oakville, Ont., with her family and two unemployed dogs.