That’s the first thing Tre Smith felt last night when he found out, in a call from his lawyer, that he had been reinstated as an animal cruelty investigator.
For the last four months, Smith has been in employment limbo. His rescue of a rottweiler July 31, which involved handcuffing the dog’s owner to a car, raised eyebrows with his superiors at the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – and raised questions about the powers of non-police officers.
“I’m shocked,” Smith said. “I’ve been conditioning myself for bad news for such a long time.”
In a closed-door meeting yesterday, OSPCA officials, who regulate animal cruelty investigators in the province, decided to allow Smith to resume his duties.
While he’s permitted to return to work at the Toronto Humane Society with full powers, the OSPCA has cited him for misconduct for using the handcuffs, society spokesperson Lee Oliver said last night.
The OSPCA had no comment last night.
Smith, who has spent the last four months “pushing paper” said it’s going to take a while before he’s feeling like himself again.
“This has rattled me to the core of my soul,” he said. “I had faith in the system and that has been deeply shaken.”
Smith lost his investigating duties in early August, days after the rescue, which occurred in the parking lot of a Parkdale apartment building. Smith broke the window of an SUV to get at Cyrus, a rottweiler, described as foaming at the mouth and about to take its last breath.
As Smith tried to rehydrate the canine, its owner Paul Soderholm emerged from the building.
While each tells a different versions of the events that ensued, it is indisputable that Smith handcuffed Soderholm to his vehicle. When Smith left, bystanders beat up Soderholm.
The dog remains healthy and in the care of foster parents.
The incident uncovered a long-standing rift between the OSPCA and Toronto Humane Society, which deepened as the two independent bodies fought over everything from releasing information on the case to why Smith was under suspension.
It peaked this weekend when Smith decided not to attend yesterday’s hearing, opting instead to send a written statement.
While pleased that Smith, who appears on CityTV’s Animal Housecalls, can get back to fighting crime against animals, Oliver said the Humane Society will be asking about the OSPCA’s decision – why it was only a partial vindication and why it took so long.
But Smith’s looking forward to getting back on the street. “I love my job,” he said. “And I’m back!”
“I’m back. I’m happy to be back on the frontlines protecting Toronto’s animals,” Smith said. “I’m just happy (the board) saw through the mess and the media storm and whatever misconceptions they had.
“I rescued an animal and I was acting in good faith.”
There was an outpouring of support for Smith after his suspension.
Smith, who celebrated the good news with friends last night, said he expects to return to work today.
From: The Toronto Star, December 9, 2007
THS Investigator Tre Smith accepts a “Dog Rescue of the Year” award in Kitchener-Waterloo October 2007