A New Direction for Toronto Humane Society?

Today, the Toronto Humane Society achieved its goal of rehoming all of the animals (except for Bandit) at its River Street shelter. THS also managed to place many animals at its Victoria Park satellite adoption centre.

Congratulations to the staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this happen and to shelters like Toronto Cat Rescue who scooped the most vulnerable animals – the ones with FIV, the seniors and the ones with special needs. Thank you also to the many members of the public who followed this story on social media like Facebook and kept the pressure on THS to adopt out the animals rather than culling them. The shocking euthanasias of 6 dogs and more than 30 cats in March galvanized us into pressuring THS to re-home the remaining animals.

Now Mary Ormsby at Toronto Star has surfaced details of THS management’s plans for a “new direction. Read it and weep.

“The vision of new THS executive director Garth Jerome may not survive if the shelter’s incoming board, to be chosen in a court-supervised election on May 30, doesn’t like the changes. Potentially contentious issues include his plan to accept about 30 per cent fewer animals, a major departure from a philosophy of never turning one away.

There are also questions about whether the two sides are in an unhealthy competition for donor dollars.

“Most people see us as just another animal welfare society and don’t recognize our role as regulators,’’ OSPCA chief executive officer Kate MacDonald said. “They don’t recognize that our agents and inspectors have the power of police as it pertains to animal welfare laws.”

Lawyer Frank Addario, however, called the OSPCA takedown “a pretty sorry chapter in law enforcement.”

He also challenged the fairness of the OSPCA’s dual role as a charity with its own police force. Addario said that sets up an “inherent conflict of interest” with the THS as both groups troll for donations to survive.

“That means it’s competing for funds with another charity in relation to whom it has a narrow but important law enforcement role — and with whom it has had historic ideological differences around,’’ Addario said of the THS, the largest affiliate in the OSPCA’s stable and well known for its reluctance to euthanize animals.

“It’s inescapable that (money) would be a point of contention.”

There is a “soft target” of keeping no more than 715 animals, with emergency cases only permitted up to a new hard maximum of 810.

A euthanasia scorecard (is to be put in place) with five factors to be assessed by vets in deciding whether an animal should be euthanized. There will be a threshold score for humane euthanasia which will vary depending on circumstances such as total shelter population and mix of healthy and unhealthy animals.

The last item is particularly disturbing. With apologies to scientists and accountants, this scorecard is patently ridiculous if it is is concerned with shelter numbers. Isn’t that what shelter management is supposed to manage?

What THS management needs to do is study Nathan Winograd and develop a vision and plan to take in needy animals, sponsor causes on their behalf, and move all adoptable animals into loving homes quickly. Develop a plan to rehome the animals that doesn’t require an eleventh-hour Sword of Damocles held over the heads of the public and the shelters who have helped THS in the past couple of weeks.

And please let’s revisit the aim to accept all needy animals, about which Mr. Jerome suggests we will have a reduction of some 30%, should the new Board of Directors agree and I hope they do not.

The recent efforts of THS staff, volunteers and interested members of the public have demonstrated that rehoming can be done. This time, though, it was at a cost…to meet urgent needs to rehome animals that THS might otherwise have euthanized. As a sheltering strategy, this is not sustainable. And culling based on shelter numbers means that management is not doing its job.

Now, THS management, please revisit your origins as the venerable institution that John Kelso formed in 1888 to support the animals. Times and technology may have changed, but do not lose sight of the Society’s vision.

You have an opportunity to make us proud by becoming an exemplar of humane sheltering.

Your plans for a new THS clearly require some revisions to do this.

John Joseph Kelso, social reformer (b at Dundalk, Ire 31 Mar 1864; d at Toronto 30 Sept 1935). While a reporter for the World and the Globe, Kelso founded the Toronto Humane Society in 1887 for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals, the Fresh Air Fund and the Santa Claus Fund in 1888 to provide excursions and cheer for poor women and children, and the Children’s Aid Society in 1891. In 1893 he was appointed the first superintendent of neglected and dependent children in Ontario and, until his retirement in 1934, directed the establishment of children’s aid societies throughout Ontario and played a key role in their acceptance in other provinces. He also advocated special juvenile courts, mothers’ allowances and the legalizing of adoption, and was active in closing reformatories and organizing playgrounds.


2 responses to “A New Direction for Toronto Humane Society?

  1. I have known the direction Mr. Jerome has in mind for some time and yes, indeed, have wept and continue to to. The THS as it was meant to be – before it was twisted and destroyed by the former management – is no longer, apparently, even being considered. The THS as refuge, as haven, as a place of safety and a place for ALL animals, the neglected, the abused, the elderly, the hurt and the unwanted no longer seems to be in the picture. How utterly sad.

  2. John Kelso must be spinning in his grave.

    We must not let this happen.

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