Toronto Humane Society: one out of three is pretty damn bad
May 30, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

At the Toronto Humane Society, veterinarians say animals die suffering unnecessarily in their cages while pleas to euthanize them are dismissed. Dozens of staff, volunteers and veterinarians have quit in protest. ... A note written by a staff member or volunteer on the medical chart of a cat, animal ID A127495, admitted last fall, reads: "Died Oct 19 3:15 am. Gasped and jerked and cried last breaths, because there was no one in shelter to euthanize or treat. This is not humane." ... [THS president] Mr. Trow says he strives to keep euthanasia rates low for ethical reasons. “How can anyone suggest that, because he might be here longer than anyone would want, that it's better to put [a dog] down?” Mr. Trow asked. “I think that's a strange suggestion, don't you? You live here as long as you can.” Images (yes, they're disturbing.) Video of a puppy adopted out with a broken leg. The THS web site.

Mr. Trow maintains that the THS does not have a no-kill policy and denies that the shelter's veterinarians are influenced in their decisions whether or not to euthanize. “There's no pressure on anyone to do anything or not to do anything other than on professionals, professional doctors and professional nurses, to do the best they can,” he said.

By law, it is a requirement for veterinarians employed by humane societies to have language in their contract that makes them responsible for all decisions relating to the care of animals. “I couldn't work at the Toronto Humane Society any longer because it violated my professional oath as a veterinarian,” said Johanna MacNaughton, a veterinarian who resigned in April. ... “I would never make a euthanasia decision without great consideration, and I would only euthanize an animal if it was suffering with no chance of recovery,” said Dr. MacNaughton.

And an internal memo obtained by The Globe confirms that euthanasia decisions must be cleared by management, many of whom have no medical training.
posted by maudlin (63 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks Canada. It's nice to be reminded occasionally that the U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on stupid shitheads.
posted by Caduceus at 2:43 PM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]

Disturbing image of what was once a cute kitten at the end of the lead article. Careful.

This is sickening.
posted by Night_owl at 2:49 PM on May 30, 2009

Hey, now. Toronto hardly counts as "Canada."

(See you at the meetup, guys!)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:50 PM on May 30, 2009

I can't not-click those links hard enough.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:51 PM on May 30, 2009 [22 favorites]

A not inconsiderable number of animal "shelters" are rather horrible places. Every other week you hear about someone who "loves animals" found to be keeping hundreds of cats or dogs in a house knee deep in faeces and reeking of urine.

It is a shame that being dead scares people so much worse than the actual act of dying. Being dead is easy. But, good lord, the cruel and sick things that are done in an effort to prevent death — things that are much, much worse than death itself, like allowing a septic infection to slooooowly kill a kitten rather than just knocking it in the head.

What's really ill-inducing to me, though, is that if it turns out the head of this facility has been up to bad shit, he'll probably be brought to justice years before anyone is prosecuted for raping children in Iraq.

We humans have immensely screwed-up thinking.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:01 PM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


interesting, at the end of the article "Editor's Note: We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. We appreciate your understanding."

must have got a little hot in there...
posted by HuronBob at 3:04 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've seen both people and animals die. Natural death is ugly and scary and painful and every time there's abject terror or pain or a sadness like nothing I've never seen before or some other awful feeling evident in the face of the dying person or animal.

Dying with the help of drugs is much, much better all around. The animal or person gets to just drift off slowly and stop breathing or go to sleep and never wake up again and let go peacefully.

So fuck Mr. Trow and his high-minded bullshit. He's an idiot.
posted by mountain_william at 3:10 PM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]

Oh cannot cannot cannot click those links. Must go hug my kitty now.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:10 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every other week you hear about someone who "loves animals" found to be keeping hundreds of cats or dogs in a house knee deep in faeces and reeking of urine.

I knew a 'dog fancier'. She was the mother of one of my friends in high school and would keep on buying these multiple-thousand-dollar dogs which she would then keep in crates in whatever apartment/house they were renting at the time. Each of these places got filled with the reek of dog piss- it was completely overwhelming to the point I would start feeling sick.
It seemed she had less interest in the dogs as dogs so much as Silence-of-the-Lambs style prisoners she would occasionally feed in the basement. She was similarly controlling of her sun, but at least the stink was so bad she couldn't smell the cigarette smoke on him.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:12 PM on May 30, 2009

sun=son. that's what happens when you live in a country that writes phonetically.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:15 PM on May 30, 2009

No-kill shelters are the ideal - for healthy animals.

Anyone who is opposed to medically-indicated euthanasia should not be running a shelter. Safe and comfortable euthanasia for terminal animals is one of the good things humans do; it may be the only kindness some animals get in their entire short time here.

Why does this guy get to overrule the veterinarians? He's a bonehead and he needs to go.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:18 PM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]

No wonder my rescue dog lives for me with every single fiber of her being... honestly, I have never owned any animal so perpetually thankful and devoted. Prior to her, my family always bought dogs from breeders; I'll never own a non-rescue again. I just can't even imagine considering it.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:28 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

And what mountain_william said.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:30 PM on May 30, 2009

I can understand the paper closing comments. I wasn't feeling too placid about this myself when I posted this.

What I'm trying to figure out now is how the hell did this happen to a respected humane society? This isn't just another small-time shelter, or your local antisocial animal collector living in squalor. This is -- or was -- a large society of likeminded volunteers, staff, veterinarians, administrators and board members who ran a pretty damn good shelter for years. The worst complaints I ever heard were that their adoptive criteria were too demanding. For example, you'd often see letters to the editors of various newspapers complaining that you couldn't adopt a dog without having at least one adult at home all day, which isn't necessarily a terrible idea, but word was they were pretty inflexible. (Of course, these were allegations that may have been distorted for self-serving motives or via games of telephone. Does anyone here know how strict their adoption requirements actually are?)

Looking more closely at the story, it seems that Trow has a long history with the society and a troubled relationship with the city of Toronto, which gave up on the THS years ago.
Shortly before Mr. Trow became president for the second time in 2001, the THS lost its contract with the city to pick up injured and stray animals after years of arguing over politics and money.

In 2006, the city ended its oversight: A city councillor was no longer included among the directors of the society's board, of which there are currently 15, according to Animaltalk.

Mr. Trow first became THS president in 1982. More than a year later, the city intervened and Mr. Trow resigned. The THS, which also has a satellite shelter in North York, is an affiliate of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The relationship between the two groups, however, is strained. A libel suit brought forward by the THS against the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA remains before the courts.

The THS has sought $200,000 in damages after the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA included the following line in a 2007 lottery flyer: “Please remember that the Toronto Humane Society and the Canadian SPCA (Montreal) do not support any animals in this community”

The structure of THS management has also changed during Mr. Trow's second presidency. The chief executive officer position has been eliminated, and Mr. Trow has assumed the duties normally reserved for a paid employee rather than a volunteer president.

Amy White was the director of communications at the THS when Mr. Trow was elected. She said that before his term she had direct access to the board of directors and conferred with them on committees.

“So that basically stopped, and I only had access to Tim, more access than a person would want,” she said.

She said that Mr. Trow often micromanaged staff and volunteers on every shelter decision, right down to adoptions.
So I can see the combination of a THS-wide sensible reluctance to perform euthanasia on healthy but unwanted animals, plus tough internal standards for adoption, leading to an excess of animals. But was one man's extreme reluctance to perform euthanasia, and his micromanaging ways, all it took? How did he keep getting selected president? If people have been leaving for years, did things just recently hit critical mass so that people have gone to the media and opened themselves to legal action by violating confidentiality agreements? I refute the single bonehead theory: at the very least, the board of directors were applying no meaningful oversight.

This is the first of three stories the Globe is publishing this week. Maybe the next instalments will explain just what went wrong.
posted by maudlin at 3:40 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm done reading about shitty humans for the day. I'm going out to wash the cars and bake a bit in the rare NW sunshie. Oh, and fuck Trow with something wide and spikey.
posted by maxwelton at 3:50 PM on May 30, 2009

It was good for their fundraising efforts.
posted by Houstonian at 3:53 PM on May 30, 2009

Not to derail but the world just got a bit smaller when I see my old hometown of Burlington mentioned on MeFi.
posted by stevil at 3:55 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know that there are a lot of sketchy animal shelters out there. But this story was so upsetting. I'm all for no-kill policies (like that of Toronto's Annex Cat Rescue) but they should apply to healthy animals or to those who can be helped with medical attention.

In Toronto as with other cities I'm sure, a big problem is overpopulation. It should be flat-out illegal to not have your pet fixed. If you want to breed, it should be approved. That along with education, and subsidies to help people get their pets fixed.
posted by radiocontrolled at 4:06 PM on May 30, 2009

This guy has exactly the same pathology of the squalid animal collector people, only more resources. Unfortunately, I see it in some of our area rescue groups as I'm sure you-all do in yours. A kind of extreme, narcissistic "only I can save the world" do-gooderism* combined with extreme control-freakism and a marked disconnect with reality. There's a small-dog rescue nearby that pretty much never -- seriously, never -- adopts out a dog because no applicants can meet the insane expectations of the woman in charge. Meanwhile, half the dogs she takes in are middle-aged to elderly puppy-mill refugees who, even if they surmount their hideous health issues, will almost certainly never be able to make the transition to any sort of normal canine life in a regular household.

If you combine that sort of lunatic personality with this totally idiotic yet highly popular idea that every dog is fixable and adoptable, that even the most irretrievably screwed-up animal is better off alive than dead, well, there you go -- a perfect storm of horror. It's almost like some weird variation on Munchausen-by-Proxy: a compulsion to inflict and revel in traumatic suffering so as to shore up one's crazily heroic self-concept.

*Not to diss do-gooderism at all. I have five dogs, three of them rescues, and HUGELY admire what the rescue/rehabilitation folk do (except the psychotics). Dogs (and cats) are the center of my life, and I'd love to save them all and go work at the Best Friends refuge when I retire. But you've got to function within the reality-based community.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:16 PM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]

Oh, god, that kitten with a concussion at the end of the article. It's actually not that particularly gory, but the fact that one eye is disfigured and the other is still healthy and whole and LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU is distressing. Something about non-adult animals triggers a really strong protective / empathetic response that makes this very hard to even think about. I still think the article is worth reading to understand the controversy, but watch out when you scroll down to the last picture.

As a former denizen of Toronto, this is downright depressing. Calling the THS was my first response when finding an injured or sick animal, but now it seems that I would've given most of those animals a more dignified and humane end if I had just stomped on their heads and called the city's clean-up crew. God, I think I need a shower.
posted by LMGM at 4:20 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

p.s. I'm favoriting this thing but that doesn't mean I like the content of it one bit, thank you very much.

posted by LMGM at 4:23 PM on May 30, 2009

Cat 1 - found in the middle of the road (literally one swerve from roadkill) as a starving-to-death 4wk kitten in Georgia U.S.A. She rode with me on my lap to my final destination in Michigan, eating kitten food and pooping seeds(!) on my lap all the way. Now a 6yo fat and happy queen.

Cat 2 - Longhair grey with tatty ears from local no-kill private rescue. Unknown age, loudest purr in the world. Loves a 3-some.

Cat 3 - Shorthair tabby with even tattier ears from same rescue. Sprays occasionally but absolute best friend to 12yo son.

Folks, adopt and love a creature today, if you have room.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:29 PM on May 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

No-kill shelters are the ideal - for healthy animals.

I don't understand even that. How can no-kill shelters make any difference to the number of unwanted animals killed? And if they make no difference to the number of unwanted animals killed, why are they considered better? If an area gets more unwanted animals than adoptions, and funds are finite, then surely "no-kill" shelters are simply killing at the front door instead of the back, by turning away the animals they don't think they can adopt out - they fill up, and have to turn away animals because the numbers can't be reconciled, and since they're "no-kill" they get first dibs on incoming animals, so pick only the best, most adoptable ones, sentencing the rest to take their chances elsewhere, but washing their hands of it.

The only no-kill shelter would be a shelter that doesn't turn away animals, and doesn't euthanize, yet (barring the crazy animal hoarders, and other places with terrible inhumane conditions) I'm can't see how such a place could function. No-kill strikes me as a feel-good fiction - I don't understand how it is thought to make any difference, other than marketing BS. Am I missing something?
posted by -harlequin- at 4:39 PM on May 30, 2009 [13 favorites]

The picture of the cat with the eye infection will haunt me tonight. There are a lot of times when the "graphic images" warning is a bit overblown and there only for the benefit of the most fragile, but this is NOT one of those times. Those poor, poor creatures.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:40 PM on May 30, 2009

Seconding seanmpuckett's comment. Do the animals - and yourselves - a favor; adopt a shelter animal today.
posted by Graygorey at 4:43 PM on May 30, 2009

"Natural death is ugly and scary and painful and every time there's abject terror or pain or a sadness like nothing I've never seen before or some other awful feeling evident in the face of the dying person or animal."

I'm sorry that your experiences with death have all been like this, mountain_william, but mine haven't.

As for the news story - I once fostered a cat from a local animal rescue, a sweet grey tiger. All was well for the first day or so, and she was getting along fine with my own cat. On the second night, we were all sleeping peacefully in bed - only to be woken up by a whirling, spitting, drooling, growling dervish. It was the foster kitty in the full throes of a grand mal seizure. Off to the emergency vet, where anti-seizure meds were given. A call to the foster agency resulted in this conversation:

Agency : Oh yes, she has mild seizures from time to time, we told you that.
Me: You most certainly did NOT.
Agency : Well, we don't have anyone else who can take her, you'll have to keep her for the time being.

The seizure meds didn't work, as the vet had warned - so the poor animal had a seizure about every two days. They lasted for about 5-10 minutes at a time, while she whirled around on the floor biting, choking, and dumping waste from every orifice. All I could do was wrap her in a towel after they were over, and try to comfort and clean her. My own cat, who initially had been tolerant of the newcomer, decided she was a threat, and attacked her at every opportunity. I had another conversation with the vet, where he explained how difficult it was to pin down the cause of seizures, and that thousands of dollars could be spent with no positive result. He recommended euthanasia.

Next conversation with the foster agency:

Me: [relayed what vet had said]
Agency: Oh, NO, we don't EVER put down animals.
Me: This animal is in extreme distress, and it seems the seizures are coming more frequently. Are you willing to put $$ towards an attempt to diagnose the problem, when instead you could be helping possibly dozens of other animals find a home?
Agency: That's our policy, we believe that no animal should be put down if it has the slightest chance.
Me: I understand that. I'm telling you that the cat is SUFFERING. I cannot care for this animal because she's destroying my floors - though no fault of her own - and my own cat is constantly stressed and angry, because I have to keep him confined. I'm afraid she'll die from a seizure when I'm not home.
Agency: We simply don't have anyone who can take her, our foster homes are full.
Me: Fine.

I soldiered on for about two more weeks, cleaning up after the cat, doing my own research on seizures, putting Feliway in every room to calm the cats down, etc... I finally had enough one day. I took the cat to my own veterinarian, had her put down humanely, and told the agency that she had gotten out and ran off. They were, of course, completely insane, and wanted to mount massive foot searches in the neighborhood.

I stopped taking their calls. As far as I'm concerned, fuck them, because they never had to sit there with a wet, exhausted, terrified cat after the seizure finally wound down, looking up at me with this terrible expression of "Why is this happening?" As for these other wackos like Trow who practice this same policy of keeping suffering animals alive for no goddamned logical reason, fuck them too.
posted by HopperFan at 4:45 PM on May 30, 2009 [48 favorites]

Oh, man. A little Googling and this is what starts coming up.

2006: Vets were resigning in 2003, 2005, and complained before they went but -- *crickets*.
A year ago, Murray wrote a letter to the society's board of directors, outlining her concerns. She reported how the room designated for cats with respiratory infections was full, and sick cats were placed in the back hallway. Cages were "filthy with diarrhea, food material and nasal spray," Murray wrote.

The shelter's policy is not to refuse any animals that arrive at its doorstep. That does not make the society unique. Some other shelters also have the same practice.

Given the conditions, however, "if you wanted unlimited intake, you have to have higher rates of euthanasia, if you're not looking after them properly," Murray says. ...

Trow's desire to keep animals alive runs deep and wide. Near the main office, a room has been annexed for the isolation of cats with FIV, the feline version of HIV, waiting for adoption. ... The shelter is overcrowded, he admits, but limiting animal admissions is not the answer. "It's a terrible suggestion," he argues. "Should we let them die on the street?"

He blames the city's five animal shelters for not taking in the number of animals they should — one-third fewer animals than the society admitted last year.

The city, meanwhile, says it accepts all strays and surrendered pets that come through its doors. The Humane Society receives more animals because it is better known and publicized, says Ron de Burger, the city's director of healthy environments.

Trow is not overly worried about disease incidence. "There are always diseases in pounds and shelters." He says the animals arrive harbouring disease and don't necessarily pick it up at the shelter. "These are minor respiratory diseases along the lines of a cold."

He also rejects claims that animals are dying. "Far, far fewer animals are losing their lives than before," he says, because of low euthanasia.

In fact, deaths inside the shelter are up, Trow's statistics show.
The numbers are small in relation to the thousands admitted each year, but in 2000, the death rate (excluding euthanasia) was 0.5 per cent or 48 animals. In 2005, it was 1.8 per cent, or 170 animals, almost four times more.

This, Trow says, is "because of efforts to save them, rather than saying, `This is a sick animal, we need to euthanize them.'"

So why are the veterinarians making these claims?

"I think they genuinely disagree with trying to save more lives," he says.
There's more in that link, including Trow's desire to keep alive a dog that all his vets said was too aggressive to keep. He's convinced that he's right and they're wrong.

I think FelliniBlank has it: the man is a megalomaniac with a Christ complex. So why the hell did the board do nothing? What did the OSPCA conclude?
posted by maudlin at 4:47 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

For example, you'd often see letters to the editors of various newspapers complaining that you couldn't adopt a dog without having at least one adult at home all day, which isn't necessarily a terrible idea, but word was they were pretty inflexible.

That wasn't my experience. I went down to the main Toronto shelter on Rivers Street a number of times over the past five years looking for a dog. I live alone and work full time, and the only barrier to my adopting a dog was that the interviewer and I would agree that the dog I was considering wasn't right for me for some reason. I do remember that one time a young guy next to me in line had been turned down because he wasn't an experienced dog owner and they thought the dog he wanted needed one. He got another dog.
posted by orange swan at 4:54 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mr. Trow says he strives to keep euthanasia rates low for ethical reasons. "How can anyone suggest that, because he might be here longer than anyone would want, that it's better to put [a dog] down?" Mr. Trow asked. "I think that's a strange suggestion, don't you? You live here as long as you can."

I think a person who loves animals would not think that's a strange suggestion at all. When an animal is suffering severely and there is little hope of recovery, putting it down is the kind and ethical thing to do for it. To do otherwise is only for the benefit of people, rather than animals. Yes it's difficult and sad, but it's the right thing to do.

With a lot of these difficult topics, in the back of my mind I wonder if I would still feel the same way if I had to face the same situation myself. In this case I don't have to wonder, since I have had to make this decision for a pet (as have many other mefites I'm sure).

It was a tough decision to make, and even tougher to stay and hold our cat in my arms while she died (because I didn't want her last moments to be any scarier than they had to be). I still cry whenever I think about it, but I still know it was the kindest thing for her.

I'm certain veterinarians find this just as difficult and that's why they should have all the decision-making power here. They should be trusted to do the best thing for the animals in their care, rather than the best thing for various collections of people who have an interest of their own.
posted by FishBike at 4:59 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is heartbreaking for me. My stepfather worked at THS (the wildlife unit) for years when I was a kid, and it was always a good place full of good people trying to help animals. This insanity is just awful.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:04 PM on May 30, 2009

I'm a little shell-shocked by this. I still donate to the Toronto Humane Society since having lived there, thinking the bigger city probably needs the funding more.

What they really need is this moron out of there. Hopefully this will start a general outcry and that can happen asap.

That's terrible, HopperFan. I'm sorry you and your cat went through that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:05 PM on May 30, 2009

Sounds like they just need to remove Tim Trow from his job. All his staff and vets sound like reasonable people. And, probably, to establish some sort of oversight body to make sure this doesn't happen again.
posted by orange swan at 5:15 PM on May 30, 2009

This is terrible.

I've talked about this before on here, but my family had an experience similar to HopperFan's with a no-kill shelter when I was in high school, only it was a dog with a history of aggression issues which we weren't informed of. She bit me in the face a month into owning her--when my mother called them, the shelter blamed me for waking her while she was sleeping (with me in bed; I was asleep too). When she bit a friend of mine a month later, the shelter gave us free obedience lessons and had us talk to their behavioral specialist. That's when we found out that she'd had a history of fighting with other dogs at the shelter. The obedience lessons did no good--she spent the entire time lunging at the other dogs there--and their behavioral specialist did little more than make my mother feel awful about her instinct that we couldn't handle the dog. We eventually convinced them to take her back, months later, after many more incidents where she nearly bit people and we were barely able to contain her, but the entire experience was laced with the attitude that we were bad people, we weren't doing enough, maybe we were abusing our dog, what was wrong with us? When the truth was that, had we at least known about her dog aggression, we wouldn't have adopted her in the first place. Maybe the shelter knew that--maybe that's why they kept quiet about it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:16 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm certain veterinarians find this just as difficult

A friend who worked at a vet clinic indicated that if they had a euthanasia, they would try to schedule it to be one of the last things of the day, precisely because they were such a difficult thing. It puts everyone through the wringer so badly that it can be hard to resume work effectively afterward.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:17 PM on May 30, 2009

I swear that I'm walking away from this thread shortly, but I have to say that I feel awful for all the staff, volunteers and vets at THS who had no power over Trow or the board. I wonder what kind of angry abuse the frontline people have faced from the public today and will endure this coming week? Sure, many readers will recognize that they were doing all they could, but others will just demonize all of the THS people.
posted by maudlin at 5:23 PM on May 30, 2009

Can't Trow be arrested for animal abuse? People who run puppy mills and crazy cat ladies and the like are routinely investigated, their animals removed, and sometimes they are even jailed or barred from ever having a pet again.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:39 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

To miss lynnster: ♥
To the manager of this "shelter": ♣

(And everyone with a pet, remember to have them ♠)
posted by JHarris at 5:57 PM on May 30, 2009 [15 favorites]

-harlequin-: "If an area gets more unwanted animals than adoptions, and funds are finite, then surely 'no-kil' shelters are simply killing at the front door instead of the back, by turning away the animals they don't think they can adopt out - they fill up, and have to turn away animals because the numbers can't be reconciled [...]"

I think I see how this attitude could have gotten started. I think that sometimes kill shelters kill as a matter of convenience, more than out of a sense of making the best use of resources. Or that they draw the line more towards having extra funds on-hand rather than keeping as many healthy, adoptable animals alive as long as possible.

It is possible for a shelter to err on both sides here. Possibly, people like Tim Trow got that way as an extreme reaction to personal experiences with shelter workers being too callous regarding their charges' lives.
posted by JHarris at 6:24 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is why universal pet health care is bad.

I'm going to hell.
posted by graventy at 6:42 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think animal hoarding was recently recognized as a formal mental health disease. And yes, most of the hoarders I've known have considered themselves "rescuers".
posted by fshgrl at 6:52 PM on May 30, 2009

Hopperfan, thank you for being kind enough to that poor cat to do the right thing.

And, yes, the "right thing" was to have that cat euthanized. My partner and I have five cats -all rescues- and one dog -also a rescue- and we routinely "trap/fix and vaccinate/release" stray cats.

In those instances where we come across an animal who's in a bad way we "trap/euthanize/bury". It's the most kind thing we can do, and it'd be plain wrong to do otherwise.

And, again, fuck Mr. Trow and his high-minded bullshit.
posted by mountain_william at 7:51 PM on May 30, 2009

Plans for tonight:

1. Not click on any of the links in this post.

2. Cuddle with the nearest of 3 kitties in my apartment.

3. Wonder if something is wrong with me, since I respond more strongly to stories of other animals in pain than to human-type animals. I'm a horror movie buff who can't tolerate fictional cat death.
posted by brundlefly at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Years ago I was a volunteer dog walker at the Humane Society in NYC. I was astounded at the number of dogs that were reluctant to go for walks because they had been at the shelter for so long that it was the only place they felt secure. Dogs would sometimes be there for years. Dog after dog would try to drag me back to the shelter as I was trying to get them to walk just around the block.

Since then, I've volunteered at one of the busiest kill shelters in the country, the NYCACC. I chose that shelter because I feel that kill shelters are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to volunteers, adoption rates, and funding, and most importantly, because the dogs there would be the neediest.
NYCACC is mandated by NYC to accept every animal that is brought to it. They cannot possibly accept the great number of animals being brought in without a high rate of euthanasia. Other shelters in the city have the luxury of turning away any pet it deems unadoptable, or any pet in general, if they are full.
Every no kill shelter has a direct effect on kill shelters. There is no way around it. The best we can hope for is a reduction in the overall number of animals that go into shelters through spaying/neutering, better regulation of breeding, and elimination of puppy mills.
Once an animal is in a kill shelter, it becomes a balance between that animals adoptability and the ability to help another new incoming animal.
As it stands there is no way around euthanasia, and as I experienced every day at the shelter, even with physically healthy animals, it may have been the most humane treatment. There was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing these terrified confused animals shaking and miserable in their bare cages who have been suddenly abandoned by their families, especially older pets who have been with the same family their entire life.

I would like to suggest to those interested in helping the option of fostering animals. There are rescue groups in every major city desperate for temporary fosters, for all types of animals.
I currently divide my time between NY and Melbourne, AU. I foster in both cities. I am able to tell either agency how long I will be available to foster for that particular time period (usually a month or two in each place), and they set me up with a foster dog ( usually an older, bigger dog, the type I indicated I prefer). Sometimes it gets adopted while I have it, sometimes it goes to another foster home. All of the dogs I foster in either country get pulled directly from the euthanasia list, so I know that I have just helped save that dogs life.
It is a remarkably rewarding experience.
posted by newpotato at 8:12 PM on May 30, 2009 [9 favorites]

HuronBob:interesting, at the end of the article "Editor's Note: We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. We appreciate your understanding."

must have got a little hot in there

Not another vaccination/autism thread...
posted by dr_dank at 8:41 PM on May 30, 2009

Toronto Humane Society SUCKS. I went to adopt a cat a few months ago- I'm a very experienced cat owner with no children, a stable home life and a good job: pretty much an ideal cat adopter, and plus, I was happy to take a (traditionally harder to place) adult cat. The woman at THS was unbelievably rude and dismissive of me- ugh, she was just awful. I offhandedly mentioned that the address on my drivers' license was out of date, but that I still got mail from there as a friend was the new tenant. (Aside: If I was really trying to adopt animals for some evil means, wouldn't I keep my mouth shut about that kind of detail?). As proof of ID, I showed her two documents with my work address, at which she sneered, "How do I know those are real?" Um, well, I showed a pay stub and an official door pass, so she had my name and my photo that she could match against both my driver's license, and my actual face. These documents were issued by my place of employment, a large company that every single person in Toronto has heard of.

This horrible woman looked me up and down, curled her lip, said "I don't believe you" and then she turned her back on me and walked out of the room while I was politely speaking to her. I have never in my life been treated so rudely. I left absolutely livid and promptly went to Etobicoke Humane Society instead. The woman at Etobicoke Humane Society was amazing: she clearly loved the animals, saw them each as individuals and tried to match each cat's disposition with the right owner. She was lovely, and went the extra mile for me in every possible way. I chose a beautiful little adult cat from Etobicoke and I totally adore her; she's a pampered, chubby little princess of a pet.

Screw Toronto Humane Society. To be fair, I didn't notice any shit-soaked cages or dead kittens when I was there, but after my experience with that colossal jerk of an employee, I'd never donate money or recommend that place to anyone; I'll deal with and support the suburban Humane Societies instead.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:59 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

*spends 5 minutes hugging and petting the 2 year old cat we got from THS at River St.*

We have 2 cats, both via THS, though one was given to us indirectly (friends couldn't keep her due to unrelated family issues). they are both fantastic, cooky, different, cuddly, happy, healthy, wonderful.

our adoption experience has been excellent. (that said, seeing 140+ cats in cages turned me from "i am not sure we want a cat" to "lets get 3 just to get them out of here" person.) the agent who worked with us was excellent - she was kind, polite, and when we answered incorrectly on their quiz (what will you feed - we were going with "tuna", turns out that's bad - we're feeding them both the highest end indoor cat food a specialized store can carry) - she corrected us and moved on. i have no complaints about the front-end of the operation.

a lot of the cats there were sick; ours had a tongue ulcer that was healed shortly before we adopted him. i'm shocked to hear that the agency is so bad behind the scenes. outside of the fact that there were so many cats there (NEUTER. SPRAY. PLEASE.), there was no outward sign of wrong-doing.

this was 2 years ago. i am shocked at the lack of humanity in "the humane society". if an animal is terminally sick, they deserve the kindness of a peaceful end. anything else - is just inhumane.
posted by olya at 9:41 PM on May 30, 2009

This is terrible news. Through the THS, I had fostered kittens and adopted a cat (whom sadly passed many years ago), and I'm friends with an employee of the Wildlife Unit. My experience with the organization has been good.

Now that I'm thinking of being owned by a new cat, and seeing this post and comments, I have finalized my decision to adopt through the Annex Cat Rescue. Stay as local as possible, I say.
posted by In The Annex at 9:50 PM on May 30, 2009

I won't be clicking any of the links today - I had to put down my cat a few short weeks ago. At age 14, and diagnosed with cancer half a year ago, that wasn't unexpected, but it's too fresh in my mind to go reading this article.

Having said that, mountain_william, hopperfan, thank you for your comments here.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:03 AM on May 31, 2009

My girlfriend works at the local Humane Society. They've had a problem with being too slow to euthanize animals, but she's been very vocal about putting down animals that have no chance of adoption or are suffering. She's brought home many animals for a brief respite from shelter life prior to euthanasia. I remember all of them but a few stand out. Lady was a white Alaskan malamute with multiple cancers and an open tumour. Her owners couldn't afford treatment and didn't want to euthanize her so they surrendered her at a point where her quality of life had already deteriorated. Prior to arrival at the shelter her owners had started keeping her in the basement: out of sight, out of mind I guess. She was unkempt and skittish, but during her stay with us she was groomed and became very affectionate and playful. When she started having laboured breathing we knew it was time and brought her in. At least her last little bit of life wasn't all cold concrete floors and neglect.

She's also brought home animals that would be adoptable if given a little extra attention. There's Frankie, a black cat who was tortured by having tight strings tied around him to the point where he lost part of his tail to necrosis and had lost tissue down to the bone on his front 'ankles' (I don't know animal anatomy). We re-socialized him and found him a great home.

A seven year old doberman mix, Brandi who had cancer in one of her front paws with an open tumour. She was a basket case when she first came to stay and we weren't sure if she was going to be savable or not, a trip to the vet would find that the cancer was well contained within the two toes and after amputation she recovered really quickly. The hardest part of her recovery was how rambunctious she had become, she'd burst her stitches a couple times. When not tearing about the place her favourite pastime was to rest her head on my knee and demand petting.

So far 100% of the pets she's brought in for special attention have been adopted.
posted by substrate at 7:19 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is heartbreaking. No-kill rescues are great in theory and I support them. I have volunteered for no-kill rescues. But they have the luxury of saying No which allows them to be no-kill. It leaves the hard-luck cases in a bad spot.

Indulge me the telling of my hard-luck case...

Six months ago, my husband and our greyhound found a kitten lying on someone's lawn in our neighborhood. She was on her side, immobile other than some strange twitching/seizing. This was late November in Chicago, so it was freezing cold out. The kitten was dirty and unresponsive to us. She also had stitches in her belly, clearly from being spayed. We thought she was injured in some way and must belong to someone (given the stitches), and being animal lovers ourselves with a cat of our own, we wrapped her in a towel and rushed to the emergency vet. We could only hope someone would do the same should any of our pets ever get lost and injured.

At the emergency vet, they examined her and found that she was not injured, but was so hypothermic her temperature would not measure on the digital thermometer, and was so hypoglycemic from lack of food that she was blind and unresponsive. There was no collar, and no microchip, so we agreed to be responsible for the cost of her treatment and went home to put up signs in the neighborhood.

The next morning, things were not much better. The kitten had recovered physically, more or less, but behaviorally was a mess. She was "fractious", meaning completely unable to be handled and responded to any touch with furious biting, clawing, etc. The vets said the change was so abrupt that they suspected brain damage. We transferred her to our regular day vet for more care and evaluation as to her neurological state. The regular vet did some neurological tests and concluded she was not brain damaged - yay! She was just completely feral - ugh. How she had stitches from being spayed (not dissolving sutures either, which most spay and release programs use) we will never know.

In the meantime, we started emailing local rescues. Even if she were domesticated, we thought we could not keep her because our 10 yr old cat does not get along with other cats. In the emails, we explained that she may be feral but we could not keep her and she was too young and it was too cold to let her back outside. We never got a response. The vet basically told us that to take her to a city shelter was a death sentence - they just don't have the resources to socialize feral kittens. She was 4 months old, outside the time when it is fairly easy to socialize kittens so it would be a long haul.

With nowhere else to take her and the vet ready to discharge her, we set up a room in our house and took her home. We researched how to socialize feral cats on the internet. We maintained the illusion that we were still going to find her another home. That was six months ago. Her name is Madeleine Mary, Maddie for short, and she has stolen our hearts (and our wallets - in addition to the expenses from her care when we first found her, about three weeks ago she almost died from a mysterious illness and cost us a ridiculous amount of money). She's still incredibly skittish and our older cat has not yet made peace with her existence in our home, but she also has grown to love sitting on our laps, being petted, and purring non-stop.

posted by misskaz at 7:45 AM on May 31, 2009 [15 favorites]

The day I spend more time and money rescuing pets instead of people, y'all have permission to kill me.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Which isn't to say I'm expending a whole lot of effort rescuing either, sad to say. I am a bad person.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on May 31, 2009

MissKaz, holy crap. I don't often burst into tears, but you got me.

Five Fresh Fish
- I hear you. I also think that there are good people who focus on rescuing animals, and other good people who focus on rescuing humans. I lean towards the former, of course, but sometimes accomplish both, by donating to causes that benefit both sides, like Dogs For the Deaf.
posted by HopperFan at 11:09 AM on May 31, 2009

My mother has a gigantic soft spot for animals, so instead of buying her birthday and holiday gifts I've been making donations to the Toronto Humane Society. I was furious when I read the article (and unfortunately, looked at the slideshow), but I'd like to thank the people in this thread for pointing out that there are lots of local shelters I can support until Tim Trow leaves the THS.

And I think my cats should kiss my ass because they were rescued right from the outdoors, allowing them to bypass the shelters completely. Unappreciative little assholes. Who loves you. Not me. Ok, yes I do.
posted by Rora at 1:20 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are rescue groups in every major city desperate for temporary fosters, for all types of animals.

I had never heard of temporary animal foster care before; such a simple and good idea. Thank you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:28 PM on May 31, 2009

This is upsetting.

All three of my cats were adopted from the Toronto Humane Society. I've had them all for about seven years.

I felt some comfort knowing that, if I were ever in certain horrible extremities where I had to give up a cat for adoption, I knew a safe place to surrender them.

Now I'm not so sure.
posted by peggynature at 5:47 PM on June 1, 2009

Part 3: A humane society that’s short on shelter

OSPCA to investigate THS

My questions about how the hell this could have happened have been answered. What a clusterfuck. What hubris. What a goddamn shame.
posted by maudlin at 10:12 PM on June 1, 2009

OSPCA drops them. So things are at least moving in the right direction.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's a suspension and an investigation, at least. THS can't conduct animal cruelty investigations, but they can still run the shelter.

Some of the email
received by the Globe from volunteers and other people involved with THS.
posted by maudlin at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2009

misskaz, I was so prepared for your story to be a heartrending one. It's so great that the kitty is still alive and warming up to people. +1 point for you.
posted by JHarris at 4:57 AM on June 7, 2009

Updates from the Globe this week:

Humane Society president should resign, foes say
The THS issued a statement yesterday saying the shelter was “completely vindicated” following Tuesday’s inspection by agents from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of their River Street facility in Toronto.

But a spokesperson for the Ontario SPCA called that characterization premature.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are limited as to the information we can provide at this time. We can disclose that we found animals in distress requiring immediate intervention and as a result, orders have been issued,” Ontario SPCA Senior Inspector Mindy Hall, who is the lead investigator on the case, said in a statement.

In the days following a series of articles in The Globe and Mail, the Ontario SPCA has received “dozens of additional, credible complaints outlining serious concerns that point to a pattern of poor care over the course of many years,” the statement read.

The THS’s affiliate status with the Ontario SPCA has also been suspended, ending the agency’s authority to conduct animal cruelty investigations.
What happens to the cats and dogs at the Toronto Humane Society?
Years of feuding with Toronto Animal Services and with the Ontario SPCA have prevented a collaboration that would benefit animal welfare, other animal advocacy groups say. A week after allegations surfaced against the shelter in The Globe and Mail, members of the board of directors have yet to formally meet. The charity’s membership list remains closely guarded by its president, Tim Trow, who has avoided six visits from a process server seeking the society’s membership list. That has prevented a group of concerned members and former staff from gaining access to the list and building an insurrection.

Chances are that the Ontario SPCA’s investigation will take weeks, and in the intervening time, many animal advocates wonder about the fate of the 1,100 animals that are left with fewer than 80 staff and a dwindling force of volunteers to tend to them. And then there are the lost and abandoned animals that will continue to land on the THS’s doorstep.


Mending bridges with other animal lovers and rescue groups should be a priority, said Liz White, director of Animal Alliance, a Toronto-based animal advocacy group. “First of all, there needs to be co-operation between the OSPCA, the Toronto Humane Society and Toronto Animal Services,” she said.

Ms. White suggested a lack of co-operation has created inefficiencies among the city’s shelters. She put forth a working model in which TAS would be the front-line shelter taking in lost or abandoned animals, and the THS would acted as a “second-chance program” for animals that are more difficult to match with an adoptive family. This division of labour has been successful in other Canadian cities, such as Calgary.
posted by maudlin at 8:22 PM on June 7, 2009

The THS needs to put Tim Trow's career to sleep.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on June 8, 2009

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