Thursday, March 25, 2010

OSCPA Meets With Toronto Humane Society Workers Amid Infighting

There’s a dog and cat fight brewing within Toronto’s animal welfare community over an allegedly kidnapped German Shepherd, cats on death row and the operations of the Toronto Humane Society.

The infighting reached a pitch last night when the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has been running the shelter since November, when five senior managers were charged with criminal animal cruelty, held a meeting to answer questions from frustrated THS volunteers, staff and animal lovers.

The OSPCA, which has been criticized for speaking too openly to the media, barred reporters from attending the meeting.

The OSPCA “certainly haven’t been welcoming to us and they’ve been treating us like we’ve done something bad,” said Sheenagh Murphy, a volunteer dog walker who left the meeting feeling that she only got partial answers to her questions.

The tension has been fuelled by rumours about everything from mass overnight animal euthanasia to the disappearance of Kincaid, a German Shepherd who was either kidnapped from his cage, a similar-looking dog slipped into his place, or transferred to a Northern Ontario shelter. (The first version of the rumour has spread amongst OSPCA staff, the second within the THS.)

Ms. Murphy said the dog was transferred, not kidnapped. Rosaline Ryan, a spokeswoman for the OSPCA, declined to comment because the matter is under investigation.

“There's a lot of mistruths circulating on both sides,” she said.

Over the last three months, several e-mails have circulated amongst THS volunteers threatening that hundreds of cats will be euthanized overnight if the OSPCA isn't stopped. Concerned volunteers have watched as a steady rotation of cats have been posted on the shelter’s “Rainbow Board,” a place where animal profiles are posted in a last-ditch effort to find them homes before they’re euthanized.

Many are skeptical of the OSPCA's assertions that only 95 animals have been euthanized, given that only about 300 remain in the shelter and the rotation of pets on the Rainbow Board. (There were 1,100 animals when the OSPCA took over in November.)

Staff and volunteers also raised concerns that the OSPCA has stopped animal intake until it bolsters its staff numbers and finances.

“They've created a spiral that just makes thing worse,” said Art Skibicki, a volunteer dog walker.

Without animal intake and adoptions the shelter can't generate income or hire staff, he said.

Fred Ni, author of the animal welfare blog One Bark at a Time, said he felt most of the rumours had been put to rest.

“I think [OSPCA CEO] Kate MacDonald explained the OSPCA's position fairly well,” he said.

He added that he hoped in the future, the OSPCA will keep the lines of communication open, and employ a “softer touch” with volunteers.

**Taken from the Globe and Mail article by Kate Hammer, which can be found here.

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