Friday, June 11, 2010

OSPCA Volunteers Barking Mad Over Rama Retreat

Some OSPCA volunteers are howling mad the charity is spending donor dollars for a three-day retreat to Casino Rama.

The volunteers are livid that although the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals dealt out death sentences to around 100 dogs and cats when ringworm tore through its Newmarket shelter, it still booked a 2 1/2 day conference for around 150 people at the Orillia-area hotel and casino.

OSPCA officials said the event wraps up Saturday with its annual general meeting.

Former Newmarket shelter volunteer Ruth Wozniak called the casino stay, “a slap in the face at this time.”

“During this time when (the OSPCA) is apparently in crisis, it seems to be quite extravagant,” Wozniak told the Sun Friday.

“As everyone there is enjoying their dinners, you have these poor animal rescues that are struggling.”
Last month, the OSPCA ignited a firestorm of controversy when it announced it would euthanize 350 animals inside its Newmarket shelter due to a ringworm outbreak.

Later in the week, the OSPCA said it had “miscommunicated” that number and would only euthanize around 100 cats and dogs.

“It’s a non-profit, charitable organization in business to help the animals,” Wozniak said. “They euthanized the animals and then go off to a resort.”

Rosaline Ryan, director of marketing and communications for the OSPCA, stressed the three days at Rama were not a vacation but an annual education conference, always held at the casino that is in a geographically central spot for OSPCA officials from across the province.

“We offer training and education workshops, it’s a conference for animal welfare that the OSPCA orchestrates,” Ryan said.

“It’s a good thing for animal welfare to bring people together to unite for a couple of days and talk about how to further animal welfare in the province.

“This is about animal welfare in Ontario, not the OSPCA ... we are achieving some economies of scale by having our annual general meeting (at the same time).”

Ryan didn’t have an exact dollar amount for the event but said it was paid for through the OSPCA’s donor-funded budget. Representatives from the OSPCA’s affiliates pay their own way, she said.
Workshop participants are learning about best practices for controlling pathogens in a shelter environment, health and safety, the OSPCA’s spay/neuter clinics and a new scientifically based adoption program called Meet Your Match, Ryan said.

Linda Weir, a former OSPCA board member and volunteer, said the meeting is a necessary tool that she supports. “I just think the timing is all wrong,” Weir said. “They have more important things to attend to ... we have this catastrophe in Newmarket.”

She learned at a volunteer meeting earlier this week that the shelter had yet to be fumigated almost a month after it was emptied, Weir said. “We were appalled,” she said. “We thought that would be happening very quickly.”

Former shelter volunteer Sharon MacMurchy said she would have attended the event has she known about it. “My big beef is transparency,” she said. “We knew nothing about this.”

don.peat@sunmedia.ca