Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time To Investigate OSPCA: Worthington

Few things highlight the differences between the “new” Toronto Humane Society and the OSPCA than their respective reactions to the Crown dropping all charges against former THS executives.
In a press release, THS president Michael Downey said they were “pleased that the Crown has decided to withdraw all charges,” adding that “public confidence must be rebuilt . . . the image of the society has been severely damaged . . . put this chapter behind us . . . .” All positive and hopeful.
Contrast that with the press conference held by the OSPCA. Holding a kitten in his arms, presumably to show his love for animals, OSPCA chairman Rob Godfrey said: “We are outraged by the Crown’s decision to drop all charges of animal cruelty, conspiracy and obstruction.”
Calling the withdrawal of charges “the whims of a lawyer,” and urging the attorney general to review the decision, Godfrey went on about “alleged animal abusers” answering to a court of law.” Churlish, mean spirited and puerile, the reaction tells you more about the OSPCA than the THS which, critics say, was being cruel by not euthanizing more animals. “Killing with kindness,” according to the Globe and Mail.
One shouldn’t blame Godfrey who is a figurehead guided by others. The OSPCA board is a closed shop; the membership has no vote.
While THS executives are cleared, how about Tre Smith — charged by the OSPCA with impersonating a peace officer after being suspended as an animal inspector?
His bete noire at OSPCA is its lead investigator Kevin Strooband, who led the attack on the THS last year, and whose own conduct has since been brought into question, including his relationship with a THS female employee who was a potential witness against the THS.
Tre Smith is something of hero to many who care about animals. On a blistering day in 2007 he smashed the window of a car to release a foaming rottweiler that was literally baking to death. The angry car owner confronted Smith who handcuffed him to the car while he called police and sought medical attention for the dog.
Passersby beat the dog-abuser, who eventually pleaded guilty to cruelty. Smith, who worked at the THS was subsequently suspended by the OSPCA.
Torontonians sided with Smith who became the face of the THS on TV programs.
He was reinstated, then suspended again.
Smith did not give up on animals, and continued to investigate on their behalf until the OSPCA went after him and alerted the media which photographed him being arrested in handcuffs. Smith’s rights were abused as were the rights of other defendants.
Some wonder at the double standard with Stroogand, who managed the THS raid and screwed up. MPPs Frank Klees (Tory) and Cheri DiNova (NDP) question the double-standard in treatment. Strooband, curiously is a member of the OSPCA’s board of directors, yet leads their investigations and can lay criminal charges.
It raises the question why a charity dependent of donations, has been given policing powers and is answerable to no one — not even its membership.
Tony Brown of the Ministry of Community and Correctional Services is on record saying there are no plans to investigate the OSPCA: “The ministry does not interfere.”
Well, the damn ministry should investigate and should interfere. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to find all sorts of complaints against the OSPCA for heavy-handedness and gouging money from people to get their animals back.