Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cats Rescued From House Of Humane Society Board Member

At least 50 sickly cats have been rescued from a Hamilton house owned by a board member for the Toronto Humane Society elected after the animal-welfare group weathered allegations of mismanagement and animal cruelty last year.

The board member, Ferne Sinkins, called the Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to her own property last week after losing contact with a cat-sitter who had been living there rent-free. For several years, the two worked under an unorthodox arrangement whereby Robert Gould, a 69-year-old pensioner, lived in the home free of charge as long as he cared for rescued cats and she supplied food. Ms. Sinkins bought the Victorian house as a shelter for cats she retrieved from Hamilton Animal Control. She operated it as a charitable endeavour and continues to write it off on her income tax, she said. But the agreement soured earlier this year. Following a dispute over Mr. Gould's continued residency, Ms. Sinkins said that her tenant severed all contact with her. “He has closed up the door and won't answer,” she said. “I haven't been in touch with him since May.” In the meantime, she stopped dropping off food for the animals. Mr. Gould claims that their health has deteriorated significantly as a result. “I'm an old-age pensioner,” he said. “I've been trying to buy food for all the cats, but it hasn't been easy. That was supposed to be her end of the deal.”

On Tuesday, OSPCA officials arrived wearing latex gloves and respirators to retrieve the cats. At least one had been euthanized. “They were in very poor shape,” said Mr. Gould. “They ran all over when the OSPCA was here knocking over this and that. The house is a mess. I feel sick about it.” He received a notice for a tenant-landlord hearing the same day and suspects to be evicted some time soon. The two disagree where all the cats came from. Mr. Gould claims his landlord dropped off the majority over the past year. At one point, he alleges, there were as many as 120 in the home. He says he rescued no more than 10 or so – from local feral populations, and did so with her consent. A new city by-law limits cats to four per dwelling. Ms. Sinkins insists that her tenant's affection for strays accounts for the high numbers. “He goes outside in the neighbourhood feeding them and then he brings them back [to the house],” she said. “He accumulates them like a hoarder.” “He wouldn't tell me how the cats were doing and I put off doing something for as long as I could,” she continued. “But I'm on the board of the Toronto Human Society so I don't want to do anything that jeopardizes the board or gives it bad publicity. It has had enough of that the last while.”

The shelter was closed in April as part of a court-approved agreement between the THS's previous board of directors and the OSPCA. Late last year, the OSPCA raided the shelter, arrested five senior managers and charged them with animal cruelty. All charges have since been dropped. On May 31 the organization voted in Ms. Sinkins and 14 other new board members, all running on the Faces of Change slate, who promised to change the way things are done at the THS. Garth Jerome, executive director of the THS, said he was unaware of Ms. Sinkins' Hamilton home until this week and hopes the incident doesn't detract from efforts to restore the organization's reputation. Shortly after her election, Mr. Sinkins put her Hamilton property up for sale. She hopes to sell it as soon as Mr. Gould leaves. Late Tuesday night, she had found a new home for the Hamilton cats and was leading OSPCA officials there as she spoke to The Globe.

The Globe And Mail