Friday, November 26, 2010

Toronto Humane Society Board Member Takes A Leave And Speaks On The Issue

One day after taking a leave of absence from the Toronto Humane Society board, Ferne Sinkins opened up about the remarkable seizure of about 50 cats from her Hamilton home this week. “It’s a mess,” Sinkins said, admitting that she made mistakes, but only in not acting earlier before the Hamilton-Burlington branch of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized about 50 cats. “It looks bad,” she went on. “(But) I don’t think the public really has a bad feeling about this. It’s not right and I would not have this happen, except that I couldn’t do anything about it.” Officials found one cat dead and another that had to be euthanized. Others showed signs of respiratory illness while living in deplorable conditions. The cats are now under a veterinarian’s care in Durham Region; all are expected to recover. Sinkins, however, blames her tenant, Robert Gould, whom she is trying to evict with a court order. She accuses Gould of being a hoarder and not letting her into the home. Gould has fired back, saying that he brought in only 10 to 12 cats and the others were brought there by Sinkins. In October, he says, there were more than 100 cats inside the Keith St. house. Sinkins counters that she thought there were only 15 to 20 there. Sinkins admitted to the Star that she made mistakes and used “questionable judgment” in not acting sooner to protect the cats and try to evict Gould. She allowed Gould, a 69-year-old pensioner, to live in her house rent free if he would take care of the cats and feed them when she dropped off food. “I wouldn’t do this again. This was a failed experiment,” Sinkins said. “I feel Bob is a cat hoarder and he wouldn’t let them go.” Sinkins, a 71-year-old retired high school teacher, told the Star that she was aware she was contravening city bylaws that allow only two animals per dwelling. However, her home was never to be a permanent destination, she said. “It was supposed to be a stop-off place for cats we saved from Hamilton Animal Control,” she said. Michael Downey, president of the Toronto Humane Society, told The Star Thursday that although Sinkins used questionable judgment, she admitted her mistake and “we all learn from that.” “She did the right thing by taking a leave of absence,” he said. “She feels bad, but deep down she has a long history of care for animals.” Sinkins spoke to the Star at City Hall on Thursday, where she met with members of a feral cat rescue coalition to discuss strategies with the city’s Animals Services department to control the feral cat population. “This is the heart of the issue — the growing feral cat population,” said Sinkins, who estimates there are 400 cats being born every day in Toronto. A new clinic operating on Progress Ave. in Scarborough is providing free spaying and neutering to rescue groups and Sinkins says this is a step in the right direction. Eletta Purdy, manager of Animal Services, estimates there are an estimated 20,000 feral cats in Toronto. Meanwhile, Gould is feeling “stressed” over the episode and already misses the cats. “They were like family to me,” he said. “I feel terrible.”

*The Toronto Star

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