Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Toronto Humane Society Calls Urgent Meeting Over House Full Of Sick Cats

The Toronto Humane Society board has called an emergency meeting Wednesday night to decide on whether to oust Ferne Sinkins as a board member after an embarrassing situation arose this week over a house full of sick cats in Hamilton. That house belongs to Sinkins and an investigation was launched after at least 50 cats were removed from her house on Tuesday. One cat was found dead at the scene and another had to be euthanized. Sinkins, who owns the house but doesn’t live there, was voted onto the board in May following an investigation into charges – later dropped – of animal cruelty at the humane society. The Toronto board realizes that this is an embarrassing situation, but at the same time wants to gather all the facts before deciding on how to proceed. Garth Jerome, executive director of the THS, said he was unaware of the situation in Hamilton until this week. “I’m just waiting for some feedback from my board on where they’re going to proceed,” Jerome said in an interview. “We had no knowledge there were animals there.” The home in Hamilton is not part of the operation of the Toronto Humane Society, Jerome said, adding that “it is now our concern clearly now because Ms. Sinkins is a director with the Toronto Humane Society. We need to decide where we are going with this.” He said he did not know yet whether Sinkins would be part of the board’s emergency meeting. Jerome would not speculate on whether the board will vote to remove Sinkins. He said he hasn’t talked to Sinkins, but other board members have. Sinkins has not returned calls to the Toronto Star. It’s not clear if she knew there were that many cats in the house, which is a clear violation of city ordinances. A new city bylaw in Hamilton limits all pets to two per dwelling. She had rented her house out to a 69-year-old man, Robert Gould, who looked after the cats in exchange for free rent. Sinkins is currently trying to sell the property, but has reportedly lost contact with her tenant. Investigators from the Hamilton-Burlington arm of the OSPCA arrived at a Hamilton home on Tuesday to find squalid conditions. Inside was the body of one cat that had been dead for a few weeks. Another cat had to be euthanized because it was in such bad shape. Wearing latex gloves and respirators, the investigators herded the cats into cages and relocated them to Durham Region, where they are under a veterinarian’s care. The surviving cats were not malnourished but had other medical issues, such as breathing problems, according to Vivian LaFlamme, an inspector with the Hamilton-Burlington OSPCA. “All the cats were fed and given water, but other than that they were not cared for,” LaFlamme said. There were so many cats left on their own that they were not socialized, LaFlamme said. When investigators arrived, the cats were petrified and began jumping around the house and trying to attack the investigators, LaFlamme said. The tenant has publicly blamed Sinkins for not making sure the cats were fed. Under their arrangement, Sinkins had provided free rent and the cat food if he would care for the cats. However, it’s not clear how the arrangement broke down, or who knew how many animals were in the house. “We don’t know the full truth because we’re getting different stories all the time,” LaFlamme said. She said early indications are that the tenant began picking up strays to the point that “he became overwhelmed.” This was the second time that animal control has been called to that location. Investigators are concerned that some of the cats may have owners who are looking for them. LaFlamme said that if anyone in the Hamilton area believes one of the cats is theirs, they should call the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA at 905-574-7722 and attempts will be made to reunite the cats with their owners.

*The Toronto Star

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