Friday, April 2, 2010

Letter From THS Executive Director Garth Jerome

To all staff, volunteers, members and supporters,

Our organization is entering a period of rapid change. These changes are for the better of the animals that we strive so diligently to care for. I many cases, change is difficult to accept, I extend my hand of warmth and gratitude to all of you. You are all brave and courageous and I admire you deeply. It is only through your hard efforts that The Toronto Humane Society has endured for so long and will continue to do so.

The Toronto Humane Society’s new euthanasia policy will not make it a ‘high-kill’ shelter. We will continue to treat sick and injured animals and make them available for adoption. Simply because an animal has a problem does not make them ‘unadoptable’.

That does not mean than euthanasia will not take place. The THS has never been a ‘no-kill’ shelter. We are going to focus on positive outcomes for the animals. This means that we will do everything we can to get every animal that comes into our shelter into a new loving home. In certain circumstances, those outcomes are not possible. The THS is a shelter, we are not an animal sanctuary who can house animals, who will never be available for adoption, indefinitely.

However difficult, we have been faced with some important decisions. The current animal population at the shelter consists of many animals who have been in the shelter for some length of time. They include animals whose quality of life is severely diminished due to illness, injury or present with serious behavioural issues which prevent us from placing them in homes, within the boundaries of our responsibilities. Some of these animals, especially dogs, have been a part of your lives for some time. I know that you will bear fond memories of them for years to come.

In the light of these facts, I have empowered the animal care staff to proceed with all reasonable means to deal with those animals who present with these conditions. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the well-being and quality of life of all the animals in our care is our key priority.

The process around assessing the health and well-being of these 6 dogs has been exhaustive. We understand that for many people there is a huge emotional connection to these animals. For that reason, a number of procedures were followed to ensure that the decisions were fair and objective:

1. An in-house SAFER test was performed an all the dogs.

2. A number of rescue groups were approached to assess the dogs, with their own tests.

3. A “scorecard system”, developed by veterinarians was used to assess health, pain, suffering, temperament and many other parameters.

4. Independent consultants were asked to evaluate the dogs, based on their current condition.

5. Once all this data was collated, a panel of 8 persons, comprising veterinarians, representatives of the OSPCA and the THS, met to decide on their outcomes.

6. This meeting was scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 1, 2010. Due to a number of concerns around safety of employees, volunteers and the animals themselves, this meeting was moved to Friday, March 26, 2010, as a matter of urgency.

The Toronto Humane Society was required to consider additional factors in this decision. While tentative agreements were made to place some of these dogs in rescues, there are legal obstacles which have presented themselves. A number of the dogs had severe temperament concerns and aggression. Many had bite orders. All of these factors need to be considered when deciding on the most humane course of action, within the bounds of the law.

Once the animals were evaluated, euthanasia decisions were made on 6 of the animals assessed. These 6 dogs were not able to be adopted, fostered or transferred. The only outcome for them was to live in the shelter indefinitely. That is not an acceptable animal care practice. The THS made the extremely difficult, but appropriate decision.

I wish to assure all of you that no animal in the care of The Toronto Humane Society shall be allowed to suffer at any point in its care. There is clear and positive direction and that is the road ahead.

We understand that this is a very emotional and difficult time for you if you are staff, volunteers, supporter or an animal lover. Here, there have been tears and sorrow as well. Please know that these decisions are not taken lightly.


Garth Jerome
Executive Director

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