Friday, November 5, 2010

My Personal Take On The OSPCA Situation

I rarely post my personal feelings on this site, as it serves to inform & educate the public on pet related issues in and beyond the city, and does not serve as my personal soapbox. Recently, there has been much written about the Ontario Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, especially in light of the organization's mass euthanization of over 100 animals in its care at the Newmarket shelter. So I may be clear with you all, after this event I began contacting MPP Frank Klees and an ongoing dialogue began. Over the past months, I have assisted Mr. Klees in any way possible to ensure that there is provincial oversight of the OSPCA (there will be a debate in parliament, one which I very much look forward to attending, on this issue on November 18). It is my personal opinion, and one that certainly is not shared by all, that provincial oversight is needed to ensure such a horrid event never occurs again, and to ensure that the OSPCA separates itself as EITHER a charity OR a regulating and enforcing body of animal welfare in the province (continuing to serve as both would be akin to giving the members of MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, policing powers). In no way is it the intention of this blog to conform individuals to my way of fixing the animal welfare problem in the province (I can, and will, continue to do so by taking alternate avenues). In fact, I have sent several messages to the OSPCA asking a spokesperson to reply on the status of animal welfare in the province, and what the OSPCA purports to do to better the current situation. So far, I have had no response. Over the past 100 years(!) the OSPCA has done such wonderful things to assist animals in need, and such efforts should not go unrecognized. What must be recognized however, is the fact that currently the system is flawed, and some form of MAJOR CHANGE is needed so that the OSPCA can again serve as a shining example to Ontarians, and indeed North Americans, of how to properly deal with the animal welfare crisis in this province and beyond. Am I right? Am I completely off my rocker? Feel free to add your comments below

BTW, pictured is Nelly, my little rescue from the Toronto Humane Society that I adopted two days before it was raided by the OSPCA. I hate to think of what might have become of him had we not met on that day. He's scruffy, he's got an attitude, and I wouldn't have him any other way!

Dog Lovers Say Ontario's Ban Of Cesar Millan's Pit Bull A Shame

The penchant for keeping dogs as pets has reached an all time high in North America. Unfortunately, dogs are just as likely as people to have psychological problems, and when a gifted animal behavioural specialist comes along, pet owners are thrilled.
One such specialist is Cesar Millan, a man capable of forming special bonds with dogs, with an apparently magic ability to guide dogs out of misbehaviour such as barking too much, aggression, destroying the house, and many other problems that plague pet owners. Cesar Millan, aka the dog whisperer, has a huge franchise hinged on his gift for taming the beastly dog. He not only has a television show, he has written several books, offers a newsletter and has an online community. Many people have been wowed by Millan's apparent ease in taming the apparently unmanageable dog, often without much more than a firm word and a look. And Millan's current Canadian tour has been eagerly anticipated by his Canadian fans. As one Montreal-based fan wrote,
"... My husband and I can't wait to see your show tonight in Montreal. We've watched your TV program since 2004, along with our rottweiler named Zeus. We are also looking forward to meeting you after for the Q&A's tonight."
Millan began his Canadian tour to eleven cities across the country on October 26. He's just completed the Ontario leg of the tour, which saw appearances in Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Toronto. Part of Millan's presentation uses dogs to demonstrate tips and techniques. Millan likes to use his 'ambassador for pit bulls,' Junior -- who is a pit bull. However, after a request to grant Junior an exemption to Ontario's pit bull ban was denied by the Attorney General, a fur-flying flap has resulted. Millan had requested the exemption from Chris Bentley in August. The Times Colonist reported Bentley explained his refusal for the exemption by saying
“We have a piece of legislation and it applies to all. We don’t amend it on the fly. We respect the law and we expect the law applies equally to all.”
Chicago Now blogger Steve Dale pointed out that the Ontario legislation has exemptions which allow pit bulls into the province for dog shows and flyball tournaments. Dale said he disagreed with Millan's ideas on training, but said
"... I am grateful to Cesar for telling the truth about Pit Bulls. Some of his favorite dogs have been Pits, and he's not afraid to say so. Pits have traveled with Cesar, and graced the cover of his books."
Dale noted
"... Millan has already spoken extensively against breed-specific bans. Millan believes breed-specific legislation is discriminatory and misplaced, as do many opponents of the bans. He says aggressive dogs are the result of bad owners."
Dale was not mistaken. Pit bulls are allowed into Ontario under specifically outlined situations, such as for dog shows and flyball tournaments. But in spite of those exemptions, the The Dog Owners' Liability Act and Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 also emphatically states under the heading, 'Importing Pit Bulls,'
"It is against the law to bring pit bulls into Ontario, even for a short visit."
Junior has accompanied Millan for some of his Canadian shows, reported the Canadian Press. However, Junior will not be going to Winnipeg, which also has a pit bull ban. According to the Winnipeg Sun, the person who lobbied to bring Millan to Winnipeg said
“It’s really unfortunate that this had to happen. I think there’s a preconceived notion about pit bulls, but it is the human that can essentially make or break a dog.”
One Ontario MPP, Cheri DiNovo has opposed Ontario's new legislation that bans pit bulls since the legislation was introduced then enacted. DiNovo tried to help Millan bring Junior, a certified therapy dog, to Ontario, telling the Canadian Press
"It's significant that Cesar Millan, the foremost dog trainer in the world, has had two generations of pit bulls that he's used as his example of well-trained, happy, responsive dogs."
However, Bentley refused to allow an exception for Junior, saying
"I really respect the work of Cesar Millan, the work that he does. You know why we brought in the pit bull legislation. It was to protect people and protect dogs — protect other people's pets."
The Globe & Mail reported the Ontario Conservative Party leader, Tim Hudak waded into the dog fight too, saying refusing the exemption would "be pretty embarrassing" for Ontario. DiNovo has introduced legislation that would see Ontario's new dog responsibility law amended to get rid of all breed-related references. A Facebook group, Lift the Ontario Bitbull ban, urges people to sign a petition supporting the amendment to the legislation. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies states breed bans do not work, and notes that restricting ownership of "dangerous dogs" has not reduced the number of dog bites.
"Dangerous dogs can exist in every breed and breed cross. This behaviour can be attributed to the lack of appropriate training and socialization, inappropriate breed choice for owner’s lifestyle, failure to spay or neuter and mistreatment on behalf of the owner or person interacting with the dog."
Earlier this year, the Toronto Humane Society (THS) released the results of a study the organization had conducted on breed-specific dog bites. Reported in The Star, the THS said a review of reported dog bites since the new law was introduced showed a minimal reduction. The agency concluded
"It is clear that the new law has not worked. It has not reduced the number of dog bites and increased public safety. All it does is punishing one breed of dogs.”
Pitbull attacks continue to make leading headlines. A recent attack by a pitbull on a four year old in Las Cruces, USA has resulted in the dog being euthanized reported the Las Cruces Sun News.

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Check Out Superdogs At The Ex Starting Today Until November 14!

They're back! The President’s Choice® SuperDogs are always a huge hit with fair-goers, and in particular children who love the non-stop, high-energy show. The stars of the show - Leap, Rally, Icon, Slingshot, Flapper and Pot Roast - plus 40 other canines bow-WOW fair-goers with their antics and athletic feats. Audiences get a thrill watching them race around, up and over obstacles; launching themselves over high barriers; and even singing and dancing; working as a team to put on a stellar performance.  The Royal Family Theatre featuring the President’s Choice® SuperDogs! DAILY shows included with your General Admission Ticket. Please note that General Admission does not guarantee a seat. To gain admittance, please be advised that you should line up outside of Hall D at least 30 minutes prior to a scheduled show.

Click here for more info.

Peter Worthington's Take On The State Of Animal Welfare In Ontario

While it may be vindication for individuals, the damage done to reputations and to the principles of the Toronto Humane Society may be long-lasting. On Monday, Crown Attorney Christine McGoey dropped all charges against former THS executives who were charged with cruelty and conspiracy nine months ago, and photographed leaving the shelter in handcuffs under police escort. “Serious breaches” under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and unreasonable search and seizures methods, meant that there were “no reasonable prospects” of conviction of former THS President Tim Throw, chief veterinarian Steve Sheridan and others.

So ends the drama. Or does it? Reputations were ruined by the OSPCA’s raid that should never have taken place, and which verged on a conspiracy by alerting media to what was going on so that incriminating photos could be taken of the principals in handcuffs. The old THS board was replaced in May by a “Faces of Change” board which has scaled down the THS policy of not refusing any animal in need, and its reluctance to euthanize any but the most sick or injured. Where the THS shelter had some 1,100 animals at the time of the OSPCA raid, the new board says it houses only 250-300 animals, will accept no stray dogs or cats, and animals should be surrendered only by appointment. That’s a far cry from being “dedicated to providing compassionate care, shelter, adoptions to caring homes and a voice for abandoned, abused and injured companion animals,” as advertised on the THS website. What it seems to mean is that the THS is lowering its sights from caring for any and all animals to dealing with a few animals in need. Strays and others go to Toronto Animal Services which is the pound; killing takes precedence over adoption. Put bluntly, needy animals in Toronto are in for a hard time. People concerned about animal welfare should be uneasy. The OSPCA, which waged a vendetta against the THS for years and finally won, is itself under fire these days. It recently settled out-of-court for $40,000 when it raided and confiscated farm animals from Don Hervieux of Elmvale. Earlier, it announced it intended to kill 250 animals with ringworm, but reduced the number to 99 when a storm was raised. So it’s not a happy time for animals in the province.

Back in the 1980s, a rebellion among THS members resulted in a new and reduced board of directors run by Vicki Miller and the late Kathy Hunter that focused more on ethical treatment of animals than control and euthanasia. The province intervened and the board was expanded, but controversy seethed. In the early 2000s there was another attempt to take over the THS, and again the membership intervened to vote Tim Throw as president — and he led the campaign to reduce the THS’ kill rate to 7%, instead of the more usual 50%. It’s not unreasonable to suppose the THS membership, which is around 3,000, could rally to replace the “Faces of Change” board if it fails to meet expectations and continues to reject strays and becomes prohibitively bureaucratic. The former THS management may have erred, but its concern for animals was undeniable, albeit sometimes misguided. While the courts have tried to right the wrong, it doesn’t solve the problem of abandoned or mistreated animals in Toronto.

The Toronto Sun