Monday, April 11, 2011

Is Former Toronto Humane Society President Tim Trow Aiming To Return?

The former president of the Toronto Humane Society who was charged with animal cruelty in 2009 only to see charges dropped a year later, is considering a bid to return to the shelter’s board of directors.

Many humane society members were surprised to receive a copy of a letter Tuesday from Tim Trow, rife with his criticisms of the current board. And while the former president says he has not yet decided whether to run for a seat in the May election, his letter reads strikingly like a campaign platform. “I’m just terribly, terribly concerned with what’s going on down there and simply wanted to tell members,” Mr. Trow said in an interview, citing the shelter’s reduced intake capacity as a primary concern. He would neither confirm nor rule out a re-election bid. “My mind is open on it, but I haven’t made a decision.”

Mr. Trow was among a number of top humane society officials charged with animal cruelty after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided the downtown shelter in November 2009. Investigators spoke of finding numerous animals in states of severe neglect; perhaps the most shocking discovery, revealed to journalists during a sensational media tour, was the mummified body of a cat in the ceiling.

Last August, all charges against Mr. Trow and his colleagues were dropped, with the Crown citing “serious breaches” of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the OSPCA probe. Today, Mr. Trow avoids questions on whether there was any merit to the animal-cruelty allegations, but points out he has never personally harmed an animal. “Nobody wants animals to suffer unnecessarily, including Tim Trow. My life has been about helping them and feeling sorry for them and trying to save them,” he said.

Animosity clearly remains between Mr. Trow and members of the “Faces of Change” slate that swept board elections after his departure. Marcie Laking, the board’s vice-president, decried the “smear campaign” Mr. Trow has mounted through his missive to members. “The letter that has gone out to members is full of untruths,” Ms. Laking said. “It’s really sad.” The letter — which is also posted to Mr. Trow’s personal website — catalogues a host of perceived problems with the humane society, but Ms. Laking says many result directly from the 2009 raid. Mr. Trow criticizes the lack of a wildlife rehabilitation program, but the shelter’s wildlife licence was revoked after the raid; he cites a reduction in donations, which fell off after the controversial OSPCA probe. “Visitors go to the shelter and see empty cages and they ask where all the animals are… Donors see how little the society is doing and have cut yearly donations to only a fraction,” the letter states.

Mr. Trow also criticizes the humane society for reducing its number of animal cages, but board president Michael Downey said the shelter has instead been outfitted with larger cages to comply with existing standards. “The society has gone through hell and I think it’s come out of that hell, and it’s headed in the right direction in my view,” Mr. Downey said. “Members are going to decide whether, do you want to go back to the past or do you want to move forward, and they’re going to vote accordingly.”

Opponents of Mr. Trow have now circulated a letter urging residents to become members of the humane society for the express purpose of voting against him in the event of a re-election bid. Linda Jacobson, a veterinarian at the shelter, confirmed opposition is growing. “Many of us are trying to get people to join and vote for who we consider a more suitable candidate,” she said.

Five seats are up for grabs in the May 31 election. Around the same time, the board is hoping to install a replacement for former CEO Garth Jerome, whose abrupt ouster in February spurred two board members to quit in protest.
*The National Post