The Toronto Humane Society’s past will face off with its present Tuesday night as two slates of candidates vie for five open board seats. The election will pit former president Tim Trow and four of his allies against a board-endorsed slate of five candidates, including two members running for re-election and one long-time volunteer.
At the heart of the debate is the fate of hundreds of animals who flow through the River Street shelter every year. Mr. Trow, who was forced out in 2009 amid a damaging OSPCA raid, believes the humane society needs to accommodate more animals, but the existing board hails empty cages as a sign of success. “We’re doing something right if we aren’t filled to capacity at all times,” board vice-president Marcie Laking said Monday, noting after 20 animals were adopted this past weekend, those 20 cages became empty.
Mr. Trow has criticized the shelter for failing to take in strays, and instead turning those animals over to the city-run Toronto Animal Services, which has historically reported higher euthanasia rates. He also blasts the board’s suspension of rescue operations and its “restrictive” admissions policy, which requires anyone wishing to surrender an animal to prebook a lengthy appointment at the shelter. “While it may be preferable to have someone book an appointment, we cannot turn animals away,” Mr. Trow said. He has posted videos to YouTube to highlight empty animal enclosures.
Shelter officials have been fighting back against Mr. Trow’s allegations for weeks, noting the maximum number of animals in the humane society at any given time is 350, a figure based on guidelines from the international Association of Shelter Veterinarians. Under Mr. Trow’s tenure, that number was far exceeded; when the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided the downtown shelter in 2009, more than 1,000 animals were housed there. “There was over-crowding, disease, inhumane conditions and animals dying in their cages. Some animals spent as many as two or three years in cages,” interim CEO Christopher Barry said. “Today, most animals are adopted out within a month.”
The society’s current license does not allow it to accept stray animals, Ms. Laking pointed out, and the facility cannot conduct rescue operations because its affiliation with the OSPCA was revoked after the 2009 raid, which led to criminal charges against Mr. Trow and other top officials. Those charges were later dropped.
A total of 18 candidates are running for the five available seats on the 15-member board.
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