"Give them the safe home they deserve."

Last week the Globe and Mail broke a story about the Toronto Humane Society, and about the conditions some of the animals are kept in. Since then the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has suspended the THS’ affiliate status. I’m not entirely sure what that means. I’m also not sure how bad the pictures that accompany the Globe story are; I can’t bring myself to look at them. Hurt and sick animals distress me, and if I looked at the pictures I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

I’m conflicted about this story. The descriptions of the conditions in the shelter sound awful, but I know the entire truth rarely gets reported in the media. Animal protection & care is a big issue for me, and both Nellie and I make monthly donations to the THS. It also hits home for me because of these guys:

Just over six years ago Nellie and I went to the Humane Society and adopted dumbass and dumbass jr. up there. We saw no evidence of mistreatment, but we weren’t back in the cages, just in the visitor section. We were interviewed extensively before being allowed to adopt. We literally got cheers from the staff and some visitors when we came into the room to take them home. They were microchipped and given shots. Michael (the sit-ee in the picture) was quite healthy, but Sonny (the sitter) was a little sick. A vet visit, some rest and he was good as new. Cranky at first, but over the six years he’s become highly affectionate, especially right after he wakes up from a nap. They were abandoned twice before we got them, and I wonder if every time he goes to sleep he wonders if he’ll be abandoned again when he wakes up. He never is, and we get ten minutes of (rather smothering) affection every time. Michael’s a different story: he is perpetually the most affectionate cat I’ve ever seen, and will follow us around the apartment until we sit down and he can climb on us and purr. He likes us a lot, and he’s clearly glad that we adopted him. He may be an idiot, but he knows that he lucked out.

Who knows what would have happened with these guys if they hadn’t arrived at the Humane Society, and then come back again? Maybe they would’ve been ok. Maybe they would’ve been given to a family that didn’t take care of them. Maybe they would have died of exposure in the winter. They’re just one case, but put together all the abandoned and mistreated animals in this city and I’d have to think the Humane Society’s helped far more animals than it’s harmed. In fact, most of the allegations of abuse seem to stem from the fact that a) they’re too slow to euthanize animals which would be put down elsewhere, and b) they’re overcrowded, probably due in part to their policy of not euthanizing.

However, I urge you to read the lone comment at the bottom of the Globe story, posted by a former OSPCA affiliate. I’ve pasted most of it here:

Ultimately, the responsibility for the welfare of our pets falls on the shoulders of the owners. Pets need to be kept safely within the home, not allowed to wander. They need to be spayed or neutered to avoid unwanted offspring. They need medical attention and love.

With the housing boom over the last years in the GTA, shelters are bursting with animals that have been rescued off the street or worse. They often come in injured, and usually have picked up colds or viruses.

This puts a huge burden on the shelters, financially and in terms of space and manpower. It also is very difficult for workers to watch day by day the number of incoming animals (particularly cats) that nobody comes looking for. It’s as if these poor, frightened creatures were trash, not loving companions.If shelter workers lose patience with people, it’s understandable.

Well said, and I hope that resonates. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need a Humane Society, and in a better world than this they wouldn’t be nearly this busy or crowded. Hopefully whatever problems they’re having can be straightened out and they can get back to sacrificing their time and energy on saving animals from our collective neglect.

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