"We failed you," writes Fred, on his blog, onebarkatatime, of the animals killed at the River Street shelter last Friday by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA). In his blog, Fred writes with compassion of five pit pulls, another dog and 19 cats that were euthanized. He was a volunteer, walked the dogs and knew them. But he is most poignant about the shelter's longest resident:
"Smokey paid his dues to the shelter, at the very least he could have had a run in the park before they killed him."
Below, in photos by Mel Laking, are Smokey (aka, Smokie), Peti, Socks, Tiger and Captain, the five pit bulls killed:
Fred says it took volunteers at the River Street shelter until Saturday to figure out which animals had been put down. The shelter was run by the Toronto Humane Society THS) until last November when it was taken over (temporarily) by the OSPCA. He writes that staffers wanted to protest but were threatened by management, adding these employees don't accept the OSPCA/THS argument the animals were unhealthy or unsafe. Moreover, he says the five pit bulls could have been adopted out-of-province, given the Ontario ban on their breed. In fact, he was involved in the paperwork for one such transfer.
(It's worth noting officials use the term "pit bull" extremely loosely in describing the animals pictured above. Just look at those faces. Of course, the Bryant ban - controversial by its very existence - has a bizarre definition of "pit bull." Even animal geneticists quibble over the breeds found in any one dog. But I guess OSPCA experts know best.)
The OSPCA (temporarily operating the Toronto Humane Society) says the animals had to be put down, that they represented a threat to staff. The THS used to be a "no-kill" shelter, but the policy has changed since the OSPCA took over last fall. In a letter to staffers, volunteers and members, Toronto Humane Society executive director Garth Jerome says "change is difficult to accept" and lauds them for being "brave and courageous."
On the weekend, demonstrators marched outside the River Street shelter. Said protestor Rosana Martins: "They say they are protecting animals - but they are murderers. There is no mercy. This used to be a no-kill shelter, now it is a high-kill shelter."
In his letter, Jerome argues the decision to euthanize the 6 dogs (he doesn't mention the cats) came after an "exhaustive" study and the decisions were "fair and objective."
It's puzzling, however, that a panel of experts - veterinarians, OSPCA and THS representatives - was to meet this Thursday, April 1, to decide the fate of these animals. Instead, in a rush-rush fashion, the meeting was moved up to Friday, March 26, and the animals put down that day. Animals described as healthy and affectionate in knowledgeable blogs - with the input of volunteers and (clearly) off-the-record shelter employees - simply had to be put down in a hurry last Friday.
Doesn't make sense.
It's hard to understand how "fair" the process could have been when one learns about these dogs - how they played, which toys they prefered, who had a favorite blanket - in a blog by Selkie. Read their stories.
What gets me is that Smokey,Captain, Socks or any of these animals had nobody to trust but the officials of the OSPCA/THS.
They were probably excited at being led out of their cages Friday.