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Toronto City Hall wants your input on what you think are essential city services. We all know they are heading towards a budgetary crisis - a shortfall of $774 million for 2012 - and, despite all election promises, they're looking at what services they can cut or privatize. "Your friends in Ford Nation" will be holding a series of public meetings to get a sense of what people want to keep and what people are willing to cut back on.

These public meetings will be held between May 24 and June 7 but you must register for them if you want to get in.

Alternatively, you can do a survey on line here to let them know which services you value in your city. The first section of the survey pertains to city services in general while in the second part of the survey, you can choose to address more specific departments. Toronto Animal Services is grouped together in a licensing category and if you click on that department, you will be asked specific questions such as do you think the city should continue to look after animal welfare related services such as adoption and care or if you think it should be privatized or if you don't think animal welfare should be a major concern for the city at all.

Since you're here reading this blog, I'm hoping you think animal welfare issues are important enough that the city should be concerned about them. The question, then, is whether or not animal services can be better run by the city or by a private company.

While privatization is not in itself always necessarily a bad thing, I don't believe it works for the benefit of the animals in this case. More than likely, someone will be wanting to make a profit from a privatized pound and taking care of animals takes money away from the bottom line. Rescuing animals from other jurisdictions will certainly be canceled. Animals will only be allowed a very limited time in adoption before they are exterminated. Euthanasias are cheaper than dog food and care so they will be more readily dispensed in cases of minor illnesses or behaviour issues or advanced age or because it's 5 o'clock on a Friday and someone wants to go drinking. Staff will be cut back. Compassionate staff will be eliminated. Volunteer programs will also likely be stopped because those loud mouthed, bleeding hearts always spell trouble for private pounds.

I'm not saying these things will absolutely happen or even to what degree they will happen in a privatized system but there is obviously more incentive for such things to occur given the profit motive and the creep to rottenness is almost inevitable.

And because the animal cruelty laws are so weak in Ontario, it's likely that any animal suffering caused by negligence or intent will be roundly ignored if it could even ever be exposed. With a private pound, there will be no freedom of information act which can be used to check their records. You'll never find out what happens to the animals behind the closed doors. You'll never find out how many animals get put into the dumpster because the return on investment numbers didn't work out in their favour.

Toronto Animal Services South alone (I don't have the numbers for the other three locations) saved the lives of over 400 dogs, 1000 cats and 300 small domestic animals last year through their rescue and adoption programs.

Meanwhile, here's a reminder of what's happening in Quebec right now with their privatized pounds (nothing overly graphic in the visuals but the verbal descriptions are very disturbing):

Interview with Berger Blanc's investigator from SPA Canada on Vimeo.

Please don't let this happen in Toronto. I urge you to take some time to fill out the online survey and support a city run Toronto Animal Services.

12 Comments to “Is Toronto Animal Services important enough to keep around?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just look at Montreal as an example of what happens when humanitarian efforts meet bottom-line profits. Nobody wants that here.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up, Fred, I hadn't heard about this survey. If you don't mind, I'm linking to your post to try to spread the word.

  3. Biscuit says:

    The meetings are filling up, but there's still space at Danforth Collegiate, North York, Bloor and Islington, West Humber Collegiate, and two in Scarborough.

    Anyone else notice this info at the bottom of that registration page (and the survey, too)? "Designed and managed by Qualtrics in the USA. Personal information is stored in Ireland for a period of one year." Nice to see the City's supporting local jobs.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Unreal what goes around out there when it comes to having a voice! My concerns have always been that the privatization of TAS would go to the THS whose track hx is deplorable. Simple math - and being Conservative with them - math says each shelter on average has 100 animals x4 shelter = 400. Then the THS is capped out at 250!! So JUST within city limits -there are a min of 650! unwanted animals within facilitated walls! Then there are the feral cats!! So really?!? Privatize that = euthanasia !!!!
    End of story. Food for thought.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Amazing blog, thank you. People don't realize that TAS is on the list to be privatized. Everything they have done over the years will be erased and there would be a mass euthanasia of animals. TAS spats and neuters all their adoption animals, THS does not. TAS offers no lost spay/neuter cat service to the public as well has set up a Feral Cat Trap/Neuter Release program for registered colonies. All of this will be taken away! The City will get even more over populated with homeless pets and euthanasia would go to a record high if they were privatized. Many officers and animal care attendants will lose their jobs. Thank you again for this blog. TAS IS an essential service for all if our City animals, domestic and wild!!

  6. Fred says:

    Before this becomes a Toronto Animal Services vs Toronto Humane Society thing, I'd like to point out that I strongly support the THS in their endeavours to turn their organization into a great animal shelter (although I'm concerned about some of the people who are trying to get elected back onto their board). I'm actually much more worried that the City of Toronto might simply put animal control into the hands of the lowest private bidder who has profit motive, not animal welfare, as its main concern.

  7. Joanne says:

    Fred, you are right. THS is privately funded, TAS is what the city is targeting. I think that someone needs to present the transcript of the interview in French (in English) to Ford and let him understand exactly what will happen. Privatizing anything means cutting costs. That is somewhat ok with garbage collection, it is NOT ok with animal care and welfare. Toronto should turn to consultants such as Nathan Winograd to see how to turn our shelters into "no-kill" as much as possible. Toronto has the opportunity to become and avant-garde city with respect to animal care. With privitization, it will be known as a slaughter-house. Ford should be cutting the excess in salaries and do-nothing bureaucrats rather than aiming his guns at TAS. I wrote once already and go the standard boiler plate email response. I was not happy...that is not what he promised in his election campaign. I will be writing again. We simply cannot let this happen. Re-election of former THS board members can be dealt with later. We need to deal with this situation now.

  8. GoLightly says:

    Thanks, Fred. Your arguments as always, make sense, and are factually based. Kudos.
    I hope TAS is allowed to remain a public program.

  9. selkiem says:

    Fred, have linked you- hope that is ok.

  10. Melanie says:

    FYI Anonymous, the Toronto Humane Society spays and neuters every animal before adoption (unless there is a medical condition where S/N isn't possible). The THS also runs a FREE feral cat S/N clinic every other Sunday.

    Fred if there is anything I can do to help spread the word about what Ford is trying to do please let me know.

  11. Well, knowing all the things about this it seems that there is more to be done on this.

  12. mel says:

    All they need to do is look at Berger Blanc to see how bad of an idea this is.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.