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Animal welfare is full of grey areas. There is no generally accepted rule book for how one should go about doing animal welfare. There's really no rule book at all and because of that the world of animal welfare is full of conflict between individuals and organizations who think they've got it right and others who the first group think have got it wrong.

A successful animal welfare organization is one which can work through its own internal disagreements to come up with a common philosophy and strategy which allows the members of the organization to remain cohesive and work efficiently together for the benefit of the animals. Whether the organization decides to be low kill or no kill, to be a shelter or a sanctuary, to have open admissions or selective admissions, the people within that organization must be comfortable with those decisions and be willing to work to achieve those aims. Everyone, or at least the majority of the members, must buy in to what the organization believes in and how the organization goes about achieving those goals.

Externally, an animal welfare organization must engender trust and acceptance from the public at large. Animal welfare only exists because people are willing to help. Animals' lives are saved by people who adopt, people who foster, people who transport, train, nurture. Animal lives are saved through extensive networks and positive experiences. To cut off ties with other concerned animal welfare groups, to look with disdain upon the public and to treat them with disrespect is to severely limit the outcomes for the animals under one's roof because there will obviously be less avenues for the animals to find homes.

Any leader of the Toronto Humane Society must understand animal welfare, what works, what doesn't, the ethics, the strategies, the science, but first and foremost that person must be able to motivate and encourage dedicated and well trained staff and volunteers while also nurturing a progressively expanding public following. You need a people person, not just an animal person, to run an animal welfare agency well.

I don't personally know anyone who would ever accuse Tim Trow of being a people person. Whatever his personal philosophy with regards to animal welfare may be, it seemed pretty apparent that the Toronto Humane Society under his watch was full of internal strife and external isolation and animosity. Employees and volunteers disliked him and his animal care standards so much they were willing to testify against him in court on charges of animal cruelty, they organized demonstrations against him, they openly criticized him despite the threat of lawsuits from THS lawyers.

The THS' public persona under Trow was no better. There would be constant media assaults from Trow against Toronto Animal Services which amounted to little more than highly biased propaganda pieces. There was constant bickering between the THS and the OSPCA - and of course it was the OSPCA which finally lead the raid on the THS resulting in the arrest of Trow and his gang. And almost none of the smaller rescues in Toronto would have anything to do with the THS. Under Trow, the THS was pretty much an island, or perhaps more like a pariah, unto itself. While Trow and his media department may have gotten some kind of cheap ego boost from their spiteful sense of self-righteousness every time they attacked another animal welfare agency, they were just reinforcing the stereotype that all of us in animal welfare are just a bunch of bickering, angry, animal rights nutjobs.

After Trow was escorted off the premises of the Toronto Humane Society, a new board was elected to the THS and for the past few months they have been trying to undo the harm caused by the previous regime. It's been less than a year so things are still imperfect, but everything I hear seems to indicate that the majority of the staff and volunteers at the THS are much happier than they have ever been under Trow. The adopting public is welcomed, not gazed upon with suspicion. The animals are kept healthy in their cages and behavioural problems are addressed or at least acknowledged.

The THS is also no longer an island. They have created healthy relationships with other rescues and have started working with Toronto Animal Services. The squabbling with the OSPCA has even stopped, at least publicly. The THS has done a complete 180 and are now trying to be a part of the wider animal welfare community, not just for the sake of being accepted but in order to save the lives of more animals.

There is still much that needs to be done at the THS. I don't think anyone would say that all its problems are solved. Funding levels are still not great, but they are improving. Membership numbers could be higher. The public trust of the THS is still fragile but gradually solidifying. Most everyone in the animal welfare community celebrated the eviction of Trow even as they welcomed the new THS. The THS had seen some dark days as the dystopian outcast but there was hope that those days would be over.

Now, however, the threat of a return to those days is looming. Tonight, the THS will be holding its annual general meeting where five of fifteen board seats will be up for election. Not only has Tim Trow assembled a group of his friends to try to take those five seats but he wants to go even further than that. With only five seats, Trow does not command a majority so he knows he's obviously not always going to be able to get his way. He's attempting, then, to not only win those five seats but he also wants to oust the president, the vice president and the chair, whose positions are not up for re-election, in order to gain a majority. Tim Trow is trying to get the THS back under his thumb.

If Trow had been convicted on the charges of animal cruelty then as per the Society's regulations, he would not be allowed to run for the board. Those charges, however, were dropped, not because the massive amount of testimony against him was proven unreliable in court, but because the evidence was improperly gathered.

Trow claims he only wants to put the animals first. If he really wanted that, he'd stay away from the THS. It would be a shame to see the Toronto Humane Society once again ruined by the super-sized egos of selfish men but the only way they will get in is if the membership of the THS votes them in. If that happens, and Trow and his gang are allowed to force the THS back into the dark, then no one should be surprised when we again start hearing from shocked and disgusted employees and volunteers about overcrowded animals dying in their cages.

3 Comments to “Tim Trow wants the Toronto Humane Society”

  1. Thank you for a reasoned, well-written piece. Trow and his cohorts must not be allowed anywhere near THS or any other animal welfare agency or organization.

    Under Trow and his Trow-glydites, there was no transparency. Simple but important corporate governance questions from members were ignored; unforgiveable from a multi-million dollar organization, and the board of a for-profit organization would be kicked out the door (and possibly face criminal charges) for the refusal to answer. The shelter stank. There were too few workers for too many animals. It was institutionalized hoarding, and animals died in agony in their cages. Trow's THS refused to work with TAS or with rescues. I personally saw animals that had been driven insane by the long-term caging, and I have personal experience of THS's animal welfare failures under Trow & Co.

    The new board has made some major changes in THS in only a year; they should be applauded for the improvement in THS and encouraged to continue. The building no longer stinks. Animals are getting training and/or socialization (how much can you train a cat? *LOL*). THS works with TAS and rescues. The board is transparent; biographies and photos of board members are posted on the website, as are board minutes.

    I can't tell you how many people have told me they'll walk away from THS if Trow and his buddies get in. If Trow gets in, it's the death knell for THS.

  2. Laura HP says:

    It's unbelievable that this is happening again.
    I hear so many people argue that it wasn't that bad, it's been exaggerated. In a way I'm glad I went during the clean-up, because now I can say, no, I saw it and it WAS that bad. It was worse. It is something I will never forget.

    And being on the committee now, I can see the new THS as well, and say - this will be a great shelter. I can't speak specifically about the rest of the shelter, but the small animal department is fantastic, with healthy, happy animals. Under Trow, the small animal department was full of overweight, bored, sick, unsocialized rabbits, and rats that had reached over 100 in number because poor management decisions had allowed them to breed.

    Honestly I can't even believe this is a question.

  3. Luan says:

    Fred, you are an excellent writer and speak with a voice of reason and compassion. Thank you.

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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.