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We're now one step closer to seeing the end of Toronto Animal Services. The most recent recommendation to Rob Ford's cost cutting team by consultants KPGM is to privatize animal control in Toronto.

From The Globe and Mail, Pet licences, business permits next in City Hall cost-cutting line

It proposes scrapping the city’s cat and dog licensing program, outsourcing animal care and enforcement, reducing response time for emergency animal rescues and abandoning a pickup program for unwanted animals.

Says Mr. Palacio, chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee:
“What is clear in this report is that it’s time to cut this city’s red tape. We have garbage police who are supposed to ensure recycling targets are achieved and pet detectives peeking through people’s windows to see if pets have licences. Both of these things are not working. They should be reviewed and perhaps eliminated.”

What he fails to mention is that animal services is not just about peeking into people's windows. That was a blip, and perhaps an ill-advised one, compared to the day to day job of rescuing, fostering, retrieving, returning, adopting, rehabilitating, investigating, educating. That's thousands of animal lives a year saved. That's thousands of animal lives a year which could be lost if city council decides they don't care enough.

We know what happens when a city turns it back on animal services and gives it over to the lowest bidder. We've seen it in Montreal. Animal services cannot just be about finding the lowest cost provider because that would be a slaughterhouse. There must be an ethical counterbalance to simply finding the guy who'll do the deed for the least money. Perhaps the cost-cutters can watch this video and think to themselves, "So what? As long as it saves us a buck, we're happy," but I'm hoping they have enough compassion and foresight to realize that saving a buck is sometimes not worth all the misery it will cause.

20 Comments to “Is Toronto Animal Services on the chopping block?”

  1. GoLightly says:

    I shudder at the thought..

  2. Anonymous says:

    One more reason why I didn't vote for Ford.

  3. Joanne says:

    Why is it the animals always have to pay the price. Did KPMG even look at the other work done by TAS? If they think that licencing not working then perhaps a mandatory microchip program. A one-time fee rather than each year or so. That would certainly increase the number of animals which could be identified and returned to their owners. You want to cut costs..take a look at all those frauds gobbling at the public teat, living in subsidized housing while the truly needy and deserving have to wait and wait and wait. Those scamming the system..that will find you a huge percentage of the $700 million needed to take the City out of the hole. Leave TAS and the animals alone. Perhaps we should burn DVDS of the video and send it to each councillor and members of KPMG who are trying to make these cuts. It makes you wonder where they left their brains, if they had any to start with.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just wrote to Doug Ford asking them to not cut animal services. I hope he actually listens.

  5. mel says:

    I don't understand how ANYONE could think any of what Ford is proposing is a good idea. Crikey, we'd be going back in time. Like you said, Berger Blanc is a perfect example of this. Hell, perhaps the folks in TO need to speak to the MTL SPCA about what they're going through now. What a mess.

    And as far as licensing? One word: Calgary.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I'm trying so hard to spread the word. This terrifies me.

  7. You may be p'd off at Ford but as an MPP Smitherman voted to kill dogs because of the way they look and reduced people to second-class citizens because of the property they own. Very hypocritical for out-of-the-closet gays - Smitherman and Kathleen Wynne - to discriminate against others.

    The Mayor and Councillors have to realize that it is Animal SERVICES. Tell the bean counters to look elsewhere.

    Government is different from free enterprise. Free enterprise is in business to make money. Government exercises power over people and property.

    The value of good government is not in the dollars and cents. It is in the thoughtful, responsible exercise of power in the protection of the most vulnerable - seniors, children, animals - and the protection of people's persons and property.

    Rev up your fax machines, drop your letters off at City Hall - don't e-mail, e-mails are too easily filtered and dumped - and tell them exactly why Animal Services and the helpless animals cannot be victims of the bean counters.

    Fax numbers:
    Mayor Rob Ford - 416 338-7125
    Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday - 416 392-4004
    Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti - 416 397-9282

    Be polite and respectful, or your message will be lost. The more voices they hear, the better.

  8. selkiem says:

    the type of cuts that KPMG are coming up would be hilarious if it wasn't so scary - cutting subsidized daycare, seniors homes, RECYLING for christ's sake - not surprised at this. Although frankly I have an issue with the way the licensing was being so aggressively pursued - there was a HUGE feel of "big brother" about it. Having said that, I would HATE to see Animal Services cut- in fact would like to see MORE money assigned - Montreal indeed is a horrific example of profit over morals.

  9. It is incredibly disheartening to hear that once again TAS is on the chopping block. You might recall that TAS was also on the chopping block during David Miller's reign at City Hall in February of 2008. I'm assuming due to a large public outcry that the proposal never went through and now there's a similar proposal under Rob Ford.

    The current proposal is very similar to the earlier one (after a quick read). You can read details at From what I can tell, this meetup/activist group is no longer active.

    Does anyone know of a facebook group or a coordinated campaign of any sort that has been setup recently to fight this proposal? I'd be interested in getting something going if others are willing as well...or maybe there's already something in the works?

  10. Fred says:

    thecravinglife, thanks for the link. I remember there was some whispering about change of scope for TAS in 2008 but I don't recall anyone getting too worried over that suggestion from planners. This time, the suggestions for cutbacks of TAS related services are much broader and there seems to be a greater sense of concern. Let's hope the present council has as at least as much regard for animal services as the previous one.

    I'm not aware of any campaign set up to fight this proposal. If you're up for it ...

  11. Perhaps the proposal in 2008 wasn't taken as seriously given the leadership in City Hall at the time. I agree that this time round it's likely to be more of a real concern.

    I'm happy to organize a facebook group and/or blog to get the ball rolling. Would you Fred, or anyone else in your Pound Dogs community, be interested in collaborating on this? I'm open to any and all ideas as this would be the first social media campaign I'd be involved in directly...


  12. Laura HP says:

    I definitely want to make some noise about this, it's completely ridiculous. I went to the public consultations and I read the data that came out of them - the majority of Torontonians want to raise taxes or user fees. The majority don't want to cut services. But shockingly, the recommendations didn't follow the public consultations at all.
    If Torontonians really knew that TAS may be cut, they'd make noise. But no one ever raises a fuss or gets people involved - TAS has a lot of fans in the city, we need them to hear about this and defend the service.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I pay for a license annually for all my pets. It protects them first and foremost and secondly helps pay to run TAS. This is what it costs to run a city. It's socially responsible to be honest and pay for things like this as we should. So many people cheat the system and don't pay because they don't understand what it pays for. How about greater fines for those who don't have their animals licensed??? I bet the amount of voluntarily licensed animals is staggeringly low in the city of Toronto!

  14. Anonymous says:

    While I share your enthusiasm for the animals, Toronto Animal Services is a terrible organization.

    Firstly, they do a piss-poor job of looking after cats brought to them, often euthanizing within a few weeks of receiving them. They do next to nothing with feral cats in the city, aside from capturing and killing them. They have nine staff paid over $100,000/year - all the while killing cats after 3 weeks because they can't afford to keep them - and then they have the brazen audacity to ask for donations? Excuse me.

    The pet licensing is an absolute farce. The only people paying it are responsible pet owners, and responsible pet owners microchip their pets and seldom lose them.

    With a $12 million dollar budget, that money could be used much better used in the hands of the volunteer organizations, or even THS, or to fund low-cost spay/neuter clinics. Instead it's going to well-paid administrators who force people to pay a license, pick up dead squirrels, and euthanize 'nuisance' and unwanted cats.

    The people and the cats of Toronto would be much better served if TAS was disbanded and the services it provides picked up by the various organizations that have already shown the dedication to help animals by doing it without pay.

  15. Fred says:

    Hi Anonymous, while some of your points may be valid, you're ignoring many things TAS does extremely well, including rescuing, rehoming and returning thousands of animals a year.

    The majority of the funds you mention goes towards animal control. You can debate all you want about the efficiency of that aspect of TAS but back it up with numbers and results relative to other jurisdictions otherwise it's just your opinion.

    As for the part of the money that goes to animal welfare, if it were spread around to all the local rescues, would they be able to do better? Maybe, but we'll never know because there's no way city council is going to approve a budget which includes giving a whack load of money to local animal rescue organizations. Not going to happen. Also what's not going to happen is for any worthwhile animal welfare organization in the city to be able to flip around and do animal control "without pay".

    As for your suggestion that some city money be spent on funding a low cost speuter clinic, that's an excellent idea. And more money for the THS - that's also an excellent idea. Will it happen under this city council? Why don't you go and ask them? I'll fully support the idea.

  16. Anonymous, the "various organizations that have already shown the dedication to help animals by doing it without pay" are doing it for love and barely keeping their heads above water (occasionally sinking).

    The stakeholder in TAS is different than non-government organizations and private rescues, which makes a huge difference in the way it's run. It is run by and for the City of Toronto, unlike private rescues which are run as the operators see fit.

    A low-cost s/n clinic would be great...especially if it were mobile and could go from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, like the one a rescue in the States operates, except I think the OVMA had an absolutely snitfit about the idea when it was suggested here. Are you going to work out the logistics and cost, find the sponsors and take it to council?

  17. Melanie says:


    I agree that a low cost spay neuter clinic is something Toronto needs. Our cat overpopulation isn't going fix itself.

    I disagree that there is no place for TAS. TAS has to take in every animal that comes to it. All of the rescues in Toronto have the right to refuse animals. Even with increased funding, what will happen to the animals that need help when the rescues are full and can't take in anymore? Majority of these rescues are volunteer driven and rely on foster homes. We can't just leave these animals on the streets and we can't force these rescues to take over aspects of TAS operations if they don't want to do it.

    Do the rescues in Toronto even want to take on the responsibility of picking up dead animals, or dealing with nuisance calls?

    Without a massive city wide, S/N program aimed at feral cats, and a low cost S/N clinic for owned animals, it is my opinion that turning rescues into organizations with pound responsibilities will force no-kill rescues to start euthanizing cats and I'm not sure that they want to go down that road.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I though TAS was a no-kill shelter?

  19. Fred says:

    Hi Anon, TAS is officially a city pound. TAS is not a no-kill shelter. They are mandated to enforce various provincial and municipal laws concerning animals in the city. These include, among other things, euthanasias requested by pet owners, euthanasia of ungrandfathered Pit Bulls who cannot be rehomed out of province (thanks to Ontario's draconian Pit Bull laws), court ordered euthanasias, euthanasia of "unadoptable" animals due to health or behaviour. Of course TAS does much more than that but with respect to no-kill, I'm only bringing up here the unfortunate euthanasia aspect of their mandate.

    In the last five years or so, TAS South has been staffed by more rescue minded people who have been working to save as many animals as possible while working within the city/provincial mandate.

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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.