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Last week, Toronto Animals Services won an award for its pet adoption program.

The Summit for Urban Animal Strategies has recognized the City of Toronto’s Animal Services with a 2011 Summit for Urban Strategies Award in the “Animal Homing” category.

The award recognizes an organization that demonstrates innovation, commitment and extraordinary effort in “homing” animals through adoption, partnership and fostering programs. The award was presented October 21 at the 2011 Summit for Urban Animal Strategies held in Montebello, Quebec.

“Toronto Animal Services staff have developed strong community and industry partnerships that have resulted in significant increases in pet adoptions to permanent homes,” said Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17 Davenport), Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee. “It’s keeping the number of animals living in shelters at a responsible, manageable and cost-effective level.”

I'd never heard of the International Summit for Urban Animal Strategies before so I thought I'd check them out. Here are their vision and mission statements:

Our vision is to gather executive level thought leaders who can advance the state of the art in urban animal strategies

Our mission is to promote strategies that build healthy communities for pets and people and to recognize those who achieve success

ISUAS appears to be an industry sponsored affair lead by such names as PetLynx (lost animal registry), IAMS, Petsecure (pet insurance) and more. Some of the awards are business focused but most of them deal with animal welfare.

I admittedly have a suspicion of anything for-profit proclaiming involvement in animal welfare but perusing through their online material, it seems well-intentioned enough if perhaps a bit high falutin. The $1450.00 attendance fee for the three night/four day affair, which includes very cushy accomodations, certainly isn't cheap. That money also buys a one year membership in ISUAS but you have to be nominated or some such thing before you can join. The 2011 Summit was held at the Fairmont Chateau in Montebello, Quebec. The 2010 Summit was held at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Anything which celebrates animal welfare is a step above not celebrating animal welfare and perhaps it's time the community stepped out of the trenches for a moment and allowed itself a bit of recognition. There's always the argument that money spent on galas could be better spent on directly saving lives but I think the additional publicity around an event like this - if done properly - would further normalize within the public mindset the idea of rescuing and adopting abandoned animals.

Here's a list of the awards handed out in 2011:

Animal Homing – sponsored by: Iams Canada

Nominees must demonstrate innovation, commitment and extraordinary effort in homing animals through adoption, sale, return-to-owner, re-homing and/or fostering programs.

* Toronto Animal Services, ON

Animal Sheltering – sponsored by: Petsmart Charities of Canada

Recognizes extraordinary efforts to address both the physical and psychological aspects of animal care for animals in shelters, pounds, retail outlets, kennels, veterinary clinics/hospitals, grooming shops and other facilities where animals are housed.

* City of Edmonton, Animal Care and Control Center, AB

Animal Wellness - sponsored by: Petsecure Pet Health Insurance

Recognizes a Nominee’s efforts to improve the overall levels of wellness for animals of pet families in a particular client base, community or industry sector.

* Alberta Spay and Neuter Task Force, AB

Community Compliance
- sponsored by PetLynx Corporation

Acknowledges efforts to increase the overall level of compliance in a community using a broad definition of responsibility and/or related best practices and standards and/or National Codes of Conduct.

* Toronto Humane Society Trap, Neuter and Release, ON

Communications - sponsored by Petsecure Pet Health Insurance

Recognizes outstanding achievement in the development and successful delivery of content, education, communications programs/strategies/initiatives and/or media involvement that promotes a better environment for pets and people locally, nationally or internationally.

* Nova Scotia SPCA, NS

Distinguished Service Provider - sponsored by Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC Canada)

Recognition of innovative services, products or programs that make a positive impact in the lives of pets and people within a specific community or sector(s) of the companion animal industry.

* Calgary Humane Society, AB

Responsible Breeder - sponsored by Ontario SPCA

Recognizes an individual who demonstrates exceptional commitment of five or more years to producing, promoting and homing animals while exhibiting a high level of professionalism, commitment and responsibility

* Cathy Prothro

Product or Service Innovation
- sponsored by Petsmart Charities of Canada

Recognizes excellence in a product, service or program that improves the overall health, wellness and/or quality of life of animals in pet families, a particular client base, a community or any industry sector(s).

* Animal Rescue Foundation, AB

Community Collaboration - sponsored by PetLynx Corporation

Recognizes programs, codes of conduct, best practices, or legislative framework delivered across multiple sectors of the companion animal industry that improve levels of service and care provided to animals and people in a community.

* Calgary Humane Society & Alberta Animal Services, AB

Retail – sponsored by: Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC Canada)

Special achievement in the area of Retailer is presented to a business most deserving based on its commitment to implementing in-store and community programs that enhance the experience of pets and people.

* Petland Kamloops, BC

Individual Achievement
- sponsored by: Iams Canada

Honours the exceptional efforts of a person who is currently working or volunteering in the companion animal industry. These individuals demonstrate unwavering efforts to the improvement of industry collaboration and promoting responsible pet families.

* Dr. Michelle Lem - Community Veterinary Outreach, ON

Lifetime Achievement - sponsored by Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Honours the outstanding efforts of an individual who has retired from active involvement in the companion animal industry. The individual demonstrates exceptional effort to improving industry collaboration and promoting responsible pet families.

* Dr. Lynn Webster, MB

The other nominees were:

Ontario SPCA Barrie Branch, Ontario SPCA – Meet your Match, Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic, Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic, The Atlantic Network, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association/Edmonton Humane Society, Edmonton Humane Society, Nova Scotia SPCA, Ontario SPCA’s Animal Voice Magazine, Petland Canada – Robert Church, Ontario SPCA, Alberta Animal Services, Ontario SPCA – Infection & Disease Control Manual, Ontario SPCA – Provincial Education & Animal Centre, The City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services, Western Dog Grooming School, AJ’s Pets & Things, The Chewed Slipper, Planet Paws Pet Essentials, Critter Jungle Ltd., Eletta Purdy, Dave Wilson

Not a bad list of winners there (notice that Toronto Humane Society got a "Community Compliance" award for their feral cat trap/neuter/release program).

One thing ISUAS could maybe help promote more is the fact that animal welfare is largely a grassroots movement - whether that's animal care workers who shoulder additional duties or volunteers who dedicate their free time - and wouldn't it be great to give accolades to a wider variety of volunteer driven organizations - perhaps a breed specific rescue with a different breed chosen annually or a transport network moving animals from pounds where they have no hope to shelters where they can be adopted out or a group which defends Pit Bulls and other BSL targeted dogs and the list goes on.

I suspect the more award categories they have, the larger an audience they will garner.

Oh and they should have pets there or at least lots of photos of companion animals with stories about those animals. What's the point of having an animal based award show without animals? That's like having the Academy Awards without movie clips.

Anyway, this is what they had to say about Toronto Animal Services:


In 2010, Toronto Animal Services (TAS) was able to increase pet adoption numbers by 18% over 2009. In 2009, TAS rehomed 3597 dogs, cats and small pets and in 2010, TAS rehomed 4268 dogs, cats and small pets. In 2010 A multi-faceted approach was used to reach this achievement. Some of these programs were well established, some developing and some new in 2010:

1. Dog “transfer in” program: TAS participates in dog rescue programs, using volunteers to transport dogs from Quebec, Ohio, Kentucky and Northern Ontario to TAS for adoption. Approximately 250 dogs per year find homes from TAS through this program.

2. Corporate Partnerships: TAS partners with 5 different Petsmart stores, rehoming several hundred cats and small mammals per year from the stores. TAS also uses partnerships with 5 smaller pet supply stores and approximately 6 Veterinary practices to offer off-site adoption of cats and small mammals.

3. Foster program: TAS volunteers and staff foster cats with kittens, orphan kittens and sick animals. When animals are ready, they are brought back to the shelter for adoption.

4. Reduced cost cat adoptions: Several times per year, TAS reduces adoption fees on cats. For $25, adopters can find a feline companion that is spayed or neutered, microchipped, fully vaccinated and vet checked. Staff ensure quality adoptions regardless of the adoption fee.

5. Dog and Cat rescue groups: TAS uses a wide network of dog and cat rescue organizations to transfer out animals with difficult behavioural and health issues.

6. New partnership with Toronto Humane Society (THS): TAS transfers animals to the newly organized THS to assist with overpopulation in TAS shelters.

7. Public and Media relations: TAS uses innovative ad campaigns that encourage adoption from TAS shelters, donations and participation in volunteer programs. Ad campaigns are visible on TAS website, print media and radio. TAS is a regular guest on a weekly TV show called “Animal Housecalls”, a weekly guest on a radio show called “Animal House Radio” and a monthly guest on CP24 morning program. Pet adoption is the main focus in all 3 of these forums.

8. Donations: TAS accepts donations at all shelters, but is most successful at collecting donations through a donation portal from an online pet licensing page on the TAS website. Donations are used for spaying/neutering, shelter enrichment programs and advanced veterinary care, all of which facilitate the animal’s best chance for adoption.

9. Staff Veterinarians: TAS employs 2 full time and 2 part time veterinarians who manage shelter populations through specialized shelter medicine and wellness programs. TAS is able to offer pets for adoption that are less stressed and healthy – this is key to any good adoption program and improves adoption numbers.

10. TAS has gained the support of many dedicated volunteers. Two of these volunteers maintain Facebook and Twitter pages and one of the volunteers maintains an active blog – all dedicated to pets for adoption at TAS.
Additional Merit

The TAS dog “transfer in” program is featured in this section because the resulting benefits of the program are very far reaching. Toronto’s residents are a pet loving community, but because dog overpopulation is no longer an issue for TAS, meeting the demand from the public who wanted to adopt a dog from a shelter became difficult. All of the dogs that are transferred in from other regions would otherwise be euthanized, so the program was started to meet the demand from the public and to offer a venue for rehoming dogs with an otherwise bleak future. Aside from these obvious benefits, the dog “transfer in” program has been successful in some unexpected ways. TAS public profile and image has greatly improved because of the work that is done in this area and this is believed to assist TAS in finding not only more homes for dogs, but also for cats. TAS enjoys regular, very positive media attention for this program in Toronto and this has assisted greatly in gaining support from volunteers and the general public. The City of Toronto has been praised in the media in the province of Quebec as an organization that is succeeding in the area of Animal Care and Control and public education on responsible pet ownership.

Geographic Scope of Community Collaboration

TAS collaborates with partners, both corporate and volunteer, throughout the entire City of Toronto and expanding into the Greater Toronto Area.

Dog “transfer in” program is mainly a collaboration between TAS and volunteers who are based in Toronto and Kingston in Ontario and in the province of Quebec.

Supporting Material

Toronto Animal Services - 12 Strays of Christmas

Toronto Animal Services - A Place to Call Home

Toronto Star article

Vet newsletter

1 Comment to “Toronto Animal Services wins 2011 Summit for Urban Strategies Award for “Animal Homing””

  1. An "award" from industry, bestowed on nonprofits, with no cash attached?

    Yeah, that and four bux will buy you a latte.

    One wonders what these companies are buying when they "sponsor" an award that provides no benefits to the lucky winners.

    Just a personal beef, I would like to find the TQM facilitators' content-generation roundtable where whomever wrote the boilerplate for these awards is skulking, and drag him or her out to be submerged and suffocated in a vat of The Elements of Style.

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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.