Sunday, April 4, 2010

The importance of trust in the future of Toronto Humane Society

Addendum: Interesting editorial in the April 6th Toronto Star. In keeping with the following, the last line of the editorial is, "But new faces are needed if this once-respected organization is to regain public trust."

Trust: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. certainty, belief, faith. Trust, assurance, confidence imply a feeling of security. Trust implies instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something: to have trust in one's parents. Confidence implies conscious trust because of good reasons, definite evidence, or past experience: to have confidence in the outcome of events. Assurance implies absolute confidence and certainty: to feel an assurance of victory.

The Toronto Humane Society debacle of the last few months is not the first. As Justice D.M. Brown pointed out in his reasons for decision of April 1st, 2010, this is the third time in less than 25 years that issues concerning THS have come before the courts. This is not the first time that the behaviour of the THS board and management have come under public scrutiny.

Some points for people to consider.

1. The current board and management of THS have developed and approved a plan that includes (a) shutting down the shelter for two months and (b) bringing in the Humane Society of the United States, a well-funded U.S. lobbying group that does not operate a single shelter, gives less than 1% of its donations to animal welfare groups and has been caught using animals it was trying to have killed to raise money for itself.

2. The current board, while submitting to the courts that most intend to resign and will not run for re-election, approved the above plan and gave the new Executive Director a two-year contract. In an April 1, 2010 press release, Bob Hambley, President of the THS is quoted, "Mr. Jerome has a two-year contract...".

3. There is to me evidence of profound animal neglect in the shelter. I have personal experiences with THS animal neglect. For decades there have been allegations of animal neglect by THS board and management, many of whom remain on the board or in management.

4. THS has never been transparent about whether Bob Hambley continues to be Secretary and Treasurer in addition to becoming the new President.

5. In November 2009, the Globe and Mail disclosed that the THS board and management had spent almost half a million dollars on litigation in one year. The THS board and management have lawsuits still ongoing against (at least) the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hamilton Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Lee Oliver. The THS board and management have paid lawyers to send threatening letters to (at least) the Association for the Reform of Toronto Humane Society, former employee Anthony DeMelo and the Toronto Cat Rescue. I'd like to know what the legal bill stands at now, and whether the $400,000 given to a lawyer was returned to THS on March 5, 2010. The board and management of THS must be made to explain how these lawsuits and threatening letters benefit the animals entrusted to THS' care.

6. In November 2009 five of the top THS staff including the president and chief veterinarian were arrested and charged with animal cruelty. The entire board of directors of THS were charged with animal cruelty. A former THS supervisor was subsequently charged with animal cruelty. Subsequently, an OSPCA officer was fired and charged for giving advance notice of an OSPCA raid and a THS agent was arrested and charged with impersonating a peace officer. To the best of my knowledge all of those charges remain outstanding, they have not been withdrawn.

7. The senior management and representatives of THS could not or would not answer simple, straightforward questions about finances and corporate governance at the September 2009 AGM.

8. Without any public notice or explanation, the THS shut down the membership portion of its website in August 2009 (first date it was noticed) and applications submitted are not being processed. People who call about their applications do not receive the courtesy of a return call.

9. The Association for Reform of the Toronto Humane Society has two timelines - the first here and the second here - summarizing THS historical events since 1972.

To me, it all boils down to one simple question: In light of current and historical events and behaviours, do I trust the current board and management of the Toronto Humane Society?

It's a question every member of THS must ask him or herself before completing the absentee ballot or attending the THS special meeting on May 30th to vote in person.