A Mirror Of Ourselves
Excerpts from a book on the Toronto Humane Society published in 2011
In 2009, headlines across Canada charged Toronto Humane Society’s then-president, board, and senior officials as responsible for animal cruelty. Since then, a new leadership team and board of directors, along with staff and volunteers, have been working to restore the organization’s focus on humane and world-class animal care.
In the Spring of 2011, I was granted unprecedented access to the Toronto Humane Society for a behind-the-scenes look at daily life that helped me answer the question on the minds of so many: “What is it like now?”
A caged animal is never a pretty picture. That is why the THS works to find every animal a "forever home" where it can be loved. Sometimes animals are mistreated or abandoned and must arrive at the shelter in a cage. But that marks the beginning of their rescue, of their journey into a world where it is human, not animal, behavior that matters most.
This young dog and his mother have just been transferred to the THS from a local animal shelter. The Toronto Humane Society works with animal shelters as far away as Quebec, accepting animals identified as being good candidates for adoption.
Beverly, a volunteer foster parent, returns four puppies to the Toronto Humane Society now that they are old enough for adoption. Orphaned at two weeks old, the puppies required bottle feeding and weaning, regular veterinary check-ups, and lots of attention over the six weeks that they shared Beverly’s home.
Dr. Linda Jacobson spays a female puppy, a practice recommended by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians as standard shelter practice for population control.
A three-week old kitten is being treated for an abdominal infection. Concerns about overcrowding under the “old management” have led to changes in the way cats are housed at the shelter. Today, cats do not share cages and are housed in larger enclosures. “Night and day does not begin to describe the positive change, “says one long-time cat volunteer.
Veterinary assistant Jason Cacciotti monitors a puppy that is waking from anesthesia. Trained assistants provide vital support for THS veterinarians to ensure quality of the animals.
A volunteer visits with a cat, providing necessary social interaction and mental stimulation, considered essential for stress reduction as the animal awaits adoption. The THS relies on its more than 600 trained, active volunteers for the ongoing functioning of the shelter.
The "Cat Room" is designed with a home-like feel and provides stress relief for cats who demonstrate extreme anxiety when caged.
A dog exercises its brain and body in the THS’s outdoor dog park. Behavioral healthcare helps reduce animal stress while at the shelter.
An outdoor cage designed for racoons sits empty as the THS is required to wait to re-apply for its Wildlife license that was revoked when the THS was shut down.
A woman is interviewed by THS adoption staff with the prospective adoptee taking part. Considerable effort is made to ensure a good fit between pet and adoptive parent, flagging any health or behavioral concerns, to reduce that chance of the animal being returned to the shelter.
A woman says goodbye to her 12-year old terminally ill cat that she has brought to the Toronto Humane Society to be euthanized. This most difficult decision is now made in collaboration between the pet owner, when possible, and the veterinarian; THS management does not participate in the decision.
In the end, “It’s as much about human behavior as it is about animals,” says a veteran Toronto Humane Society employee.