Protest slams ‘occupation’ of Toronto Humane Society

It rained on Sunday but a handful of protesters stood fast outside the Toronto Humane Society despite the weather.

People braved the elements to protest the current ‘occupation’ of the THS by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

OSPCA investigators swept through the shelter in November, 2009 after allegations of mistreated and suffering animals surfaced.

The discovery of a mummified cat in the ceiling and the mixing of sick and healthy animals proved evidence enough for the OSPCA to intervene. They took control of animal care services, but not the shelter in its entirety.

But the transition from the “no-kill” policy of the THS to a supposed “high-kill” mandate imposed by the OSPCA acted as a red flag for the protesters.

University of Toronto student Tatiana Titus joined the ranks of protesters for more than one reason.

“I’m here to support my mom who used to be a dog walker here … also I’m here for my dog, Sage,” Titus said.

The Titus family adopted Sage, a pitbull, from the THS before the McGuinty government passed Bill 132, which banned the breed from Ontario in the spring of 2005.

Sage needed cancer treatment before the Titus family could take her home. The THS paid for the medical care of the dog and the Titus family gained a new member.

Titus firmly believes that with the current OSPCA mandate in place, a dog such as Sage, given her breed and health concerns, would have been put down “to make space.”

“I’m in university and I have never been to a protest before,” Titus said. “I want to be here to support my mom and Sage, but I also wanted to know what it took to organize people for social change.”

Rosaline Ryan, a spokesperson for the OSPCA, spoke to reporters in the lobby of the THS building.

“The OSPCA is mandated by the Ontario government to investigate, so we will continue to do our job until the government tells us to do otherwise.”

According to Ryan, the situation remains complicated and challenging. A communication breakdown occurred between THS workers, volunteers and OSPCA workers while allegations of lack of empathy and care flew in both directions.

“Despite what others might say, the OSPCA totally understands the high emotions of all involved,” Ryan said. “We have feelings too.”

Ryan told the media that since the November investigation, 550 animals have been adopted or fostered out and 125 animals have been euthanized. As well, the Ministry of Natural Resources took possession of an unknown number of wildlife taking shelter at the THS at the time.