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Globe series prompts review of shelter's status Add to ...

The board of directors of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals called an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss suspending the affiliate status of the Toronto Humane Society and to consider investigating the shelter for animal cruelty.

The suspension of affiliate status would end the THS's ability to conduct cruelty investigations.

A spokesperson for the OSPCA, Kristin Williams, said that a three-part series by The Globe and Mail prompted the emergency meeting, which was held late yesterday.

"They're anxious to address this as soon as possible," Ms. Williams said.

Though largely independent, the THS is accountable to the Ontario SPCA through the Ontario SPCA Act. Under that act, the society is required to investigate if it receives a credible allegation of animals in distress.

Through internal documents and interviews with current and former employees and volunteers, The Globe found that the humane society is a shelter in crisis, a place where, according to veterinarians, animals die suffering in their cages, and the opinions of veterinary professionals are dismissed.

"The allegations raised in The Globe and Mail's investigative report relate directly to the welfare of animals and as such require the Ontario SPCA to investigate through its mandate under the Ontario SPCA Act," Hugh Coghill, chief inspector for the Ontario SPCA, said in a statement.

Ian McConachie, a spokesperson for the THS, said that The Globe's series did a disservice to animals.

"It's just going to mean more legal fees for us and for the OSPCA and taking that away from animal care," he said.

Meanwhile, a group of concerned THS members who have formed The Association for the Reform of the Toronto Humane Society (ART), called on the Canada Revenue Agency and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee of Ontario to initiate investigations into allegations of mismanagement and animal neglect.

Members of ART also called on the Office of the Public Guardian to consider freezing the THS's financial assets pending the outcome of investigations.

Many of the people interviewed in The Globe's series signed confidentiality agreements, and agreed to interviews despite the possibility that they could be sued for speaking out.

"The THS has proven itself to be litigious in the past, and we don't want to see money donated to care for animals in need squandered on lawsuits," said ART spokesperson Toronto lawyer Arie Gaertner.

The Ontario SPCA is the province's leading animal welfare organization, and is accountable to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

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