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Toronto Police and the OSPCA raided the Toronto Humane Society offices and shelter on River Street. (Fred Lum)
Toronto Police and the OSPCA raided the Toronto Humane Society offices and shelter on River Street. (Fred Lum)

Humane Society cats ate six-year-old food, investigation suggests Add to ...

Cats in the care of the Toronto Humane Society have been eating food that expired as long as six years ago, and suppliers were demanding cash payments because of unpaid bills, according to investigators for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The allegations follow reports that the THS intends to use donor dollars to defend their entire board of directors and four senior managers against animal cruelty charges. "We have a situation at the THS where lawyers came before food for its vulnerable animals," said Judy King, a THS volunteer and member of the Association to Reform the THS.

During the OSPCA's investigation, which led to charges against the charity's board of directors and four senior staff members, the THS launched two lawsuits against the OSPCA, and spent approximately $17,000 on a lawyer to fight animal care orders in front of a review panel. The charity's coffers, which receive about $10-million in donations each year, remain in the control of the same directors who have been charged with animal cruelty.

Those directors have come out swinging against the OSPCA's investigation, saying in a release on the humane society's website that the OSPCA has no legal right to stay in the shelter beyond midnight Monday.

"Normal operations of the Society, including the adoption and admission of animals, will resume on Tuesday, December 1st, 2009," the release says.

The THS is also encouraging any staff who feel they've been harassed to report the incidents to the society's spokesman. "They will be reviewed by legal counsel and appropriate action will be taken," the release adds.

The OSPCA called on the Ministry of the Attorney General's Office of the Public Guardian last week to takes steps to appoint an interim supervisor to oversee the shelter's management and funds, but the ministry has so far refused, saying the problems at the THS are only about animal welfare."

The [public guardian]s responsibilities are limited to issues of the financial management of charitable property," Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, wrote in an e-mail Friday. "In situations where there is proof of misappropriation or misapplication of charitable funds, the Public Guardian and Trustee, under the Charities Accounting Act, may begin a court application for appropriate relief."

The OSPCA said because of the volume of evidence of animal cruelty that continues to pile up, they will applying to extend their search warrant.

Meanwhile, the THS board of directors shows no sign of stepping down in light of the charges, and has instead appointed an interim president and begun a search for a new executive director.

"Mr. Hambley's appointment proves the THS board has no desire to change direction and getting this organization back on its feet in helping vulnerable animals," OSPCA lead investigator Kevin Strooband said.

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