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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)

Mummified cat found in Humane Society ceiling Add to ...

The Toronto Humane Society's president allegedly ordered a shelter veterinarian to falsify medical records of a cat left bleeding in a cage for an hour after the president's Pit Bull, Bandit, attacked the feline in his office.

This allegation forms the basis of one of the criminal animal cruelty charges the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laid against Tim Trow, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Other tales of the River Street shelter's alleged dark side trickled out yesterday as OSPCA investigators revealed what they say they found inside: dirty facilities, a dehydrated cat who hadn't seen a vet in weeks, and a mummified cat in a cage in the ceiling panels.

That discovery "sent a chill right down my spine," said Kevin Strooband, an OSPCA officer with 19 years of experience. "This is unbelievable. I'm still reeling ... This is a house of horrors."

The mummified cat was found metres from the office used by Mr. Trow, who denied all the allegations against him yesterday.

"I've never been unkind to an animal in my life," he said.

OSPCA inspectors said the mummified cat, which was found in a live trap with an empty dish, may have slowly starved to death in the shelter's rafters as veterinarians and animal-care workers moved about the hallways beneath it.

"That's dry as a bone. It has to have been there for over a year," said the OSPCA officer who discovered the cat during yesterday's search. "Maggots have been there and then have left."

Other animals were going without proper treatment for severe mouth ulcers and eye contusions, the OSPCA said.

For example, investigators said they found a cat who was healthy when admitted Nov. 10, but had become lethargic and severely dehydrated. Upon reviewing its medical charts, the OSPCA said it found that the cat hadn't been seen by a veterinarian since it arrived, and had lost nearly a quarter of its body weight.

"A large number of these animals ... will need significant medical care," said Johanna MacNaughton, a former THS veterinarian who resigned in April and later aided in the OSPCA investigation.

Mr. Trow, meanwhile, said he was shocked and perplexed by the charges.

"The Toronto Humane Society is a really good, humane place with good people involved," he said in an interview at his lawyer's office Friday.

"I hope all the board members and all staff members will vigorously defend themselves. I sure intend to vigorously defend myself because for the life of me I can't understand charges like this."

Mr. Trow was released from custody at Toronto police's 52 Division early yesterday morning. His bail conditions prevent him from visiting or working at the shelter, and from contacting the staff. He said he is confident the society will be able to function without him.

"I have great confidence that the animals are being held and cared for," he said. "After all, I'm a volunteer president, so I don't do animal care myself. But I'm sure they're being well cared for.

"It's not a great loss to the animals if I'm not there for a while."

OSPCA investigators seized more than 70 boxes of documents, or around 700,000 pages, from Mr. Trow's home. Many were THS documents. Mr. Trow said other seized items included his own financial documents.

"I have copies of letters I've written and things like that, and they took those. … But they also took things like my income tax returns and my chequebook and things like that, which have nothing to do with the humane society. But I expect I'll get them back."

Mr. Trow said he couldn't comment on the specific charges he faces because he and his lawyer haven't seen the material on which the charges are based.

However, he said that in the case of the cat Bandit allegedly bit, he is "not aware of any medical records ever being altered at the Toronto Humane Society."

Mr. Trow, general manager Gary McCracken and senior staff members Romeo Bernadino and Andy Bechtel were all arrested and charged yesterday with cruelty to animals, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, and obstruction of a peace officer. Veterinarian Steve Sheridan was charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and cruelty to animals.

The OSPCA is expected to continue searching the shelter all weekend and checking on the health of the approximately 1,100 animals who live there, including Bandit.

The pit bull-Labrador cross moved to Mr. Trow's office after the city ordered it euthanized for biting a toddler in the head, leaving the child with a gash that required 200 stitches.

The OSPCA said the cat Bandit is alleged to have attacked was not only left to bleed in his cage, but also suffered broken bones and lacerations.

"The incident is emblematic of the attitude towards care in the shelter - that a cat with a broken and lacerated limb would be left to suffer in its cage," OSPCA lawyer Christopher Avery said.

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