Sunday, August 25, 2019

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Unkindest of the Kind: No-Euthanasia Policies and Other Kinds of Madness

Up here in North Bay there aren’t a whole lot of problems with animals, or with animal rights activists, either. Dogs that bite people get “put down”, as the saying goes, and now that the Ontario government has more or less banned the breeding of pitbulls, and the remaining pitbulls are getting older and more mellow, there aren’t a lot of incidents. Animal rights activists aren’t treated the same way, something more than a few people I know aren’t so mellow about.

Toronto, on the other hand, is full of both pitbulls and animal rights activists. In 2001, a retired lawyer named Tim Trow was re-elected as the president of the Toronto Humane Society, a fairly large facility that in most cities is more simply called the “dog pound”. It’s where stray animals are housed, and, if healthy and sociable, are put up for adoption. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Trow, and his occasionally-strange allies and friends have turned the THS into something quite different. They adopted a policy of refusing to euthanize any animal, and over the past 8 years, the joint has, partly as a result of the Provincial ban on pitbulls, become a rest-home for them and for old, sick, and diseased animals nobody in their right mind wants as a pet.

Tim Trow is, well, a strange character. He’s been on the Society’s board since the 1970s, and in the early 1980s, became its president. He instituted the no-euthanasia policy, even though the chef vet at the time testified that the policy fosters both cruelty and the spread of disease.  In 1983, Trow resigned. He was re-elected president again in 2001, and in 2004, he and the THS fought a court decision to put down a pitbull by the name of Bandit after he mauled a three-year old boy. The appeal has dragged on and on, as such things are prone to do, and pending its outcome, the dog lives in Trow’s office and earns his keep as a personal assistant. Ever heard of someone having an even slightly confrontational meeting with the boss when he keeps a loaded pitbull underneath his desk?

Things down at the Pound—I mean, the THS—haven’t been going well, as you can imagine. Donations have more or less dried up, and so have adoptions. Whatever adoptable dogs do come in are quickly transformed by the horde of pitbulls roaming the joint into either pitbull wannabes or cowering lunatics no one would want—not so different, now that I think of it, from what happens at the prisons we run to keep poorly socialized or damaged humans from biting and mauling us.

Eventually, enough damning testimony from inadequately-dedicated staffers and visitors piled up that the Ontaro SPCA began an investigation to determine whether the THS, in its attempts to protect animals from cruelty and/or social common sense, was in fact neglecting and abusing the animals in its care. Finally, on November 26th, the Toronto police went in, arrested Trow and four loyal staffers, and carted them off to jail. Bandit, ever loyal to the man who’d saved his life, had to be pepper-sprayed and subdued. The SPCA is now, hopefully, cleaning up the joint.

Among the datums reported in the Toronto Star are that Trow and the four staffers are being charged with cruelty to animals (for which the maximum penalty in Ontario is five years in jail), including the staff veterinarian. A small surprise is that four of them—not the veterinarian—are also being charged with hiding and euthanizing a number of very sick animals prior to a June 2009 OSPCA inspection.

So who’s to blame for this mess?  Tim Trow clearly is. But so are those bleeding hearts down at City Hall, who should have read the riot act to Trow and his extremist allies a long time ago. And let’s be clear about what the mess is. It’s cruelty and trauma to a whole bunch of dimmer-than-us animals, and that’s an abrogation of both the THS charter, and an affront to the values most of us hold, even people like me—moderate animal lovers who nonetheless think that dogs who bite have to go, just like people who bite have to go. Branch-Davidian level animal rights activists aren’t just a menace to society. They’re a menace to the animals they claim to want to protect for, and from, us.

As for Tim Trow? Let’s send him to Docker River, a nice town of 350 in Northwestern Australia, currently under siege by a 6000-strong gang of feral camels. There’s about a million non-native feral camels in Australia, all told, and they’re out of control because Australia’s  animal rights activists want them to be treated like bunnies. Whoops, not bunnies, because there are close to a billion of those—also non-native and like the camels, mostly starving—tearing up the countryside and destroying the habitats of native species.

My point in all this is that sometimes kindness isn’t very kind—and laterally, that animal rights activists who marginalize themselves from common sense are too often among the unkindest of the kind.  The real issue with Tim Trow and people like him is over how many otherwise salvageable and sweet animals have been destroyed—literally or figuratively—so he could keep his pitbull in his office and feel righteous.  Someone should give him an office in Docker River with a few dozen camels and a couple thousand bunnies in it, and see how he does protecting them before they trample him.

846 Words: November 27, 2009

Wally Hourback

Wally Hourback

Wally Hourback lives and works in North Bay, Ontario.

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