Thursday, June 23, 2011

Serendipity ?

Serendipity is when someone finds something that they weren't expecting to find...
or The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

Like the sweet little grey and white cat (less than 6 months old?) sitting on the grass in front of the No Frills at 222 Lansdowne. A terribly busy street with fast, unforgiving cars. A rather unconcerned cat, who came over to me when I offered some Friskies cat food - I was on my way to feed a small feral colony up the street.

I was just coming back from a last minute pizza meeting with Peter Newell, a vice president of the Toronto Humane Society, whose board I recently joined. Otherwise, I would not have been at that spot to notice him. Serendipity.

I decided to carry him home the 2 blocks across several lanes of traffic (College/Dundas/Lansdowne), hoping I would not be scratched too badly. Luckily the little guy was well behaved.

When I got home, I kept him safe in our entrance hall to the basement apartment while I called 24 PetWatch about the yellow microchip tage on his collar. I have REALLY got to say good things about this company!

Within 3-4 minutes, I was connected to the cat's owners who live one street east of me (St. Clarens) and within another 5 minutes, the cat was in the arms of his caretaker. Wow !!!

Somewhat distressingly, I learned that this was their second cat (named Pretty Boy), because the first one had been killed by traffic. (WTF ?)  I gave the tattooed guy, who seemed nice, some advice about how to streetproof a cat (take them securely in your arms when traffic is noisy and heavy and repeatedly say 'no'... believe it or not, cats learn). I forgot to tell him that having a second companion cat often keeps cats anchored to your backyard.

I wondered whether I should call Toronto Animal Services to report the found cat, since he also had a City of Toronto licence tag to compare if the chance of return was as great. What prevents me from doing so and reporting the tag number is fear that the city will over-react and send a bylaw officer to fine or confiscate the pet.

Serendipity. A wonderful thing.

Kinda makes life worth living when these kinds of things happen.....

What is 'Humane'


1. Having or showing compassion or benevolence.

2. Inflicting the minimum of pain.
3. Having the feelings and inclinations creditable to man; having a disposition to treat other human beings or animals with kindness; kind; benevolent.

4. Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion:
5. Marked by an emphasis on humanistic values and concerns:
6. Civilizing or liberal
Synonyms: compassionate, humanitarian, merciful - These adjectives mean marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering:

Other 'Google' search results:

humane society - 2 dictionary results

Toronto Animal Control Call Us Today For Professional & Humane Wildlife Removal.

Animal Control Fast & Effective Wildlife Removal. Same-Day Service. Call Us Today.

Animal Control Toronto Humane removal of wildlife from your home or business 416 792 5181

humane society  –noun ( often initial capital letter ) an organization devoted to promoting humane ideals, especially with reference to the treatment of animals.
Origin: 1770–80

A humane society may be a group that aims to stop human or animal suffering due to cruelty or other reasons, although in many countries, it is now used mostly for societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs). In the United Kingdom, it may also be a society that provides a waterways rescue, prevention, and recovery service, or that gives awards for the saving of human life (see: Royal Humane Society).  Wikipedia

The first SPCA in Canada was the Canadian SPCA founded in Montreal in 1869. The other societies developed on a regional basis and now 123 societies are represented at a federal level by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Personal Poverty Notes

Why I've Been Absent From Blogging

There are times I feel like my blogging is just like farting in the wind - no one notices and it makes no difference. This has been one of those times. The news is almost always bad: cutbacks, unhappiness, etc.

I've been distracted by my illness: chronic depression and an anxiety disorder. My prescribed pharmaceuticals no longer work and I am given to long periods of depression and almost suffocating sadness while I am awake. I have nightmares and wake seemingly more tired than when I went to sleep. I am acutely aware of the increasing pain of arthritis and that I can no longer do the things I used to. I have aged beyond my years and my physical health is not good. The health system sucks: I go to a family clinic with a rotating crew of learning ("baby") doctors who can't seem to help me with the most basic health issues. Yet - I am soldiering on.

Poverty is pummeling me too. For the first time in a long time, I've had to visit the food bank, where I saw lots more discouraged and depressed people. It seems public donations are significantly down, probably because everyone else is having a harder time and food costs appear to be soaring. The food they provide is mostly chocolates and weird sauces, and a few other things that will last about 2 days at most. When I was on the board at Daily Bread, I costed out what a single person gets each visit: $13-17 worth of 'cast-off- foods. Yet - at least there is some minimal help out there.

The other side of poverty is isolation = not having the funds to attend or get to events in the city. Yet, I am on ODSP (disability) which pays at the high end of social assistance (about $12,000/year) and I really wonder how people on general welfare (Ontario Works) could get by (under $7,000/year). Our society really punishes the poor. The more isolated I become, the more I want to stay isolated.

.... I didn't mean for this post to be so negative, but it is what it is...

The one thought I wanted to communicate is that taking the packed TTC buses to the food bank this morning, I saw not a single happy face. Everyone was glum and looking like they didn't want to be where they were. Likely from the snazzy dressers, they were probably going off to slave at some job to make three, four or five times what I live on.; but they didn't look any happier.

Maybe all of Toronto is suffering from chronic depression. Maybe all this is a cycle of self punishment of society when they vote to elect the hardnosed conservatives like Rob Ford to have power over them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Animal Issues Hot Topics at City Council

It seems like this month is animal issues month at city hall.

* UPDATE: The animal hoarding issue did not make it to the floor of city council; The Pet Sale Ban apparently has last minute "legal issues: and will be heard at NEXT month's city council meeting. (Strange that it's only been studied for almost a year now, and legal becomes an issue? #TOCouncil moves at a snails/ pace sometimes)

Next Tuesday June 14, amidst a very long and ambitious agenda,  they will discuss and decide on:

LS 4.3    Banning the Sale of Cats and Dogs in Pet Shops
MM9.5  Motion to deal with Animal Hoarding - Josh Matlow
MM9.3  A By-law to Ban the possession, sale and consumption of Shark Fin and Derivative Products in Toronto - by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, seconded by Councillor Krystyn Wong-Tam

The Cat/Dog Sales Ban had a signficant public consultation and has been around almost a year (Aug 13, 2010), but the animal hoarding motion came up just last night as an initiative by 2 councillors (Josh Matlow and Michelle Berardinetti)

Here is an email I just sent all city councillors and the Mayor .....
Dear Councillor Matlow,         Re: Member Motion MM9.5 Animal Hoarding

I commend you for bringing up the complicated and contentious issue of animal hoarding. Although I was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Toronto Humane Society and intend to bring this up for discussion at our board level, I must make it clear that at the moment, I speak as a private citizen only, and not for the organization.

This issue is a complex one and I encourage city council not to rush to judgement without significant consultation with other animal welfare organizations. The pet licence bylaws were an example of how the city can waste money, time and lose goodwill. (Example only 11% of cats are expected to be licenced over the next 3 years, this after tremendous city resources used to try to increase compliance). Threats don't work well in our city it seems.

Yes, animal hoarding can be a sign of a mental illness, although not always. There are numerous websites, mostly American, that talk about the issue. (I l ist them for your reference at the end of this communication.). Many eventual 'hoarders' often become so precisely because of the threat that authorities will sweep in and take away beloved pets. Your motion may simply serve to force hoarders deeper into hiding, helping no one. They will not speak out and ask for help in such a case. Thus, the stigma of mental illness is reinforced in the broader society as well.

One dynamic is that lonely people, often those on low income who have not sufficient social interaction due to extremely limited finances, find a starving stray cat wandering into their life. They take it in, but then there is another, and another, and so on. This is the pet overpopulation issue that is directly caused by bad pet owners who see animals as temporary toys then throw them away if their 'lifestyle' or whim changes. Other irresponsible pet owners are the direct cause of a lot of hoarding, and they are never held to account. In essence, attacking hoarders does nothing to resolve the overall pet overpopulation problem.

At what magic number do you declare a hoarder? Toronto has a pet limit of 6, Hamilton 2, other jurisdictions vary. In the 'gold standard' Calgary model, Bill Bruce, Director of Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services has no pet limits, and sees early education and putting the onus on making sure pet owners are responsible. He has had tremendous success (Weblink: ), but jurisdictions like Toronto have in the past cherry-picked a few ideas here and there. Some pet owners/caretakers have large premises with secure fenced in yards, while others have tiny rooms. How can you say to this person 6 is okay and to another 7 is wrong and I will confiscate your family friend? What of rescues that have people fostering larger numbers of animals? They are helping the city, using charitable donations, with the pet overpopulation problem.

Responding to animal hoarding requires a well-informed, well-researched approach. Although I am sure that city staff will do their usual reporting, there are so many other experienced and useful sources out in our community. I urge you to table this motion and refer it to the Licensing and Standards Committee pending further analysis and to give the public and animal welfare organizations a chance to have input.

Thank you
Animal Hoarding website links:

Other News Stories:

... says: "the difference between animal hoarder and animal lover is simply one of animal care."
Should anyone want to speak to their city councillor about this or any other issue, here is the weblink to contact:

- OR - Here is the full city council email contact list: ; Councillor Matlow ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Councillor Crawford ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Councillor Stintz ; ; ;

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Toronto Humane Society Press Release

THS Board of Directors Elects New President

TORONTO, June 8, 2011 /CNW/ - The Toronto Humane Society (THS) Board of Directors has elected Marcie Laking as its new president. Elected as vice-president is long-time THS volunteer and foster parent Wendy Strickland, while second vice-president is lawyer Peter Newell.

Marcie Laking             Wendy Strickland
  Peter Newell
Board officer Linda MacKinnon has been re-elected Chair while Lisa Gibbens was elected Secretary and Sydney L. Nezon appointed Treasurer. Former president Michael Downey will continue to serve as a Board Director.

Linda MacKinnon              Lisa Gibbens

Following on the heels of last week's Annual General Meeting in which five Board of Directors who support the mission and mandate of the previous board were elected, these new appointments will also serve to take the organization in a progressive direction.

"I am honoured and thrilled to be leading the Toronto Humane Society into this new and exciting phase," says Laking, formerly Board vice-president. "We have put in a lot of hard work to get to this point and will continue to do all we can to ensure the safety, health and happiness of the animals."

The only First Nations Ojibway to be elected president in THS's history, Laking's post also marks a significant milestone as she is the first who started out as a teenage volunteer at THS to hold the position. A passionate animal advocate, Laking's past experience also includes work as a THS animal care worker and is known for playing a pivotal role in the reform of the organization over the past year.

For a complete list and biographies of the current THS Board of Directors, visit

About THS:  THS is an independently operated humane society that services the needs of Toronto. Injured and/or ill animals receive veterinary care and abandoned animals are given safe shelter. Immature and/or injured animals are placed in foster care until they are old enough and strong enough to be placed for adoption. The THS receives no government funding and is operated entirely through private donors and sponsors.
------------  Links:
The Toronto Humane Society has about 1800 members. Membership is open to anyone who lives or works within a 60km radius of THS headquarters (11 River Street at Queen Street East). Current membership fee is $40.

Other directors on the current 15 member board are:

Crystal Tomusiak

 Johanna Booth
 Jennifer Downe

 Judi King

 Dr. Karen Nasir
 Michael Downey

 Carol Hroncek

 David Bronskill

Ferne Sinkins
Ken Wood
* Next Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Humane Society will be:
Tuesday, June 28 at 7:00PM at 11 River Street Board Room (2nd floor).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bloordale Press First Issue

Click on photo to enlarge

Thank you  to the newly launched local community newspaper, THE BLOORDALE PRESS, and chief editor, Gurpreet Ghag, for doing such a fair story on me for their paper. Were this a city election, no one could complain about inappropriate advertising! ...  since the issue came out one day after I was successful at being elected to the board of directors for The Toronto Humane Society (a volunteer, unpaid position in the not for profit charity).

I wish this monthly local newspaper every success and welcome them to my neighbourhood!

I urge everyone in ward 18 Davenport, particularly businesses, to support them.

Good luck to all involved.

PS: The only inccuracy in the article I discovered was the statement, "THS members who live within a six kilometre radius of 11 River Street".  It is actually 60 (sixty) kilometers radius that is the requirement for membership in the Toronto Humane Society.  Toronto Humane Society website

Wonderful mix of articles covered (besides me - hey I am not egotistical, really!) such as:

* Story on new federal MP Andrew Cash (NDP)
* 243 Perth avnue controversy over development plans (historic Church)
* Dufferin Grove clothing swap
* Community consultations on new park (90 Lisgar Street)
* Review of May Works at the Free Gallery
* Coverage of Janes Walk
* Review of The Ortolan at 1211 Bloor St W
* Story on local city Councillor Ana Bailao's expense report
* Review of the Lansdowne Cone
* Hockey Night in Bloordale
* Classified ads section

Pick up the free paper anywhere in Bloordale! (lots at the Lansdowne Cone)

Toronto Humane Society Elections and AGM

Blast from the past, Tim Trow and his slate REJECTED by Toronto Humane Society, Vote of Confidence In Current Board to Continue Direction

Toronto Humane Society has finally turned a corner and can be trusted to be stable again. Tremendous vote of confidence in current strategic direction and a re-energized membership bodes well for the future. Hey Toronto! Animals in need are now 'Guests in Our Home' and Not Prison Inmates!

Kate Hammer of the Globe and Mail, whose brilliant investigatory pieces over a year ago wrote:

"The state of animal welfare in this city is at a crossroads as the membership of the Toronto Humane Society decides whether to continue the changes brought about by its new leaders or to support another comeback for former president Tim Trow" Link to full article

At a meeting where the amazing in person showing up of a large proportion of the THS membership has not been the norm, the Annual General Meeting started about an hour late while meeting staff and coordinators struggled to find adequate seating for the people, many of them elderly, There were overflow rooms to the overflow rooms. (I estimate 300+ people there)

AT the start of the meeting portion for the election of the 5 available seats on the 15 member board, the independent elections official (Grant) told everyone that as of the Monday May30 5pm deadline for submission of proxies:

* 741 proxies received
*  30 were deemed spoiled (incorrectly filled out, mostly not signed)
* 521 proxies were directed to the current board chair to vote for the recommended slate
* 183 proxies were directed to Tim Trow and his slate
*   7 other individual proxies held by others
* 271 in attendance would would be voting in person

Actual attendance was higher, I estimate about 300+, because many of those who had sent in proxies wanted to be there to see how the vote went. Engagement! As well, assuming the 1800 members list was correct, 50-80% of the THS society Voted!!! (* 80% is My guesstimate, as many people on the membership list have home addresses in the Yukon, BC, Halifax, etc). Bare minimum voter turnout would be 57% if everyone on the membership list is valid (To be a voting member, youmust live or work within 60km of 11 River Street) 

(Side note: I happened to be around when Tim Trow was signing in and said he had some additional 70+ proxies in his hand, but no proxies were being accepted past the pre-published deadline.This was consistently applied to all people who might be bringing in proxies at that time)

The meeting was slightly raucous as pro-Trow people were routinely booed and anyone expressing the slightest anti-Trow sentiments were accorded a heroic applause. Yes, there was some rudeness and attempted shouting down of pro-Trow speakers, but the President and Chair consistently reminded that everyone was to be accorded civility and respect.

However, one gentleman was so over the top shouting that he was ejected by Police.

Good points and questions were raised by all in the rooms and accorded reasonable respect.
All questions were answered, no one was barred from asking or saying anything.

(One lady made a point of telling everyone they should be ashamed at their behaviour; in my humble opinion, I thought 99% of people were well behaved, given the emotional nature of the meeting for many: staff, volunteers, and members and the intense media buildup around Tim Trow's attempted return)
....    So, who got elected?  The entire board recommended slate. A clean sweep.

* David Bronskill (skilled lawyer in municipal law matters)
* Lisa Gibbens (informations systems, marketing)
* Carol Hroncek (longtime volunteer, cat rescuer)
* Crystal Tomusiak (criminal law background, animal welfare enthusiast)
* Ken Wood  (hey! that's me! community social justice activist, has been on Daily Bread Food Bank and Mainstay Housing boards)

News Story Links:

* Update June 1,2011:
Here is  one impression of the meeting by someone who was there:

I attended the General Meeting at THS last night I am not involved much with their issues and don't know the full story however I was curious to see what was going on. I will tell you that I have never seem such a farce in my life. The patients definitely are running the asylum It doesn't matter if you are pro or con Tim Trow because that is incidental to my point. However if Mother Theresa were running for the THS Board of Directors she would never have gotten in. Votes were padded by employees who screamed and yelled and carried on worse than the animals they are supposed to be looking after. People were shoved and insulted. One man was escorted out by police because he stood up and screamed the election was unfair. No one could make a fair choice because the THS supporters who wanted their own people in would not let others talk. You could not hear anyone for all the heckling and insults being thrown at anyone who was not the favored choice of the present Board. I will never ever be associated with this organization again. Many of us who are civilized, walked out of there in total shock after witnessing this whole debacle. Not only was it shocking, it was extremely upsetting to see anyone acting out in the manner they did. God help our animals because there are unbalanced people looking after them. (Posted on this link: )

.... And here is my personal impression and response:

I sincerely believe this post is probably from a pro-Tim Trow supporter seeking to find anything redeeming about him in light of the abuses documented on the public record ( Link HERE ).

Yes, the meeting was slightly raucous as pro-Trow people were routinely booed and anyone expressing the slightest anti-Trow sentiments were accorded a heroic applause. Yes, there was some rudeness and attempted shouting down of pro-Trow speakers, but the President and Chair consistently reminded that everyone was to be accorded civility and respect. Differences in opinion were valid but respect for all was defended and encouraged at all times.

It must be understood that much of the rudeness came from employee and volunteers who suffered terrible personal abuse and trauma under the reign of Tim Trow. Think what it would be like if a rapist was permitted to make speeches to his victims... Important: I am NOT not not not not intimating Tim was guilty of that, I simply am trying to draw a parallel for the sake of understanding the emotional duress those people were under. As well many of them were young, unfamiliar with the formalities of public meetings and for many, it was the very first time they could be heard by the membership and able to call Mr Trow on his version of the truth.

The one gentleman who was ejected by Police was protesting that people outside the overflow room on the patio could not hear the speakers (microphone acoustics were not great). A fair comment. The problem was that even after he was acknowledged, thanked and the problem rectified, he continued to shout down (not-pro-Tim-Trow) speakers and be loudly abusive and threatening. The disruption to the meeting continued until he was ejected for disruption of the proceedings by Police.

Given the experience of past AGM's, no one could have predicted such an in-person turnout of such magnitude. 271 in attendance, where in past it was very rare to get more than 80 or so people there. The majority of the membership exercised their legal right to vote via proxies. In the past, Tim Trow would appear with 700-800 proxies in hand and subsequently ignore those 80 or so present, waving them when challenged or asked a question - which as he ran the meetings as Chair and President in the past, meant he was able to totally ignore valid questions about finances, etc. from members in the room.

Now - THAT was rude, uncivil, disrespectful and it was in the past that "The patients definitely are running the asylum", the chief patient being Mr Tim Trow himself.

- Ken Wood - newly elected Director to the board of the Toronto Humane Society

City Discourages Puppy Mills

We Don't Want You Here in the GTA

No Full On Pet Sale Ban of cats, dogs in retail stores....

But a lot of tighter restrictions and promised upgraded city monitoring of retail stores to ensure the animals they offer for sale have not snuck in the back door from factory-farm-breeders within Canada and crossing the border. (See the Wendy Mesley CBC Marketplace video HERE "How much do you know about that puppy in the window")

Kudos and thanks to the efforts of Mr Dean Maher, (Link ) who led the charge on this initiative, having started the ball rolling almost a year ago by his detailed and well-researched proposal.

Tail wags and meows from the animals whose concerns were ably represented in the form of Councillor Glenn de Baeremaeker, (link)  who not only focussed the media moment by bringing in one of the puppies from Toronto Animals Services, (" He showed off a beautiful basset hound named Betsy"), but also ensured significant amendments were made to the otherwise watered down city staff report.

Should the Licensing and Standards Committee recommendations be accepted by the full City Council, when you buy an animal (cat,dog) from a retail store in the GTA they will now come from one of 4 places:
Toronto Animal Services, Humane Societies, Legitimate Shelters/Rescues or Licenced Certified Breeders.
No more will people learn much later after horrendous vet bills that the animals had significant health problems or genetic defects.

There was one deputant of the 8 or so that showed up who gave a very moving story of how after being promised a healthy animal with a clear lineage and history, actually had come from a puppy mill factory farm, costing her over $4200 in vet bills for an animal with ongoing prtoblems. Story link

This is but a small, yet significant step, towards valuing animals as sentient beings and companions rather than a property product.

Even the pet store owners and their 'better business' group are okay with the recommendations.

A good day for animal lovers to feel optimistic!  City council will vote on the tighter rules in June.

News Links:

City tightens up rules for pet stores- CP24
Toronto could restrict pet store sales - National Post