Monday, June 29, 2009

Toronto Humane Society protest videos

From the June 20 protest outside the Toronto Humane Society (much thanks to Danielle Just-McCarthy for putting this all together):

A look back at Burt and Ernie

It was almost a year ago that the five feral Border Collies were brought into Toronto Animal Services South. All five were sent out to rescue for rehab as there was no way they could have been adopted out as they were, so anxious and frightened around humans.

Four of them eventually came out of their fearful shells but a fifth one never made it and eventually had to be euthanized.

Over the weekend, I received an e-mail from Luan of Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue. She had taken two of the Border Collies from TAS and she writes about what happened with Burt, who is still with her, and Ernie, who remained wild at heart.


Hi Fred;

I was browsing your blog and thought I'd update you on the Feral Brothers, Burt and Ernie.

When James asked me to which of the pups I wanted to take, I said 'give me the best one and the worst one". So he did, based on his assessment of them. It soon became apparent that while they were both extremely fearful, they had very different ways of coping with it. I named them Burt and Ernie, after the two benign Sesame Street characters. Burt was the "best one" with the happier outlook on life, and Ernie was the "worst one", more pessimistic.

It turned out that Ernie had little use for humans. This became most apparent the day he tried to chew my hand off. Both of the nervous pups ate leashes and harnesses. Nothing survived on them for long. Moving them was so traumatic; they would feel even gentle pressure of the leash and collar and go ballistic, strangling themselves in terror, eliminating, and scrabbling so frantically that they wore their nails to bloody stumps on the pavement. Another dog had startled us as I was moving Ernie from one run to another one day and Ernie decided that my hand on his collar was just another form of leash. I knew if I let go I'd never catch him again, so I hung on trying to calm him down....thankfully my doctor knows me well and what I do, and when I arrived with a hand that is swollen three times normal size with multiple punctures and tell him it's a "job related injury" he rolls his eyes and writes a script for antibiotics. Ernie demonstrated on other occasions that he was willing to bite to get away/his way. Things were not looking good.

We worked with both pups for several months. Their fear of leashwalks started to subside as Johnathon kept up a routine of short walks around the property every day. Both were terrified, but Burt would show glimmers of curiosity and interest in interacting with humans, and would follow me around. His way of dealing with his fear was to pee everywhere. It never occurred to him to use his teeth (except for all those leashes). But Ernie wanted little to do with us. I had separated them, hoping that this would stop them feeding off of each other's fear. Both seemed to be relaxed and happy in the company of other dogs, so we let them play and socialize with happy well behaved dogs, and let them see those dogs interact and be happy with us. As they grew older, they were starting to chase and nip the other dogs a bit, displaying some bad herding habits. Nothing to cause injury, just being controlling and annoying. But one day in October that changed. Another resident, an elderly foster dog who is a bit of a prima donna, was squawking and carrying on because she was (in her opinion) on the wrong side of the gate while we were using a chop saw to cut lumber. Ernie and another foster dog attacked her, and injured her quite severely when she tried to run away.

How do you train a dog to stop such behaviour and be safe when they have no interest in interacting with humans? I had to accept at that point that you can't. And so the next day, with heavy heart, Ernie was no more.

Burt, while egging on the proceedings, had not participated in the attack. His behaviour continued to improve in small baby steps. While he was prone to shredding dog beds in his kennel, he was actually quite well behaved in the house, surprisingly clean and not destructive. He had a fear of doorways, and would not go through one if people were standing nearby. Sometimes he would stay outside for hours before building up the courage to rush through the door. But slowly, his fears were starting to diminish, and he always follows me everywhere, bumping his nose against the back of my knee. If I turn and look at him he will race off, but fall back into step behind me once I resume moving. In the house I started to seek him out to pick him up and put him on the bed in the morning. He would lie there like a sack of flour while I read the paper and bolt off if I moved quickly. But one morning he came and stood by the bed and nuzzled my hand. When I went to the loo and returned, he had jumped up by himself, looking nervous but pleased and not leaving when I lay down beside him. After that he was happy to claim the bed and the dog's sofa as part of his space.

Owning a Boarding Kennel in "the country" just N/E of Newmarket, we don't have sidewalks or Dog Parks. The traffic rushes by at the end of the 150' driveway doing 100km, so walks on the road are not such a good idea. I've taken Burt on walks in the regional forest with my own dogs, and he has done quite well on a long line secured to my waist.

I've had some calls about Burt, but none of them seem to have read the Petfinder listing very closely. When they realize that he might never fit their definition of a happy, social and cuddly dog, they are not interested. One couple did try him. After 3 visits to their home to acclimatize him, I left him on trial placement. 3 days later they called me. "it's not working out" I was told. "Why, what's he done?" I asked, envisioning a cowering, peeing dog that was hiding in the back yard and refusing to come in the door. "Well, nothing. He's not had any accidents. He just sits in a corner and looks at us. We want a dog who will keep us company and help us feel secure". I wanted to scream "AUUGH do you have any idea how long it took me to get him to sit calmly in a room with scary humans, and you want a perfect dog in 3 days?" but instead I just sighed and said "fine, I'm coming to get him".

So Burt is still here. He is happy here. He is confident here. He is welcome here. As far as I am concerned he can stay here the rest of his life if he needs to. But it saddens me. Burt deserves a family of his own. He can and will adjust and settle into a new environment if he is given the time and patience he needs. No, he not everyone's cup of tea. But he is a sweet, curious, interactive dog who will charm the socks off of the right people, and eventually want to sleep on their bed too.

Yours in Rescue,


Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue
We make a living by what we get
We make a life by what we give

Burt's Petfinder listing can be found here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sleeping and eating

It's Sunday. It's rain day. I've finished walking and feeding Stella and Rocky. I've finished feeding myself. I go over to the couch and sit down. It's especially comfortable today. I look over at Stella and Rocky in their respective dog beds. Stella's licking her toes. Rocky's making smacking noises with his mouth as he runs his tongue around the inside of his mouth, seeing if there are any bits of food left behind in the nooks and crannies.

The couch is especially comfortable. I push some of the cushions aside and stretch out. Thirty seconds later, I'm asleep.

Stella: Look at him.

Rocky, still mining for food bits: (shmeck, shmack) I think I found some chicken.

Stella: I can't believe he's asleep.

Rocky, disappointed: No, just a piece of soggy kibble.

Stella: He should be hard at work and instead he just goes back to sleep.

Rocky: Well, it is Sunday. There's no work on Sunday.

Stella: Sure, there's no paying work on Sunday but there's still work. He could be brushing us, or cooking for us or giving us massages. He could be taking us for another walk.

Rocky: Ooh, I'd like that.

Stella: Not to mention all the yard work that needs to get done. I've never seen so many weeds back there.

Rocky: And none of them taste any good either.

Stella: You know, I heard from the dog next door ...

Rocky: I bark at him.

Stella: Yeah, whatever, tough guy. Anyway, I heard, he gets taken to the cottage every weekend.

Rocky: I thought you didn't like the cottage. Too many 'squitters.

Stella: Yeah, all that nature stuff is retarded but that's not the point. The point is that lump on the sofa should be bonding with us, strengthening the relationship, spending quality face time with us.

Rocky: (shmeck, shmack) I think I definitely found a bit of chicken this time.

Stella: You know, our lives are not reaching their full potential because of his laziness.

Rocky, seeing a bit of food on Stella's muzzle, sniffs at her with interest: Are you going to eat that?

Stella: You touch that, I'll smack you, I swear.

Rocky: Hey, that's pie on your face. How'd you get pie on your face?

Stella: None of your business.

Rocky: Hey, no fair. How come you got pie on your face and I don't?

Stella: Look, lazy boy there had pie for breakfast and he left some on the counter and ...

Rocky: Ummm, I'm telling ...

Stella: It was just crumbs, jerko. And if you say anything, I'll tell about the hot dog ...

Rocky: But that was from the garbage.

Stella: Oh as if that's any better.

Rocky, sighs: What kind of pie was it?

Stella: Boston creme.

Rocky: Aww, nooo way. That's my favorite.

Stella: Whatever. You don't even know what that is.

Rocky: But is sounds like my favorite.

Stella: You know, you're such a moron sometimes.

Rocky: Do you think there's any left?

Stella: Doubt it.

Rocky: Sure?

Stella: Well, uh, yeah, pretty ... hey where're you going?

When I wake up, the rain has stopped. I see some hints of sunlight glistening off the drops of water on the magnolia leaves outside the window. The dogs are asleep, Stella in her sphinx pose and Rocky stretched out stiff on his side like he's in rigor mortis.

I get off the couch and walk into the kitchen. In the middle of the floor, there lies a shiny, well-cleaned pie tin.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The story of Walter and Joey - Part 2

Part 1 here.

Walter may be pooping gold but he's still pissing pee and for the first week, Joey just mopped up after the dog because he didn't want to take Walter outside in case someone saw what came out of his dog's ass. But then when the people downstairs came up and knocked on Joey's door complaining about their dripping ceiling, Joey realized he couldn't keep Walter inside forever.

Joey's three times a day routine now is to take Walter to the little parkette just around the corner from the apartment. On the short walk over, everytime Walter tries to stop and sniff a spot, Joey yanks on the leash to keep him moving. He doesn't want to risk letting Walter poop right out on the open sidewalk with so many people walking by.

At the park, there are some dogs, now familiar to Joey, roaming about off leash while their stuck up owners talk. One of the owners, a sorta cute twenty something blondie sees him and smiles and nods but Joey just heads for the far corner where the weeds are taller and a bit more inhospitable, where those weeds can quickly hide the precious golden eggs Walter deposits.

Walter looks over at the dogs playing and wags his tail but Joey jerks the leash and points to the weeds. He shoves Walter with knee and stands in front of him blocking his view of the other dogs. Walter looks up at Joey and then slowly and obediently gets into position. He grunts and he farts and he grunts and then he's done.

Joey looks down into the weeds. Walter's only left behind one egg this time and it's smallish, quail's egg sized. Joey looks around to make sure no one's watching too closely and then he pulls out a plastic bag and scoops up the egg. Again, first glancing around to make sure no one's watching, he puts the plastic bag and egg into his jacket pocket.

He's about to leave with Walter, when one of the other dogs comes running over. Joey's got no idea what he should do. The other dog is wagging its tail but Joey's not taking any chances. He pulls Walter's leash back to keep him well away from the other dog but the other dog keeps advancing.

"Hey, Rufus, come here" says the sorta cute twentysomething as she runs over. Then to Joey, "Don't worry. He's friendly. Eh, Rufus? You just saying hello?"

Joey hates it when people talk to their animals like they were people. He can't think of anything stupider. But then on the other hand the girl is kinda cute.

"Oh yeah. Sure. That's cool," Joey says, not relaxing the leash on Walter at all. Walter, for his part, is standing relaxed, a calm expression across his mouth and eyes. Rufus, not sensing a playmate in Walter, turns around and runs back to his more energetic dog pals.

"What's your dog's name?" the girl asks.

"Walter," Joey answers and he gives Walter an uncertain pat on his head.

"Nice dog," she says. "Is he old?"

"Yeah, I just, uh, got him from the pound," Joey answers.

"Umm, oh," she says. "Is that why he looks so skinny?" The girl reaches out with her hand towards Walter but Joey yanks Walter away from her.

"He bites," Joey says. "You shouldn't get too close."

The girl hesitates.

"He doesn't seem like a biter," she says and withdraws her hand. "You must've really bonded with him to take him from the pound. Most people wouldn't put the effort into working with a biting dog."

"Oh yeah, I know," Joey says. "But I'm not most people," he adds.

"Well good on ya," the girl says and she walks away.


Joey adds a tablespoon of salmon oil to Walter's dog food. He also throws in a couple tablets of vitamin D, a tablet of zinc, three tablespoons of glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM liqid, a tablespoon of ground kelp, and finally, a tablespoon of safflower oil. All this into a bowl of sixty dollar a bag kibble mixed with ground beef and chicken and mashed vegetables. This is Walter's meal, twice a day, every day, and it has been for over a month now.

After those comments by the girl in the park, Joey realized other people as well were whispering behind his back about the poor state of his dog. He didn't want any more attention on Walter than absolutely necessary so the first thing Joey did after that walk was give Walter a bath and then he began to figure out how to get Walter healthier looking. Between talking to the stuck ups at the pet food store, researching on-line and even a trip to the vet, Joey came up with "the Walter concoction" as he liked to call it. The Walter concoction costs a helluva lot more than Joey ever thought he would pay for dog food but he figures it's well worth it if it means no more sideways glances from people.

And it is indeed worth it. Joey's apartment, over the last several weeks since he'd brought Walter home, has become like a Fort Knox. Every jar, box, suitcase, plastic bag, empty kleenex box, cupboard, drawer, filing cabinet is stuffed with golden eggs. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of the beautiful globules just spilling out over each other. It's beyond calculation just how much gold Joey now possesses and how much all that gold is worth.

Joey figures he's well on his way to becoming the richest man in the world.

He still hasn't quite figured out how to convert all that gold into cash but that part doesn't bother him much. It's obvious now that all the gold is his, not some ornaments snatched off some rich hag's dresser drawer by her dog. He figures that when the day comes, he'll just walk into one of those flashy banks downtown and, acting like it's no big deal, open up a bank account and when the stuck up banker asks him how much he'd like to deposit, he'd just casually reach into his back pack, pull out an egg and say, "Oh, I don't know. How about I start with a thousand of these?"

Joey thinks about that day a lot but like a kid just before opening up the first Christmas present, he's enjoying the anticipation. The day will come. The day will come soon.


"Your dog's really looking good these days," the girl says to Joey in the park. "His coat's all shiny and he's put on weight."

"Yeah, but he's not fat," says Joey afraid of where this conversation might lead.

"No, he's not fat at all. He's just right," the girl says.

Walter is looking down at Rufus who is on his back squirming in the grass, trying to itch an itch. Rufus suddenly stops and, while still on his back, raises a paw up towards Walter, and Walter, in turn reaches out with his own paw and touches Rufus.

"Is he still biting?" the girl asks.

"You can't predict that with dogs," Joey says and jerks Walter back away from Rufus.

"Well, it looks like you're doing a great job," the girl says and smiles.

She walks back to her friend who just started bringing his 3 month old puppy to the park.

"Yeah, he's the guy that picks up his dog's poo and then puts it in his pocket," she whispers.

"Gross," her friend says.


Joey's sitting at the coffee table slowly sipping the bitter verging on sour coffee this place specializes in. It's awful and it's always been awful but he's savouring it because he knows this'll be the last time he buys coffee from here. In a few hours, he's going to walk into a bank and start cashing in the golden eggs.

He realizes people are getting suspicious. He knows if he doesn't deposit the gold soon, someone will surely discover his secret and then who knows what would happen. He wouldn't be safe on the street. He wouldn't even be safe inside his own apartment.

And someone would try to steal Walter for sure. Even now, Walter goes everywhere Joey goes. Joey never lets him out of his sight. Can't risk it. And at night, Walter sleeps in bed with Joey, with Joey's arm around him.

Joey hates it but what can he do? He has to keep Walter secure. But Walter's not going to be a pain in the ass for much longer. Once Joey gets things sorted out in his new place with his new people, he'll get someone else to look after Walter. Of course it would have to be someone he could trust but he's sick of having Walter around him all the time. If he never sees him again, he'd be fine with that as long as the eggs kept coming. And why wouldn't they?

The last time Joey took Walter in to see the vet, the vet told him that Walter checked out pretty well but he was concerned about his arthritic hips. He sold Joey some expensive medicine to help with that and Joey bought it and Walter did seem to improve quite a bit but really, other than not having to help Walter up all the time, Joey didn't much care. Joey figured Walter didn't exactly need to walk to shit gold eggs. Joey figured that as long as he could keep Walter alive, even if meant hooking Walter up full time to some big machine, he'd be okay with that. He wasn't going to let Walter die on him. Ever.

Joey sees his wonderful life splayed out before him. He can feel it. First of all, it's going to be the world's biggest reveal ever. He imagines his first interviews, being on TV with dozens of microphones in front of him, reporters and paparazzi pushing each other around just to get close to him, fighting for his attention. The anticipation of his new life is killing him but he's loving it as well. He takes another sip of coffee.

Jenny finally shows up. She sees him and he waves at her. She walks over to his table and sits down opposite him in the cigarette burned plastic chair.

"You Joey?" she asks.

"Yep," he says.

"Okay, so you know how this works?"

"Yep," he says. Then, "Okay, should we go?"

"Oh, hold up there, honey, before we go anywhere can you show me ..."

"Oh, yeah, yeah, sure," and Joey pulls out the ten twenties from his pocket and flashes the cash for her. "And there's a lot more where that came from," he can't help himself from saying but then immediately regrets it.

"Well who's the big hero then," Jenny says with a wide, toothy smile and she gets up and takes Joey's arm in hers as they start to walk towards the door.

"Oh wait," Joey says and he steps back to the table and grabs Walter's leash and gives him a yank. "Come on, let's go," he says.

Joey's walking on air all the way back to his apartment. People are definitely noticing. Joey's definitely feeling noticed. Jenny's on his arm, walking that walk she walks and touching him. People are definitely noticing. Joey straightens out a bit more. He could get used to this attention. Jenny fawning all over him in public. What a perfect picture this would make. It's just too bad about the dog.

The entrance to the apartment building is unlocked as usual and there are some kids in the main foyer. One of them, one of the older ones Joey doesn't like much yells out, "Shit, mama's boy. How much you payin for that?" but Joey just ignores him and walks to the stairs pulling Jenny and Walter along. He'll have people to take care of people like that soon enough.

As they're walking up, Jenny says, "So look, just to be straight, we do the business before we go in, okay? It's just like this this first time, okay? Once we get to know each other better, once we have a relationship, you know, you can pay up afterwards. Okay?"

They reach the third floor and Joey leads Jenny down the hallway to his door. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the wad of bills. He hands over the cash to Jenny. Jenny gives Joey a kiss and takes the cash but then looks down at it. It's covered in streaks of brown.

"What the fuck?" Jenny asks and then Joey opens the door to his apartment.

"Oh ... my ... God," Jenny says as she drops the money on the floor and then gags as the smell hits her.


The girl from the park, the one who owns Rufus, and Walter as well now, watches as Rufus runs circles around Walter. Walter enjoys the attention and happily barks at Rufus. Walter tries to do a play pose but it's a bit much for him.

"Poor Walter," the girl's friend, the guy with the pup, says.

"Ah, he's okay," the girl says. "He's creaky, but he's okay. Better than where he was anyway."

Rufus is now rolling around on the grass on his back in front of Walter and the two of them are slapping paws. The puppy bounces around them, trying to get some attention for himself.

"So that guy's apartment was completely filled with feces?"

"Yeah, that's what they said. It was like he'd been collecting it. He was storing it everywhere. In flower pots. In egg cartons. In the fridge. In the oven. He'd like run out of room and was starting to just pile it up all around his apartment."

"It's amazing the other tenants didn't complain about the smell."

"No, they did. The owners of the place just never did anything about it."

"God that's so fucked up."

"Yeah, it's too bad. I mean the guy was weird but he was taking care of Walter okay. The people at the pound couldn't believe he was the same dog from just a few months ago."

"And how'd you end up with Walter?"

"Well, I heard about how the police had to drag that guy out of his apartment - and you know he was like stuffing all these ossified pieces of turd into his pockets the whole time - and of course first thing I think about is what's happened to the dog so I figured he would've been taken to the pound. Where else, right?"

"Huh. Well, it's good of you to give him a home. Not many people would bring home an old dog like that."

"Yeah, well, Walter's pretty special."

The girl looks over at the dogs and sees that Walter's just finished taking a dump. She's about to get up to go pick it up when the puppy runs over to it and starts to sniff it.

"Oh crap," the guy says. "I think my dog's get a fecal fetish or something." Then, "Hey, Lucas, get away from that. Hey!" but Lucas doesn't listen and he picks up the turd and happily runs around with it trying to get the older dogs interested in a game of chase.

"Hey, drop that," the guy says but Lucas doesn't listen. Instead, the pup runs over to the girl and dances around her feet.

"Hey, look what I got," the girl says as she pulls out a dried liver snack. "Wanna trade?"

"You're too much," the guy says to the girl and laughs.

"Look what I got, Lucas," the girl says.

Lucas stops. He sniffs the treat. He lowers his head and drops the turd into the grass and the girl says, "Good boy," and gives Lucas the treat. She looks down into the grass at her feet and she sees something glittering. It's brightly faceted and egg sized.

It looks like a diamond.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The story of Walter and Joey - Part 1

Walter is farting like a garbage truck on fire and turns around as dogs will do and stares at his own butt, curious and anticipating, like some little animal might just poke its head out of his ass and say boo.

Joey, sitting on the couch in his underwear and faded green Hulk t-shirt watching Big Brother reruns on TV waves his greasy orange stained fingers in front of his face and crinkles his nose and wonders if he's made himself a big mistake getting that dog from the pound. His apartment stinks bad enough already. The last thing he needs is even more stink.

Course really Joey should've gotten a cat. After all, the whole point is to catch mice but cats make his eyes itch and then he starts sneezing and can't stop. Joey had already tried traps and traps caught a few mice but not all of them. He could still hear them scritching in the walls of his no bedroom apartment. He'd always be finding mouse drops scattered round the edges of his kitchen floor and around the chewed out holes of his Cap'n Crunch boxes or Kraft Dinner or loaves of Wonderbread.

One morning, when Joey woke up and first thing he saw was three black mouse shits on his pillow, he'd figured he'd had enough and better do something more about it than just wait for the little shitters to go get themselves trapped. He was going to be pro-activated. That's when he decided to go down to the pound and get a dog.

What he'd really wanted was that littler one, that Jerk Russel or whatever it was called. Someone had told him those littler dogs were good at mice catching and that's what Joey needed. But the stuck up girl at the pound wouldn't give him that dog. She said that dog needed exercising and she'd already tricked Joey into admitting he didn't exercise much.

Instead, she took him to see a ragged, bone thin, creaky old dog and said that Walter might be more suitable for him since he was an older dog and didn't need much activity to keep happy but then when Joey asked about Walter's mouse catching abilities, the stuck up suddenly didn't even want to give him Walter, but then someone there said something to her about Walter's time being up so it was either adopt him out or PTS whatever PTS meant.

Anyway, so Joey got himself a dog, just not the one he wanted. He didn't have much faith in Walter's ability to catch mice but he figured if it didn't work out, he could just boot Walter out the back door. Even if it did work out, he figured he'd boot Walter out the back door anyway once the all the mice were gone.


Another rear expletive and then the nerve endings from Walter's back end fire off a signal which slowly travels along rickety old synaptic pathways to Walter's twelve year old brain telling it that the internal pressure is building up back there. Walter starts to rise. That in itself is quite a job for him these days. He pushes himself up first with his front legs, and that's not too bad but now comes the hard part.

Joey knows what's coming because he's seen this routine a few times already in the two hours Walter's been at the apartment and he could go over and help Walter get up but Joey's eating Cheezies with his fingers and doesn't want to touch the dog because it might be dirty or something. Anyway, helping a dog just isn't something Joey would ever do. Dogs help people, not the other way around. You start helping dogs out and pretty soon you'll be hanging with homos and voting in liberals.

Walter rolls his lower body so that it's centered evenly over his back legs and then by rocking and shifting his weight back and forth a couple of times, he works up enough inertia to help his hind legs lift up his back end. Joey can tell Walter's really straining this time because he's grunting low and loud. To Joey's eye, Walter's looks kind of stuck, halfway between standing and sitting. It's like he's hunched over and can't quite get his back legs to straighten out. Walter grunts some more and shuffles around a bit.

And that's when Joey realizes Walter isn't trying to straighten out his legs, he's trying to take a crap.

Joey yells at Walter, "Nononononononono no no no noooo," but too late.

Walter pushes out a single, hard, egg shaped piece of turd.

Joey's in midstep, on his way over to give old Walter a kick when he notices something unusual. He notices that the turd's not a turd. It's yellow. It's shiny. It's metallic. It looks like gold.

Joey's not quite sure he believes his eyes.

He walks over and shoves Walter out of the way so he can get a closer look at the golden turd. There's nothing turd looking about it, other than maybe it's shape. It's surface dully reflects the fluorescent kitchen lights. Joey looks up at Walter but Walter's now walking around in the kitchen sniffing along the base of the counters and fridge.

Joey crouches down and looks back at the turd. He jabs a finger at it. It makes a tinking sound. Joey picks up the turd and is surprised by its heaviness. Even though it had just come out of a dog's ass, it's already starting to feel cold. And hard. Definitely metal.

Definitely gold.

Joey starts to laugh. He's heard of dogs swallowing golf balls before but never one swallowing a golden egg. This thing must be worth thousands of dollars. He wonders if he should take it to the bank but then what if there's some notice out there about someone missing a golden egg and if he goes to the bank, the bank will just confiscate it from him, never mind that it was his dog that shit it out and he found it fair and square.

Forget the bank then. He'll use the pawn shop.

Joey starts thinking about walking out with all that money in his pocket and how good that's going to feel. First thing is a party with one of the girls. There's the forty dollar girl and the sixty dollar girl but for sure he's going to splurge and get with the eighty dollar girl. Hell, he might even get the eighty dollar girl and the sixty dollar girl both. Now that would be something.

Walter is still sniffing around the kitchen and finds a spot on the floor that's somewhat tantalizing and starts to lick it. Joey sees this and walks over to Walter and yells, "Quit that," and pushes Walter away from the spot with his foot. Walter takes a step back and almost collapses down on his weak hind end but the cupboard he's backed into helps keep him up.

For a second, Joey feels kind of bad seeing how decrepit Walter is so he takes a dirty plastic bowl from the sink and fills it with the remaining take out Chinese from the weekend and sprinkles some Cheezies on top. He puts the food on the floor and watches Walter sniff it then gulp it down. It's gone in less than ten seconds.

Joey picks up the bowl and fills it up with water and puts that on the floor. Walter gives it a sniff but isn't too interested. Walter looks up at Joey.

"If you're looking for dessert," Joey says, "you gotta get some mice," and with that, he grabs his jeans and shuffles into them and then heads out the door to the pawn shop.


An hour later, Joey walks back to his apartment.

The pawn shop was closed so he'd gone to the coffee shop and got himself a ham sandwich and a couple of apple fritters and a coffee which he mostly dumped into the garbage so he could refill the cup up with cream.

The egg was a nice weight in his pocket and every so often he would stick his hand inside and touch it. He had wanted to just take it out and put it on the table and have everyone in the shop come over and marvel at it - at him - but he knew that wouldn't be wise. Not in this joint.

As his hand wrapped around the golden egg in his pocket, he had felt a sense of security and strength and, at the same time, he had watched the three girls who were standing just outside on the sidewalk as they intently peered and beckoned into the windows of passing cars, none of which were stopping.

Now as Joey pushes the key into his apartment door, he curses the pawn shop for not being open. He could be walking in with a girl on each arm right now.

Joey shuts the door behind him and the first thing he sees is Walter sleeping in Joey's own bed which is just an old futon on the floor. He forgets about the egg in his pocket and rushes over and knocks Walter off the bed.

"Get the fuck out of my bed," Joey yells, disgusted at the dog.

Walter lands awkwardly on his side on the wooden floor and lets out a yelp and then a groan as he tries to right himself but has a hard time. Joey turns away.

That's when he sees the two other golden eggs on the floor by the radiator.

Joey rushes over to the eggs and picks them up. They're not exactly the same as the first one. One is slightly bigger and rounder. The other is slightly smaller and more teardrop shaped. Joey can't believe his luck.

He takes the first egg out of his pocket and arranges all three of them on his bed, side by side. He caresses them with the back of his hand like they were newborns.

Three golden eggs. Forget the sixty dollar girl and the eighty dollar girl. Joey decides he can do better than that. Joey decides that he's going to party with Jenny. He can definitely party with Jenny now.

Three golden eggs. Even the pawn shop isn't going to be able to handle that. We're talking riches here, Joey thinks. Tens of thousands maybe even a hundred thousand dollars. Enough to get out of this crummy dump. Enough to buy a huge plasma screen TV, an X-Box, an iPhone and a Blackberry, a new pair of Pumas ...

And then a thought hits him. What if there's more? Just how many eggs did that damn dog swallow? Joey looks over at Walter. Walter is lying on the floor beside the couch but he's not asleep. He's watching Joey back, concerned.

Joey goes into the kitchen and pulls out the biggest pot he has from under the sink where it's been catching water drips. He rinses it out and then goes to his fridge and pulls out all the food still in there. He mixes lettuce with ketchup with hot dogs with eggs with stale bread ends with jam with mayonnaise with half an open can of spaghetti. It's enough to just fill the pot.

Joey puts the food down on the floor and calls Walter. Walter lifts his head and sniffs the air but isn't sure about Joey. Joey tries to be more conciliatory with his voice. Walter starts to rise but again has difficulty. Joey goes over and pulls Walter's haunches up and holds onto him until he's steady. Then he pats Walter's butt and points him to the food. Walter walks over, sniffs the food and gobbles it down. Done in 20 seconds. Walter looks up for more.

Joey goes over to the cupboards and takes out the uncooked pasta and all four cans of chicken noodle soup and the unopened jar of spaghetti sauce and the half eaten package of beef jerky. He dumps everything into the pot and adds a few cups of water and puts it on the stove on high. As soon as the broth starts to boil over, Joey takes everything off the stove and puts the pot into a sink filled with cold water so that it'll cool down faster. Once it's cool enough for his finger, he puts the pot down on the floor and beckons Walter.

This time Walter actually wags his tail and saunters over and sniffs the pot and starts to gulp. Done in just over a one minute.

This time, after finishing, Walter sniffs his way into the washroom and takes a long drink out of the toilet. Joey decides not to check to see if it was flushed. He'd rather not know.

There's no more food left in the kitchen but it doesn't seem like Walter's hungry anymore anyway so Joey sits back down on his couch and waits.

Two and a half episodes of Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire reruns later, Joey looks away from his TV to see Walter grunting and straining and then finally pushing out four more golden eggs. This time they're smaller than any of the previous ones but there are four of them so that makes up for it.

I've got a dog that shits gold, Joey says to himself and he can't remember a moment in his life when he's ever been happier.

Part 2 here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What was said. What was heard.

(Continued from here.)

No doubt it's been bugging me. What actually happened between Ginger and Buddy that night many years ago? For me, it's not even so much about Ontario's absurd Pit Bull laws anymore, as it is about trying to suss out the facts and along the way seeing what goes on inside Ontario courtrooms. Plus, with Toronto Animal Services South closed, I've got some extra time on my hands and you know what they say about idle hands and the devil.

To recap:

First trial: Justice of the Peace Madigan, determines Ginger the Pit Bull was off leash and unmuzzled and attacked Buddy. This determination is in large part based on testimony from Buddy's owner, Jody MacDonald. Justice of the Peace Madigan orders Ginger to be euthanized.

Ginger's owner, Phillip Huggins appeals. Note that on the night of the incident it was not Huggins himself who was walking Ginger, but his mother, Bernadette Razac.

Three years later, Second trial, first part: Justice Hogan presiding, determines that Ginger was actually leashed and Buddy who was not, the opposite of what Justice of the Peace Madigan had determined. Justice Hogan then calls for a time out while she tries to figure out just what Ontario's uber vague DOLA is all about.

A few months later, Second trial, second part: Having decided that the point of DOLA is not to simply kill Pit Bulls but rather to protect the public from dangerous dogs, Justice Hogan cancels Ginger's euthanasia order based, in part, on her determination that Ginger was leashed and did not start the fight with Buddy in the first place.

Reading the newspaper accounts of the incident (National Post, Toronto Star, CTV) and the court determinations made me curious. What was it that made Justice Hogan change the ruling to back Ginger instead of Buddy? I mean it's like going into court one day and having the first judge say, "That dog is white" and then going into court another day with a different judge and having that judge say about the same dog, "That dog is black."

This would never happen on Law and Order.

I shoot off an e-mail to Nick Aveling of The Toronto Star. He's the reporter who's been covering both sides of this case and he'd just written an article over the weekend presenting MacDonald's side of the story. In my e-mail, I basically ask him if he's got some inside scoop on MacDonald's testimony, as he'd just interviewed her, and also what he thinks about the opposing judgments stemming from it.

While waiting for a response, I decide to try and find a copy of that ruling by Justice Hogan for it's in this document where it will be revealed the thought process Justice Hogan went through in deciding to support Ginger's innocence.

I look and look but, unfortunately, I can't find it anywhere and by anywhere, I mean free and on-line. Why isn't this document at my fingertips? I wonder as I pound on my desk and curse the inadequacies of the internet. I contact a couple of friends and they look everywhere as well, and by everywhere, I mean free and on-line, and they too come up empty handed.

I'm temporarily at a loss, but then, a thought. I decide to do the unthinkable: I pick up the phone and actually make a phone call.

I call Terrance Green, the lawyer who represented Huggins for those trials with Justice Hogan.

I've never talked to a lawyer before and have very little working knowledge about them aside from some memorable television experiences. I wonder how I should address him. Terrance? Too informal. Mr. Green? Too Reservoir Dogs. Terrance Green? Yeah, that's the ticket.

(The following is a dramatization of a telephone conversation I actually had but since I can't remember what was exactly said exactly, I'm just sort of making stuff up)

"Hello, Terrance Green speaking."

"Hi. Uh, may I please speak to Terrance Green please."



"Oh hi, my name's Fred and I'm doing some research for an article about Ginger? the Pit Bull? and I'm wondering if you have a couple of minutes to answer some questions about her trial? since you represented her owner? uh, Huggins? about what happened that night with Buddy? the other dog? and why did Miss, uh, Missus, uh, Ms MacDonald say one thing and the judge, uh, the justice of the peace Madigan? interprete it as something else?"


"Umm, what's your name again?"


"And what's your involvement with this?"

"I'm writing a blog?"



And then we really hit it off and a few minutes later he e-mails me a couple of court documents, the first being the one I'm looking for.

I scan the document and find the information I want, well sort of. From "Ontario Court of Justice, Old City Hall, Toronto Region. Between Her Majesty the Queen and Phillip Huggins. Before Justice M. L. Hogan. Ruling released on December 15, 2008", Justice Hogan:

In this case I do find that some of Justice of the Peace Madigan's evidentiary conclusions were clearly wrong and not supported by the evidence and thus find he did make palpable and overriding errors. The most significant example is his finding that the dog "Buddy" was leashed and the dog "Ginger" was not. Clearly, the evidence was exactly the opposite and I base this finding on the following excerpts from the transcripts: Examination in chief of J. MacDonald, June 8, 2006 at p.14, line 20, p. 15 lines 30, 31, p. 39 lines 6,7 and the cross examination of J. MacDonald June 8, 2006 at p. 47, lines 25 to 27, 40, p.48, lines 1,2, and p. 51 lines 14 to 16 and discussion between the Court and J. MacDonald at p. 52 lines 14 to 31. I find this evidentiary finding to be critical to his ultimate decision in the case and one that taints the rest of his evidentiary findings.

Ah ha! So, Justice Hogan is basically saying that the testimony given by MacDonald in the first trial actually corroborates the claim that Ginger was leashed and Buddy was not, the opposite of what Justice of the Peace Madigan had determined.

But what exactly was that testimony? How could two different judges interpret the same piece of testimony so differently?

I want to see the testimony for myself.

The next day, I e-mail Terrance Green again to ask if he might be able to forward me the testimony but he writes back that his hard copy has already been sent forward to Huggins' new lawyer on the case, Ruby Clayton.

I try the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General's websites to see if I can obtain a copy of the testimony through them but the websites aren't not much help except for a phone number.

Once again into the breach, I dial the phone number.

I explain my situation and the kindly woman on the other end puts me on hold and after a while I wonder if she's just gone back to watching reruns of Ally McBeal.

But no. It turns out she was trying to track down where exactly I could go to get the trial transcripts.

Clerk: DOLA is a provincial law but it's administered by the city so you'll have to go down to the court office at .... (the address isn't a secret, I just don't have it with me at the moment) ... and ask them to see if they can get you a copy, which you'll have to pay for, or they can tell you where you have to go to find it.

Me: Okay, maybe I'll just e-mail them first.

Clerk: No, you can't do that.

Me: Oh? Why?

Clerk: They don't have e-mail.

Me: No, e-mail? That's kind of ...

Clerk: No, e-mail.

Me: Oh, okay. What's their phone number?

Clerk: No. No phone number.

Me: What?

Clerk: They don't have a phone.

At this point, I check my wall calendar to make sure it says 2009 and not 1909.

Me: So, if I want to talk to someone there, I absolutely have to go see them in person?

Clerk: Yes.

I find that a very dissatisfying answer but I say thanks anyway and hang up. I mean it's not the clerk's fault that she works for an organization that makes access to information so bloody difficult. I'm surprised they haven't actually located the office in some subterranean cavern with the only access being a long, dark, nasty tunnel protected by a troll.

Actually, maybe they have put the office in a deep cave. I don't know. I haven't gone yet. At this point my enthusiasm for this mythic quest is starting to fade.

I have an internal debate about making the trip downtown to the lair of the court records and the thought of all that bureaucracy starts making me sleepy when I notice that Nick Aveling, the Star reporter has e-mailed me back.

He says that as far as he knows, MacDonald's testimony has remained consistent. According to MacDonald, Ginger was indeed leashed, but only initially, until she broke her own leash when she charged at Buddy. MacDonald says this is what she testified in court. Somehow, the first judge, Justice of the Peace Madigan, misunderstood her, and interpreted this as Buddy being leashed while Ginger wasn't.

Justice Hogan, though, in her latest ruling, sees it that Ginger was leashed and thus could not have provoked the attack and since she has the final say on this, legally, on record, this is what happened.

But not according to MacDonald's testimony.

A Dalmatian is brought into a room. One person says the dog is white. The other says the dog is black. Who is right?

What do I think? I think I feel sorry for Buddy that he had to suffer through Ginger's attack and that according to the law, he was made out to be the aggressor. But I also feel sorry for Ginger that she had to spend more than three years in a cage and now still has a death sentence hanging over her head.

The law may be binary but the truth isn't black and white.

In the end, I never got the trial transcripts so I still don't know what was said, exactly. Maybe I never will. Maybe it's one of those mysteries better left unsolved. Maybe to solve it would require so much effort and in the end that search for truth might still be overshadowed by the unfathomable idiosyncrasies of the human mind. Maybe ...

Oh, time to let the dogs out. Rocky's farting like a garbage truck on fire.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Toronto city strikers

Continued from here.

You know you read in the news about all the Toronto city workers going on strike and their union making all these demands and it's easy enough to paint all the city workers with one brush. What colour that brush is of course depends where on the economic policy spectrum one likes to plant oneself. That loaded socio-economic discussion is beyond the scope of this blog but I was talking to someone yesterday from TAS who was walking the picket line at "the dump" and he was telling me about the situation on the ground. It's not as monochromatic as people may think.

Apparently, walking the pickets is not compulsory but if you don't, you won't get paid your ten bucks an hour or something like that from the union. So, if you're savings are non-existent because, say, you've just spent your last cent on getting another dog rescued from some high kill pound somewhere, then it's either picket or find another job. For those working at TAS who are more flexible in the monetary department, some of them have chosen not to support the strike (by not picketing) because of its impact on the animals, not just the animals in the facilities at the moment but also the ones which aren't being rescued because the South Shelter is closed.

That's something that the union heads might want to take note of. If they want to get the public onside, and right now, I think they need as much help in that regard as they can get, they might not want to implicate themselves with cute puppies and kittens rotting away somewhere because of their strike action. If not now, then next time, and I'm sure there will be a next time, they might consider letting at least an essential crew of TAS staff stay on the job so that animals don't end up suffering.

For most of us, the city strike is a matter of inconvenience. For the animals, especially the ones not being rescued, it can be a matter of life and death.

As a side note, I just want to give a huge thanks to all the readers here who contacted me, or TAS South directly, volunteering to foster dogs and cats for the duration of the strike. Your generous offers are sincerely appreciated and if you don't already have a new temporary family member, there's a chance you might get a call in the coming days if the strike goes on longer than expected. Thanks again so much.

Ginger and the many shades of truth

When the news broke about Ginger's recent battles in court a couple of weeks ago, I didn't write about it immediately partly because I was too busy with other stuff but also because I had a feeling that something was missing from the story - namely, the other side.

Well, the other side spoke out over the weekend. From The Star article Dog owner laments the day she met Ginger:

"(Ginger) broke the leash the minute she saw us and ran toward us. She slammed into me. Buddy had stood up and they were sniffing each other and both tails were wagging. I figured they'd have a nice little chase," she said. "I looked down at my feet not knowing the world was going to collapse in the next five seconds."

Blood soaked the mud as Ginger tore into Buddy's neck, said MacDonald. She smashed her coffee mug against the dog's jowl, but the biting continued.

Buddy survived the incident.

But when he died last spring, MacDonald couldn't help but feel cheated. "I think he went too soon ... he never came back fully from the injury."

MacDonald said she never saw a muzzle on Ginger, a legal requirement for pit bulls in Ontario.

When Philip Huggins was brought to court the first time, Justice of the Peace, Kevin Madigan, sided with MacDonald's account and called for the death of Ginger under the Dog Owner's Liability Act.

Huggins decided to fight that decision and took his case for another round through the courts, this time with Justice Mary Hogan.

From the Star article, Death row dog learns fate today, this is Huggins' account of the dogfight:

"My mother [Bernadette Razac] took her [Ginger] out for a 6 a.m. walk in the park," said owner Philip Huggins, 28, a truck driver for a graphics firm. "Ginger (a 69-pound dog) was muzzled and leashed. Another dog (Buddy, a 45-pound dog) ran over to her and started sniffing her. The dog bit, and went and tore (Ginger's) left ear, then ripped off her muzzle." Ginger bit the dog back, then bit its owner, court documents show.

... which is, of course, a clear contradiction to MacDonald's account. The court under Justice Mary Hogan agreed with Huggins' version of events:

She also found the justice of the peace erred in his judgment in several instances, "the most significant example in his finding that the dog Buddy was leashed and the dog Ginger was not. Clearly the evidence was the exact opposite."

I wish I knew what the evidence was because someone's either lying or in a grand hallucinatory state of confusion or denial.

Looking at the court records for both decisions doesn't help either.

In the first decision, where Ginger was found guilty of being off leash and instigating the attack, the Justice of the Peace, Kevin Madigan, admits that the evidence provided by the person walking Ginger, Bernadette Razac, and the person walking Buddy, Jody MacDonald, are contradictory and difficult to confirm or deny. In the end, he decides to believe MacDonald and not Razac for what seems to me to be somewhat arbitrary reasoning.

In my opinion, the main problem with Ms. Razac’s testimony was that it seemed very scripted and rehearsed.

So apparently, if Razac had been a more believable actor, Ginger might be free right now. Never mind innocent until proven guilty, it's all about acting natural. Who knew?

When answering a question about how Ginger’s muzzle came off, Bernadette Razac made the implausible claim that Buddy had actually pulled the muzzle off with his paws during the fight. Quite frankly, I find this very difficult to believe and I don’t believe it. It is unlikely that an older, smaller dog like Buddy would have the dexterity for such an intricate maneuver during a rather vicious dog –fight.

This guy obviously doesn't know muzzles. Everything breaks, everything eventually falls apart, especially under stress. I've had the plastic clips of two dog collars break on me while walking the dogs at TAS even without the added benefit of another dog's paw. It's also entirely possible that the muzzle was not secured tightly enough to not slip off during a dog fight. That would still put the blame on Ginger's owner but it wouldn't be an intentional oversight.

Further, as I mentioned above, the photographic evidence certainly suggested that Ginger was more likely than Buddy to have started this fight. The scenario attested by Jody MacDonald was consistent with what one would predict after viewing the photographs of the two dogs. The scenario attested by Bernadette Razac was not.

This I really don't understand. Unless the photographs were taken of the dog fight (and they weren't) what would they prove one way or another with regard to which dog started the fight? Is Madigan basing his opinion here on the fact that Ginger looks like a Pit Bull and Buddy does not? Or that Ginger is a few pounds heavier than Buddy? Hey, how many of you have ever seen a Chihuahua go after a Great Dane? I have, almost every week. Crazy Chi around the corner going beserkers after anything else on four legs. My Dane just ignores it but in Madigan's court, would the Dane be deemed the instigator simply based on the relative sizes and breeds?

In my opinion, Madigan's judgment seems biased and unfounded.

Apparently, in the appeal, Justice Mary Hogan felt the same way as she overturned the verdict by Madigan. I can't get my hands on the exact reasoning she gave for overturning his decision so I don't know if it was based on new, hard evidence or she just went through the same arguments I just did.

Here's the thing, though. Unless there is actually hard evidence to prove events went one way or the other, if I had to choose whose testimony I would believe, I'd have to toss a coin.

Neither Madigan nor Hogan, in my opinion, provide solid enough arguments to prove things one way or the other. In Madigan's case, I disagree with the reasoning behind his judgment but that doesn't mean the judgment itself is incorrect. Ginger may very well have been off leash and unmuzzled and started the fight but Madigan's reasoning to support that claim doesn't do it for me.

And as for Justice Hogan, she may very well believe that it was Buddy who started the fight but unless I see solid evidence, there's no reason for me to trust in her judgment either.

And I'm kind of suspecting there is no hard evidence especially given lawyer Ruby's somewhat, uh, legalesque response to MacDonald's assertion that Ginger started the fight:

"The judge (in 2007) had it sorted out, but he did so erroneously according to the appeal court. No one's in a position to now say this version [MacDonald's version] is true."

Huh? Isn't that kind of like saying because no one can't disprove the existence of Santa Claus, Santa Claus must exist?

In the end, I don't know which dog started the fight. I don't know, but that doesn't matter because, in my opinion, regardless of which dog started the fight, or which dog was or wasn't leashed, or which dog was dog friendly or wasn't, neither dog should be put under penalty of death for what happened. Whatever events took place, it was the fault of one or both of the owners. Their dogs should not have to pay for their owners' mistakes.

Dogs fight. If a proclivity for fighting were the only criteria necessary for destroying an animal, there would be a lot fewer humans left on the planet. Most dogs I know have problems with some other dogs. Just like people, they don't always get along with one another. There are loads of reasons.

Sometimes it's an older dog who doesn't like nuisance puppies, sometimes it's a dog who's had a bad experience in the past with a particular breed, sometime it's a big dog who thinks a little dog might be a rodent, sometimes it's a little dog who doesn't like big dogs because it's been stepped on one too many times, sometimes it's just plain nastiness.

But, in all the non-BSL identified dogs (ie. non-Pit Bull type dogs), DOLA accepts the fact that dogs don't always get along and says, look, if your dog gets into a fight, we'll still give it a chance. You may have to muzzle it and keep it on a leash and possibly take some extra precautions but we realize that the value of a dog is not completely erased by the fact that it got into a fight with another dog.

With Pit Bull type dogs, however, no such allowances are given by DOLA. Pit Bulls don't get a chance. They get killed.

By all accounts, Ginger is a sweet dog with people. The photos and videos in the online newspaper reports certainly seem to suggest that. Did she attack Buddy that night nearly four years ago because Razac did not adequately have her under control? Possibly. Did she cause Buddy harm? Yes. And if Razac is found to have been negligent in properly controlling Ginger, resulting in injury to Buddy, then she should have to compensate Buddy's owner for vet bills at least (she should also do the decent thing and apologize and clear Buddy's name if only for the sake of Buddy's owner, MacDonald). Regardless, Ginger, should not have to pay the ultimate price because of her owner's lack of caution.

If the events had been reversed, if it was indeed Buddy who was at fault, there would be no discussion of the death penalty. At worst it might be, "Next time muzzle and leash your dog".

Ginger's fate will be argued in court again later in the year. If she loses that battle, then she dies and what good does that do? If the thinking is that at least Ginger won't be alive to attack another dog, well, that would only happen if Huggins is an irresponsible owner and if he is, there's nothing to stop him from just going out and getting another muscle dog - or any dog for that matter. If the thinking is purely legalistic, that Ginger is a Pit Bull and according to the law, she must be killed for biting regardless of cause, then that's absurd, as Justice Hogan would say, and just means more blood on the hands of the people who created and still support this ridiculous law - not that they would care.

(Continued here.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Update on Susie

A couple of pics from Susie's (now Maggie's) owner:

Ginger and the Pit Bull law

Maybe you've heard already about Ginger, the Pit Bull. First accused of being off leash and attacking another dog, Ginger was condemned to die by the City of Toronto but her owner, Phillip Huggins, with help from lawyer Terrance Green, who specializes in DOLA, fought the ruling.

The legal wrangling has taken over three years, during which time Ginger has been kept in likely isolation at Toronto Animal Services East as dogs housed under court orders aren't allowed to go outside or otherwise interact with the public.

Earlier this year, in April, when Huggins and Ginger finally saw their day in court, it was determined by Justice Mary Hogan that it was the other dog, Buddy, who was actually off leash and instigated the fight. The court decided that Ginger was leashed and muzzled and only lost the muzzle when Buddy tore it off.

This is the piece of Ontario legislation, the breed specific portion of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, which applies to this situation:

(8) When, in a proceeding under this section, the court finds that the dog is a pit bull and has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal, or has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals, the court shall make an order under clause (3) (a).

with (3)(a) being

(3)(a) that the dog be destroyed in the manner specified in the order;

I'm no legal expert but I think what that basically says is that if a Pit Bull type dog is found to have bitten a person or a domestic animal, regardless of cause, it must be euthanized.

In Justice Hogan's own words, this is "absurd". In her decision, she states:

For example, if an individual were breaking into a home where a pit bull resided and that pit bull in the course of protecting his owner and his owner’s home bit the burglar, that pit bull would have to be destroyed. Surely, given the stated purpose of the legislation this absurd result was not intended.

Justice Hogan was also concerned that "such a dog [referring to Ginger] would be ordered destroyed in circumstances where the dog had no culpability whatsoever". Or, in other words, since Ginger was leashed, muzzled and did not initiate the fight, she did nothing wrong, was not a threat to the public and therefore should not be punished for protecting herself against an aggressor dog.

Thus, Ginger's euthanasia order was overruled.

Justice Hogan should be given a big gob smacking gold medal for interpreting this fuzzy piece of breed specific legislation in a way that is fair and which better serves the public interest.

It's interesting to read in her decision that she actually debates the intended purpose of the Pit Bull specific amendments to the Dog Owner's Liability Act:

If the lawmakers intended the second interpretation [the euthanize Pit Bulls no matter what interpretation] then this would shift the purpose of the amendments to the DOLA away from the protection of the public and the ban on breeding of pit bulls to the destruction of pit bulls. This was not the stated purpose in the Committee proceedings to which I was referred by all counsel.

In other words, Justice Hogan believes that the purpose of the law is foremost to protect the public and is not a carte blanche to massacre all Pit Bulls in the province. This decision is a huge deal because it sets a precedent that says a jurisdiction in Ontario can't just kill a Pit Bull type dog for no good reason.

I'd call that pretty damn enlightened.

Unfortunately, the Pit Bull death cull supporting lawyers and politicos in this province do not seem as encumbered by the weight of fairness and justice. This decision to not kill a Pit Bull just because it's a Pit Bull must have made the haters shake with spittle laced anger as they sat reading it in their too tight little undies. They are fighting back.

City of Toronto lawyer Kirsten Franz: "If the court uses the same discretion for pit bulls as for other dogs, the legislation has no meaning."

For some reason, Franz thinks that if we treat Pit Bulls and Pit Bull type dogs fairly, or at least as fairly as other dogs, then the DOLA has no meaning. Since when is fairness of treatment equated to "no meaning"? So, in the city's view it is preferable for the law to be prejudicial to the point of death? Perhaps they would also consider taking away women's right to vote, re-introducing the head tax on immigrants, bringing back indentured servitude for the poor. I mean really, if you're going to fuck fairness, you might as well fuck it all the way.

A motion was granted last Wednesday allowing the city and the province to appeal the decision to spare Ginger. They still want her dead. Come this fall or early 2010, they're going to try again to kill her and if they succeed, then they can keep on killing the rest.

In the meanwhile, Clayton Ruby, who has taken over the case and is now representing Huggins pro bono, has managed to get Ginger released from her prison and back into the custody of her owner while she awaits her fate. How he did that, I don't quite understand, but I'm sure a lot of other Pit Bull owners would definitely like to know.

Clayton Ruby has been working hard recently for the Pit Bull cause, attempting to challenge the BSL portion of DOLA at the Supreme Court of Canada. The SCC decided against hearing the challenge.

That matters but it also doesn't matter. The battle against BSL can't be won in the courts anyway. Even if the SCC found the BSL portion in the DOLA to be too vague, the province's lawyers could have just changed it around to be less vague, to be more inclusive, possibly including your breed of dog. They could have just rejigged the law a bit while keeping it basically the same piece of dog killing legislation. Then we'd have to challenge it in court again. Then they could just rejig it again. And each time, it would have to be fought in court and eventually, the money to fight to law would run out and the law would still be there killing dogs.

The only way to fight this law is to fight public perception. Only when the majority of the public understands that BSL kills too many innocent dogs and is too unwieldy a hammer to effectively catch the dangerous ones, will the thick headed, populist politicians be moved to strike the law from the books.

But that's the big picture. Right now Ginger's life is very much on the line. I hope Huggins is working on an exit strategy.

From Ruby:

"This is a sentient being and we shouldn't be killing a dog unless it's done something wrong. Automatic killing without looking at the context is morally wrong."

Continued here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Toronto Animal Services South - Empty

Continued from here.

All of the animals at Toronto Animal Services South have been relocated to fosters or the north shelter while the staff await the strike decision to be made Sunday night. They're still hoping for a resolution but things aren't looking too good right now.

Continued here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chanting in the rain

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon at the Toronto Humane Society Protest.

Some of the main organizers of the protest: Nikki, Mel, Marcie, James, Sam

Marcie talks about her experiences working the night shift at the THS. "The dog died in my arms."

Sam talks about governance at the THS

Marna, from Big on Beagles rescue, talks about the importance of working with rescues and also plugs Toronto Animal Services. Yaay, Marna!

The last time I was in a protest (maybe I should say, caught in a protest) I was tear gassed and the riot police were doing that baton on shields banging thing but that was an age and a country away.

Today's protest at the Toronto Humane Society, was, by my rough estimate, around 200 people. It was an afternoon of interspersed chanting, mostly directed at Tim Trow, and listening to speakers talk about their experiences with the Toronto Humane Society. The bicycle police stood around with us in the rain trying not to smile and every so often would remind someone to please stay within the marked off areas.

The speakers did an excellent job but unfortunately the megaphone they were using did not and I'm pretty sure the people at the edges of the crowd couldn't hear most of what was said. Still, being the polite Canadians we stereotypically are, everyone remained courteously quiet whenever someone was at the stand.

Tim Trow was nowhere in sight. Actually, no official from THS made any kind of appearance as far as I could tell - although I hear a few THS vets were in the crowd, incognito, giving their support. When I left, the pile of donated goods from members of the protest group for the shelter's animals hadn't yet been picked up by anyone inside.

Most of the local news stations showed up and there were videographers who captured the whole thing so I'm not going to go into details about what was said as I'll just post the link as soon as it becomes available.

Here's a little taste, though, from someone who wasn't officially listed as a speaker but felt strongly enough to take the stand:

The important thing to remember is that this protest is just round one. It's going to take a lot more than just a few voices on a Saturday afternoon to unseat the entrenched directors at the THS so that the much needed changes to animal care can be implemented. Today, people were just testing their voices, testing their alliances, testing their strengths.

Round two is coming up.

Tim Trow: "Frankly, I don't think I need a reference."

That's because he can't get one.

From Toronto Star article, Humane society chief admits 'I'm not a saint'.

Toronto Humane Society

Looks like it's going to pour.

300 people are going to show up and stand in the rain for two hours in front of Toronto Humane Society to voice their discontent over the way they feel some of the animals in that shelter have been allowed to suffer. It's kind of wacko, if you think about it, to stand out there, holding up slogan signs on a perfectly good Saturday shopping afternoon, chanting who knows what shit just to help a bunch of sick animals.

They could be checking out cel phones or sipping latte or punching their Playstations but instead they're going to act like a whole lotta yahoos kicking up a fuss just cuz they don't like the way things are at the THS.

And remember, that's H for Humane. No one protests the Humane Society. That's untouchable. You get the word "humane" in your name and you're like the King James edition. You could be clubbing baby seals for laughs, burning down rain forests for parking lots, destabilizing minor nations for oil and diamonds and people would still think you were the holy love child of Mother Mary and Sis Theresa.

Check this out. Instead of General Motors, how about General Humane Motors? Doesn't that name just make you want to dig deep into your pockets and throw more money at them? Doesn't that name make you want to support their board of directors who have done such an excellent job ru i nning that company?

Or check this one. North Humane Korea. Suddenly, missile nukes in their xenophobic, peasant starved hands doesn't sound so bad.

Or this biggie. Global Humane Warming. Who needs carbon taxes? I feel 2 degrees cooler already.

This stuff don't fly? No, course not. Name don't mean shit unless you got something to back it up with. Humane don't mean shit unless you got something to show it.

Animals living in shit and piss ain't humane.

Animals moaning in pain ain't humane.

Animals caged for years ain't humane.

We got to put the humane back in Toronto Humane Society. We don't do it now, who knows if it'll ever get done. That's what this bunch of crazy, tenacious sumbitches is protesting for.

Skip your shower today. Come stand out in the rain with us.


Today Saturday, June 20, 2 p.m. Toronto Humane Society at 11 River St.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Going north

I'm sitting with Bach on the little patch of grass that is still accessible. Bach, with his striking ice blue eyes, watches the workers put up barricades for the Indy track. Off around one of the bends, I hear someone squealing his car around a corner, really squealing, action flick, car chase like. The guy's just driving some beater but I guess because he sees the track being set up, his X-Box brain kicks in and he figures he can try out some moves.

Bach lies down on the grass. He's hot in the haze of the sun and the grass probably helps cool him down. He rolls over on his back and paws me for a belly rub. I'm spending some extra time with him because this will probably be his last day down at Toronto Animal Services South before he gets transferred up to the north facility for the duration of the city workers' strike.

TAS South has been busy getting ready to shut down. The other three shelters are remaining open. This doesn't make sense to me as I think the south shelter is the best facility - not that I'm biased or anything - but I'm told part of the reason is because the Indy will make access to the South shelter difficult if not impossible. Given that there will be enough worries with no regular staff to look after the animals, the city wants to keep things as simple as possible.

The plan, then, is to move all the animals from south to north. Thing is, TAS South staff would prefer to not put their cats and dogs through the turmoil and anxiety of being housed at the north shelter because no one really knows who will be looking after the animals there when the strike starts. Managers probably, but managers of what? Accounts, trucks and H.R.?

Jen, the person looking after cats at TAS South, has done an incredible job finding temporary cat fosters for the duration of the strike. More than forty cats have already gone out and the few remaining will hopefully be picked up sometime soon.

Most of the dogs have been fostered out as well but there are a handful remaining who will be kept up on the TAS adoption page, so who knows, maybe they'll get homed before the shelter transfer.

But Bach is definitely going up to TAS North. He was adopted out a few weeks ago but returned because his owner discovered he had heartworm at their first vet visit. Her vet told her that his treatment would cost $3000. I think that's a bit padded considering the drugs, while expensive, only cost a few hundred dollars, but hey, everyone wants to make a buck.

So Bach is back and he won't be put up for adoption until he gets put through the heartworm treatment which will last six weeks. And the treatment won't start until after the strike so that's probably another 2 - 3 weeks.

I'm a little worried for him. It feels like sending a sick kid off to summer camp not knowing what the camp facilities are like, not knowing even who's running the camp.

But Bach being Bach being a dog, is presently doing just fine. He doesn't appear to be showing any symptoms. No coughing, no lethargy. He's just enjoying his belly scratches and soaking up the sun, relishing what could be his last few minutes outside for many weeks to come.

He better make it back okay.

(Bach was one of the last out-of-province rescue dogs to be adopted out before TAS started doing heartworm testing on all their rescue dogs. TAS used to test all their dogs but never got any positive results so they figured they might as cancel the tests, at $20 a pop, and put the money elsewhere. Now heartworm seems to be much more prevalent, hence the testing once again.)

Strike stuff ontinued here.

Bach stuff continued here.

Toronto Humane Society Protest Alert

From CNW:

TORONTO, June 19 /CNW/ - On Saturday, June 20, starting at 2 p.m., more than 300 people will be staging a protest in front of the Toronto Humane Society at 11 River Street.

The protest, organized by former THS staff, volunteers and concerned citizens, is calling for the resignation of the entire THS Board and the appointment of interim management to correct the turmoil inside the THS.

"This protest is being organized out of love and compassion," says organizer Marcie Laking. "We want the MOST humane and ethical treatment of every single animal inside the THS at all times, we are standing up for their rights and lives and are demanding positive changes inside FOR them."

The THS has been in the media spotlight since the Globe and Mail ran a three-part series on the situation. That series lead to an ongoing OSPCA investigation of the THS (which suspended the THS's affiliate status). The newspaper articles and OSPCA investigation have in turn caused hundreds of people to step forward and demand positive change.

Please consider covering this protest.

For further information:

or visit:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Feathers, fur and the occasional fang

Laura, one of the other volunteers at TAS South has just started blogging about the smaller critters that get left at the shelter. That would be mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, bunnies, birds and maybe a reptile every now and then.

Do reptiles enjoy a pat on the head? I don't know but if you go over to Laura's blog, you can always ask her.

Feathers, fur and the occasional fang

Update 2 on Travis

I'm really happy for this guy. Travis had been at Toronto Animal Services for weeks and was beginning to develop signs of cage distress/aggression. No one was interested in adopting him and hope was running out.

So, he was transferred to a rescue, Nickquenum Dog Adoptions, and almost immediately his luck changed.

From Travis' owner:

Travis has gained weight - tipping the scales at a little over 24 kilos 10 days ago. This translates to an increase of about 3 kilos since he was adopted. The other dog is Gunther, a rescue from Kentucky. He is about 3 years old. He has a bit of a limp which, when I had his left foreleg x-rayed, turns out to be metal fragments - so the vet thinks that he had been shot sometime in the past.

These two dogs along with Ethan (the Newfoundland X) go with me to Clairville about 5 to 6 times per week where they go off leash and run to their hearts content. All return when called, although sometimes it takes two or three times being called before they come back. They are often out of sight.

Five times a week some friends take them out for an hour on-leash walk in the evening.

Foster cats

The impending Toronto city workers strike date, June 22, next Monday, is fast approaching. While most of the dogs at Toronto Animal Services South have found placement with rescues or fosters, a lot of the cats have not. That's not from lack of trying but there are just a lot more cats than dogs at the shelter.

If you're so inclined, you could really help out by fostering a TAS cat for the duration of the strike. There are no guarantees but it's unlikely the strike will go for longer than three weeks. If it's not settled by then, city workers will probably be legislated back to work. That's what happened last time.

The animals who don't find their way into foster care will be transported to one of the other city shelters where they will be managed by a reduced staff of who knows who. It sounds like it's going to turn into something more akin to a warehousing environment than a shelter environment. Sure, it may not be the end of the world for the animals but it won't be very nice.

If you're interested, this is the TAS South number: 416 338 6668. Ask to speak to the person looking after the cats (if you get the answering machine, hang up and call back later, otherwise, you'll be waiting a very long time). Or you can drop me an e-mail and I can give you the direct line to the person trying to find fosters.

Continued here.