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Humane Society Reopens To The Public Monday Amid Investigation

More than a month after the Toronto Humane Society’s doors were locked amid allegations of animal cruelty, a spokesman says staff at the embattled downtown shelter are anxious to get back to the business of rescuing stray and abandoned pets.

The shelter reopens to the public on Monday, five weeks after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided the building and arrested five senior staffers, including former president Tim Trow, on a number of charges, including animal cruelty.

Business operations at the shelter, which houses more than a thousand stray animals, resumed Dec. 29 after a four-week suspension. but Humane Society spokesman Ian McConachie said the society won’t be meeting its true mandate until it’s working with the public again.

“That’s always our first priority, to place these animals into new homes,” McConachie said in a phone interview.

“The shelter’s always meant as a temporary refuge for the animals, and to get them into loving and permanent homes is always the ideal. That was one of our first priorities when we got (back) in there, was to resume adoptions as quickly as possible.”

All adoptions are being cleared by veterinarians as well as OSPCA workers, who have been put in charge of animal care at the shelter.

Some 109 cats and 25 dogs have been cleared for adoption, while the rest are not medically fit for new homes, said OSPCA communications director Rosaline Ryan. Twenty-five other animals had to be euthanized, she added.

Prospective adopters will be fully apprised of any conditions or treatments their new pets may have undergone, Ryan added.

The OSPCA alleges that financial mismanagement and animal neglect were rampant at the Humane Society, where last November’s raids uncovered what investigators described as a “house of horrors,” including animals suffocating on their own phlegm and a mummified cat trapped in the ceiling.

During the arrests, a pit bull-Labrador cross that lived in Trow’s office had to be pepper-sprayed into submission after it attacked a police officer.

McConachie said the society will respond to the OSPCA’s allegations in court and plans to mount a “vigorous defence.”

The two sides are due to return to court in the coming weeks, when a judge is expected to set an end-date for the OSPCA’s presence at the shelter.

In the meantime, McConachie said the Humane Society will abide by its old adoption procedure while finding a home for animals. Potential adopters will be asked to fill in an application form and be interviewed by a shelter staff member.

Trow, general manager Gary McCracken, head veterinarian Steve Sheridan, manager Romeo Bernadino and shelter supervisor Andy Bechtel have been charged with counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and cruelty to animals.

Everyone but Sheridan was also charged with obstruction of a peace officer, for allegedly hiding and euthanizing sickly animals prior to a June OSPCA visit.

All five men and the board of directors face additional animal-cruelty charges under the Ontario SPCA Act.