UPDATE, 22 October 2008

David and Chiva are taking a break from the Tour de Dog but are sure to plan another ride in the near future. A sincere thank you to all of you who helped David and Chiva in countless ways. The Tour de Dog would not be possible without your support. THANK YOU!

View a Photo Documentary of Tour de Dog by Jason Houge

Tour de Dog is past states: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and New York.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lights, Camera, Chiva!

Yesterday Chiva and I had the wonderful opportunity to discuss the Tour de Dog with Ann Rohmer on the live television show, CP 24's Animal House Calls. Chiva behaved well, and we had a grand time. Thank you to Ian and Denice for making this happen!

Also on the show was Corrie Yeoman who has started a Westie Rescue of Canada. Please say hello and check out her website.

Today marks Chiva's 3rd birthday! After visiting the Toronto Humane Society in the morning, we will be walking, running, jumping, playing and exploring all over the city. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the one and only CHIVA!


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Chiva!!! Here's a big nose smooch from Dick and Jan

Coby said...

Happy B-day Chiva! Your 3rd B-day is a big year for you- your exiting that teenage mentality and becoming quite the lady. Good girl Chiva- and I hope you have a very happy day today!!!

Gemini Babe said...


lil m

Victor Lee said...

Happy Birthday Chiva. Hugs and wet kisses. Saw you on TV today!!

jason said...

Hey Dave! Looks like things are going really well. Also appears that shirt came in handy ! Take care! I hope the ride to Deleware goes by fast for you!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to CHIVAAAA
Happy Birthday to you.

hope u get spoilt rotten like all us girls should be on our birthdays :)xx

Karen - ireland

Jason Houge said...

happy birthday Chiva!

Tracy in Dallas said...

Happy Birthday Chiva!!!

Anonymous said...

David, I greatly appreciate the public awareness campaign you are engaged in to draw attention to the plight of abandoned and unwanted animals.

Shelters see the bullk of these animals. Some are well funded, others are struggling. They are also charities, and enjoy tax benefits and high respectibility from the public and their trust. They are also essential in terms of public health: making sure that animals are vaccinated, spayed and neutered, and that vicious animals are not allowed to hurt children and adults.

It is also important to make distinctions between shelters: look at how they use the money, the quality of care, their ethical and policy positions, whether they actually do what they claim. It's easy to say that the the people who work there are compassionate and have the best interests of the animals. However, it is also open to oppourtunistic and self-righteous people who would take that money and use it poorly, who would betray that trust for personal gain.

What I have in mind is the Toronto Humane Society.

The current President is Tim Trow. He was also the President in the early eighties. In the early eighties he was forced to retire, following City charges that a million dollars was unaccountable, for interfering in management decisions, for not keeping proper records or records at all of Board meetings, for not providing city auditors with basic information, for the no-kill policy which was more a publicity stunt than a viable policy since sick animals who should have been euthanised were dying in their cages and infecting other animals who would in turn die. Basic sanitary standards were ignored, vets quit or were fired who opposed his policy and saw that it killed more animals than it saved. Scores of people were fired or quit from harrassment by his hand-picked cronies.

In the mid-eighties, a public trustee was appointed because the directors of the humane society were paying themeselves salaries when they were supposed to be volunteers, hijacked the election process for selecting new members, violated the tax laws and so on, missapropriated millions of dollars that was supposed to go to the shelter but went to other causes dear to them.

Then Tim Trow was elected in 2001. This following an unsucessful coup by reformers who wanted to reform the THS, make the by-laws transparent and make them accountable, to teach them what proper stewardship and management is about. The court battle cost the THS over $750,000.

In the past seven years under Trow the THS has had three complete staff turnovers. They lost the contract with the city to take in stray animals. They paid out millions in wrongful dismissal suits, arbitration in court, and many other frivolous and vexatious court proceedings. Most recently there are over fourty cases pending against the THS. Millions are being spent defending managers and supervisors who were hired without any animal care experience but simply because they are loyal to Tim and carried out his decisions to fire people who are in the union. Please, don't think they are paid a lot: animal care workers are paid $10/hour with no benefits, and they are sure to get bit by dog or cat. I know it's unbelievable, but that is the case, it is excruciatingly well documented.

As a result, animal care has suffered terribly. (Remember, the THS gets over 10 million in donations each year, have many tens of millions in trust.) They fabricate their statistics to make them look comassionate and caring, as if they take in a large number of animals but hardly euthanize any. They have but 3 vets, 4 vet techs for all those thousands of animals. 30 animal care workers. All the expertise that was there 7 years ago is gone, now you have untrained kids doing the jobs, getting bit and hurt and injured all the time. They have been fined and sanctioned over and over by the Ministry of Labour, Toronto Department of Public Health, and a host of other government bodies. They fired or harrassed over 80 to quit since 20mar2008 because they joined a union. They often run out of food, meds, supplies, volunteers left rather then see kittens starving to death for lack of formulae and syringes with which to feed them. Animals are dying from lack of food, sanitation, outbreaks of preventable disease. In the past they have been disaffiliated three times by the OSPCA, the body that monitors humane societies. They are in that process again. When people hear about staff shortages, and shortages in food they think "oh, they're a charity". That is not the reason, they should think "oh, what a bunch of crummy managers and board of directors".

You see, it's not that they don't have the funding, they are very successful fundraising. It is that the money they get is uses used terribly. They have such a good reputation because people are taken in by the advertising. In fact, it's terrible because they have actually fundraised outside of Toronto claiming that the money was going to shelters in the community.

So, David, please keep that in mind when you hear about desperate shelters. Most are, but not the THS.

Chiva and David Sylvester said...

Thank you for the comment above. You make some very valid points about animal shelter operations.

I am currently on the road with very little time online, but please continue to check back as I will provide my thoughts.


Kayisha Simmons said...

The person above makes some great points.

Most animal shelters are staffed by compassionate people, who labour for the animals, out of a sense of outrage that animals are abandoned and abused, with the hope that they will get forever homes and not simply come back.

They treat them kindly and take care that their basic needs are met and that they are happy.

Shelters are only supposed to be a temporary expedient since companion animals are social creatures and need people to be happy and since staying to long in a shelter will cause them to be depressed and sick.

We cast off animals too easily, don't really take into account their medical needs, their social and other needs. Often they are accessories for the self-absorbed who cast them off like yesterdays fashions. That is why it is essential to spay and neuter out pets, and cast out the idea that it is a cruel thing to do. It is not. It is how we prevent the inhumanity of having to euthanize them, or having them die from abandonment, or die alone in a shelter because they have to make room for more animals.

You really have to do your research when it comes to helping animals. There's a lot of hucksters out there who prey on peoples' sympathies and real love of animals by setting up bogus charities. Even the reputable ones, out of good intention or because they are pair Public Relations people, exaggerate and make sketchy claims designed to appeal to emotions and have you forget to check out their claims.

Take a look at the Canadian Revenue Agencies website, check out if they are a registered charity. Take a look at how much goes to animals, how much to administration and paying managers and CEO's exorbitant salaries. Take a look at what the highest paid employees make; if they post their financial statements; take a look at their website and see if they have by-laws listed and list their board of directors; take a look at the by-laws and figure out if they are in keeping with the Corporations Act and the Income Tax Act and other relevant legislatiion, if they have a legal basis for operating; the qualificiations of their board of directors; what their disbursements are; if they have written and thoughtful policies; if they operate in Canada; how they fundraise; their articles of incorporation; and all the other information listed. It's not enough to have good intentions, good intentions are never enough, a lot of the technical requirements and laws are not just verbiage but designed to safeguard the integrity of charities and make them accountable to what the public expects of them.

The Canada Revenue Agency website lists that information for the past seven years. You can also order, for free, copies of that information for as far back as you would like. Remember, however, that the information listed is not verified by the CRA, that it is what the charity claims, and therefore maybe misleading or fraudulent.

I checked out the Toronto Humane Society on the CRA website. There are many directors who have been there for many years. That is suggestive of a stagnant organization, what looks like an old boys network, not at all in keeping with principles of transparency and accountability, proper stewardship, modern corporate governance.

The THS has a long history, but long history does not necessarily equate with current practices. It can also be a beacon for the unscrupulous and oppourtunistic to use that as a means for furthering their personal or financial gain.

Doing a library article search I found that many directors have been there for over 30 years; that they are an extremely litigious and strife-ridden organization. Their administration costs are way out of whack, a large amount of the money donated goes to pay for that.

There are references to by-laws where board members serve three year terms, but clearly that is not happening. I see that the city stepped in and took over the management in the mid-eighties because of managerial incompetence, creating low morale, and being evasive with elections of their board of directors, and for a million dollars that was not accounted for. That under this fellow Tim Trow.

There website doesn't list the directors, their qualifications, there are no by-laws, there are no written policies. They don't even tell you how much it is to adopt a dog or cat, they say it's free, but that you have to give a donation. What does that mean? Does it mean if I don't give a big enough donation I can't get the animal, how much is enough? I would be more inclined to give if there were a straight fee. I would probably donate above that amount.

Why wouldn't they have their by-laws out there, list their board of directors? I mean, that's just silly, by-laws probably get passed around to family and friends anyway, why not just make them public? Otherwise it just creates mistrust and suspicion. Why not a simple listing of what the fees for animals are?

This is not a trivial organization, they bring in $10 million a year, have a huge shelter, public money, even to a private charity, means public accountability.

Also, there statistics look a little off. They claim to take in any animal, never turn animals away. They pride themeselves on having extremely strict adoption policies - one wrong or misplaced answer disqualifies someone, anyone who is denied an animal is denied any animal forever.

The euthanasia rate is far to low in such a case. Also, what of the death rate, animals who die in the shelter? Surely that must be very high. With so many sick animals, there must be chronic outbreaks of disease, Upper Respiratory Infections, Kennel Cough, chronic diseases of old age. And, if the staff levels are so low, and supplies are so short, the conditons must not be sanitary further exacerbating the death rate. Surely they must do some creative record keeping, interesting shuffling of statistics.

Just taking a look at their recent adopt-a-thon I notice that it was extremely successful. Even if they were to have an adopt-a-thon each and every day at the same rate they couldn't adopt out the number of animals they claim to.

It's not so much that I doubt that they do good work, but I think there is a lot lacking: The lack of transparency, the self-reported statistics without an overseeing and objective body sanctioning them, the too-good-to-be-true statistics.

Doing a search of legal cases it is indeed the case that they are an extremely litigious organization, mostly towards employees. Under Tim Trow this has gone to exponential levels. And those are just the cases that went to court, those don't count out of court settlements which surely must treble the cases there. I count over 100 lawsuits, most with ex-employees telling horror stories. That is absolutely ridiculous.

I started out by writing a cautionary tale about how we don't respect animals, and I looked at the THS. I'm flabbergasted.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Well, not so much. It is better to know the truth, so that we can figure out how to fix it and put the it in line with what should be.

Otherwise we live with illusions and fairy tales.

Animals deserve better then that.

When people domesticated dogs and cats thousands of years ago - to be companions, to help us hunt, for protection - we made a sacred contract with them.

We said that for all the gifts you bestow upon us, for all the pleasures of your company, we can at least treat you humanely.

We shall feed, shelter and make sure that you engage in natural behaviour, that you are treated medically, that when you can no longer be happy because of age or sickness, we will not shirk are responsibility, we will humanely euthanize you.

As your stewards we shall endeavor to see that human foibles and selfishness are not made an impediment to your humane treatment.

Elizabeth said...

Happy Belated B-day Chiva! So proud of you both - keep up the great work! Elizabeth and Liam