Faulty warrants kill Ontario SPCA case against Toronto Humane Society

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2010:
TORONTO–All pending charges against
former Toronto Humane Society president Tim Trow
and seven other former Toronto Humane Society
personnel were dropped on August 16, 2010 after
Ontario crown attorney Christine McGoey told the
court that deficiencies in the search warrant and
procedures used by the Ontario SPCA in a November
2009 raid on the Toronto Humane Society involved
“several serious breaches” of the Canadian
Charter of Rights & Freedoms, sufficient to
render inadmissible all evidence collected.

McGoey cited the use of a warrant without
an end date; alleged improper use of Ontario
criminal code to authorize veterinary examination
of Toronto Humane Society animals; overly broad
seizures of personnel records, payroll records,
adoption records, newspaper articles, thank-you
letters and employees’ doctor’s notes; and
inviting media to accompany the raid.
“The media attendance created additional
and unnecessary intrusionsŠThere are significant
issues related to the good faith exhibited by the
Ontario SPCA in the context of the nature,
timing and execution of the warrant,” McGoey
“The five men charged in November were
handcuffed and led into police cars in view of
photographers,” recalled Toronto Star staff
reporters Daniel Trow and Noor Javed. “Former
business manager Romeo Bernardino, former
operations manager Gary McCracken, and former
supervisor Andrew Bechtel were charged with
criminal animal cruelty, conspiracy to commit an
indictable offence, and obstructing a peace
officer. Former chief veterinarian Stephen
Sheridan was charged with animal cruelty and
conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
Another manager, Vijay Kumar, was charged with
animal cruelty months later. In addition, every
member of the former board faced non-criminal
animal cruelty charges, and the Toronto Humane
Society itself faced criminal charges.”
Trow had headed the Toronto Humane
Society since 2001, and previously was president
from 1982 to 1984.
A 15-member reform slate called Faces of
Change swept a May 2010 Toronto Humane Society
board election held as part of a court settlement
that allowed the society to resume
self-governance and shelter operations. The
Toronto Humane shelter reopened after a
seven-month closure on June 28.
The Ontario SPCA raid in November 2009
was the second raid that the Ontario SPCA had led
against Toronto Humane in five months. The
Ontario SPCA alleged that only between 50 and 60
of the more than 1,000 animals at the shelter at
the time of the second raid were in adoptable
condition. The investigators reportedly found a
mummified dead cat in a trap in the Toronto
Humane Society shelter ceiling, and were
attacked by Trow’s pit bull/Labrador Bandit.
Bandit was supposed to have been
euthanized after severely injuring a
three-year-old in 2003, but Trow kept Bandit in
his office instead, where the dog reportedly bit
two more people during the next four years.
The Toronto Humane Society was reportedly also found to be deeply in debt.
The Ontario SPCA lost credibility and
public favor, however, and the case against the
former Toronto Humane Society leaders appeared to
lose momentum, after the Ontario SPCA announced
in May 2010 that it would kill about 350 animals
due to ringworm, after containment and treatment
efforts repeatedly failed. Six workers were also
infected. Tests showed that every room at the
Ontario SPCA branch shelter in Newmarket,
Ontario had become contaminated. Shelter manager
Denise Stephenson was fired.
Veterinarians and senior staff at other
shelters throughout the world decried the Ontario
SPCA resort to killing animals as an unnecessary
over-reaction to a treatable problem.
Ninety-nine animals were killed, amid rising
public protest, before the Ontario SPCA reversed
On August 9, 2010 the Ontario SPCA
announced that handling of the ringworm outbreak
would be independently reviewed by former Ontario
Veterinary College dean Alan H. Meek and Patrick
LeSage, former chief justice of the Ontario
Superior Court.

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