A blue-eyed, red-furred view of the world!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another dog locked in a car

mr_ed:  Three weeks ago I got outraged by Sacramento animal-control officers who could have taken an overheated dog out of a car but didn't do so until the dog was dead. I also didn't care for how the department handled the publicity. Here's a story that's unfolding a little differently.

Tre Smith, a Toronto animal-welfare officer, broke a Rottie out of a car just in time. "[E]quipment showed the temperature inside to be around 70 C [158° F]." Cyrus was very near death.

This time it didn't take long to find the owner - he ran outside when he heard his car alarm. He was allegedly angry and abusive (some reports say there was an altercation), and the investigator handcuffed him to his (the owner's) car so the non-breathing dog could be treated at the scene, and when that didn't help, rushed to an emergency room.

Police were on the way but hadn't arrived yet. A spokesman for the Toronto Humane Society said Smith left "no less than five of the man's friends watching over him." And yet Paul Soderholm got a bit of vigilante justice from bystanders before the cops arrived.

I've looked at more than a dozen news stories and press releases, and all that I've found is that Soderholm "was bleeding," which can mean lots of different things. Of course I'm more interested in how Cyrus is doing than I am in his owner. But I'd like to know a little bit about the guy's condition because it's the jumping-off point for part two of this story.

This just in ... from a video it looks like a nosebleed.

Smith is employed by the Toronto Humane Society, which "vigorously" defends his actions. But his authority to investigate animal welfare comes from the Ontario SPCA in the form of an individual license. And "[T]he individual's Agent status under the Ontario SPCA Act has been temporarily suspended, pending the outcome of an Ontario SPCA internal review."

So Smith is still working for, and paid by, Toronto HS. But for now he can't investigate animal cruelty.

Depending on when you asked the OSPCA about the investigation,
I'm okay with a suspended license and an investigation. As a press release said, "This is similar to what police services do."

I've watched tons of Perry Mason, Dragnet, Adam-12, ... Kojak, Baretta, Hill Street Blues, ... Cagney and Lacy, Walker Texas Ranger, Nash Bridges ... oh yeah, and Mod Squad. So I'm thinking that Soderholm was legally in custody the whole time he was handcuffed to his car. (You're either "free to go" or in custody ... isn't that how it works?) And so he was injured while in custody.

And so (1) the good citizens of Toronto should know why people get injured in custody, and (2) he's going to sue, so somebody had better cover their behinds.

(I'm assuming that even though I've been led to believe that Canadians are much more laissez-faire and forgiving about the odd personal transgression, a man angry about his car getting busted into, about his dog being taken, and about whatever else, is going to be angry enough to sue.)

But here's where things get "hinky," to use some of that police jargon I've picked up. I may be wrong - there may be answers to these questions that I've missed or they may be the wrong questions - but I'm really wondering:
  • Why did it take a week (July 31 to August 8) for the OSPCA to decide to do a ho-hum, it's-just-routine, "similar-to-what-police-services-do" investigation?
  • Why did Smith have to learn about his suspension from email that was sent to (if I counted right) 149 animal-welfare people in Ontario?
  • Why are people in charge such flaming twits, even when they know they're under scrutiny?

This was in the email sent to about 149 people by the CEO of the OSPCA:
Suspension Notice

As many of you are aware, an Ontario SPCA Agent employed by the Toronto Humane Society recently received extensive media coverage while resopnding to a dog in a hot car report.

While the Ontario SPCA commends the Agent for taking the necessary actions to secure the safety of the animal....

Email from OSPCA Chief Inspector to TV news:
I started working in animal welfare in 1977 and in those over 30 years of doing the job, I have personally rescued many animals in similar and much worse situations.

Except for that paragraph, the rest of the email was also posted on the Ontario SPCA website. It continues:
As Chief Inspector, I am responsible for the conduct of our investigators and I take that responsibility very seriously. It's key to our accountability as an organization and it's crucial to the Ontario SPCA operating in a manner that earns and maintains the public's trust and confidence.

Is Officer Smith a hero for saving the life of "Cyrus" the dog - ABSOLUTELY - but so are our 170+ cruelty officers across Ontario that do exactly that, day after day.

Okay, I'm picking nits with twits. These people just sound sanctimonioius and self-serving to me, and I don't think they need to. But that's their loss, if any.

I'll bet there isn't a procedure for Smith to have followed that covers this incident very well. Dunno.  ::shrug::  I'll also bet that they'll say Smith should have uncuffed Soderholm right before he slipped in his vehicle and sped away. From this distance it's impossible to tell whether that was possible, though.

As for Cyrus, it sounds like he has recovered well, but the Toronto Humane Society hasn't updated his status since last week. We'll keep our fingers and toes crossed here.


7/31 - citynews.ca - good initial report, day of rescue
7/31 - Toronto Humane Society - initial report, day of rescue
8/1 - toronto.ctv.ca - overview
8/2 - Toronto Humane Society - follow-up
8/7 - Toronto Humane Society - "What a Difference A Week Makes"
8/8 - email from Ontario SPCA CEO announcing Smith's suspension
8/9 - citynews.ca
8/10 - citynews.ca - OSPCA responds to criticism + email from OSPCA Chief Inspector
8/10 - press release, OSPCA Chief Inspector
8/10 - The Globe and Mail - good follow-up
8/11 - latest from the Toronto Humane Society
8/11 - thestar.com
8/12 - thestar.com - "It seems public sentiment for Smith in cyberspace is growing."
8/12 - itchmo.com


Holly said...

He deserves a medal for saving that dogies life and NOT a suspension. More people should do what he did. The guy who did that to his dog deserved what he got. Too bad Mr. Smith didn't lock in in the police car with the windows rolled up and the car turned off and let HIM bake while he saved the dog!


Tucker said...

I like that idea! :-)