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Humane society kills dog despite adoption request

September 11th, 2006, 03:17 PM
An Ottawa couple is calling for a review of their local humane society's policies after the dog they hoped to adopt was deemed too aggressive and destroyed.

Simone Powell and Kevin Skerrett found the small black dog, which was a Lhasa Apso or Shih Tzu cross, in their front yard earlier this month.

Worried that its owner might be looking for it, they took the animal to the Ottawa Humane Society.

When they took it in, however, they told the staff that they wanted to adopt the dog if its owner could not be found. "It was quite friendly," Powell said.

They were told the dog would be held for three days and then assessed for adoption.

The assessment concluded that the dog was too aggressive to be suitable for adoption, so the animal was euthanized.

Now, Powell and Skerrett are calling for an independent review of the way the society tests whether dogs are adoptable.

"A lot of people don't know that these tests are happening," said Skerrett.

"A lot of people we've talked to are shocked and they are telling us, 'Well, look, my dog wouldn't pass this test and my cat probably wouldn't survive the Humane Society either.' "

Tested for adoption suitability

The standard assessment used by the society includes a 20-minute component that tests a dog's behaviour. In one part, the dog jumps on a chair and is told to get down.

In another, the dog receives food, and is prodded in the face with a fake hand while it is eating.

The dog found by Powell and Skerrett did not get off the chair the first time it was tested. When the couple watched a second try, the dog came off the chair only after it was commanded several times.

The dog bit the fake hand in the test involving the food.

The humane society concluded that the dog was too aggressive and could not be around children.

Powell and Skerrett promised to train and muzzle the dog, but were told it was unrealistic to expect that they could prevent it from biting someone in the future.

They say not all humane societies test the dogs the same way, and that the Ottawa organization's test should be reviewed.

Ottawa Humane Society executive director Bruce Roney said the test was developed over a decade and last updated in 2005. He said it is similar to tests used by most large humane societies across the country.

Roney said it has been a good predictor of how successful the adoption will be.

"What we've found over the years is the dogs that have been returned to us because there's been a problem are the ones where we've said, 'You know what, he's a little bit on the edge... I think we can squeak him through,' or we've said for some reason we shouldn't follow policy strictly."

Roney said Powell and Skerrett were not experienced dog owners, a factor the society also took into account.

'Lightning rods for controversy'

Roney said the society would conduct an internal review its policy in response to the couple's concerns. He said that would likely involve talking first to Ottawa experts, and then to colleagues across the country.

He also said he was not surprised about the public response to the incident.

"I think humane societies across the country are lightning rods for controversy," Roney said.

"When you touch as many lives as we do, that eventually somebody's going to get upset with you and that's okay."

January 31st, 2007, 09:22 PM
Hi folks,

The report is now out...the Humane Society has cherry-picked the positive parts for the 'highlights' but you can read the whole report, which is available at:

I'm hoping they will be forced to re-visit the recommendations 1 year from now to see what they have or have not done to address them!

January 31st, 2007, 09:44 PM
i'm a pretty mellow gal but... poke me in the face with a plastic hand while i'm eating, scared and starving... yeah, I'll bite too :frustrated:

February 1st, 2007, 06:47 PM
I agree. :mad:

February 1st, 2007, 07:15 PM
There are thousands of dogs in shelters right now that will get off the chair when told and will not bite the hand that feeds it. Those are the dogs that will make it to the adoption area. It is sad to know that many dogs are being put to sleep because they don't pass the test, are too old, too ugly or have some sort of health issue. We shouldn't be angry with the shelter but the people who didn't spay/neuter, who left their animal tied outside and didn't bother with it, who let their dog wander and didn't bother claiming it and worse the ones who beat their dogs so that they snapped when someone approached their dish, toy or just pat it's head.
I think our anger should be directed at irresponsible owners and not the people whose job it is to take care of the animals dumped by them. There isn't enough money in the world to get me to work in a shelter or humane society.

February 1st, 2007, 07:36 PM
I think this is all a no win situation. I have seen these tests used and certainly, responsibility or lack thereof does indeed rest with the people who allowed their pets to run loose or who did not care for their companion animals.

On the other side of the coin, many humane societies do not pay well and rely on volunteers, most of whom have the unenviable task of ascertaining what dog - or cat - is "adoptable"/ Often, the people doing it have little or no training per se in using these controversial tests which again is no fault of their own. Then, you combine that with certain breeds that do really poorly in that situation - Siamese are especially difficult in this environment and often scream and yowl and because of their assertiveness are regarded as inappropriate.

But as someone has already said, you bring in an animal that has been on the street, forced to fight for every scrap of food s/he can find and then use the hand test and see what happens. Very often, working with most of these animals will end that kind of behaviour. There are a few - but very few - exceptions.

Often, some SPCA centers will say they are "no kill" but that is what no kill means to them. They do not kill animals deemed adoptable. For them, the term no kill means not euthanizing for space. (One in my neck of the woods comes to mind.) That is why groups that try to care for specific breeds and used to their temperament and characteristics will seek to "pull" the breed they work with from shelters and pounds and SPCA's and Humane Society operated "shelters".

That is why I tend to advise ppl if they want a cat they "found" or rescued, it is usually best NOT to ring it to the SPCA if they can afford it since the kitty may well not make it, even when the ctr is termed "no kill." No kill has different meanings to various places. It does not always mean what we think it does, unfortunately!

It is no small wonder shelters have a high turnover rate of volunteers and paid workers. It is a horrible job and killing all those animals takes its toll! And I imagine many of them seek to work there because they love animals! I am with Copperbelle - I do not think I could work at one of those places either!! That has to be one of the most hopeless, horrendous jobs on the planet!

February 1st, 2007, 09:08 PM
Certainly I agree with Copperbelle and Cyberkitten that the reason so many are euthanized is the fault of the public who don't spay/neuter nor act responsibly and take proper care of their animals. And, there are a LOT of great people there who do a wonderful job caring for these poor sweet animals in need.

That being said, a qualified expert did find that there was much room for improvement in the Humane Society's practices. Kudos to the Humane Society for agreeing to have the report done in the first place, but they did only take it on with HUGE public pressure and media attention.

Anyways, I think if people read it, they will see what is lacking and not lacking at the OHS. My fear is that no action will be taken to address the parts that are lacking. They also run the municipal animal shelter, so they are providing a service to the citizens of Ottawa and I think that should mean they are accountable to taxpayers as well as donors for how they run things and the decisions that are taken.

Just my honest opinion :2cents: as a resident of Ottawa, an adopter, a volunteer, an occasional foster, and a frequent donor.