Long-standing disagreement between humane society and OSPCA behind allegations: lawyer
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, December 2, 2009 5:44PM EST
TORONTO - The "sensational" raid of the Toronto Humane Society amid allegations of animal cruelty are the result of a long-standing disagreement between the agency and the OSPCA, a lawyer defending several board members said Wednesday.
Accusations against the shelter must take that acrimonious history into account, defence lawyer Frank Addario told a news conference.
"It would impossible to follow the animal welfare world in Ontario and not know that there's been a long history of disagreement between the OSPCA and the Toronto Humane Society," he said.
Addario has been hired to represent several board members charged with provincial counts of animal cruelty, including new president Bob Hambley, after the animal shelter was raided last Thursday.
Those charges are separate from the criminal charges faced by the society's former president Tim Trow and several other officials, who face provincial charges as well. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The OSPCA has described the Toronto shelter as a "house of horrors," and offered tours to the media during an ongoing investigation, displaying a mummified cat they said they found on the premises.
Investigators also said they found animals in such poor health that seven had to be put down.
Addario berated officers for what he called a "tabloid-style investigation," saying the very public raid wasn't right.
"I've never seen it before. It's highly unusual for an investigator to be sharing the fruit of his investigation on a regular basis with the media and I think it should stop," said Addario, who is also president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association.
"I don't think it's right or orthodox or principled to be revealing the results of an investigation minute-by-minute as a search warrant is being executed."
OSPCA lawyer Chris Avery wasn't available to comment on the latest developments, but said in a statement Wednesday he was confident the evidence and charges will be upheld in a court of law.
"There has been evidence collected through the search warrant that justifies our actions to search the THS and lay the charges that have been announced," said Avery.
"Every action we have taken in this and every case has been to uphold the public interest."
Addario said his clients were extremely upset at the suggestion that they would be a party to cruelty towards animals, adding he expects all the allegations will be proven false in court.
"There are competing visions about how animals should be cared for and reasonable people within the welfare industry have disagreements about that issue," he said.
"But that's a far cry from suggesting that the care given by someone who's on one side of it is negligent or criminal."
Addario said the College of Veterinarians of Ontario conducted a thorough site accreditation investigation last month at the shelter, whose finances were also audited by Revenue Canada in September.
Addario's legal fee will not be paid for with donor dollars, he added, saying fundraising is another issue that has put both agencies at odds.
"It would be obvious that both the THS and the OSPCA are reaching out to many of the same people (for donations,)" he said.
Addario is well-known in the legal community. His most recent project is a bid to secure increased funding for legal aid defence lawyers, spearheading an ongoing boycott of homicide or guns and gangs cases to pressure the Ontario government.