Activists rally behind Humane Society officer
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2007 12:54PM EDT
A handful of activists rallied at the Toronto Humane Society offices on Wednesday in support of an investigator, who was suspended after he handcuffed the owner of a dying Rottweiler to his SUV.
Tre Smith's suspension from active duty represents a reversal of fortunes for the animal cruelty investigator, who is being reviewed for actions that stem from the July 31 incident.
Smith smashed a car window to rescue the dog, which was gasping for air and foaming at the mouth inside the sweltering SUV, when he arrived on scene.
Initially, Smith was lauded for saving Cyrus, the 50-kilogram Rottweiler.
But Smith's actions came under review after the dog's owner alleged he was beaten while left handcuffed to the vehicle
"I don't know if I'm the poster boy but I'm just an animal cruelty investigator that loves his job, that takes pride in his job, takes pride in wearing the Toronto Humane Society," said Smith, a former cast-member for the first season of the Toronto-based reality show "The Lofters."
"I enjoy getting up in the morning and going on the streets of Toronto to try and save Toronto's animals," he told CTV Toronto.
At the time of the incident, Toronto Humane Society spokesperson Lee Oliver said he was fully supportive of the officer's actions in handcuffing the dog owner.
"He was jeopardizing the rescue operation and was threatening the safety of people at the scene," Oliver told CTV News.
"He handcuffed him to the car to neutralize that threat."
However, the owner of the dog alleged that passersby beat him and that he was bleeding when he was eventually taken away by police officers.
"I was faced with a tough situation,'' Smith told the Canadian Press in an earlier interview. "Does this dog die in my arms while I wait for the authorities? Or do I rush this dog to the humane society and get the medical attention he needs to save his life?''
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recently confirmed Smith's suspension.
"While the Ontario SPCA commends the Agent for taking necessary actions to secure the safety of the animal, allegations have surfaced surrounding the officer's actions during the response. As a result...the individual's Agent status under the Ontario SPCA Act has been temporarily suspended, pending the outcome of an...internal review," the Ontario SPCA said in a statement.
Smith will no longer be allowed to work on the frontlines while the incident is being investigated.
"He's obviously upset that he can't do what he wants to do," Corey Smith, his brother and organizer of the rally, told CTV's Canada AM. "This is his job and he loves doing it."
The case has garnered much support for the animal cruelty investigator. More than 2,500 people on Facebook, the popular social networking website have expressed their support for Smith.
Smith's case has drawn attention to the larger issue of Canada's animal cruelty laws. He told reporters that if animal investigators were able to issue $100 tickets to abusers, his job would be safer and easier. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has said Canada's record on renewing anti-cruelty legislation is "shameful".
Under current law, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty is six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. However, there have been efforts from provincial and federal politicians to toughen the punishment. Sen. John Bryden's bill, which was introduced in February, to increase the maximum jail term to five years is the closest to being passed.
"I want people to know what's going on with the Canadian cruelty laws for animals," Corey Smith said. "They're very substandard and we need to get them changed so this stuff doesn't happen again."
With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney and files from The Canadian Press