Monday, August 13, 2007

Chaptern Nine: In which I excoriate the villain

I spent Sunday in search of a villain. It's not that I'm a collector of the villainous, mind you. Nor am I a professional bounty hunter. I wouldn't mind doing it, as I've heard the pay is outstanding, but the thought of someone taking exception with my trying to apprehend them - keeping in mind that a punch to the face may offend - rather puts me off my feed.

No, I was simply in an ill temper. I had spent my Sunday in a variety of pursuits which involved baking fresh bread from scratch, vacuuming carpets, cleaning floors and dishes, changing cat litter and a few other related items. I realize that these are all necessary things, and may even strike some readers as charming, but the fact is that I'm no Barney Homemaker. I was feeling ornery and looking for someone to take it out on. Before too long, I found the perfect candidate.

Imagine, if you will, a shopping mall parking lot. A man approaches a car. He breaks a window. He winds up handcuffing the car's owner to the door of the vehicle and leaving him there where more people show up and beat him. Yes, we have found ourselves a villain. But it's not the guy who broke the window.

A pet detective who is temporarily suspended after rescuing a dog from a locked and overheated car says he was just doing what his mandate asks him to do – save animals' lives.

Tre Smith, an animal cruelty investigator for the Toronto Humane Society and former mall security guard, is not allowed to investigate animal cruelty complaints pending an investigation in which he handcuffed the owner of the dog to a car.

On July 31, Smith responded to a call that Cyrus, a 50-kg Rottweiler, was locked in an overheated car. The Toronto Humane Society investigator smashed through the car window, rescued the dying dog, who was slumped and foaming at the mouth, and handcuffed the irate owner to the car. He then rushed the dog to a hospital, leaving the man there handcuffed until police arrived on the scene.

But reports soon followed that the handcuffed dog owner was beaten by the crowd and was bleeding when police arrived, so the Ontario SPCA has hired a retired Ontario Provincial Police officer to probe the incident and determine whether Smith had followed proper protocol or overstepped his limits.

The "victim" in this case is now apparently raising a stink about being handcuffed and beaten. Oh, boo-hoo. Probably better than being handcuffed inside the locked up car in the sun and dying from the heat. He should take a lesson from Michael Vick in what to expect from the public in terms of sympathy for his "plight" in this matter.

But the highly publicized pet saving incident has ignited emotion and feedback from hundreds of pet owners and swamped the Toronto Humane Society with letters and emails calling for his reinstatement.

It seems public sentiment for Smith in cyberspace is growing. There are more than 10 Facebook groups calling for his reinstatement.

Mr. Smith shouldn't get his job back. He should get a new job in charge of running the office and setting policy, with a nice fat raise, a corner office and a solid pension plan. If chuckle-heads like this dog owner and Michael Vick do anything positive in this world, it may be to draw long overdue attention to the pitiful lack of stiff animal cruelty laws in place today and the even more dismal record that we have enforcing them.

If you're in Ontario and happen to see this guy at the mall, wave a pair of handcuffs at him for me.

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