Some rank-and-file employees of the Toronto Humane Society say they have received death threats since arrests last week of five officials on animal cruelty charges.

"One example was they threatened to bash in our heads with baseball bats," Laura Hendy told reporters late Monday afternoon. "We feel like we've all been painted with the same brush as management, and that's clearly not the case. I think those threats were more meant for them."

An inspector with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) gave one gruesome example of mistreatment -- a mummified cat was found in a live trap apparently forgotten in the drop ceiling.

The OSPCA conducted a raid Thursday, one that resulted in five officials being led away in handcuffs -- including THS president Tim Trow.

They don't appear to have many friends among the River Street shelter's workers. Fifty-five of 80 signed a statement dissociating themselves from management.

"Ian McConachie does not speak for Humane Society staff. The board does not speak for the current Toronto Humane Society staff," Hendy said, reading the statement out loud. "We are pleased to be working with the Ontario SPCA and we do not feel threatened by their presence here.

She said management had been threatening to suspend or write up employees who didn't follow their orders on issues such as euthanizing animals.

Since the raid, 12 animals have been euthanized due to their ill health.

The THS posted a note on its website Sunday blasting the OSPCA for removing animals from the shelter and "interfering with our employees and regular operation of the premises," after staffers on the shelter's overnight shift were let go by investigators.
"We hold your client responsible for any costs that may result from this and the death of any animal caused by the OSPCA's illegal activities," said the letter, drafted by lawyer Pell Capone.

Shelter shutdown

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says a search warrant allows them to stay at the Toronto Humane Society headquarters for as long as it takes for them to complete their investigation.

And that effort will take at least another week, its representatives said Monday. "We are going to do it as soon as possible because we want to get these animals adopted as quickly as possible," said OPSCA Insp. Kevin Strooband.

A lawyer with the OSPCA went to court Monday morning to clarify the conditions of the search warrant after officials with the Toronto Humane Society posted a note on the organization's website saying the search warrant expires at midnight on Nov. 30.

A sunset clause in the warrant means that it is open ended with no set due date.

"We finish when we finish," said Chris Avery, a lawyer acting for the OSPCA.

Investigators have been at THS headquarters on River Street since Thursday when the president of the animal welfare shelter, the head veterinarian and several staff members were arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

Avery said conditions at the shelter are worse than what they had imagined.

He alleged that several animals were found in distress but was not willing to comment further on specifics of what had been found.

There are reports investigators found expired pet food and are sifting through computer files.

Avery said the OSPCA's first priority was to check up on the 1,500 animals that are being kept at the shelter. He said each animal has to be checked by a vet and that could take a while.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Jim Junkin