Added: September 17 2007
Sunday, February 23, 2003
In the second week of February 2003, a dog by the name of Gizmo was surrendered to the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society. Initially very timid, this undernourished dog became very friendly with me after a few days. On Tuesday, February 18th, I arrived at the shelter at 6am to let the dogs out for their morning pee (normal shelter hours begin at 8am). Gizmo lay huddled in a ball in his run and it took some time to get him outside. While out, he walked very slowly, wouldn't play tag like he had done every other morning, and wouldn't eat his food when I brought him back inside.
Shelter manager Judy Atkinson was informed of his condition later that morning and a vet appointment was arranged. Prior to his appointment Gizmo was having bloody diarrhea and he looked severely fatigued. He was seen by Dr. Julia Morris at Balmoral Veterinarian Clinic (now Thunder Bay Veterinary Hospital). It was determined he suffered from an auto-immune blood disorder, a serious and possibly life-threatening illness. Against veterinary recommendations, unlicensed vet tech Christine L'esperance administered to Gizmo one year-old meds of a different dosage that had been prescribed for a shelter cat. To save the shelter money she refused to purchase new medication. She knew how to "cut corners", Atkinson would later brag.
Gizmo spent the rest of that day on the floor of the vet tech's office, mostly unresponsive and very weak. He had eaten very little food since Sunday (3 days prior).
An Animal Care meeting was held that evening at 5pm. In attendance were board members Valarie Mackett (then an Agent of the OSPCA) and Susan Saretsky, and Animal Care member Andrea DeLaforest, all of whom witnessed Gizmo's suffering. Judy Atkinson had made no arrangements for care for Gizmo between 5pm - 8am, a period of 15 hours when the shelter is closed and all animals (including sick ones) are left alone. Despite concerns that Gizmo may not survive the night, Atkinson left immediately after the meeting. Several of us stayed with Gizmo for a few hours and I agreed to sleep at the shelter to care for him. Neither Atkinson or the vet tech made an effort to check on Gizmo through the night.
Gizmo and I slept on the couch in the front office together, and in the morning I worked my regular 8-1 shift. After my shift was over, I stayed with Gizmo until about 2:30pm. His condition had worsened throughout the day. Being a dog owner all my life, I suggested to Judy Atkinson that she admit Gizmo to a clinic for care by a qualified veterinarian. She refused, and left him on the floor of the vet techs office.
Again I agreed to spend the night to care for Gizmo. He had been alone at the shelter since 5pm when I arrived at about 9pm. He had already vomitted several large puddles of blood and was having difficulty breathing through his blood-clogged nose. I immediately called Judy Atkinson (on her celphone) and the vet tech (at home) to alert them to his condition. Atkinson contacted Dr. Jeff Kubinec (Balmoral Park Vet Clinic) by phone and he suggested trying "Pepcid-AC", which he thought would reduce the bleeding (possibly caused by an ulcer induced by prednisone). Atkinson delivered the meds to me at the shelter at about 10:30pm.
While at the shelter, Judy Atkinson mopped up several large pools of bloody vomit. She commented on his poor breathing and bloody nose, but again refused to admit him to a clinic for care. She asked if I was going to stay with him that night and I replied yes. She turned and left minutes later, leaving me to care for this dying animal and again, neither Atkinson nor the vet tech bothered to check on him through the night. It was clear at that point they had left this dog to die on the shelter floor. It was the cheaper solution, but Gizmo's death would have been agonizing as he choked on his own blood and vomit.
Gizmo's breathing became increasingly laboured and he continued throwing up blood. I put him in the vet tech's office with a humidifier hoping to clear his nose, and through the night I used a warm, wet rag to clean his nose as best I could. It helped for only minutes at a time. Gizmo was weak to the point that he could barely hold his head up.
At 1:30am I fell asleep on the couch with Gizmo at my side and woke at 4:30am. Gizmo had moved down the shelter hallway and at that time I thought he had passed away. I called him and he lifted his head and cried in pain. He stood, walked over near me, and collapsed on the floor. I got very upset at this point and carried Gizmo to the vet tech's office, laid him on his blankets, and again it looked as though he had passed away. He was struggling to breath with tongue between clenched teeth, his gums pale, totally unresponsive.
At this point I made a decision in the best interest of this dog. I called nurses registry and was immediately called back by Dr. Kubinec, the on-call vet for Balmoral Park Clinic, at 5:00am (Thursday morning). He agreed to meet me at his clinic at 5:30. I bundled Gizmo in blankets, carried him to my van and lay him on the seat. During the drive I spoke to Gizmo, asking him to hold on. He cried out and as he rolled over, slipped off the seat and onto the floor. Again, I thought he had passed away.
As I carried Gizmo inside, his head bobbed from side to side as though he was dead. Dr. Kubinec saw him and said "Oh, he's passed away?" I replied "No, he's still breathing." I lay him on the examination table and as Dr. Kubinec examined him, blood trickled out of Gizmo's nose and poured from his rectum, and again he howled in pain. Dr. Kubinec attempted to find Gizmo's records, but oddly no records could be found that morning. Dr. Kubinec and I discussed what could be done for him. He said he felt that Gizmo's chances of surviving were less than 30%, and even after several days of care and treatment, his chances of survival were felt to be less than 50%. At that time, I tried to look up both Judy Atkinson's and Christine L'esperances numbers in the phone book, but neither of them are listed. It was then that, based on Dr. Kubinec's advice and support, it was agreed that the most humane thing to do for Gizmo was have him put to sleep to relieve him of his pain and suffering.
This was an extremely difficult decision to make. I stayed with Gizmo, rubbing his head and whispering in his ear. I told him to go and find my Shadow girl when he got to his new home and that she would take care of him. Gizmo took his last breath and passed away. I said goodbye and asked him to forgive me, then left for home shortly after. I was extremely upset.
At about 9:20 a.m. that morning, Judy Atkinson called me at home. She asked me where Gizmo was and I explained the situation. Without asking the circumstances, this dispicable excuse for a human being became irate and told me I should not have taken him to the vet. I explained to her that he needed immediate vet attention, but she hung up on me.
Dr. Kubinec called me later that morning, and a few concerned board members stopped by to see how I was doing. Atkinson had lied to the board of directors about the care Gizmo had been receiving and the seriousness of his condition. To this day, the Humane Society has refused meetings to speak about this incident. HS president Jack Remus has done everything in his power to cover up their neglect, including the threat of lawsuits which he failed to act on.
I visited the Humane Society the morning of Saturday, February 22, 2003 at 10:30am, just two days after Gizmo's passing. I entered Judy Atkinsons office and was told that things were not working out. I was handed a letter of termination. At no time was I asked about Gizmo, nor was I asked how I was dealing with this. No paperwork was filled out, no investigation took place, no questions were asked. Judy Atkinson showed no concern whatsoever for Gizmo or myself. She asked only for the return of my key. My visit lasted less than 5 minutes.
Throughout the next month, president Jack Remus called me several times at home. He explained that he would work things out and have me back to work in no time. After stringing me along for a month with the hopes of returning to my job, he sent this letter in the mail. The site referred to in the letter is this Gizmo site. Their legal counsel determined they had no options because the information is factual.
Several requests were made to have Judy Atkinson and the board of directors meet with me to discuss the situation. Judy Atkinson refused to meet face-to-face.
To this day, Humane Society president Jack Remus has ignored all requests for meetings from his own board members (including their own Human Resource Committee), the public and myself. He has failed to acknowledge the seriously flawed animal care practices of the Humane Society.
I stand behind the fact that I did what was best for Gizmo. I was an Animal Care Worker hired to care for the animals. I brought with me almost 20 years of animal rescue experience. The Humane Society motto states: "We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves". If these are the people who speak for the animals, its best if they don't say anything. I went above and beyond my call of duty and was fired as a result.
Thank you for reading our story,
I rest knowing that Gizmo is no longer in pain and that I did what was best for my friend when others failed him. This site was originally posted as a tribute to this wonderful dog. It has become an eye opener to what really goes on behind the closed doors of the Humane Society and the type of people who run this facility. It is my opinion that at the time of this incident, shelter manager Judy Atkinson violated OSPCA by-laws and Canadian Animal Cruelty laws by willfully leaving in distress a dog that required veterinary care. This woman should not own a dog let alone manage a shelter after exhibiting such an outright lack of compassion towards an animal.
In June 2005, Judy Atkinson quit the Humane Society after electing to euthanize Mr. Happy, a healthy dog that she as manager allowed to be neglectfully confined to a cage for over 18 months. She now works as the 'On-Line Learning Coordinator' at Confederation College.
As of September 2005, a claim (#030871) is still pending against the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society for wrongful termination. Pretrial was held on October 14, 2003. Representing the Humane Society was manager Judy Atkinson and board secretary Judy Decicco, who requested the issue be thrown out. The judge denied their request.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act: The OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Act defines animal distress as "the state of being in need of proper care, water, food or shelter or being injured, sick or in pain or suffering, or being abused or subject to undue or unnecessary hardship, privation or neglect."
City of Thunder Bay by-laws: Chapter 237, Article 8 - Humane Care, section 237.8.1 - Provision of Needs - Animals:
Section 15.1 (1) of the OSPCA Act states: Every person who is engaged, employed or otherwise involved in the breeding of cats or dogs for sale and who owns or has custody or care of a cat or dog that is being kept for breeding purposes or for sale shall comply with the following standards with respect to every such cat or dog in the person's ownership, custody or care:
THE CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA:
Do sick animals not require care when the shelter is closed between 5pm and 8am? Does the obligation to the animals only run from 9am - 4:30pm? According to manager Judy Atkinsons statements, Animal Care Workers are forbidden to take a sick, dying or injured animal to a vet regardless of the situation. This violates all animal laws related to the care of animals.