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Former president fails in bid to regain control over humane society

An attempt by the Toronto Humane Society's controversial former president and his supporters to retake control of the charity was defeated Tuesday night at a packed annual general meeting.

Tim Trow and his associates sought election to five open spots on the society's board; they were opposed by a slate of candidates backed by current board members, including president Michael Downey.

Some 270 people showed up for the meeting at the society's River Street shelter, spilling out of a second-floor room onto a patio and hallway. Reporters were barred from observing the meeting, but those inside described a somewhat raucous affair: some members booed when candidates from Mr. Trow's slate stood up to speak, and one man was escorted out by police after speaking out of turn to complain about the difficulty of hearing the proceedings from the patio.

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In the end, all five candidates backed by the current leadership were elected.

"The membership spoke loud and clear tonight. They voted for the future and not for a return to the past," said Mr. Downey after the meeting "Tonight was a watershed moment in the future of this storied institution."

Mr. Trow did not immediately respond to The Globe's request for comment.

Although the final vote tallies were not immediately known, reports from inside the meeting indicated that board leadership controlled 521 proxy votes, mainly from members who did not attend the meeting, while Mr. Trow held 183.

The former president lost his position after he and other management at the shelter were hit with animal-cruelty charges in 2009. Investigators alleged the shelter was overcrowded and animals were getting sick. The charges were dropped last summer.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trow mounted a comeback attempt, arguing that under the facility's current leadership, it is taking in only a fraction of the animals it could. He campaigned among members and suggested his supporters would try to have Mr. Downey, along with the society's vice-president and the board's chair, removed from office at the AGM. Such a motion, however, did not come to fruition.

Some of his opponents picketed outside the meeting and circulated a petition to have Mr. Trow banned from ever holding office on the board; that motion also was not moved at the meeting, meaning he will be free to try for election again in future.

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In the noisy protest, about two dozen people sang the praises of the current board.

"The animals are well looked after here; the vets are awesome," volunteer Greg Parliament said. "I have nothing but good things to say about this place."

Liz Anderson, who was on staff under Mr. Trow and under the current leadership, said the shelter was crowded under the previous leadership.

"Staff morale is much better now," she said. "It's like night and day."

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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