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Internationally-renowned, award-winning animal photographer Illona Haus is the province's premier pet photographer, serving clients across Ontario, the US and the world. Photographing exclusively animals, both commercially and for private clients, since 2007, scruffy dog photography inc. -- based in Kitchener, Ontario -- is considered one of the world's leading and most influential pet photographers.


To learn more about the scruffy dog experience, its creator and history, as well as how YOUR scruffy can become a part of the SDP family, feel free to browse through the menu above, and scroll through a decade's worth of blog entries below!


Please drop us a line! We'd love the opportunity to capture stunning, creative, one-of-a-kind photographic memories of your 4-legged loved ones to treasure in artwork for a lifetime, and show you just what makes the scruffy dog experience second to none.

under construction

as some of you already know, the reason things have seemed pretty quiet around here is because we and the scruffies are in the midst of a major move of  home and studio.

it’s been a lot of work, even with matea’s help …


… with even more work to come to get everything settled once moving day has come and gone.  but once it’s all done there will finally be space for clients to come and preview all the different product choices and their images in person with a private consultation session.  we’re so looking forward to having clients over!

in the meantime, stay tuned.  we should be back up and running full-steam by mid-July and currently taking bookings into fall.  thanks for your patience.

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when no-kill shelters fail – Toronto Humane Society in question

this is a tough one … potentially political and highly emotional.  i’m not sure i should be writing this blog entry … it has nothing to do with photography, however, everything to do with dogs and definitely rescue – which is something that you all know is very important to me.  i should also be packing boxes right now doing a million other things to see to it that the move of home and scruffy dog studio goes smoothly over the next month (thus the lack of regular blog entries lately), but after reading this morning’s disturbing article in the Globe & Mail by Kate Hammer, i simply had to share … if only to spread the word to just a few more ears.

like most people, i prefer to give EVERY pet every last possible chance, however i’ve always been somewhat unsettled by the term “no-kill”.  i’ve known of dogs languishing in no-kill shelters for years, in fact, their entire lives … living in kennels with only the most minimal of human contact and care and only the slimmest hope of having a real life.  sure, you read of some rare cases that finally get adopted at the age of 10 or 11, but honestly, what kind of life is this for a dog?  in cases like this, perhaps euthanasia isn’t such a bad thing, no?

of course, there are better alternatives!  education. spay and neuter. stricter laws and penalties.  whatever.  but not leaving dogs to live out their lives in cages.  or worse …

… the Toronto Humane Society … dogs and cats dying slow, agonizing deaths in their cages, denied the simplest of dignities and gifts we can give them – a quick release – simply because the organization is determined to keep its recorded euthanasia numbers down in order to better stay in the public’s favor and thereby garner more donations and funding.  my heart breaks.  if you’ve ever had an animal die in your arms you’ll know what i’m talking about.

read the article if you want the full story … The Globe & Mail: Killing them with kindness. but be warned, it’s not pretty.

it seems vets come and go from the THS … routinely quitting because what is demanded of them goes against their code of ethics, and even against the law.

By law, it is a requirement for veterinarians employed by humane societies to have language in their contract that makes them responsible for all decisions relating to the care of animals.

“I couldn’t work at the Toronto Humane Society any longer because it violated my professional oath as a veterinarian,” said Johanna MacNaughton, a veterinarian who resigned in April.

Another veterinarian, Amanda Frank, quit later that month for the same reasons.

“I would never make a euthanasia decision without great consideration, and I would only euthanize an animal if it was suffering with no chance of recovery,” said Dr. MacNaughton.

And an internal memo obtained by The Globe confirms that euthanasia decisions must be cleared by management, many of whom have no medical training.

i can only shake my head and try not to weep …

“It is heart-wrenching, I’ve watched critically ill animals suffer and die in my hands while I run around trying to get permission to euthanize,” said Magdalena Smrdelj, a THS veterinarian.

again, read the full article if you dare.

it seems that Kate Hammer’s article sprang from a recent adoption of a dog – now named Harley – adopted from the THS with a broken leg.  yeah, you read that right.  she’d been sitting in her kennel at the shelter with a fracture.


now okay, hold up … every story, EVERY story, has two sides.  maybe this dog was being treated by THS staff, maybe it was some hairline fracture that couldn’t be cast, wired, whatever.  but to have that dog up for adoption?! and to a self-proclaimed “low-income” couple who would then have to take on the expense of this ‘condition’?

but that’s not the real issue – at least, not for me – and it’s not the primary reason for my post … Harley’s suffering was minor compared to the other documented sufferings going on behind the walls of the THS.  again, read the full article and view the photos to understand just some of these conditions … The Globe & Mail: Killing them with kindness

thank you to Harley’s new owners – Ainsley Kendrick and Dian Miguel – and of course Kate Hammer of the Globe & Mail, for bringing these atrocities to light.  and thank you to the brave individuals – former and current THS staff members – who have risked their jobs to speak up  in order to uncover a raft of disgraceful and unethical practices and ‘policies’ embraced by the Toronto Humane Society.

i hope that Kate Hammer’s article is just the beginning, and not only for the Toronto Humane Society, but maybe for other so-called “no-kill” shelters in this country and beyond.

and Ainsley and Dian, if you’re reading this and ever want to set up a complimentary shoot for your wonderful girl, just say the word.

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  • JaneTo my knowledge, the Toronto humane society has never been a “no-kill” shelter; they branded themselves as “low-kill”, but “no-kill” was and is not officially in their mandate (they admit a 7% euthanasia rate for 2008, down from 20% in 2002). So, it is not “no-kill” gone wrong, it is just stupid and power-hungry people in charge.ReplyCancel

  • DeltaI volunteer for a no-kill shelter. Last night another dog died in my arms. Taken from the pound by these glorified hoarders who think they are doing good but they get these dogs and then stick them in a pen and forget about them. They have too many and not enough volunteers. I went to check on the dogs yesterday as it is out in the country and no one is there most of the time and there is no electricity either. I found a dog very sick and paralyzed. I thought he may have been bitten by a snake or spider and I rushed him to one of the main people and they said there was nothing they could do and then another main person of this organization said they couldn’t do anything to help me or the dog either. I protested and begged them to find a vet for me to take him to because the little guy was suffering. Our vet is gone on the weekends so I would have to take him to a larger city near by but no problem for me except they wouldn’t give me the money to take him. They told me to take him back out to the no-kill shelter and just let him die on the cold cement all alone. I brought him home and put him on a blanket in my closet and tried to give him water from a syringe and then some benadryl. He suffered for hours as I continually called the main people of this organization who said “it happens”. I asked them why they keep taking in dogs and don’t take care of them. This one lady said, I have learned to accept death and I said what about suffering ? We are suppose to be saving these animals. The dog died a painful death and my husband took him to the woods to bury him. None of them have called to see about the dog or ask if I am okay. They left a volunteer out in the cold with a dying animal. I am sick today from it all. Now I rememeber why I quit them for a few years. Many of the dogs they took from the city pound ended up dying in my arms on the weekends when the vet is gone. I told them that it might be better to quit getting so many from the pound and they freaked out saying they could not let them be put to death, it was inhumane but what are they doing by letting these little souls dye an inhumane death out of their sight. I would turn them in but alot of dogs have been saved and the only reason I will stay is to go and clean and feed them and try to save as many as I can.ReplyCancel

  • The Case For Mandatory Spay/Neuter - Page 2 - Dog Forum[…] And: And:scruffy dog photography blog when no-kill shelters fail – Toronto Humane Society in question And: Bruce R. Cordell: Animal Propaganda 2.0 And: Working To Help Animals,Today& Tomorrow: […]ReplyCancel

  • Sosnowiec Fotografia ?lubnaSosnowiec Fotografia ?lubna…

    Nice article. Its always a good time to see, what You are doing….ReplyCancel

  • IdilWow! Illona, I had no idea animals were being treated this way at Toronto Humane Society. This is really heartbreaking. I volunteer for a cat rescue organization (Refuge Pour Chats de Verdun in Montreal) which places all cats to foster homes until they find a permanent home, and I wish all rescues could work that way, but I also know how hard it is to find foster homes all the time. 🙁 I’m still not against no-kill shelters, but I do believe that if the situation has started to affect the animals’ physical and mental well-being, the right thing to do is to euthanize them. I, too, can’t imagine a dog or a cat living in a small cage for years. When I got Odie, he had stayed in the shelter only a week and even he displayed some obsessive compulsive behaviour because of confinement. For instance, he would circle and circle around like crazy and it was so difficult to distract him. Of course, he doesn’t do that now, but imagine if he were in that cage for years…

    I don’t know if I ever told you this, but when I first found my cat Billie in the streets, I went to a no-kill shelter, but the moment I saw the place, I changed my mind because it was full packed with cats in small cages and I was sure Billie would die in a cage if I left her there. Soon after that, that shelter (in Windsor, Ont) was closed down because the animals were living in very poor conditions. Luckily, the authorities managed to draw public attention to the situation and all cats were placed in foster homes and some found forever homes. I think that even if the people who start no-kill shelters have all the good intentions, those shelters can go out of hand very quickly for the lack of space, volunteers, funding etc. and that’s very sad. Then you have to face this dilemma: Should we go on putting animals in even smaller cages, knowing they are not getting proper care, or do we kill them even though they are still healthy? It’s just so hard.

    Just because a shelter is no-kill doesn’t make it all OK. I think that humane societies should do more than advertise themselves as “no-kill” to attract donations from people. Shelters must show the hard reality; they must educate. Windsor Humane Society tried a very different approach a few years ago. They are not a no-kill shelter, and they actually released a video that showed how they had to euthanize animals. It was so hard to watch and many people protested, but it also opened up many people’s eyes. “Here’s what happens as long as you don’t spay/neuter and we don’t get enough funding. We don’t kill animals because we like it; we do it because we have to” it said. They did get more donations after that.

    I can’t really say anything specifically about Toronto Humane Society as I only know what I read thanks to you, but it does make me feel very sad. I hope more people see the reality thanks to that article, not just about Toronto Humane Society, but about what shelter animals are going through in general. And I do hope they do something about the situation at Toronto Humane Society.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley JohnsonThis is why I am such a believer in animal rescue networks where the animals are cared for in foster homes. I think its so much better for the animal. My husband and I have fostered 8 dogs and 2 cats in the last year…and I have to say, they are completely different creatures after being in a home for a few days than they were when they came in.ReplyCancel

  • Allison F.Hi Illona, as always your thoughtful and provoking commentary makes people really THINK. It’s a heart-wrenching story to read, and I feel for the staff who were forced to walk away from what should be a very rewarding and celebrated career, and forced to walk away form animals they undoubtably cared about.ReplyCancel

  • StephanieI did read this article but my opinions of the Humane Society were formed long ago with their treatment towards me and a sick animal. I was on UI a the time searching for a job. It was my understanding that they helped with vet costs for low income families. My cat developed FUS. They flat out refused to treat him unless I signed him over to them. A pet my children and I had 7 years. I was appalled and disgusted with what I was being told on the phone. This was the second time I had approached THS for help and the second time they had made me raise my eyebrow in question to their practices. I hope they are exposed completely and some kind of overhaul done so that these animals get the treatment and care they deserve.ReplyCancel

  • Jill BeninatoThanks for posting this article…I volunteer at a local SPCA that is not “no kill” and we get a bad rap for Euthanizing animals. We do not ET because of space or time limits, only if an animal is ill, not doing in the kennel environment or exhibiting aggressive behavior. The amount of strain and pressure that is put on our facility is amazing because all of the other “no kill” shelters in the area only accept the most adoptable pets and send all of the sick, problem cases to us to deal with. They get to have the warm fuzzy feeling of being no kill, but in reality, they are just passing the buck on to someone else. They are always too full, have waiting lists that go on for months, etc…I get frustrated by this alot and while I feel “no kill” is a great idea, it is not always the best thing where the dog is concerned…There are worse things than Euthanasia.ReplyCancel

  • L. MartinThey sleep at night? I guess better than the dogs and cats at the shelter. I did not know no-kill meant no brains either. There is something seriously seriously wrong with these people if this is what goes on there. I can see where a slow agonizing death is so much better than a quick painless one. This is ‘good intentions’ gone haywire. Always asking for money no doubt……so sorry to see this…let’s hope these articles are able to improve the lot of the animals at the….ahem….shelterReplyCancel

  • illonathank you, everyone, for adding your voices and for spreading the word for the sake of the animals.

    ainsley, i hope to meet you and diane and harley soon!ReplyCancel

  • MarcieCome to the Protest.

    June 20th @ 2:00 pm infront of the Humane Society.

    We will be there protesting for the animals. We have hundreds of people giving us idea’s and showing support. Please help us out any way you can.
    I’ve seen the things that go on inside with my own eyes and it’s time we did everything we can to put a stop to it.

    I’m hoping to see you there.ReplyCancel

  • Carol JohnstonThis aricle is a real eye-opener. The situation that exisits at the THS is appalling. An animal on the verge of death or with absolutely no hope of recovery left to suffer and die in its cage is unconscionable, and certainly inhumane. How could this situation have gone on so long with no one doing anything about it? It looks like the “management” who feel they need to make these decisions should all be replaced.

    There is a huge difference between euthanizing a healthy, adoptable dog or cat and humanely ending the needless suffering of a hopeless, dying animal. It’s hard to believe that a ‘humane’ society would allow this situation to exist simply to project impressive numbers for fund-raising purposes. It’s important to educate the public about such horrendous things as puppy mills, but it seems it is just as important to educate them about the horrific conditions existing at THS.ReplyCancel

  • AndreaInformation is power. Thanks for posting this. The more people who know about this, the more chance the THS will change.ReplyCancel

  • JenniferI have been on the fence about “no kill” shelters for quite some time, and am no longer on the fence. This is heartbreaking, period. The thought of this also going on in other “no kill” shelters, which many people seem to think are better other shelters, makes me sick. This is news reporting at it’s best….because it is important. People like to go through life with blinders on, and hopefully this article will bring about some change. I hope.ReplyCancel

  • breeHey guys – glad you posted about this story! Just wanted to let you know that the article in Saturday’s paper was only the 1st article of a 3-part series. The second article will be published in Monday’s paper.

    Horrible – isn’t it?ReplyCancel

  • Nicole (Blueszz200)It’s so hard to believe that these things happen in a civilized country! What a shame! In this case, being a “no kill” shelter is nothing to be proud of! NO KILL gets a complete different meaning by these practises.

    This story made it up to the Netherlands and I will share it with my friends.ReplyCancel

  • saraThank you so much for posting about this issue. There is a protest being organized right now to bring more public awareness about the policies at the THS. No animal deserves to die sick and alone in a cage. If you are interested in more information please check out http://helpths.wordpress.comReplyCancel

  • Holly Garner-JacksonWow! That is an unbelievable story. How could that kind of crap go on for so long without anyone saying anything. That’s when the confidentiality oath is so wrong to have in a contract. It’s disgusting what they have done. I hope the get rid of that guy pronto and do a complete overhaul of the shelter……… I shudder to think of those poor suffering animals……. Thanks illona for bringing this to our attention as much as it was hard to read or believe. The story must be told.ReplyCancel

  • Ainsley KendrickHey Illona!

    Love your photographs they are stunning! I happened upon your blog since researching the response Kate Hammer’s article has had on the public.

    We really wish we knew what the THS staff was doing to treat Harley’s leg. It was not broken at the time we adopted her but it was fractured (something we found out much later after being told it could possibly be cancer!). We don’t know where along the lines in her shelter life the fracture occurred but we know it must have been a serious break as her knee cap sits much higher than normal. She cannot sit normally and she rarely puts pressure on that leg while standing. However, she’s funny because she can outrun any dog at the park!

    We would love for you to photograph her as your photos capture the true personalities of the dog. And oh boy! Does she have a personality!

    Please feel free to contact me. best.ReplyCancel

  • Caroline LaneIt is absolutely right that this story should have been brought to the public’s attention but it is, unfortunately, a very bad reflection on the No Kill movement.

    THS is NOT a No Kill shelter. It is an out-of-control organisation with a megalomaniac at the helm. In fact, it is not a shelter at all, it is animal collecting at its worst. No Kill does not mean that no animal is ever killed, it means that healthy, adoptable animals are not killed. You can also not have a true No Kill shelter that turns away animals (as THS does), as they are merely shifting the onus to someone else.

    No Kill done properly, as part of a community-based program, can and does work, but it cannot be done in isolation. Read “Redemption” by Nathan Winograd (or watch his YouTube presentation) to see what can be achieved when everyone works together.

    Kudos to Kate Hammer and the Globe for bringing this story to light. Let’s hope that things will now improve for the animals, workers and volunteers at THS.ReplyCancel

  • KrisI read the story, I looked at the photos.. the whole thing makes me nauseous. Horrific.

    Thanks for posting this.ReplyCancel

  • DebThanks for posting this, Illona. Heartbreaking, for sure. Putting a spotlight on their practices is a good first step.ReplyCancel

oh, marley

every session is special.  don’t get me wrong.  every dog leaves his or her mark on my heart and stays in my memory, becoming a permanent member of the scruffy dog pack. and every dog i shoot speaks to me … each unique, each bringing to the table new challenges and adventures, smiles and — in some cases — tears.

last week’s Honor Session™ with old man marley was one such case …


whenever i shoot, i like to think that i get to know each dog’s soul and heart just a little bit … through their looks, their energy, their body, and through the whispers that we share during those few hours we engage.  granted, some are busy-bodies and are simply too busy showing off their fetching skills or their selection of toys to really tell me their stories, but in other cases — like sweet man marley last week — there is almost an intimacy in the moments shared that make me feel as though i’ve known this dog for years.


marley is having some mobility problems in his older age, so a lot of our shoot found him resting and me belly to the ground as well.  no problem, i always dress accordingly.  the slow-paced shoot in the comfort of marley’s back yard was, of course, a nice break from some of my crazier, wild shoots where i’m lugging 50 lbs of camera equipment and swapping lenses while standing groin-deep in a snowbank or balancing on slippery rocks in a streambed, for sure.  however, i would have gladly taken those conditions for the opportunity to have met marley in his younger, more vibrant days.  but we take what we can get …


as is typical of my shoots — and especially Honor Sessions™ — i spent over three hours with this boy, and still, during the drive home, i was kicking myself for the shots i wish i’d thought of while i was there.  i imagine most photographers do this.  still, regardless of age or physical-state, marley delivered tenfold.  more than any dog before him, marley churned out one expression after the next.  in fact, his is the largest single-dog gallery to date .  narrowing down the selection of images took me almost a full day as i came back and back and back again to image after image of unique expressions.  and far be it from me to be the one to pick from that myriad of mugs!



the love that owners tracy and shawn share for their boy marley is unmistakable.


they’re much better at this taking-care-of-an-aging-dog than i am.  with every stumble and fall marley made, my heart ached … but tracy and shawn were troopers, rolling with the punches right along with marley, in true dog-like fashion … smiles on all their faces … live in the moment.


and yes, marley was allowed on the bed … although he did need a little help up.




he even introduced me to his “kitty” and his favorite lookout spot by the front window …


then back outside on the deck for a few more treats.  the old man’s still got a few tricks in him …



thank you, tracy and shawn, for a most memorable afternoon. and thank you, marley, for letting me into your big heart to glimpse a small part of your amazing soul.


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  • Nikki V.This brought tears to my eyes! what a sweet post for a sweet dog! I wish we lived closer to you so we could get the wonderful shots you take of our pups. Keep up the amazing work!ReplyCancel

  • RachelThis is such a sweet blog entry. Oh my goodness – these photos are great! I love the purple flowering tree in the background of a couple of these shots. So pretty! I love the tail shot too.ReplyCancel

  • Holly Garner-JacksonAwesome photos of the old man, illona. Love the paw on the bed and the treat catching one.The nose and the hand on the head are exceptional. You rock, and so does Marley and his owners. 😉ReplyCancel

  • illonathank you so much, everyone, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and emotions. and thank you Gramma Marley for dropping in. you’ve got an awesome grandson. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • lauralooking at these pictures of marley makes me not only wish that i knew him better, but makes me wish i had a dog of my own! who ever thought that a series of photographs could reduce me to tears on a sunny wednesday afternoon. thank you so much for inviting us into your heart marley, and for sharing your spirit. beautiful, wonderful work, Scruffy Dog!ReplyCancel

  • marley's grammaThe pictures of Marley are marvelous. Marley,a quiet and kind soul,and loved by all of his family, is normally shy around the camera. I had laughingly mentioned to Tracy to tell Marley to “smile” on the day of his sitting. He looks so relaxed, and you have certainly captured all of his wonderful qualities. Thank you for this. My favourite is of Marley at his favourite spot at the front window.ReplyCancel

  • BevThank you for the beautiful photographic tribute to Marley. My faves are the ones against the pink blooms. Beautiful work.ReplyCancel

  • nickA lovely session here.. senoir dogs really do have that air about them..ReplyCancel

  • andreawhat a wonderful shoot. you captured his expressions beautifully. thanks so much for sharing…i so enjoy spending time here with you and these wonderful dogs. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Marcia AguiarI’m speecheless and holding my tears. You are a great artist, Illona. Marley is adorable and, even not knowing him, it seems to me you’ve captured every subtle detail of his personality. I wish I lived in Canada to have you photographing Rafael and Alice.ReplyCancel

  • MimiYou can see in his eyes that this dog has soul. I’ve been blessed with elderly dogs in my time and each one becomes more precious as the days march on. You can see in the faces of his parents that Marley is a much loved and treasured member of the family. That, in itself, warm my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your photos with us/me. I adore each and every one.ReplyCancel

  • Sarahthese are brilliant, perfect and i am emotional just looking at them.

    what a friggin cool dog.

    are you coming to alberta any time soon 🙂ReplyCancel

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