SPCA in­ter­ested in added re­spon­si­bil­ity

SPCA can’t re­spond to com­plaints alone, but does as­sist RCMP on some calls

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

The Bac­calieu Trail SPCA can help po­lice han­dle calls re­lated to an­i­mal wel­fare, but does not have any law en­force­ment pow­ers and can­not han­dle calls on its own. Its leader would not mind see­ing that change, and hopes there’ll be more dis­cus­sion in the fu­ture on ways to help pro­tect an­i­mals.

When Laura-Lee His­cock of the Bac­calieu Trail SPCA re­ceives a phone call from the Trinity Con­cep­tion RCMP, she tries her hard­est to make her­self avail­able.

Be­ing one of only a cou­ple peo­ple in the re­gion trained to iden­tify and ed­u­cate peo­ple on an­i­mal wel­fare is­sues, she has de­vel­oped a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with po­lice. So when she gets that call, she knows it’s im­por­tant.

She has been help­ing po­lice ever since the new An­i­mal Health and Pro­tec­tion Act be­came law in 2012. Prior to that, she was able to in­ter­vene in sit­u­a­tions where an an­i­mal’s wel­fare may have been in jeop­ardy.

Af­ter an in­ci­dent in Con­cep­tion Bay South (CBS) ear­lier this month where a man was charged for an­i­mal wel­fare re­lated of­fences, the pro­vin­cial SPCA di­vi­sion sent out a news re­lease ex­plain­ing how pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion ef­fects its in­volve­ment in com­plaints.

“(The pro­vin­cial SPCA chap­ters) have been in­structed by the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources to stop re­spond­ing to com­plaints of an­i­mal ne­glect and abuse. SPCA NL is not con­sid­ered an en­force­ment agency un­der the An­i­mal Health and Pro­tec­tion Act,” it said. “Un­der pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­tion SPCA branches had author­ity to en­force leg­is­la­tion, and to sup­port law en­force­ment agen­cies, in the pre­ven­tion of an­i­mal cru­elty.”

His­cock is usu­ally on hand for many of the an­i­mal cru­elty cases in the Trinity Con­cep­tion re­gion since she has spe­cial­ized train­ing. But she is now con­sid­ered an ed­u­ca­tor rather than en­force­ment.

“I would like to see the SPCA have their role back in en­force­ment again,” His­cock told The Compass.

Car­bon­ear’s mu­nic­i­pal en­force­ment of­fi­cer Gord Par­sons is the only other per­son al­lowed to re­spond to an­i­mal com­plaints, but only within the town bound­aries.

Trinity Con­cep­tion RCMP Sgt. Greg Hicks ad­mits of­fi­cers are not al­ways trained to han­dle all an­i­mal sit­u­a­tions. Hav­ing His­cock help when needed has been ben­e­fi­cial in pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion and de­ter­min­ing if an an­i­mal is in an un­healthy en­vi­ron­ment, he said.

“For do­mes­tic an­i­mals, it is not un­com­mon for us to call Laura-Lee,” he ex­plained. “We part­ner heav­ily with the SPCA.”

Many times, when His­cock goes to a home with the RCMP, she’ll stay in the back­ground un­til she gets the ap­proval to speak with the owner.

“A lot of the time they don’t know they’re do­ing some­thing wrong,” His­cock ex­plained. “A lot of it is ed­u­ca­tion. I feel I can talk to them, tell them I’m there to help.”

She’ll ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion to them, and many times it’s rec­ti­fied.

Even though His­cock doesn’t for­mally re­spond to com­plaints any­more, she does en­cour­age peo­ple to re­port any­thing they be­lieve is a vi­o­la­tion of an­i­mal rights.

“Don’t be afraid to give a com­plaint,” she said. “You can still call even if you’ve called the RCMP. It’s good for us to know it has been re­ported.”

Ap­prox­i­mately 200 peo­ple were on hand for a rally in CBS last month to sup­port a newly formed or­ga­ni­za­tion called Voices for the Voice­less. Krys­tine Gib­bons, a mem­ber of the plan­ning com­mit­tee for the event, told The Compass the rally was not just about the re­cent in­ci­dent in that town.

“Our in­ten­tion is to keep an­i­mal wel­fare is­sues on the radar so that the nec­es­sary changes can be made to leg­is­la­tion and en­force­ment to ad­e­quately pro­tect all an­i­mals,” she said. “From a dog chained to a wooden box in a backyard, to cats strug­gling to sur­vive out­side in the win­ter, farm an­i­mals and ex­otic an­i­mals in­cluded; they all de­serve proper treat­ment.”

Gib­bons said Voice for the Voice­less is ad­vo­cat­ing for the gov­ern­ment to step in with tougher reg­u­la­tions, and had started an on­line pe­ti­tion. The pe­ti­tion can be found at Change.org un­der the name “Amend the An­i­mal Health and Pro­tec­tion Act.”

His­cock is an an­i­mal ad­vo­cate and sup­ports what Voice for the Voice­less hopes to ac­com­plish. She agrees that reg­u­la­tions, en­force­ment and ed­u­ca­tion are an im­por­tant part of pro­tect­ing an an­i­mal from abuse or ne­glect. She also be­lieves the RCMP can’t do it all on their own.

His­cock notes the RCMP are busy with many dif­fer­ent is­sues and hav­ing the SPCA to help in­ves­ti­gate is­sues would lighten the work­load.

One of the is­sues His­cock says she hears about is peo­ple aban­don­ing their an­i­mals, or not be­ing able to care for them any­more.

“If you have a dog or cat and you don’t want it, call us. I can defin­in­tely do some­thing about that, no ques­tions asked,” she said.

The SPCA houses an­i­mals that po­lice take from homes, with gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ing ap­prox­i­mately $4,000 to cover op­er­a­tional ex­penses re­lated to that ser­vice.

Sub­mit­ted photo by San­dra Woito

A sign held up dur­ing the Voices for the Voice­less rally in CBS Jan. 20.

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