No change in OSPCA’s role, yet
The enforcement of animal cruelty laws will continue to be carried out by the OSPCA – including the SD&G Animal Centre – at least in the short term.
Last week, an Ontario Superior Court judge found some of the enforcement powers held by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), the province’s animal welfare agency, were unconstitutional, and he said the government had 12 months to rewrite laws to remedy the situation.
The OSPCA issued a statement it respects the court’s decision.
“This is an issue for the Government of Ontario to address,” a spokesperson wrote. “The Ontario SPCA will continue to provide animal protection services while the government determines how they wish to proceed.”
The City of Cornwall has a working relationship with the OSPCA. Chris Rogers, in the building and bylaw department, explained the city’s focus is on animal control, while OSPCA’s is animal welfare.
“(The OSPCA acts) as our dog pound,” Rogers said. “We operate under the Animal Control By-law, we pick up (stray animals).”
If the city did see an abused animal, Rogers said, it would report it to the OSPCA.
“Nothing is changing for us right now (in the city’s relationship with the OSPCA),” he said.
It’s unclear, however, if the OSCPA could continue this animal control activity if it doesn’t retain its enforcement powers.
Jeffrey Bogaerts, a paralegal from Perth, who has an interest in animal welfare law, launched the constitutional challenge five years ago, after helping several animal owners who were being investigated, including a woman whose pet dog was seized.
Justice Timothy Minnema ruled the provincial government was wrong to grant police powers to the OSPCA without also imposing reasonable standards of transparency and accountability, and called it a breach of Bogaerts’ Charter rights.
The OSPCA is a private charity that receives millions of taxpayer dollars as well as private donations, and it’s had police powers since the OSPCA Act became law in 1919, responsible for enforcing provincial and Criminal Code animal cruelty laws.
“Although charged with law enforcement responsibilities, the OSPCA is opaque, insular, unaccountable, and potentially subject to external influence, and as such Ontarians cannot be confident that laws it enforces will be fairly and impartially administered,” Minnema wrote in his decision.
experts say the dilemma can be solved by ensuring animal protection officers are subject to the same kind of oversight as police, that the osPCa could keep its status as a private charity performing some police functions, but opened to public oversight.
But there’s some question as to whether the osPCa wishes to continue investigating animal cruelty complaints, which is expensive.
last fall, the Canadian Press reported that the osPCa would no longer investigate allegations of cruelty to horses and farm livestock. thamble[email protected]media.com twitter.com/FreeholderTodd