No change in OS­PCA’s role, yet

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FRONT PAGE - TODD HAM­BLE­TON

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

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