Ontario SPCA to discontinue animal cruelty enforcement

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By Shawna O'Neill
Ontario SPCA to discontinue animal cruelty enforcement

ONTARIO – The Ontario SPCA announced on Monday, March 4 that it may no longer enforce animal welfare legislation in the province as soon as April of this year.

The Ontario SPCA of Cornwall & SDG declined to comment on the announcement of the transfer of responsibilities.

“We want to see a system in place that provides maximum protection for animals,” said Kate MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer with Ontario SPCA. “Ontario SPCA is a 146-year-old animal charity. Our expertise, working as a support service to enforcement agencies, will be a powerful combination in enforcement and we believe the right combination to best protect animals.”

An Ontario Superior Court Judge recently ruled that it is not constitutional for the province to enact legislation that permits private charities the policing powers of animal cruelty enforcement without government oversight. The Ontario SPCA stated in a press release that it will draft its recommendations to the new Ontario Animal Protection Act to recommend stronger regulations, such as establishing animals’ well-being, health and treatment protected under the law.

A new Ontario SPCA model will strive to offer expertise to the province as a support service to enforcement agencies, similar to the ASPCA model in the United States.

“Enforcement is the responsibility of government, one that we can confidently support by offering animal protection services to enforcement agencies. Being an outside agency, we have been woefully under-resourced to provide legislation enforcement. We have struggled to meet the need and have struggled with both Officer safety and, at times, conflicts with our charitable mission. It is simply not in the interests of animals or this charity to continue along the same path,” said MacDonald.

The Ontario SPCA presented a contract that expires March 31 but has offered a three-month transition phase period, which could see the charity continue service until June 28.

According to an SPCA press release, enforcement represents about 20 per cent of the Ontario SPCA services and is governed by a 100-year-old piece of legislation called the OSPCA Act.

“Animal Justice supports this bold and courageous move by the Ontario SPCA. Change doesn’t always come easily, but it is necessary. It’s clear that our animal law enforcement system must evolve to keep pace with the 21st century. We are committed to working with the Ontario SPCA and the provincial government to help develop a robust, well-resourced public enforcement model that puts animals first,” said Camille Labchuk, Executive Director, Animal Justice.

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