Eganville — The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) will no longer be investigating animal cruelty incidents, but Bonnechere Valley is not interested in taking over the responsibility or having another provincial download.
“This is not our problem,” Mayor Jennifer Murphy said at a committee meeting of council last Tuesday. “Just like the policing community safety plans are not our problem.”
The Ministry of the Solicitor General sent a letter to council asking for its input to develop a new animal welfare model since the OSPAC will no longer be dealing with animal welfare enforcement. This comes following a ruling in January in which the Superior Court of Justice ruled some of the powers of the OSPCA were unconstitutional. The presiding court judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Timothy Minnema, noted the OSPCA can be “opaque, insular, unaccountable and potentially subject to external influence, and as such Ontarians cannot be confident that the laws it enforces will be fairly and impartially administered.”
The OSPCA is not accountable like other police organizations, he pointed out. While no specific instance was the reason for this court case, one example given was of a 64-year-old senior who had OSPAC agents enter her home through a bathroom window because she had not complied with a ruling to have dental work done on her dog. She was quoted as saying she could not afford her own dental work, much less that of her pet.
As a result of this court ruling, the OSPCA will continue to enforce animal welfare laws in the province until the end of June. In his letter to council Ontario Deputy Minister of Community Safety Mario di Tommaso said the ministry is surveying municipalities regarding the current landscape of animal welfare enforcement, including details of by-laws and existing partnerships. This is in preparation for the new model to “strengthen and improve animal welfare,” he wrote.
Councillor Merv Buckwald said this court ruling came down as a result of “some of the nonsense that went on with the OSPCA in Eastern Ontario.”
He said he reads farming magazines and in some cases farmers were being charged with older animals when there was no real reason for the charge.
“And a lady with a dog who hadn’t had its teeth cleaned,” he said.
“I think they dropped the ball and have been sued,” he said.
“It is overreach,” Councillor Tim Schison said.
Mayor Murphy said she was unsure what input the municipality could provide.
“You can’t download this to us because we don’t have appropriate by-law enforcement in rural Ontario,” she said.
Councillor Jack Roesner agreed there have been issues of overreach, such as the OSPCA going in to investigate when a calf has died on a farm.
“There is not much we can do to police this,” he added.
Coun. Buckwald said he did not think this was going to be a smooth transition since some other enforcement agency would have to enforce animal cruelty complaints.
“I’m sure the OPP will be very impressed to have to enforce this,” he said.
Mayor Murphy said this will likely be an issue council will be receiving calls on from the public.
“Much like the tree cutting by-law,” she said.