Written by Maddie Binning
The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society (OSPCA) has informed the government it will not enforce animal welfare legislation in Ontario once their current contract expires on March 31, following a Jan. 2 ruling from a Kingston judge that deemed it unconstitutional for a private charity to have policing powers without government oversight.
The OSPCA is now offering a new operational model where it supplies animal-related expertise to the provincial government as a support service for enforcement agencies, similar to the model used by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The OSPCA’s offer includes a three-month transition phase with the current arrangement that could extend the charity’s service to June 28.
“Enforcement is the responsibility of government, one that we can confidently support by offering animal protection services to enforcement agencies,” said Kate MacDonald, CEO of the OSPCA. “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.”
Right now, enforcement represents about 20 per cent of the OSPCA’s services and is dictated by a 100-year-old piece of legislation known as the OSPCA Act. However, the January decision by Superior Court Justice Timothy Minnema in Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario deemed it unconstitutional, creating a new legal principle. The OSPCA was not involved in the court case and the Government of Ontario is appealing the court decision.
“Animal Justice supports this bold and courageous move by the Ontario SPCA,” said Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “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.”
The OSPCA will also draft recommendations for a new Ontario Animal Protection Act, including the recommendation that Ontario create stronger regulations, establishing animals “as sentient beings with their well-being, health and treatment protected under the law.” It is one of the largest animal organizations in the country and has a 146 year-history of providing shelter and advocacy for animals in addition to humane education, animal rescue, crisis intervention and mobile veterinary services.