Manitoulin leaders concerned that potential download to police could mean more municipal funds will flow
ONTARIO—A Manitoulin Island municipal leader is concerned that with the Ontario Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) only willing to extend its enforcement arm for another three months—and the OPSCA feeling that these responsibilities should then fall to the police—it may mean an indirect download in costs to municipalities.
“I don’t really understand why the OPSCA is quitting, but I had heard they were going to quit enforcing the laws (on cruelty to animals),” said Ken Noland, reeve of Burpee-Mills Township. He pointed out the OSPCA recently confirmed that the costs of investigating more than 15,000 cruelty cases per year has become too burdensome and surpasses the $5.75 million it receives annually from the government.
Mr. Noland noted, “I understand this change by OSPCA has to do with a court case in which it was ruled the OSPCA policing powers are unconstitutional.”
“Guess who pays for policing costs? Municipalities,” said Reeve Noland. “So I expect this could end up being another download to municipalities. If the police are going to cover the enforcement of cruelty to animals and we pay the costs of policing, I take this as probably being another $5 million download to municipalities.”
Reeve Noland pointed out that he, as head of council, had received a letter from Sylvia Jones, Ontario Solicitor General dated April 8, which reads: “the Ontario government recognizes the importance of animal welfare. We also know that the province’s animal welfare landscape is changing.”
“Recently, the Superior Court of Justice provided a ruling on Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario,” wrote Ms. Jones. “This ruling affects the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act, which is the province’s main legislation on animal welfare. While the Ontario government is appealing this decision, we intend to strengthen and improve animal welfare.”
The OSPCA has said the court ruling was the catalyst to abdicating its role as it shifts its focus from enforcement to its shelter business.
Solicitor General Jones wrote in her letter: “In addition, the OSPCA has advised me that it will withdraw from its current role of enforcing animal welfare legislation in the communities it serves, effective June 28.”
“The Ontario government is actively working to ensure appropriate measures are in place to provide animals with the protections they deserve and that Ontarians expect. To inform our next steps, my ministry will survey municipalities about the current landscape of animal welfare enforcement, including details of bylaws and existing partnerships,” the solicitor general wrote. “Municipalities are important partners in developing an approach that ensures effective enforcement, is transparent and accountable, and ultimately improves the animal welfare system across Ontario.”
In a March 26 release the OSPCA wrote: “the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has offered the Ontario government a new operational model where it supplies animal-related expertise to the Ontario government as a support service to enforcement agencies, similar to the ASPACA model in the United States.”
The release goes on to note: “In early March the OSPCA informed the government it will no longer enforce animal welfare legislation in the Province of Ontario once the present contract expires on March 31. The Ontario SPCA offered a three-month transition phase of the current working arrangement to June. Today, the Government of Ontario confirmed that it accepts the offers of assistance and the OSPCA will continue current service until June 28.”
“Enforcement is the responsibility of government, one that we can confidently support by offering animal protection service to enforcement agencies. As the transition period concludes, we look forward to our continued focus on the many programs we provide on behalf of animal well-being, including spay/neuter services, animal wellness clinics and our provincial animal transfer program,” said Kate MacDonald, OSPCA CEO.
“Most of all, we look forward to working alongside communities and animal advocates to identify the needs of animals and work together to fill these gaps,” said Ms. MacDonald.
Community Safety Minster Sylvia Jones was quoted by CBC News on March 26 as saying she hoped the new legislation based on a new animal welfare enforcement model would be in force by January 2020.
The OSPCA lawyer, Brian Shiller, was quoted by CBC as saying, “this charity has never provided enforcement services for more than one-third of the province as it has never been resourced to do so. Consequently, law enforcement agencies have been enforcing and can continue to enforce animal protection laws in the province and are best equipped and resourced to do so. “
The OSPCA has pointed to a model that exists between the New York Police Department and the American SPCA. There, the police conduct the investigations while the ASPCA provides veterinary care, housing and forensic services.