OSPCA inspector said every farm is an opportunity to seize animals, according to sworn affidavit
By Brandy Harrison
WOODSTOCK The provincial animal welfare agency keeps company with animal rights activists, undertakes extortive seizures, and may have its sights set on farms, said a beef farmer and former agency board member in a sworn affidavit to support a constitutional challenge to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act.
“I specifically recall one especially disturbing incident at an OSPCA meeting . . . when Chief Insp. Mike Draper, as he was then, proudly proclaimed that every farm is an opportunity to seize animals, issue orders, and lay charges; and when the OSPCA charges someone, the law makes it so they are guilty until proven innocent,” said South Bruce Peninsula beef farmer Carl Noble, who sat on local and provincial OSPCA boards for 12 years.
Nobles affidavit is one of six filed with the Superior Court of Justice in August to support a constitutional challenge to the OSPCA Act. The case argues that the acts definition of distress is too vague, the OSPCA has police-like authority without accountability, and its search and seizure powers violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
None of these allegations have been tested in court.
Noble, who first became a board member of the OSPCA affiliate in Bruce and Grey Counties in 1994, noted a pronounced mind-set shift over time.
Before a provincial takeover in 2003, the agency operated with a $7,000 budget, trying to assist owners as much as possible sometimes even supplying food, he said. Seizures and charges were a last resort.
When the provincial agency swooped in, the budget shot up seven-fold to about $52,000 and the new paid and volunteer inspectors were more aggressive, with less interest in helping people, focusing instead on penalties, seizures, and charges, he said.
He recalled one of them “patting her badge and exclaiming this is power.”
Their practice was to seize animals to compel owners to pay for their return, said Noble.
“In my opinion, such actions were often extortive, coercive, and/or fraudulent,” he said, noting that he later voiced disapproval at a request for inspectors to have bulletproof vests, handcuffs, batons, and handguns inspectors are now outfitted with all except handguns.
In protest over policy direction, investigative tactics, and lack of financial transparency with the board, Noble resigned in May 2006 along with 26 other board members he called “moderate voices.”
“Some of the members of the board would certainly qualify as animal rights activists in my opinion. We were ultimately replaced by similar activist types.”
A retired Ottawa-area veterinarian raised a similar cry in his affidavit.
Lawrence Gray, who had numerous interactions with the OSPCA during his 58-year practice, noted that until the mid-1980s, the OSPCA focused on helping and educating, which has since given way to a “more dictatorial approach,” including orders requiring exceptionally high standards of care, unnecessary seizures, and large bills for an animals return.
“I never understood how the OSPCA could conclude that the conditions warranted removal one day, and then offer to return the animals a few days later,” said Gray about one Eastern Ontario beef farmer, adding that some people are deliberately and unnecessarily targeted in conduct that qualifies as harassment.
Its standards often arent practical, feasible, or consistent with normal farm practices, said Gray.
“I have witnessed the OSPCA issue orders that would be nearly impossible to comply with, despite my advice to the contrary, such as providing three inches of bedding for dairy cattle where rubber mats already existed,” he said.
“I believe that the OSPCA has failed terribly in considering peoples circumstances before aggressively pursuing punitive measures.”