By Tom Collins
PERTH — A Superior Court justice has ruled that a constitutional challenge against the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act can go ahead.
Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) member, Jeffery Bogaerts of Smiths Falls is challenging the act, saying it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by infringing on one’s security of property. He says the act’s definition of distress is too vague and that it grants the OSPCA police-like authority, including overreaching search and seizure powers. None of the allegations have been tested in court.
The court challenge is being financially backed by the OLA, which is seeking donations. The landowners association argues the OSPCA went too far during raids on private properties and farms by misjudging the health and welfare of animals. In one case, an OSPCA officer threatened to take a dog if the owner did not professionally clean her dog’s teeth. In another case, eight horses were confiscated and sold but no charges were laid. Other cases involved charges of neglect, whereby the animals were confiscated and sold before the case was heard in court.
The Attorney General of Ontario had asked the judge to toss out the court case, but the judge ruled June 15 there is a broader public interest in allowing the case to go ahead.
“That means (Bogaerts is) doing this not for his own sake, but for the greater good, or for the sake of society as a whole,” said his lawyer, Kurtis Andrews.
However the judge did rule that eight affidavits would be thrown out. That includes the affidavit from former Winchester veterinarian Lawrence Gray, who said that there was a marked change in the way the OSPCA handled cases, with the agency abandoning its education role and taking on an aggressive, ‘dictatorial’ approach. Gray said that a subjective interpretation of distress was used to deliberately target people for OSPCA scrutiny and that the OSPCA’s care standards often weren’t practical, feasible, or consistent with normal farm practices.
OLA president Tom Black says he hopes the case will force the OSPCA Act to be rewritten. A trial date has not been set.