By Tom Collins
STOUFFVILLE — The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) is considering getting out of farm animal cruelty investigations because it says it’s hard up for money.
The Canadian Press reported that while the OSPCA has not made any official statement, the organization wants the province to take over those investigations.
Farm lawyer Kurtis Andrews has argued that by being at arm’s length of the government and not actually part of the government, the OSPCA doesn’t have enough money to carry out animal welfare protection properly. He said when there is social media pressure to carry out an investigation a certain way, it puts the OSPCA in a position where it has to satisfy those pressures because that’s where its funding comes from.
“They’re not properly funded, and it’s as simple as that,” he said. “What is apparently without question here, is the OSPCA doesn’t have (enough) money. That means they can’t carry out their investigations properly. And if you can’t do it properly, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.”
Not investigating farms might suit many farmers just fine. The OSPCA is not well liked in farm country. The group is not subject to Freedom of Information requests, so the public can’t find out any information about its policies or conduct unless the OSPCA wants to give it out. It polices its own officers, and sets its own policies, without any public oversight.
The OSPCA can give itself ongoing, limitless warrantless entry and can issue orders that can exist indefinitely, and may exercise its own discretion in determining if an order was complied with.
The Ontario Landowners Association launched a charter challenge against the OSPCA in 2013 and its case was finally heard this past May. A decision is hopeful for November or December. The group argued the OSPCA Act violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it creates a private animal police force that relies on donations, making it dependent on its donors, creating a conflict of interest.
OLA president Tom Black told Farmers Forum that he doesn’t believe the OSPCA will stop investigating farms, and is instead hedging its bets in case it loses the charter challenge. If the court rules against the OSPCA, the organization may not feel pressure to appeal since it has stated it is looking to move away from farm investigations, he said.
While some believe failed high-profile cases have hurt the public perception of the OSPCA, Black adds that the OSPCA is responsible for its poor public perception in rural areas.