By Patrick Meagher
METCALFE — Ottawa agricultural lawyer Kurtis Andrews grew up working the family fruit and vegetable farm in Halton Hills in Western Ontario. “It was all I did until I was 27,” he said. There was no future there so he worked as a tool and die apprentice and pursued a bachelor of education degree with the thought of teaching the trade at the college level.
He wasn’t convinced and when he discovered there was such a thing as a career counsellor he signed up and answered hundreds of self-exploring questions in a self-discovery study of preferences. The results were unambiguous: go to law school. The same day he received those results he went to his last evening class to complete his bachelor of education degree and his instructor told him she woke up in the middle of night knowing what he should become: a lawyer.
Law school “had never crossed my mind,” he said but “when something like that happens two times in one day, I thought I had better take a look at it.”
He passed the LSAT with high marks but figures his strength in being accepted was the personal statement that must accompany an application, stipulating why he wanted to practice law.
“I said that farmers and rural people need representation from someone who knows their issues intimately. I didn’t realize how key that actually was” until he was later told of the serious lack of lawyers in rural areas.
Andrews completed law school at the University of Ottawa. He graduated in 2009 and started his first job with well-known ag lawyer Don Good. Andrews struck out on his own in 2015 and this summer moved his business closer to farm country and returned to his roots. He and his wife (they met in junior farmers and have three children ages 11, 9 and 4) bought a small 48-acre farm south of Ottawa and he is now running his office from the S.A. Hicks Insurance building in Metcalfe.
Andrews has built a reputation defending underdogs against the system. In one of his first cases, he successfully defended Iroquois-area farmer Ralph Hunter, who was charged with animal cruelty by an officer with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officer. When he pored through the OSPCA disclosure. he was astonished that the officer wandered all over the absent farmer’s property but never mentioned having a warrant. She didn’t have one.
He also won a partial victory in the famous tarter in the teeth case. Lyndhurst dog breeder Jessica Johnson was ordered by the OSPCA to take one or her dogs for teeth cleaning. An OSPCA officer also said that the air quality in her house was not fit for a dog. The case smacked off an incredible indifference to human life. Johnson ended up paying for the teeth cleaning of five dogs and the cost of the cleaning for four dogs — about $350 — was ordered returned to her. The Animal Care Review Board ruled, however, that Johnson’s rights were not violated under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when an OSPCA agent entered her home through a bedroom window to unlock the door for another agent and two OPP officers.
Andrews’ most well-known victory was the successful charter challenge that ended last year with an Ontario judge striking down the OSPCA Act. The judge ruled that the privately-run OSPCA had more freedom than police and in some cases were accountable to no one. That ruling was overturned at appeal but Andrews got what his client wanted. He represented the Ontario Landowners Association in that six-year battle that resulted in the OSPCA quitting the private animal welfare policing business across the province.
Andrews covers a broad range of rural issues including regulatory offences, estate and family disputes, farm divorce and civil litigation.