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Politicians Slam OSPCA

May 20, 2010 permalink

The OSPCA is the fraternal twin of children's aid. It is a private charity, gets its funding from government, it has the power of police to enter private property and it is responsible for investigation of all animal protection matters including investigating its own misconduct. A recent exchange in Ontario's legislature shows that the politicians see the mistake of allowing the OSPCA to investigate itself. Now if they only had the same insight about children.



Who polices the animal cops?

The animal police shouldn't be policing themselves, critics say.

Two opposition MPPs are demanding substantial changes to the legal mandate of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, possibly stripping the agency of its animal welfare enforcement powers.

Tory MPP Frank Klees said the OSPCA would be the agency legally responsible for investigating any allegation of abuse arising from the decision to euthanize animals in its Newmarket shelter last week — an inherent and obvious conflict of interest.

In addition, Klees said he does not believe that people donating to animal shelters expect the money to be used for enforcement.

"It's our belief that a charity should not have policing powers — not over itself or any other organization or entity," Klees said. "The OSPCA should have to decide if it's a charity with a mandate to prevent cruelty to animals or if it wants to be in the business of inspection and enforcement."

The Conservative MPP wants the government to amend existing legislation to separate the roles of care giver and enforcer, either by dividing the OPSCA into two separate entities or creating a new agency to handle enforcement.

NDP Justice Critic Peter Kormos said concerns about a possible conflict of interest were raised when the OSPCA was given enhanced enforcement powers last year, permitting its officers, for instance, to enter premises such as zoos and pet stores to ensure care standards are met.

The privately-run agency was tasked with policing itself because it also provides animal care, Kormos said.

"The conflict is being demonstrated by the inability of the OSPCA to respond rationally to the crisis they had around animals with ringworm," he said. "The government's washed its hands and the OSPCA utilizes its usual techniques of hyper-secrecy and behind-closed-doors decision making."

The OSPCA could not be reached for comment Tuesday but it has commissioned an independent investigation into the ringworm outbreak at its Newmarket shelter.

OSPCA officials ordered that all animals in the shelter be euthanized for the highly contagious but treatable infection, and 99 animals were put down before a public outcry prompted the agency's officials to halt the plan.

Klees said the Ontario government must order its own investigation rather than rely on one commissioned by the OSPCA.

Throughout the planned animal killings, which drew protesters daily to the shelter, Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said he was relying on the expertise of the OSPCA to determine what was in the best interests of animals, and he remains confident in the organization's ability to carry out its legal duties.

"The OSPCA has indicated that they are hiring an arms-length agency to do a thorough investigation of their own handling of the ringworm situation," Laura Blondeau, a spokesperson for Bartolucci said. "While our government is always open to making improvements, we are not looking at revising legislation at this time."

Asked who provides oversight to the OSPCA, Blondeau said anyone can seek recourse through the courts and/or through the Animal Care Review Board.

Kormos said the ministry must accept responsibility for how the agency functions, how it interprets legislation and how it works on a day-to-day basis.

Animal protection warrants a bona fide public enforcement body directly accountable to the minister, he said.

David Turnbull, a former Conservative solicitor general and a member of Save the THS (Toronto Humane Society), said the tragedy in York Region pointed out a fundamental flaw in the system.

"Clearly, we have a responsibility to look after animals," he said. "We want the government to join with all of the opposition parties in developing these laws so that we don't have a recurrence of (the Newmarket shelter situation)."

Source: Sault Star