Humane society says it will no longer enforce Animal Protection Act in Edmonton

The Edmonton Humane Society says it will no longer enforce the Animal Protection Act within city limits after the end of January.

'The organization is not an expert in enforcement,' society says in media statement

The Edmonton Humane Society says it will no longer enforce the Animal Protection Act in Edmonton after the end of this month. (Edmonton Humane Society/Facebook)

The Edmonton Humane Society says it will no longer enforce the Animal Protection Act within city limits after the end of January, leaving the Edmonton Police Service responsible for such calls for the near future.

"The Edmonton Police Service will continue to address criminal matters relating to animal welfare and will respond to 9-1-1 calls regarding animals in distress," EPS said in a statement, adding that interim chief Kevin Brezinski is in discussions with the city about the issue.

Peace officers from the Edmonton Humane Society responded to 1,216 calls in 2017 — a 31 per cent increase over the previous year, the society said.  

Those officers have been responsible for enforcing the Animal Protection Act (APA), provincial legislation designed to protect mistreated animals and hold negligent owners accountable for their actions. Calls might involve animals believed to have improper shelter, inadequate food, or inadequate medical care.

Long-time arrangement terminated

For years, the City of Edmonton had contracted the humane society to do some APA enforcement work, but the society's board in December voted to discontinue that arrangement.

"[Edmonton Humane Society] has recognized the organization is not an expert in enforcement," says a statement from the organization.

"With enforcement comes police-like activities such as going into high-risk situations that require carrying weapons, executing search warrants, laying charges and having to testify in court. As a non-profit funded by donors, we are not in a position to carry out these activities nor give enforcement the attention needed to serve animals well."

(Edmonton Humane Society) is not an expert in enforcement- Edmonton Humane Society

The society added that provincial policy changes that will require peace officers to have more training and respond to calls in pairs means the humane society "just doesn't have the resources" to keep up. 

Although the Animal Protection Act is provincial legislation, municipalities are responsible for finding ways to enforce the act.

"We are disappointed the EHS decided to stop providing these services without a transition plan," said Louise McEachern, a spokeswoman from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, in an e-mail.

The City of Edmonton will help the Edmonton Police Service "on any urgent animal-related calls when there is an animal in immediate distress," city spokesperson Carol Hurst said in an e-mailed statement. A report on different options for the city will go to council on Feb. 11.

Possible alternative for enforcement

The Alberta SPCA enforces the animal protection legislation in municipalities outside of Edmonton and Calgary under agreements with local police agencies. They have about 10 peace officers who investigate roughly 2,400 cases a year.

Dan Kobe, communications manager for the Alberta SPCA, said the organization would be willing to discuss taking on responsibilities for Edmonton. But he doesn't know how many additional resources that would require.

"It would be significant, we would expect it has the potential to double our call load."

The Calgary Humane Society has no plans to cease its own animal-protection operations, a spokesperson said.

In a statement, the Calgary group said it was "surprised and saddened to hear about the decision by Edmonton Humane Society to close its animal protection department."

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