Veterinarians petition Edmonton police chief to create animal cruelty investigation unit
Edmonton Association of Small Animal Veterinarians trying to gather 10,000 signatures
Veterinarians are calling on city police to create a dedicated unit for investigating animal cruelty cases.
An online petition created by the Edmonton Association of Small Animal Veterinarians calls on Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee to commit more resources to investigating crimes against animals.
Association president Dr. Natasha Russell said the impetus came earlier this year after the Edmonton Humane Society announced it would no longer enforce the Animal Protection Act.
The announcement came on the heels of changes to provincial rules that give vets a mandate to report suspected animal abuse.
"Now that we have this system in effect, we want to make sure it's being enforced," Russell said.
The city has since taken on responsibility of enforcing the act, but Russell doesn't think it's possible for a handful of bylaw officers to tackle what can be complicated medical and legal cases.
"It's such a difficult and very deep-seated problem in society that I don't think it makes sense for just bylaw officers to be the ones in charge of enforcing our Animal Protection Act," she said.
The act is designed to protect mistreated animals and hold negligent owners to account. More serious offences can be prosecuted through the Criminal Code.
Russell said her association wants to see a coordinated effort by veterinarians, bylaw officers, and police. She thinks eventually adding social workers and healthcare professionals to the mix would further strengthen tackling animal cruelty and any related issues in an integrated way.
"It doesn't usually start and end with animal abuse, chances are it's a big cry out for help. And we really need to be identifying these cases, properly reporting them, and then having, hopefully, a dedicated unit through the police force that can enforce the criminal aspects," she said.
Chief Dale McFee told media Monday that he's aware of the petition, and that the force is studying the need for a dedicated unit.
McFee said a few patrol officers have already received specialized training relating to animal cruelty investigations.
"Where we are right now, we're actually looking at the data and what does that look like in the City of Edmonton, and do we have enough particular work to actually create a standalone section to look at that," the chief said.
McFee said there is literature showing a correlation between animal abuse and violence against people, and that one source of information is the Ottawa Police Service, which has a specialized unit that works on these types of cases.
Russell said her association recently met with bylaw officers and a few Edmonton police officers who are interested in the issue.
She said they hope to collect 10,000 signatures for their petition before it's presented to police. By late Monday afternoon, there were nearly 2,500 signatories.