Hand animal abuse calls over to police, OHS president says

The head of the Ottawa Humane Society believes Ottawa police should assume the role of enforcing animal cruelty laws once the OSPCA shuts down its investigatory arm at the end of June.

Still unclear who will take over once OSPCA's enforcement mandate ends June 28

It's unclear which agency will handle animal cruelty cases in Ottawa once the OSPCA ends enforcement on June 28. (Regina Humane Society)

The question of who will handle animal cruelty investigations in Ottawa remains unanswered, just three months before the agency currently enforcing the law plans to stop.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) said no on Tuesday to a request from the Ontario government to continue enforcing animal cruelty laws until the end of 2019. Instead, the OSPCA plans to shut down its enforcement arm on June 28.

That leaves municipalities including Ottawa scrambling to fill the void.

Certainly the police would tick a lot of our boxes.- Bruce Roney, Ottawa Humane Society

The president and CEO of the Ottawa Humane Society confirmed it won't be his agency.

"Our board concluded that we could not provide the service that is really needed. We would not be the lead," Bruce Roney said Thursday. "We could certainly provide support services, [but] that investigatory role really deserves more of a public resource base than we're able to provide."

Topping the list of potential candidates is the Ottawa Police Service, Roney said, with its combination of accountability, rigorous training and resources.

"Certainly the police would tick a lot of our boxes," Roney said. "I think we're very lucky in Ottawa that we have an excellent police service. The role of the SPCA has greatly diminished over the last several years, and Ottawa police have been picking up the slack."

Bruce Roney, president and CEO of the Ottawa Humane Society, believes Ottawa police are best equipped to answer animal cruelty calls. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Lone OSPCA officer's hours limited

Until 2016, the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) handled animal cruelty cases in Ottawa through a delegated authority issued by the OSPCA.

But then the two agencies waged a bitter public battle over the governance of the OSPCA, resulting in the latter revoking the OHS's mandate to investigate and lay charges. Since then, Roney said, the OSPCA hasn't invested enough resources in enforcing animal cruelty laws in Ottawa. 

A spokesperson for the OSPCA confirmed it has just one officer serving Ottawa during regular business hours on weekdays only, but said that individual is supported by other OSPCA offices across the province.

Emergency situations that arise during evenings and weekends are already handed off to Ottawa police, the spokesperson said.

Based on U.S. model

The Ottawa Police Service said it's waiting to hear from the province and the OSPCA about what will happen after June 28. 

Making police the go-to agency for animal cruelty cases would require the blessing of the Ottawa Police Services Board.

It certainly isn't a new idea in North America.

The OSPCA said it believes Ontario should adopt the model used by the American SPCA, under which police services already handle animal cruelty calls with the advice and guidance of humane societies and the SPCA.


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