OSPCA suspends Ottawa Humane Society's powers over governance dispute, OHS claims
Ottawa Humane Society will on Thursday seek court orders to stay suspensions
The Ottawa Humane Society is going to court to try to get back its policing powers in cases of animal welfare after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suspended the OHS's status as an affiliate member earlier this month.
The OSPCA suspended the OHS's powers — halting the investigative operations of the society's six enforcement agents in cases of animal cruelty and neglect — and on Thursday the humane society will be asking a judge to stay that suspension, pending the results of a legal challenge.
The humane society contends the dispute began more than a year ago, when it raised concerns with the OSPCA about the OSPCA's governance practices, according to an affidavit sworn by the OHS's executive director, Bruce Roney.
In June 2015, at the OSPCA's annual general meeting, the Ottawa Humane Society raised concerns about the OSPCA's meeting practices, including the ban on employees of humane societies from running to become elected directors of the OSPCA, the affidavit states.
After a follow-up meeting about those concerns and others in October 2015, and after a follow-up letter in November 2015, Roney's affidavit states the humane society received no response from the OSPCA to continue discussions.
Then, in April of this year, the OHS was informed that in 2016 the OSPCA's board of directors had voted to swap out an existing bylaw for a new one, which stripped the rights of Ottawa Humane Society staff (and the staff of all other affiliates) to be directors of the OSPCA, the affidavit states.
Roney — who had once been chair of the OSPCA committee that drafted the previous bylaw — claims the Ottawa Humane Society and other affiliates received no prior notice of the change.
In June 2016, OHS sent a letter to the OSPCA seeking a reversal, and on July 18 the OSPCA board suspended the OHS's affiliate status and the status of its agents without notice, according to a notice of motion filed by the Ottawa Humane Society this week.
The notice states the bylaw swap was "done in bad faith ... for the purpose of depriving OHS and all other affiliates their right to vote on an proposed amendment of the OSPCA's corporate bylaws."
The OHS is asking for interim orders to stay the OSPCA suspensions of society agents and the society itself, as well as to expedite the hearing of an application to challenge them.
None of the Ottawa Humane Society's claims have been proven in court.
The OSPCA said it will continue to provide full service to the Ottawa region for cases of animal cruelty. It said in a statement released Wednesday it has been providing animal welfare enforcement in the Ottawa area since July 18.
For now, suspected cases of animal cruelty in Ottawa are being directed to the OSPCA.