Windsor-Essex humane society waiting for decision on animal cruelty enforcement

The province has to decide how animal cruelty laws will be enforced after its contract with the OSPCA expires in March.

OSPCA will no longer enforce animal cruelty laws after its contract expires in March

Executive director Melanie Coulter says the human society is still taking calls at this point. (Mike Hargreaves/CBC)

It's business as usual at Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, but only until the end of the month.

That's when the Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (OSPCA) contract with the province expires. So far, the agency has not signed a new one.

"We're still looking into the impacts and who the government will decide to take over," said Melanie Coulter, executive director of Windsor/Essex County Humane Society.

The OSPCA has police powers and can enforce both provincial and federal animal cruelty laws.

But that changed in January, when an Ontario court found the OSPCA's powers to be unconstitutional since the private organization did not have any oversight bodies.

However, Coulter said the ruling is being appealed, "our authority, the OSPCA's authority that they delegate to us is still in place."

When the OSPCA's contract wraps up in March, the agency will move into a transition period for about three months where it will shift to a support role — in investigations, providing shelter, collecting forensic evidence and providing veterinary services.

OSPCA's contract with the province will expire at the end of March. There will be a three-month transition period where the agency will provide support services. (CBC News)

Sylvia Jones, minister of community safety and correctional services, said the province is committed to ensuring that no animals fall through the cracks as a result of this change.

"We are actively reviewing the implications of this change to find a solution that works for everyone," said Jones in a statement.

The OSPCA is suggesting a similar model to what exists in New York, where the police's animal cruelty squad leads investigations and works with the local SPCA.

Having police do more enforcement is an idea Hailey Trealout said she can get behind. She's the co-owner and operator of Safe Haven Farmstead, an animal rescue in Windsor-Essex.

Trealout said she also wants more education and awareness, so people know to do all their research before taking on the care of an animal.

"It would be great if there was more done," she said.

The Windsor/Essex County Humane Society investigates roughly 800 to 1,000 cases a year. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

At the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, the organization runs about 800 to 1,000 investigations each year, a number that has been stable over the last few years.

Coulter said the organization will continue to take calls until the end of March.

After that, she said the humane society is committed to providing services like gathering evidence and providing shelter, much like what the OSPCA has offered.

"We don't know what the government's going to come up with," she said. "Our hope is that they come up with something that ensures strong protection and enforcement of cruelty laws in Ontario."

With files from Dale Molnar


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