Humane Society expects more calls

The Simcoe & District Humane Society occasionally investigates animal abuse and neglect cases in partnership with the Norfolk OPP.If push comes to shove on the question of animal welfare, the executive director of the local humane society says this will be the model going forward now that the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says it is getting out of investigations and enforcement.“That’s what we’ve been doing all along when OSPCA agents are unavailable,” Cathie Hosken of Vittoria said Wednesday.“That is nothing new. I do believe the local call volume will escalate and people will panic. But I don’t believe the province will leave us in a negative situation. I hope they will act before it comes to that.”The role of the OSPCA has been in flux since last fall when the animal welfare organization announced it would no longer investigate complaints involving horses and other farm animals.The agency suffered another setback in January when a Superior Court judge ruled that a private charity with no civilian oversight could not conduct criminal investigations in Ontario.This ruling and ongoing funding issues prompted the OSPCA to announce this week that it will suspend enforcement activity April 1. In a news release, OSPCA has invited the province to enter into negotiations that could extend the current working relationship till June 28.“Enforcement is the responsibility of government, one that we can confidently support by offering animal protection services to enforcement agencies,” OSPCA CEO Kate MacDonald said Tuesday in a news release.“Being an outside agency, we have been woefully under-resourced to provide enforcement. We have struggled to meet the need and have struggled with both officer safety and – at time – conflicts with our charitable mission. It simply is not in the interests of animals or this charity to continue along the same path.”The OSPCA has a 146-year history in Ontario. It has operated under its current mandate since the passage of the Ontario SPCA Act in 1919. The agency says enforcement accounts for about 20 per cent of its activity.Cracks in the OSPCA edifice became public in December when spontaneous protests erupted outside a hobby farm in Townsend Centre east of Waterford.A Waterford-area resident circulated photos of three sick horses with comments that the OSPCA was neglecting its responsibilities.One horse was euthanized in a driveway in front of the crowd while the other two were removed to an undisclosed location.The OSPCA gave assurances at the time that it is monitoring the situation. However, the incident in Townsend Centre was the catalyst for the formation of a new animal-welfare group dedicated to strengthening animal welfare laws in Ontario.One of the founders of Animal Welfare Watch Ontario (AWWO) is Brenda Thompson of Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue in Hagersville.“At least this should get the government to act,” Thompson said in response this week to the OSPCA announcement.“We’ve been telling them for some time that the OSPCA had lost its way. The court decision that said OSPCA’s enforcement authority is unconstitutional should have been a wake-up call but the (Ford) government decided to waste more time and money by appealing that decision. Now, they actually have to pay attention to the fact that Ontario is about to become the only province without animal welfare law enforcement.”AWWO co-founder Michael Zimmerman was responsible for the drafting and oversight of animal welfare laws during his career with the Ontario public service. In the same AWWO news release, Zimmerman said police in Ontario are the default enforcement agencies in the absence of the OSPCA.“Police should not have to take that on though,” Zimmerman says. “They’re busy enough and they generally don’t have the training, equipment or infrastructure to deal with animals.“Handing off animal protection to police is not the solution. Their involvement – even on an interim basis – is only a good thing if it compels the government to act.”AWWO members have been urged to lobby their MPPs and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to address the void the OSPCA is about to

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