Queen’s Park needs to restore dwindling public confidence over the care of lost, stray, injured, vulnerable and unwanted animals across Ontario. That’s the real issue buried beneath the war of attrition between the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and what’s left of the Toronto Humane Society.
Crown prosecutors recently dropped cruelty and conspiracy charges against former THS directors resulting from an ill-advised and badly-executed OSPCA-led raid on the Toronto shelter last November.
The Crown said the OSPCA committed so many Charter and other legal violations in the raid that saw THS directors handcuffed and paraded before the media, there was no hope of convictions. Proceeding with the charges would have brought the administration of justice into disrepute.
OSPCA Chairman Rob Godfrey responded by attacking the Crown’s decision, calling for Attorney General Chris Bentley to intervene. He said the Crown had ignored mountains of evidence gathered by the OSPCA in what he described as “the largest case of animal cruelty in the province.”
But spokesmen for Bentley said the government has no plans to review the decision to drop the charges, which was not done lightly.
Indeed, the Crown cited the history of animosity and legal fights between the OSPCA and THS in explaining its decision.
The problem is none of this is helping vulnerable animals and the public has no idea who to believe.
We believe the root problem lies in the OSPCA’s dual roles both as a charity and humane society, and as the policing agency for other humane societies.
The potential for conflict of interest — as indicated by the Crown’s decision to abandon the OSPCA-prompted charges against the THS — is enormous.
Enforcing animal care standards should be the job of an independent agency, regulated by government, with no competing role with other animal shelters.
Opposition MPPs have called for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government to implement stronger oversight of the OSPCA, but the Liberals have balked.
The constant charges and counter-charges of wrongdoing between rival animal welfare organizations are undermining public confidence in the system, and, we fear, the quality of care for vulnerable animals.
It has to stop. The province has to stop it.