Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rein In The OSPCA Says Tory MPP

Newmarket Aurora MPP Frank Klees says the society that polices animal welfare in Ontario is out of control and wants to raise the issue in Queen’s Park
by SUSAN MANN

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should be placed under government oversight because it isn’t using its power and authority appropriately, says Tory MPP Frank Klees. In a private-member’s resolution scheduled for a one-hour debate followed by a vote Nov. 18, the Newmarket - Aurora MPP says the organization should be under the authority of the community safety and correctional services minister “to ensure that there is a clearly defined and effective provincial oversight of all animal shelter services in the province.”  He also asks the government in the resolution to separate the inspection and enforcement powers of the society from its function as a charity providing animal shelter services.

Klees says prosecutors dropping animal cruelty charges against former board members from the Toronto Humane Society because of mistakes made by OSPCA investigators is a recent example that shows the society not using its power and authority appropriately. Another example is the provincial government saying earlier this year it couldn’t stop the society from euthanizing animals at the Newmarket Shelter to eradicate ringworm. When Klees found out the shelter planned to euthanize all 350 animals it housed, he contacted six veterinarians who all agreed the plan was inappropriate. Klees says he asked Rick Bartolucci, former community safety minister, in the Ontario legislature to put a stay on the decision until alternative options were explored. “His response to me at the time was that he had no authority to intervene.” Klees says 92 animals were killed. But under public pressure the OSPCA board agreed to stop the euthanasia plan. Area veterinarians stepped in and donated their services to nurse the animals back to health. “This was a clear example of inappropriate action and lack of oversight on the part of the government over the OSPCA,” he says.

Revisions to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 2008 hiked fines for animal welfare violations and permitted OSPCA inspectors to inspect places where animals are kept for entertainment, exhibition, boarding, sale or hire. In a Nov. 1 email, Connie Mallory, OSPCA’s acting chief inspector states that the revisions did not substantially change the society’s officers’ authority.
The revisions made it possible for the society to do its mandated work without the necessity of using criminal legislation and charges, she writes. When asked to comment on Klees’ statements, Mallory did not respond.

Richmond Hill resident Sunny Reuter, who has helped people in rural areas tackle charges laid by the society, is urging people to attend the legislature Nov. 18 to support Klees’ resolution. She says the ringworm situation in Newmarket galvanized people in Ontario and prompted the formation of several Facebook groups, including one with nearly 40,000 members to protest the decision to euthanize the animals. For almost seven years, Reuter says she has been advocating for rural people but “that never got any traction. All of a sudden we have 40,000 people who are saying there needs to be oversight of the OSPCA.”

Legislative Assembly of Ontario records show that to date, MPPs have delivered 58 petitions to the provincial legislature. Klees claims thousands of petitions have been sent to MPPs from all parties. “They’ve received them with specific letters by their own constituents asking them to read these petitions into the legislature.” There is lots of support from New Democrats and Liberals for the resolution in addition to support from Tory MPPs, he adds.

Crystal Mackay, executive director of the Ontario Farm Animal Council, says a movement towards government funding and oversight of the OSPCA’s enforcement side is definitely a step in the right direction.
But regardless of what happens to the resolution, Mackay says the council will still work closely with OSPCA staff on farm animal care issues. Bette Jean Crews, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says the federation is “totally supportive of government oversight of OSPCA.” Farmers have been concerned about the sweeping new powers granted to the society, including the right to enter property without a warrant. “That has been an issue in the farm community for some time if OSPCA people are not trained in biosecurity measures,” she says. Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman says if passed, the resolution will be sent to the provincial cabinet. But cabinet is not obliged to do what the resolution directs. Yet if the legislature “speaks that means a lot of the government members are speaking too because they out number the opposition members,” he says.
More information about Klees’ resolution is at: www.ospcatruth.com . This is a web site advocating for government oversight over the OSPCA and is not the OSPCA web site. BF  

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