Saturday, May 7, 2011

This Week Marks The One Year Anniversary Of The OSPCA Ringworm Outbreak

This coming Wednesday, May 11 will mark one year since the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals declared an outbreak of ringworm at its Newmarket shelter, and as a result euthanized over 100 animals in its care. This tragedy sparked a national outcry from citizens, politicians, and media questioning the capability of the OSPCA to do its job as an animal welfare organization. Since last May what, you may ask, has been done to ensure that such a tragedy does not occur again? The short answer to your question is : NOTHING.

From a political standpoint, to say that more is needed is a tremendous understatement. Over last summer and into the fall thousands of petitions were sent to MPPs across the province requesting the provincial government review the powers granted to the OSPCA, and to push for provincial oversight of the organization. The petition, introduced as a private members bill, was submitted to the legislature by Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees, an outspoken critic of the OSPCA's actions. On November 18 of last year, the private members bill was defeated in the legislature by the Liberals, though it had unanimous support from both the PCs and members of the NDP. Indeed, with regard to issues of animal welfare, this should make for a very important upcoming provincial election, in that both opposition parties have stated that they intend to ensure that the OSPCA comes under provincial jurisdiction.

The OSPCA, for its part, has done little to demonstrate that it takes the event of last May very seriously. Beyond a public apology issued at the time, we have seen nothing in the past 12 months as proof that change is coming. Same board members and key staff? Check. Continuing to appeal to the Ontario public for donations (even though registered as a charity, the organization receives millions from the provincial government)? Check. Business as usual? Check. Have an external agency conduct a review of what occured last May & issue said review to the public?.......Not so fast! The OSPCA stated that as soon as the review was concluded, it would be made public. It has now been ONE YEAR, a time frame that most would consider to be more than ample for such an investigation. Yet have Ontarians heard anything to date? Rumour has it that the investigation has indeed been completed and handed to the OSPCA board, which of course serves little in the way of transparency to the public.

So what exactly will it take to ensure an animal welfare system in this province that exists TRULY TO SERVE THE ANIMALS? It will take you. It will take me. It will take the thousands and thousands of animal lovers in Ontario to say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!" It will take a political party in power to accept the fact that we need its help. This should be an issue that crosses party lines and political agendas. In the meantime we will still be here each and every day, and we will be going nowhere, until this province finally has an animal welfare system that we can all be proud of.

On Wednesday, May 11, those who wish to push for change are encouraged to drop by the OSPCA Newmarket shelter to show that this issue is far from over.

Details of the event.