CORNWALL — An Iroquois farmer has filed a lawsuit against the OSPCA and Inspector Bonnie Bishop for what he alleges has been a 30-year history of harassment and illegal searches by the humane society.
In a statement of claim filed at the Cornwall Superior Court of Justice recently, beef farmer and horse breeder Ralph Hunter is suing the OSPCA for $300,000—claiming punitive and aggravated damages, legal fees and money paid to the humane society after his animals were seized.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Hunter, who keeps beef cattle, horses, ponies and dogs on his Iroquois property, is also requesting the court issue an order preventing Bishop and the OSPCA from entering and searching his property without a warrant.
Under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, OSPCA inspectors and agents are able to enter and inspect a property without a warrant only if they are inspecting buildings and places that are used for exhibit, entertainment, boarding, hire or sale of animals.
To enter and inspect a building or place being used as a dwelling or residence, inspectors are required to get the consent of the homeowner, unless there is reason to believe an animal is in immediate distress—or an animal needing immediate intervention to alleviate suffering or to its preserve life.
Before moving to Iroquois in 2006, Hunter also owned farm properties in Cardinal, Glen Stewart and Charlieville, Ont.
In a three and a half year period between November 2005 and May 2009, Hunter alleges Bishop and the OSPCA entered his property more than 100 times without a warrant and seized dozens of animals.
Following a search in November 2005, the humane society charged Hunter with three counts of neglect under the Criminal Code.
But the court stayed the charges in 2008 after it found that Hunter's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated.
Between March and July of 2006, Hunter alleges Bishop and the OSPCA came on his Cardinal farm property more than 60 times, about two times a week.
He also alleges the OSPCA seized at least 14 farm animals from the property without cause.
In April 2006, a fire ripped through Hunter's Cardinal property, destroying his home.
While firefighters were containing the blaze, Hunter alleges OSPCA inspectors entered and searched the property and questioned him about his animals.
Hunter's allegations into harassment by the OSPCA continue after he moved from Cardinal to Iroquois, including when he alleges two inspectors were found searching his property in the middle of the night with flashlights.
In October 2006, Hunter alleged the OSPCA "threatened" to seize a dog if he didn't have its toe nails cut. Read more.