Jessica Johnson says the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has targeted her for years. Last spring, the organization seized 16 dogs from her home. Unable to pay the exorberant boarding fees charged by the OSPCA, Johnson lost those dogs forever. Now Johnson is challenging the organization again, as the OSPCA has issued orders for her to take five of her Yorkshire Terriers to a veterinarian to have their teeth examined. Johnson says that orders were also written for her to ensure the dogs have food and water, an unfounded claim according to her, and that all power cords be lifted off the ground in her home. The OSPCA also requested two pairs of scissors be removed from the living room coffee table.
A self-described "hobby breeder", Johnson has been breeding Yorkshire Terriers for over ten years. She has survived cancer and currently has ongoing health problems, using a walker while she awaits a hip replacement. She says she breeds dogs, one or two litters at a time, for supplemental income. In the past ten years, Johnson guesses that she has sold roughly ten puppies a year. Of those, she says she has only had one puppy returned to her due to a health problem. One past inspection a few years back, the OSPCA came to her house with a veterinarian who determined that all her dogs were fine, with the exception of one who "may" have needed dental work. Johnson maintains that the OSPCA had no right to seize her dogs last year, and no right to attempt to do so again, saying that all of her dogs have always been well cared for. While she admits to being slower than most on account of her health problems, she maintains that all her dogs are well tended to. In her belief the OSPCA sees nothing but dollar signs in her dogs' eyes, and she has had enough.
According to Johnson the OSPCA has come to her residence three times since mid May, each time with a warrant. The first time they broke in through a window while she was asleep. This is when they issued the orders. No veterinarian was present. Fearful the dogs would be seized, Johnson removed them from her home & gave them to a friend to keep at an undisclosed location. On the second visit in early June, upon realizing there were no dogs in the house, the OSPCA never entered. Earlier this week the OSPCA returned with OPP officers and asked to be let in again. Johnson says she wanted a witness, so she told the OSPCA agents and OPP that she wanted to make a phone call first. At this point, Johnson alleges the OSPCA agents and OPP removed her screen door, reached in to unlock a deadbolt, and proceeded to "barge in", nearly knocking her off her walker. When they saw there was only one dog present at the time, the OSPCA agents and OPP left the property.
This case speaks to both the good and the bad of the OSPCA. I'm sure many would speculate that 16 dogs is too many for one individual to take care of, especially if that individual is handicapped and on pension. However in speaking with Johnson, she does not appear to be one to not care for her pets, and she states that she has relatives who help ease her situation. Kudos to the OSPCA (I bet you never thought you'd hear that from me did you?) for taking it upon themselves to investigate when they felt there was need for concern.
Now the flip side. If you look at the history of OSPCA actions for the last few years, you'll find two major trends in its operations : vendettas and seizing by numbers for profit.
Heaven forbid I would ever be targeted by the OSPCA. I would be scared out of my mind. Like so many others, I would live in constant fear of the organization. The OSPCA will write orders they know their "target" will have no reasonable chance of complying with. Case in point, the order for Johnson to remove power cords from her floor. Let's suppose she complies with all of the orders given to her by the OSPCA. The dogs are healthy, well nourished, and have been seen by a veterinarian. Now let's say the next time the OSPCA investigates, they find that while most power cords have been removed from the ground, one has slipped off a counter onto the floor. I would gladly place money on the fact that the OSPCA will seize the dogs. Why? Because they now hold a vendetta against Johnson, and nothing is going to stop them in their quest to prove that they are right, and she is wrong. We've seen it time and time again, this ongoing harassment by the OSPCA. Just to be on the safe side I recommend everyone remove all power cords from the floor immediately, not to mention every pair of scissors within reach of a paw.
I'm sure the majority of us are safe from such harassment, seeing as few of us have pets in such large numbers, let alone pets with a high resale value. Check the news over the past year. The OSPCA is always quick to publish a press release when it has seized a large number of animals from a hoarder. Again, good for the OSPCA for removing these animals from such crowded conditions. What the press releases never detail however, is just how much money the organization has made with its quick turnaround of these animals. I bet Ms. Johnson's 16 dogs sold for a pretty penny. I'm not faulting the OSPCA for doing what it should by removing animals from those who hoard (though in Johnson's case, she has never been found guilty of doing so) or for in turn adopting these animals for profit, but when one consistently sees press releases on the seizures of such large numbers of animals, one must question the motives of the OSPCA. Is the organization truly concerned about animal welfare, or the profits reaped? I am not saying the OSPCA never seizes an animal from a one or two pet household, though it does trouble me that two of the cases I personally know of involved the organization quickly killing the dogs rather than returning them to the owners. Here is one of those cases, it scares me to think how many more we public don't know of.
In the meantime, Jessica Johnson is taking her case to appeal the OSPCA's orders to the Animal Care Review Board. Like so many others, she wonders how long the harassment will go on. She says she has no intention of disclosing the location of her dogs, fearful of what might happen to them in the organization's hands.
You all know where I stand when it comes to backyard breeders. Is Jessica Johnson one of them? By many accounts she is. While I would rather see people like Ms. Johnson finding supplemental income through other avenues, what she is doing is not currently against the law. Should it be? In my mind yes, but that is a debate for another time. For today, unlike the OSPCA I'm not a fan of harassing a retired cancer survivor while she awaits a hip replacement.
Please share you thoughts in the comment section, & I'll be updating this story with any developments.