The Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) has reached out to SaultOnline to share with members of our community how to properly report animal abuse and cruelty.
In response to a previous SaultOnline article, ‘Has Social Media Skewed Animal Care in the Sault?’ the Ontario SPCA hopes to help clarify to Saultites how they can recognize abuse, what constitutes neglect, and the role of the Ontario SPCA officer in our region.
“It takes a community to help animals,” said Lynn Michaud, Senior Inspector with the Ontario SPCA, “we need to be all of their voices. An animal can’t come in and make a report saying ‘I’m not being fed.’ It is up to us. Animals are very much a component of our society.”
For people who are hesitant to report, Michaud said it is critical that you call and report even if it feels conflicting or awkward. As an senior inspector with over fifteen years of experience with the organization, she said that it is challenging for the Ontario SPCA to do a full investigation if we don’t have all the information.
“We respond to every single report that we receive, but we run into challenges when people want to be anonymous and leave vague information. If someone wants to remain anonymous they can and we respect that, but we need access to all of the information in order to fully investigate a case,” Michaud stated.
Witnesses are critical to cases of animal abuse, so it is critical that witnesses come forward.
In terms of neglect, Michaud said generally people are pretty aware of the signs and knowing when something isn’t right with an animal.
“When an animal is matted, dirty, appears unkempt and thin those are generally signs that there is neglect. When an animal looks ill and is always outside, most people can identify that. But the important thing is that they report when they see these things,” Michaud explained.
As mentioned in the previous SaultOnline article as linked above, there is also a clear distinction between the Ontario SPCA and the Sault Humane Society. While the local shelter can issue fines for leaving a dog in a hot car or outside with no shelter, they cannot issue directives. Directives state that you must do a certain task, be it build a shelter or remove a pet from a circumstance, within a certain amount of time. Otherwise, you will have to go to court. A number of things can be ordered under provincial jurisdiction that municipal by-laws don’t have the breadth to cover.
That being said, the Sault Humane Society has recently enacted new by-laws that give them the jurisdiction to issue fines for more instances of abuse and neglect than ever before. The goal? Less issues getting so out of control that they end up in a dire circumstance that requires Ontario SPCA intervention, more issues dealt with on a local and small-scale level, ultimately improving the well-being of animals in our community.
According to the SPCA act, there is only three conditions that allow anyone to remove an animal. The owner has to be unavailable to relieve the distress in a reasonable fashion, the distress has to be immediate, dire and life-threatening to the point where a veterinarian has to recommend removal of the animal, or lastly if a previous order has been served and the owner has not complied. The example given by Michaud was “If we get a call when a dog is hit by a car and the dog is suffering, we tell them they have to bring their dog to a vet in forty-five minutes. If they don’t comply then we have the right to seize the animal.”
Ultimately, the Ontario SPCA wants to make it clear that they are not allowed under any circumstance to go onto someone’s residence without their permission or a search warrant. “Animals are a conundrum, because they are sentient beings. Under the law, they are property. We’ve had to walk away from cases, and it is heartbreaking for our officers. But, without the proper information and evidence, we just can’t proceed. We have to follow laws and procedures.”
That is why it is so important that any witness to animal abuse or cruelty report as much information as possible as quickly as they can.
If you think you have a case of animal abuse or cruelty to report, call 310-SPCA. That is the provincial number for the Ontario SPCA, from there the calls are dispatched to the officer in the affected region. The officer in the Sault region is Carrie Conforzi.
For more information on the Ontario SPCA, click here.
For more information on the Sault Humane Society and municipal by-laws, click here.