Unless something is resolved at the provincial level, the Guelph Humane Society will no longer be investigating or enforcing animal cruelty cases as of April 1.
Last year alone the GHS investigated 350 cases locally.
The money is there. The trained, experienced investigators are there. But they are about to be stripped of their authority.
For many years the GHS has employed Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animal (OSPCA) officers. The GHS covers the majority of the cost of those officers, whose authority comes from an agreement between the OSPCA and the provincial government.
But in the wake of a recent court case that ruled the OSPCA’s enforcement powers were unconstitutional the OSPCA informed the province that when its contract with the province expires March 31 it will no longer give its officers the authority to conduct investigations and enforcement.
“We would no longer have the lead on any investigations nor be able to respond to complaints as we have in the past,” said Dr. Thomas Shane Bateman, chair of the GHS Board.
“We feel it’s a very important service, a critical service, an essential service some people might say, to our community.”
What happens starting April 1 is currently up in the air.
“We’re in a bit of a vacuum until we know for sure how the provincial ministry is going to deal with the decision by the OSPCA and be able to offer direction to all of those who are involved in this.”
The OSPCA has requested a three-month transition period and Bateman said that would give time to work at a solution while still maintaining the current level of enforcement.
Humane societies around the province are also discussing possible options.
Unless a solution is found, the move could leave investigations in the hands of police, as they are the only other ones with the authority to investigate and enforce animal cruelty cases.
“They’re very busy people and this is adding one more very stressful and difficult aspect to the work that they do. It’s important that we recognize the implications of any decision by the ministry on that front,” Bateman said.
“This decision signals a crisis for animals in Ontario,” said GHS executive director Adrienne McBride in a written statement.
“GHS is the voice for animals in Guelph and Wellington County and we are very concerned that this decision will leave animals vulnerable.”
Bateman said the GHS is asking the public to reach out to their MPPs on the issue to try and get it resolved and agree to the three-month extension while a more permanent solution is found.