Most Humane Societies and SPCAs in Ontario not only care for animals, but as independent affiliates of the OSPCA, also have police powers under the OPSCA Act to investigate animal cruelty and neglect, This puts us in a unique position among our local colleagues. When other groups go wrong and run afoul of the law, it is the Ottawa Humane Society that is responsible for investigating and intervening. It is a difficult situation to be in, but it is a responsibility we take very seriously.
At the OHS, when it comes to our investigatory role, our philosophy is to take the least intrusive measure possible in order to achieve a lasting and satisfactory outcome. In the vast majority of cases, this means we are educating and advising. We can and do issue orders and remove animals to relieve their distress. We can and do charge people under the OSPCA Act and the Criminal Code. But orders, removals and charges are very much the exception, reserved for the few that will not comply with the law or are so serious in nature that a legal action is demanded. In fact, so successful are our educational interventions that of the more than 1,000 investigations we undertake every year, only a dozen or two require charges.
When we take the exceptional step of laying charges, and when it is the painful exception of another group that is charged, it is a reminder that not all animal organizations are the same. Of course, some are outstanding. Many produce much good with few resources. Some know what to do, but cannot, as they have taken on too much. Some are misguided, and believe that leaving an animal in illness and in pain is an acceptable alternative to euthanasia. Some are animal hoarders under a different guise. Some will not change with education, advice, or any of the less severe interventions open to us. And so to protect animals we are left with the only remaining option of charges.
Bruce Roney Executive Director
Ottawa Humane Society