Why the OLA Challenged the Constitutionality of the OSPCA Act by Marlene Black

Marlene Black

Dear farmers and animal owners: For many years now, the Ontario Landowners Association has been receiving panicked calls from surprised animal owners/farmers/urban pet owners telling us that the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) was at their door as a result of an anonymous call complaining about potential abuse of animals. What qualifies as abuse when these enforcers arrive at your doorsteps? Well there is no definition of abuse in their ACT so it is up to the discretion of the OSPCA person standing at your door.

We all know what real abuse means and we, as a society can’t and won’t tolerate it but is it abuse if your outdoor water dish is not heated? Is it abuse if your pets toe nails are a bit longer than they should be? Is it abuse if your outdoor husky dog’s doghouse is not insulated? Is it abuse if your Holstein milking dairy cows have hip bones that are visible? Is it abuse if the three sources of water for your well-watered horses (creeks etc.) don’t count and you need to have a water trough even though your horses won’t drink the sulphur water? Is it abuse if your 29-year old horse is thin? Is it abuse if the cord from your lamp to the plug is lying on the floor and the enforcer says your dogs could chew it? Is it abuse if you leave your beloved thin breed ‘Akbash’ dog at a kennel and he is killed by the OSPCA who think he is a starving great Pyrenees and when you arrive at the kennel to pick him up, you find he has been destroyed and you are charged with abuse, despite having a ‘healthy vet certificate’? Is it abuse if your little dog has some tartar on his teeth? Is it abuse if your dogs are in a barn without electricity when you live in a house without electricity? Is it abuse if your dog has fleas even though you have him on a treatment plan from your vet?

All these examples are 100% true and a small sample of the calls that we have taken over the years. The problem is the OSCPA enforcers have been given POLICE POWERS with little training and no oversight. In most of the above cases, the animals were removed, and the owners charged full price on a daily basis for the boarding of them. Most were given ‘orders’ that they had to obey like buying a heated dog house and the enforcers can come day or night and check to see if you have complied or they can give you new orders. If you haven’t obeyed down to the day, they can remove them. Your explanations are pointless. The cost to you in court fees and/ or boarding fees can easily run over $25,000 and up to $100,000. They can even take your animals and sell them before you can go to court so if you win, your animals are gone.

Back in 2013, the Landowners were told that a Charter Challenge to the OSPCA Act may be one avenue to take to rectify these problems and gain some oversight and we decided to do it. Lawyer Kurtis Andrews who has dealt with many animal cases was lead counsel and he has compiled a huge case from interviewing victims and preparing documents to present in court. The hearing was May 16, 2018 in Perth Ontario and it was a full day. Kurtis did extremely well presenting all the problems that can happen when Police powers are granted to a charity that has to raise money to keep going. Because the OSPCA is a charity, there is no ability for the public to gain access to information. An animal rights group “Animal Justice” joined as intervenors on our side as they also agreed with the lack of oversight issue and no freedom of information which left them concerned for what happens to the animals after they are removed. We will hear the decision probably December 2018.

From the beginning, this Charter Challenge was about fixing a bad law, the OSPCA Act, and not in any way meant to undermine the protection of animals. On the contrary, if this application is successful, it is expected that the law will be changed to ensure that animals are better protected in a manner expected by Ontario residents. And we have already made a difference. The panicked calls we used to receive have greatly reduced in number.

Since October 2013, when the application to question the constitutionality of the OSPCA Act was filed with the court, the Ontario Landowners Association has raised over $130,000 to cover our lawyer’s fees and administrative fees. We are not yet at our goal and have about $15,000 left to pay.

We are requesting that readers of this newsletter consider making a donation to help finalize our bill. We appreciate anything you can give, no matter how large or small.

To donate online and to follow the progress of this case, visit www.fixthelaw.ca.

Or you can send a cheque payable to the OLA Litigation Fund to:
The OLA Litigation Fund
P.O. Box 346
Woodlawn, ON
K0A 3M0