Provincial Oversights Continually Fail Animals in Ontario


horse_5.jpg.size.xxlarge.originalWritten by Heather Clemenceau

There are two types of animal cruelty across the spectrum of animal abuse.  Active cruelty is inflicted with intent to cause harm to an animal and therefore cause suffering.  On the other hand, passive cruelty is inflicted through disinterest in the well-being of animals and usually occurs over long periods of time.

Sometimes passive cruelty happens to our companion animals or sport animals via hoarding or food production.  It is all happening to sentient creatures and can no longer be considered a peripheral concern.  The American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty as one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines conduct disorder as “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.” Conduct disorder is found in those who abuse animals and abuse people.

The link between animal abuse and personal violence is becoming so well established that many communities now cross-train social-service and chiefs-worldanimal-control agencies in how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviours.

In York Region (and indeed across Canada) we’ve seen the police consistently fail to take action against passive cruelty.  They seem bewildered that they are called to attend to cruelty issues that are not related to dogs and cats.  While they are justifiably concerned that the Stouffville cat-killer may turn to harming people,  they have a clear disconnect when it comes to passive cruelty.

While we’re seeing a gradual shift in mentality, activists in York Region Ontario have found that, more often than not, the perpetrators of passive abuse are looked upon with disinterest or scepticism by the authorities, from the OSPCA to the police. In the absence of the OSPCA presence on weekends, the police have consistently refused to act to protect farm animals, despite having the Criminal Code quoted directly to them – seemingly because they do not view these animals as deserving of the same care and protection because they are “products.” There are also concerns about whether police officers have sufficient specialized knowledge of animal husbandry to recognize distress, and whether the police service has enough resources to take on this extra role. In a letter responding to a complaint by me,  they seem to be admitting as much……..

Spent Hens

York Region Police respond to my complaint about police refuse to take action at Saturday livestock sales at the Stouffville Livestock Auction

York Region Police respond to my complaint about police refusal to take action at Saturday livestock sales at the Stouffville Livestock Auction.  Deeds Speak,  indeed.

Compounding the issue of identifying and acting on passive cruelty is the fact that Canada only has only a 1% animal cruelty case conviction rate, due to the absence of adequate legislation.  It`s more important that ever for the police to understand their role in interpreting the Criminal Code as it applies to animals,  since they may be called upon to act more frequently.

horses in poor conditionMPP Jack MacLaren of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario introduced The Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 2012 (Bill 37) in March 2012.  Fortunately,  the Bill did not survive a second reading.  This new bill would have handed over inspection rights for farm animals to members of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). This would undermine the protection of farm animals by giving the inhumane farming industry the right to maintain their own inadequate standards.  It is unconscionable to hand over the welfare of farm animals to any group that has vested interests in the agriculture industry.

Also under Bill 37, farmers would have been allowed to call in their own veterinarians to determine whether abuse exists. Veterinarians who are paid by these farmers and make a living through servicing these farmers’ animals will, in many cases, not want to cause trouble and “bite the hand that feeds them,“  so there will be little imperative to report abuse.  This is an unacceptable conflict of interest.

Inspectors would no longer have had the power of a police officer and will not be able to inspect without the permission of the land owner.  And only the police would be able to lay cocoa-dead-in-the-fieldcharges under the Provincial Offences Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.  Enforcement would be done by the OPP or local police force only after abuse has been substantiated and reported on by the inspectors.

Without OSPCA officers having the authority to intervene directly at the time they witness the offence, that enforcement branch becomes completely useless,  and animals would suffer until and unless enforcement finally arrives by the action of the police. Experience has shown us that the likelihood of police taking action to uphold Criminal Code of Canada (or any other action) on behalf of animals is poor.  While OSPCA inaction directly contributed to the death of this horse,  could we expect much more from the police,  had they been engaged in this case? Fortunately,  the bill is now dead,  otherwise,  these changes would have meant that the public would have even less transparency than under the current system,  where the OSPCA reports next to nothing and due to privacy laws,  and will not give the average citizen any details about an investigation.  Investigation results should be made public.

On this issue even OSPCA chair Rob Godfrey agrees.

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

7 responses »

  1. This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

    Nuff said!

  2. Yet the OSPCA “deserves” 5.5 million bucks. I can hardly WAIT to see what that gets wasted on. That was the scariest news I’ve heard for some time. Money isn’t the solution, but throwing money at the problem makes people feel better. Government legislation needs to change. OSPCA, let’s use that money to LOBBY for change, shall we? The OSPCA won’t do that, though. Their gravy train needs to keep chugging along.

    • Yeah, all too often… money for nothing
      Last court date was Nov 13th, I think…regarding Ms.Sicko up at Markdale farm.
      Ya know, I still can’t believe that cashier in Huron-Co Op feed store on Hwy 10 sticking up for
      Ms. Sicko when I was there in late summer.

  3. Heather Jack MacLaren pulled Bill 37. It never got as far as a vote. He replaced it with a revised version in Bill 47 albeit not much to help animals. It was defeated in the Legislature at Second Reading.

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