The Abuse of Animal and Human Rights.
The Need for Change
Section 4 states:
- No person shall cause an animal to be in distress.
- Subject to subsection (3), for the purposes of this Part, an animal is in distress if it is:
- deprived of adequate food, water, care or shelter;
- injured, sick, in pain or suffering; or
- abused or neglected
One problem with the Act is the unclear interpretation of distress which allows SPCA officers to act according to their own standards of what they consider acceptable care.
In one case file, a SPCA official said the animals had food and water BUT they didn’t know how fresh the water was. In a further report, they comment on dirty dishes in a sink and a cat sitting by the stove. Yet, unless the stove is turned on, what does any of that have to do with causing the animal distress? They (the SPCA investigators) are clearly able to twist the Act to include a person’s house cleaning standards which have little to do with animals in distress. If we allow the definition of distress to become so broad and allow a difference in living standards to empower the SPCAs, then human rights are truly in trouble. Basically, if humans can live under certain conditions within the law, we cannot expect animals to have a higher standard of living.
Believing animals in distress under the Act:
Section 6 states:
- Where an animal is found in distress in a public place or, subject to section 7, in any other place, an animal protection officer may take any action that the animal protection officer considers necessary to relieve the animal’s distress where the person responsible for the animal:
- does not promptly take steps to relieve the animal’s distress; or
- can not be found immediately and informed of the animal’s distress.
As seen in the seizure of rescued cats in Jan. 2011, the SSPCA stated in court that they knew the homeowner would be away from her residence in Elrose, SK when they planned on inspecting her home. They made no reasonable effort to let the homeowner know of an impending inspection nor, after breaking into the house, did they make any effort as per the Act to address any concerns they had which seemed to primarily revolve around the house cleaning. Clearly, they broke the law to further their own agenda.
As seen in the Court of Appeal in April 2011, the three judges did not feel that the SPCA should have entered the home and had the SPCA tried to obtain a warrant from any of the three they would have been denied for not having probable cause.
Section 10 states:
Sale or gift of animal
- The humane society may sell or give the animal to any person if the person responsible for the animal:
- is not located and notified within three business days after the day on which the animal was delivered; or
- is located and notified but does not, within three business days after the day on which the animal was delivered:
- in accordance with section 12, pay the expenses incurred with respect to the animal; or
- enter into an agreement for the payment of the expenses that is satisfactory to the humane society.
In Saskatchewan if you get a parking ticket, speeding ticket or any other fine or violation, you have the right to appeal the matter in front of a judge. Yet under the Animal Protection Act once the SPCA claims an animal(s) you MUST pay whatever fine they set within 72 hours or they can kill or sell your animal. They never have to charge or convict you of any offense.
Definition of black mail according to English dictionary:
- To exact or attempt to exact (money or anything of value) from (a person) by threats or intimidation; extort
- To attempt to influence the actions of (a person), esp. by unfair pressure or threats.
What we see right now under the Animal Protection Act are government funded blackmailing and extortion. “pay us whatever we want for taking your property or we will kill your animals.” “sign this paper here giving up all rights to your livestock or animals and we may not charge you later with anything”.
Under the present law the SPCA can take up to 6 months to press any charges and can further drag this matter through the courts for many more months or years. Many people who have their animals taken may feel intimidated when told they will go to jail if they do not cooperate. Many more are still in shock in the first 72 hours of having their homes and privacy violated and can’t clearly decide on a course of action in that short period.
And then at the end of the matter if the person is not convicted of any offense or the charges are dropped or stayed, the SSPCA has already profited by the seizure. It has been seen across Canada that “creating these pockets of animal crisis”, donations increase greatly during these episodes. Much like groups like the Red Cross who receive larger numbers of donations during major disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes. The SSPCA must continue to manufacture “these sensational rescues” if they are to bring in enough money to cover day to day management costs.
What is the solution?
Clearly the laws have to change to protect both the rights of animals and humans. The right to an appeal and the right to have one’s property and cherished pets returned should be mandatory.
Only fully trained personnel such as police should be allowed to break into homes and gather evidence as they have more training and experience than the SPCA officers. Since a person may lose a cherished pet, their business, and livelihood, and may suffer great harm to one’s reputation, it would be irresponsible to allow amateurs such as the SPCA who must be obviously biased to gain from the seizure. As it stands right now, the SSPCA play judge, jury, and executioner all at the same time.
An appeal board could alleviate abuse of this power and minimize the trauma caused to both animals and people when animals are wrongfully taken. An appeals board can point out defects in the SPCA’s practices, promoting better education of their staff and therefore limiting re-offenses by SPCA staff in the future. An appeal board would provide a safe venue for SPCA staff, volunteers, and the general public to report abuse or neglect of animals within SPCA facilities without fear of reprisal.
How can you make a difference?
Call or write you member of parliament and demand changes to the Animal Protection Act.
Support Sask. Alley Cats in its fight to change the laws and protect the rights of both animals and people from an abuse of power by the Saskatchewan SPCA.
Box 621 Elrose, Sk.