Court Decision, February 14, 2013

SPCA vs. La Plante

Truth and justice as it is portrayed on television or in the movies is not how it works in reality. It came as a shock to see how our legal system really works. I was surprised when I was told that two of my witnesses would not be allowed to testify. The warrant used to allow the SPCA to break into my home was based on false statements given to the Justice of the Peace. If the two complainants that the warrant was based on had been allowed to take the stand, we would have seen that what was presented to the JP was not what had been said originally. The person who obtained the warrant had not even talked to the complainants but had been given second-hand information verbally by his superior.

The judge, as I understand it, said that even if the information given to the Animal Protection Officer (APO) by his boss was false or incorrect, as long as the APO believed the information given to him was the truth then the warrant was good. Even if the complainants were to say that the information was false, the point becomes irrelevant and inadmissible in court. This means that the SPCA can give false information to a co-worker and as long as that co-worker believes that he or she is being told the truth and that truth is presented to a JP, then the warrant will always be good. It makes real witness statements no longer necessary and allows for abuse of the system. The SPCA is not held to the same standards of evidence, obviously, as that of the police and yet their actions can have the same result in a court of law, i.e. jail time and/or a criminal record and/or fines.

It also became apparent that statements made by any APO involved in the investigation do not have to be backed by hard evidence. The APO’s word is considered good enough to convict someone. So how does a person defend themselves when the investigators don’t have to provide evidence to the claims they make?

The short answer is that you cannot defend yourself against such statements. It was for that reason, and after discussing the matter with the Crown and the judge, that I changed my plea to guilty. The judge understood and accepted that I was pleading guilty to ‘allowing the house to become messy on that given day’, but in no way had the animals been denied food, water or adequate care including medical treatment.

Given the fact that my house was cleaned in just one day, this may have brought into question in court as to how bad the house was to begin with. It was because the judge did not believe that the animals were denied food, water or medical care that he did not prohibit me from having the care of animals nor did he limit the number of animals I could care for. The judge did not want to fine me as he felt that I had suffered enough over the last two years and had spent considerable time preparing my case. The Crown insisted that the Act called for some ‘penalty’, so the judge issued a “token fine” of $250 to be paid by July 1, 2013. He also issued a probation order for the next two years, during which time an APO, along with a member of the RCMP, may do an inspection of my home after giving 48 hours notice. The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that I keep up with my housework. On January 12, 2011, evidence showed dirty dishes in the sink and on the counter, laundry on the floor, and some litter boxes that needed cleaning, although there were also clean litter boxes available. It was also noted that 11 animals in quarantine kennels had food, water, clean blankets and litter boxes.

It is sad that so many animals ended up being hurt while under the care of the SPCA simply because I needed to houseclean that day. The judge assured me that if the smell is a point of contention with the SPCA, ammonia monitors will be brought to inspections to assure fairness. During the break-in, the SPCA did not measure air quality but simply stated that it ‘stank’, which is subjective to each person. Occupational Health and Safety states that levels exceeding 25ppm of ammonia should be limited to eight hours increments for human exposure. Ammonia levels checked in my home just after the SPCA break-in showed that levels were only 10ppm. Given that the animals were recovering from an endemic infection of the bowels, this was to be expected. It is not unusual to hear of SPCA shelters that experience conditions like parvo/panleukopenia (extreme vomiting and diarrhea from a virus) through their populations. This is the first time in the 15 years of Saskatchewan Alley Cats history we have had this enteric problem. Our problem was a food-borne bacteria, not a virus. No one died as a direct result of this intestinal problem.