Court rules OSPCA law enforcement is unconstitutional

An Ontario judge has found some of the enforcement powers held by the province’s animal welfare agency to be unconstitutional and says the government must rewrite related laws to remedy the situation.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Timothy Minnema says the provincial government was wrong to grant police powers to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals without also imposing reasonable standards of transparency and accountability.

The OSPCA has had police powers since the OSPCA Act became law in 1919, with the responsibility to enforce both provincial and Criminal Code animal cruelty laws.

Minnema says the OSPCA appears to be an organization that fulfils public functions without being accountable like other police organizations that have to comply with the Police Services Act, the Ombudsman Act and freedom-of-information laws.

Jeffrey Bogaerts, a paralegal with an interest in animal law welfare, launched the constitutional challenge five years ago.

His lawyer, Kurtis Andrews, says his client is ecstatic with the victory and says the ruling will have ramifications for the delegation of police powers to any private organization.

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