The Province June 13, 2004 SPCA SHOULD BE PROBED
"B.C. SPCA should be probed by someone with bloodhound nose by Jon Ferry
Animal welfare has become a big issue in B.C. It may not be as big as health care. But it's huge all the same, especially among those Lower Mainlanders whose pets have gradually become, well, respected members of the family.
Now, it could simply be that we B.C.ers have become ideologically dysfunctional people who find it hard to relate to other humans. Or it might be that, despite our pit-bull tendencies when it comes to politics and labour relations, we really are sentimental saps. But the fact is we love our animals. Indeed, we often seem to get on better with them than with our two-legged friends.
"Animal welfare is a much bigger issue in B.C. than it is in Ontario," noted Craig Daniell, the $109,000-a-year chief executive of the B.C. SPCA.
Yet, our governments haven't responded to the clear public will that defenseless animals be protected and cared for with far greater compassion. As far as municipal governments are concerned, Daniell said, "animal issues are always relegated to the bottom of the pile. Unfortunately, animals don't vote."
Fines for heinous acts of animal cruelty are ludicrously low. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Daniell noted the maximum fine is a paltry $2,000, even for those in the highly lucrative "puppy-mill" business.
And that needs to be changed. Which is one of the reasons Daniell has sought a meeting with Agriculture Minister John van Dongen. "I would like to see seomthing substantially higher than the $2,000," he said Friday.
Another reason is that, despite a poorly managed recent restructuring, the non-profit SPCA has been racking up eye-popping deficits. Currently, the SPCA receives just $70,000 in a training grant. The Alberta SPCA gets $750,000 a year from government, Daniell says.
The scandal-plagued SPCA, with its revolving door management, needs a radical overhaul.
In enforcing animal cruelty laws, it acts like a government agency. But it's almost entirely dependent on donations. It also runs animal shelters -- a function already performed more cheaply by various other charitable agencies.
Vancouver realtor Donna Liberson, of the Animals Rights Coalition watchdog group, urged Friday that the SPCA's enforcement work be done by government. The SPCA avoids scrutiny, she said: "They're accountable to no one."
The B.C. Animal Welfare Coalition, meanwhile has called for Victoria to launch an independent probe in the SPCA. "I think there has to be some investigation from an outside party to ensure that the trust can come back and know that things are being run properly." said spokeswoman Cheryl Rogers.
Such an inquiry, by someone with a nose like a bloodhound, is long overdue. "