THE DAUM REPORT: PART ONE: CONTEXT: Prepared for the Freedom of
Information and Privacy Act Review Committee by Kimberly Daum
February 27, 2004
The BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is
best known as a charity. But, it is also a business holding contracts
and providing services for municipalities. And, it is a statutory law
enforcement body that investigates animal cruelty complaints under the
provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is an enigma among
societies, as it does not fall under the more demanding and democratic
Society Act. The BC SPCA is for all intents and purposes a monopoly with
a $20 million annual budget, a very sizable animal welfare “portfolio.”
Of that between $2.5 and $4 million comes from municipal contracts under
which the society provides animal control services. The remainder comes
from “volunteer tax dollars” in the form of donations and legacies. By
comparison, the Variety Club’s annual provincial budget is about $6.5
That BC citizens donate so many funds to the SPCA indicates a
substantial interest in animal welfare in BC. Yet, societies such as the
Variety Club with lesser funds and even humble, little animal rescue,
volunteer groups are governed under the more stringent Society Act,
while its own exclusive PCA Act, which has few requirements by
comparison, governs the wealthier SPCA.
The BC SPCA has run itself into a $10 million deficit and fiscal
crisis during the past three years, which in my view is an
unconscionable abuse of donors’ goodwill.
What the SPCA does and what the provincial government allows it to do
affects provincial and civic taxpayers, municipal governments,
communities and neighbourhoods, employees, donors, members, other animal
groups and of course B.C.’s abandoned, homeless and/or abused animals,
but we have no means to review how the SPCA carries out its operations.
The SPCA itself is not subject to FOI search; therefore, the only direct
access to its records is through the SPCA itself. My experience as a
freelance journalist is that leaks, not SPCA releases, of information
are the most common course by which important information and
documentation, as opposed to rhetoric, gets from the society to the
public. Asking for important information is a futile exercise.
Additionally, the SPCA does not fall under the auspices of the
Ombudsman; complaints to the government about the SPCA have
traditionally been met with one of two responses:
1) Government advice to take the complaint back to the SPCA, the very
government sanctioned and authorized institution about which one is
2) A defense of the SPCA’s 100-plus year record, regardless of
whether the complaint is about the veracity of the SPCA’s record as
stated in the media, its website, news releases or other publications.
The inconsistency in government oversight of BC charities compared to
the BC SPCA is a key reason that the SPCA should fall under the
provincial Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. If the government is
incompetent, unwilling and/or unable to oversee the BC SPCA, the public
must be allowed to.