Animal Protection Services Philosophy
The Alberta SPCA’s ultimate objective is to ensure that all animals are humanely treated at every stage of their life. Animal Protection Services staff use a variety of approaches to achieve this objective, including communication, education, monitoring, inspection and enforcement of provincial animal protection legislation.
The goal of the Alberta SPCA’s Animal Protection Services philosophy is for all animal owners to demonstrate compliance. The aim is to achieve, at a minimum, compliant behaviour that satisfies applicable requirements, while encouraging animal owners to exceed the requirements.
The purpose of the Alberta SPCA’s Animal Protection Services philosophy is to ensure compliance with the applicable requirements through transparent, fair, consistent and effective processes based on respect, accountability, integrity and excellence.
- Compliance is facilitated through a good understanding of the purpose and rationale of the specific requirements of any legislation or standard. There is an obligation to clearly describe the desired outcome or requirement in the legislation. The requirements may be further clarified in a standard or guideline. There is an obligation on the Alberta SPCA’s part to inform and educate animal owners and users about the requirements, means of compliance and, where possible, opportunities to go beyond compliance to best practices.
- The approach to compliance will be based on the severity of distress. While, by definition, compliance is required, the speed of coming into compliance, and the appropriate immediacy of a compliance response will depend on the level of distress. The immediacy, scope and severity of the situation will determine the appropriate response.
- Compliance tools will be deployed in a logical sequence of steps, with the starting point and speed of progression based on severity of distress. The approach will be graduated, unless the distress level requires timely progression to more immediate tools.
- The approach to compliance will take into account the animal owner’s/user’s previous record of compliance, or beyond compliance, behaviour.
- The Alberta SPCA has an obligation to assess overall compliance and will use monitoring activities as appropriate for the level of distress associated with the specific circumstances.
- Responding to public complaints is part of the Alberta SPCA’s Animal Protection Services program. Each complaint will be assessed and investigated, and the appropriate action taken to resolve the complaint. Complainants will be advised upon resolution of the investigation.
- Prosecution is a tool of compliance, not a goal. The Alberta SPCA does not set out to prosecute, but will proceed to prosecution if it is necessary to address wilful or repeated contravention, if the offence has a high severity of distress or if the demonstrated value of the prosecution will promote broader awareness and compliance.
- Prosecution will be evidence-based, following a documented investigation and review by a Justice. The evidence and the severity of the impact will be assessed.
Receiving Animal-Related Complaints
Most Alberta SPCA investigations originate from a complaint alleging animal neglect or abuse. Animal-related complaints may be submitted by telephone, in writing, in person or from another agency. Most commonly, the complaint is received by telephone through central dispatch. Upon receipt, all information is entered into the Animal Protection Services database, prioritized and assigned to a peace officer for investigation.
Occasionally, complainants are reluctant to give their names. Anonymous complaints are responded to and are not discouraged, although investigations may require contacting the complainant for further details (e.g., if the peace officer is unable to locate the animal from the directions given).
Seizure of Animals
Section 3 of the Animal Protection Act gives authority for an Alberta SPCA peace officer to seize or take custody of animals. Animals found in distress and not likely to be relieved of distress will be placed under seizure and removed from the property.
Public Communication and Confidentiality
As an enforcement agency, the Alberta SPCA collects and records confidential information regarding a number of individuals, including the subject, complainant and others associated with the investigation of a complaint. Under Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), the Alberta SPCA is legally required to safeguard the personal information that it collects.
Although complainants are entitled to be informed of an investigation’s final outcome, peace officers can’t reveal specific details of the investigation.
Animal Care Standards
Although Alberta has one of the strongest pieces of animal welfare legislation, the interpretations of this legislation can some times be ambiguous. The Alberta SPCA drafted the following animal care standards as guidelines for peace officers carrying out animal welfare investigations and inspections.
Food should be wholesome, palatable and free from contamination. It must be provided in sufficient quantity to be of adequate nutritional value to maintain the animals in good health. The diet must take into consideration the age, species, condition, size and type of animal. Animals should be fed at least once in every 24-hour period, except as dictated by veterinary advice or other professionally accepted practices for the well-being of the animal. If more than one animal is fed at one time or in one place, it is the responsibility of the owner or user to ensure that each animal receives adequate nutrition.
Adequate water means that potable water is available for all animals. Exceptions may be determined by veterinary consultation or professionally accepted practices for the well-being of the animals. Animals that are being worked or transported must be provided water as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the animals. Frequency of watering must consider the age, size, species, condition and type of animal. Activity levels, lactation and weather conditions must also be considered. All water receptacles should be of appropriate design and size for the animal, and be positioned or affixed to prevent spills.
All animals kept outdoors must have access to shelter that provides protection from the weather. Shelter must be appropriate for the species, with consideration for the animals’ age, physical condition and hair coat when determining whether or not available shelter is adequate. Most animals require shelter from wind in cold weather conditions and shade from the sun during hot weather.
Facilities must be sufficiently regulated by heating and cooling to protect animals from extremes of temperature and to provide for their health and well-being. Closed facilities should be adequately ventilated by natural or mechanical means to provide for the health of the animal at all times.
The duration of illumination must be appropriate for the species involved.
All enclosed animals must be able to stand to their full height, stretch out, lie down, and make normal postural adjustments comfortably. Animals must be allowed to exercise and have freedom of movement, as necessary, to reduce stress and maintain good physical condition. Space available to an animal must be usable and maintained in a safe and healthful manner. It must be free of accumulated waste and debris.
Veterinary care must be provided to any animal found in distress as a result of an injury or medical condition requiring treatment.
Animal-holding facilities and vehicles used to transport animals must meet animal welfare standards that ensure animals are not exposed to distress situations. Regular inspections or as designated by the Director of Animal Protection Services are required to ensure animal welfare standards are being met.
Section 10 of the Animal Protection Act authorizes Alberta SPCA Peace Officers to inspect any animal-holding premise, other than a private dwelling house, where animals are kept for sale, hire or exhibition or any vehicle used in transporting animals.
Education of animal owners and users plays a key role in preventing animal neglect and mistreatment. In their daily interactions with the public, Alberta SPCA staff members have opportunities to provide education about the humane care and treatment of animals. Appropriate educational material can help the animal owner/user to improve animal husbandry practices.
To ensure a consistent approach to educational activities, the Alberta SPCA has developed a set of approved handouts for distribution to the public.
During any investigation or inspection, if peace officers find a lack of training or education related to animal husbandry practices, they will provide appropriate educational material as part of the resolution process.
Peace Officer Code of Conduct
Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security requires all employers of peace officers to have a Peace Officer Code of Conduct that is reviewed and approved by Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security. The Alberta SPCA’s Peace Officer Code of Conduct deals with any specific breach of conduct that may contravene Alberta SPCA or Peace Officer Act standards.
If a peace officer is found to have contravened the Code of Conduct, the Executive Director must inform Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security’s Director of Law Enforcement in writing immediately.
Under the Code of Conduct, Alberta SPCA peace officers shall:
- comply with the terms and conditions of the Alberta SPCA’s authorization to employ peace officers
- comply with the terms of the peace officer appointment
- comply with the Alberta SPCA Peace Officer Code of Conduct
- promptly and diligently perform their duties and responsibilities as a peace officer
The Peace Officer Code of Conduct has a much longer list of prohibited activities. In part, Alberta SPCA peace officers shall not:
- contravene an Act of the Parliament of Canada or of the Legislature of Alberta; any regulation under those acts; or any provision of their appointment as peace officers, where the contravention would be prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit on the reputation of law enforcement
- act in a disorderly or inappropriate manner
- differentially apply the law or exercise their authority on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, physical disability, marital status, age, ancestry or place of origin
- withhold or suppress a complaint against or a report made in respect of a peace officer
- neglect, without a lawful excuse, to promptly or diligently perform their duties as peace officers
- wilfully or negligently make or sign a false, misleading or inaccurate statement or entry in any official document or record
- divulge any matter that is their duty to keep in confidence
- directly or indirectly solicit or receive a payment, gift, pass, subscription, testimonial or favour without the consent of their employer
- exercise their authority as peace officers when it is unlawful or unnecessary to do so
Uniforms and Identification Cards
Peace Officers need to present a formal appearance with standardized clothing that conforms to Alberta SPCA requirements. They also need to carry identification that identifies them as peace officers. Peace officers will wear their uniforms at all times during the performance of their Animal Protection Services duties. Peace officers will carry their Peace Officer ID, issued by Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security, at all times while on duty.
Informal Resolution of Complaints Against Peace Officers
The Director of Animal Protection Services will accept and review any public complaints regarding a peace officer and will respond to the findings appropriately.
Complaints concerning the conduct of Alberta SPCA Peace Officers should be directed to the Director of Animal Protection Services at 10806 - 124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5M 0H3, 780-447-3600, ext. 3740.
Under Section 15(2)(b) of the Peace Officer Act, an employer of peace officers may refuse to investigate or discontinue an investigation of a complaint if, in the employer’s opinion, having regard to all of the circumstances, no investigation is necessary. In such circumstances, the complaint is resolved informally with the complainant.
If, upon review, the complaint is found to be minor in nature, the Director of Animal Protection Services may attempt to resolve the matter informally, and to the satisfaction of all parties.
The Director of Animal Protection Services will report all such complaints and the agreed upon resolution to the Director of Law Enforcement at Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security on a monthly basis.
Public Complaints Regarding the Animal Protection Services Program
The Director of Animal Protection Services will accept and investigate public complaints regarding the administration of the Animal Protection Services Program, and work with the Executive Director of the Alberta SPCA to resolve the complaints.
If for any reason members of the public believe they may have been treated unjustly or unfairly by the Animal Protection Services Program, they may lodge a formal complaint as follows:
- Submit a written outline of the nature of the concern to the Director of Animal Protection Services within 60 days of the alleged incident.
- Supply the Director of Animal Protection Services with any written or material evidence and/or names of witnesses, etc. that may shed further light on the issue.
- Meet with the Director of Animal Protection Services and/or the Executive Director to attempt a resolution of the issue.
- Failing resolution at this point, full disclosure is made to the Alberta SPCA Board of Directors, which has sole discretion in determining final resolution of the issue in question.
The Director of Animal Protection Services will investigate the complaint and then meet with the complainant and the Executive Director to attempt to resolve the complaint. If they cannot resolve the complaint, they turn the matter over to the Alberta SPCA Board of Directors. The decision of the board is final, with the exception of a prosecution matter, which is resolved through the judicial process.