There has been some recent discussion suggesting Calgary Humane Society should not be allowed to care for the animals it seizes. That we are not empowered to alleviate an animal’s suffering. That we should not be taking animals who have been neglected.
Some have even gone so far as to suggest people shouldn’t donate to our organization. While people are certainly entitled to their opinions, we think people should be able to make up their own minds.
While we did seize 40 animals from a southwest property in January and as the investigation remains active we are limited in what we can say, we can tell you we do not hold animals for “ransom” and we do not provide unnecessary treatment.
Our job as authorized by the Government of Alberta is to protect animals under the Animal Protection Act. Whether that means providing necessary medical treatment to alleviate suffering, finding them a home where they can live safely or seizing an animal whose owner has failed to help them.
This case is far from over and charges are pending against several people in relation to the property in which animals were seized. While some claim they were merely “caught up” in this case, we can confirm that claim is false. As our investigation progresses, we promise to update you with as many details as possible.
In the meantime we ask you to remember, we are a not for profit organization with almost 5,000 animals a year who rely on donor dollars to fund their care, medical treatment, behaviour support and protection.
While we can’t share specifics on this case as it would directly jeopardize the animals in our care, we can tell you for 95 years we have been helping animals in this community and we have no plans to stop.
Medical neglect is one of the more complex issues investigated by Calgary Humane Society Peace Officers. CHS has seen a steady increase of cases in recent years: 115 in 2010, 139 in 2011, 149 in 2012 and 192 in 2014.
With a pet, comes the responsibility of providing veterinary care. Annual physical exams are recommended and are a great way to ensure your pet is in good health. Illnesses and other issues are more likely to be caught if you are taking your pet to a vet on a regular basis. (more…)
The Protection and Investigations Department responds to 1200-1500 concerns annually, dealing mainly with: Abuse, neglect, cruelty and abandonment.
To help the public have a better understanding of what cruelty and neglect is in Alberta and what exactly our Peace Officers are able to do under the law, we will be looking at the issues listed above this month. (more…)
This month we are celebrating Calgary Humane Society’s Protection and Investigations department! We know that most of our supporters are aware of the great work they do, but today on the blog, we wanted to bring you a sneak peek behind the scenes. We caught up with Officer Nichols, Manager of Animal Cruelty Investigations to find out more about what it means to be a Calgary Humane Society Protection and Investigations officer.
Q: What brought you to join the Protection and Investigations team at CHS?
A: Coming out of College, I got a practicum position doing animal control for a rural municipality. I have always loved animals and thoroughly enjoyed working with them on a daily basis. As soon as I found out that there were specific positions protecting animals from abuse and neglect, it became a career goal which I attained in short order, joining the team as a field officer in 2005 and investigating thousands of files. By 2008 I had been promoted to Managing the internationally recognized humane enforcement unit. I am very proud of what my team has accomplished over the years.
Q: Once a call comes in and a peace officer responds, what does the investigation process look like?
A: There is no simple answer to that question. Every investigation is different. An investigation can be a 5 minute conversation or a 100+ man hour complex investigation. Generally, we will attend the address of concern, assess the validity of the report and decide what path to take; education, compliance or enforcement (seizure/charges). If we take the enforcement route, further investigation must be done to establish care and control, the commission of the offense and obtain an expert veterinary opinion. Once charges are laid, the Crown Prosecutors’ office takes over the prosecution.
Q: A big component of your work is education, how does a peace officer decide when to provide education and when to take enforcement action?
A: Our job is 90% education. The media sensationalizes the severe cases, but most cases only require education on proper animal care in order to gain compliance.
Q: What is the most worthwhile part of your job?
A: Removing animals from bad situations. We are their voice. That is a massive responsibility that I do not take lightly.
Q: What is the most valuable thing that the public can do to prevent animal cruelty, abuse or neglect?
A: If you witness animal abuse, neglect or abandonment, report it to us for investigation by calling 403-205-4455. If you are located outside of the city of Calgary, report it to the authority that is responsible for enforcing animal protection laws in your area – outside of Calgary and Edmonton the Alberta SPCA would be who you would call.
Q: If someone from the public was going to work towards changing animal cruelty laws either provincially or federally, what change would produce the most impact or be the most valuable?
A: First of all, educate yourself on the existing legislation, the existing penalties and how those existing laws and penalties are enforced. The majority of people we talk to complain about sentences, wanting the maximums (the largest penalty that can be assigned for breaking that law) increased. It is important to realize that while a maximum penalty exists within the legislation, during sentencing a judge can choose to assign a penalty that is lower than the maximum. Our cases never get sentenced anywhere near the current maximums, so increasing fine amounts would be of no effect. Once educated on the weak points of the legislation, you can write to your local MLA or MP.
Q: Are there any common mistakes that the public make that complicate an investigation or make it difficult to prosecute a case? What are these common mistakes?
A: The biggest mistake we see is people taking the animal, rather than letting our investigation run its course. It is legal when we seize animals, on probable grounds, because we have legislation to support this authority. It is theft and trespassing when you do it. Another common complication is complainants filing a concern but then refusing to testify when the alleged perpetrator is charged. We cannot obtain convictions without proving our cases beyond a reasonable doubt and it can become difficult to do that if witnesses refuse to testify.
Q: Is there a particular case that meant a lot to you or brought you a lot of satisfaction when it closed that you could briefly tell us about?
A: The cases that come to mind are those that I have bonded with the animal while in our custody. I have adopted a few case animals over the years, so I am biased to those. My German Shepherd was seized from a grow-operation that we investigated as an alleged abandonment. I also enjoy watching my team succeed and so the Willow Park Muzzling case investigated by Officer Gibson is a definite career highlight due to the complexity of the case, the various investigative strategies employed and the ultimate arrest of the accused.
Interested in learning more about the work our Peace Officer do? Check out our website.
On May 26, 2015, Calgary Humane Society’s Protection and Investigations team, with assistance from Calgary Police Service, Animal Services and Calgary Fire Department, seized 1,123 animals from a NE property.
In total officers seized: 3 dogs, 3 cats, 80 fish, 1,037 domesticated mice many of which were in very poor health.
During the course of the seizure, the property was deemed uninhabitable by the health inspector due to unsanitary conditions.
Brad Nichols, Senior Manager, Cruelty Investigations said: “By volume, this is the largest animal seizure in Calgary history. 275 animals had to be euthanized on intake due to injuries. It will take some time to sift through all of the veterinary evidence, but it is fair to say that charges are pending.” (more…)
On May 13, 2014, Calgary Humane Society’s Protection and Investigations department removed more than 30
dogs of varying breeds from a home in the Acadia community of Southeast Calgary. This was due to a multiagency
collaborative effort deeming the house to be unfit for human habitation. On June 30, 2014, Calgary
Humane Society Peace Officers charged Beverly Jean Creed of Calgary, Alberta for causing or permitting an
animal to be in distress, contrary to the Animal Protection Act of Alberta. The 51 counts include charges laid
due to distress suffered by the animals as a result of environmental conditions of the dwelling, as well as
charges pertaining to 17 dogs deemed by veterinarians to be in medical distress.
On April 10, 2015, Creed pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a $10,000 fine and a lifetime two-animal limit.
Officer Nichols, Manager-Cruelty Investigations with Calgary Humane Society stated, “This is the largest fine
ever handed down in Calgary for an Animal Cruelty case. This reflects both the number of animals involved
and the severity of the environmental and medical neglect. The animal limit effectively ends any breeding, pet
sitting or mass handling/showing which is a considerable penalty considering Creed’s lengthy involvement in
the dog show community. Hopefully this sentence acts as a deterrent for those warehousing animals for any
purpose. This case demonstrates how severely quality of care can drop off with a large population of animals.”
The Calgary Police Service has charged a man in relation to a dog death in late March, following a joint investigation with the Calgary Humane Society.
At approximately 4:30 p.m., on Monday, March 23, 2015, police were called to a residence in the 1400 block of Richland Road N.E., after a dog that lived there was found dead and buried in the back yard. A necropsy performed by the Calgary Humane Society confirmed that the dog had injuries consistent with being beaten, and the cause of death was a deep cut on the animal’s neck.
The dog’s name was Chevy and he was a border collie/chocolate lab mixed-breed.
It is believed that as part of a dispute between two people living at the residence, the dog was taken from a locked area, badly beaten and killed with a knife, then buried in the backyard. Police believe this was a targeted attack and that there was no danger to any other animals in the community as a result of this incident.
Robert Malcom NICHOLSON, age 34, of Calgary, is charged under the Criminal Code of Canada with breaking and entering, mischief to property, obstruction of justice, killing an animal without lawful excuse and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. He has also been charged under the Alberta Animal Protection Act with causing an animal to be in distress.
On Friday March 27, 2015, Nicolino Ivano CAMARDI was sentenced to 22 months with credit for 16 months time served as well as a lifetime prohibition from owning animals on charges of causing
unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal.
In January of 2014, a husky and a cat were found deceased with their muzzles bound shut in a Willow Park alley.
Both animals were taken to a local veterinarian for necropsy to determine the cause of death. It was determined the husky died from starvation and had been chronically malnourished. The veterinarian also determined the cause of death for the cat was asphyxia due to ligature strangulation following the infliction of multiple traumatic injuries to the head, tail and hind limbs.
Calgary Humane Society Peace Officers were able to piece together a case against CAMARDI, culminating in his arrest and subsequent remand and sentence. Brad Nichols, Manager, Animal Cruelty Investigations stated, “This is a horrific and violent crime that got the attention of the city (and beyond) in a way that animal cruelty has not before. This was the case that citizens put their foot down and said, we are not going to tolerate animal abuse. Today’s sentence reflects the serious nature of the offences, both by incarcerating Mr. CAMARDI for, until very recently, an unprecedented duration as well as prohibiting him from owning or caring for animals for life. This was the most complex animal cruelty case that we have ever investigated. We exhausted all available investigative strategies, including extensive DNA forensics, in putting this case together. With the closure on this case I am extremely proud of my team, the collaboration with Calgary Police Service and the response from this community.”