Shows likes Hoarders and Buried may make the issues of overcrowding, hoarding animals or dirty conditions seem like relatively new problems, but CHS Peace Officers have been investigating these claims for years.
In 2014, Peace Officers were called to 91 cases of dirty conditions. (more…)
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.