30 October 2016

WELFARE - Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Reports Welfare Agencies Underfunded

Canadians care about animal welfare.

Animal cruelty has been punishable under the Canadian Criminal Code since 1892, although Canada’s animal cruelty legislation currently lags behind other jurisdictions.

The animal welfare sector remains an important part of Canadian society, but according to a comprehensive report by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS), the government consistently fails to provide adequate support through either funding or legislation.

“A well-resourced sector is essential to accomplish the task of protecting our most vulnerable animals from harm,” the report states.

Despite this need, and despite Canadians’ support for the animal protection sector, only 21% of 2014 revenue for the sector came from government funding and the majority of those funds came from municipalities.

The animal protection sector includes sheltering homeless animals, enforcing animal welfare legislation, and providing education and research on the links between animal abuse and the abuse of humans, including vulnerable groups such as women, children, and seniors.

Enforcement of animal protection and cruelty legislation varies depending on the jurisdiction, sometimes resting with police, RCMP or federal agencies, and often relying on Humane Societies and SPCAs.

Almost half (42%) of organizations in the animal welfare sector have a mandate to enforce animal protection legislation, with less than half of the costs for enforcing provincial and federal legislation covered by government funding.

This inadequate funding means that the majority of costs for enforcing animal welfare legislation fall on individual Canadian donors, who provide almost half of the funding in the sector.

Inadequate funding also means that the staff responsible for enforcing legislation are overworked and under-supported.

According to the report, “the majority of [Ontario SPCA] investigators work alone, covering huge territories and often working out of cell phone range with no information on the criminal history of those they are investigating.”

Just this week Zoocheck and Animal Alliance announced they have hired Mike Zimmerman, the former senior civil servant in charge of Ontario’s animal welfare legislation, to produce a report on the current state of animal welfare in the province.

“We believe our report will help the government fully understand that there are deficiencies in the system and take action to better protect animals in the province,” Liz White, Animal Alliance’s Director, said in a release.

Working as an animal protection officer is emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting and is especially challenging when legislation is lacking and funding is sparse.

The lack of funding is particularly shocking because Humane Societies and SPCAs are, according to the CFHS report, “the only Canadian entities responsible for law enforcement that are not fully funded.”

The vast majority (93%) of Humane Societies and SPCAs shelter animals, and in 2014 these organizations sheltered more than 278,000 animals at a cost of $118.4 million.

As well, 67% of Humane Societies and SPCAs offer humane education in their communities, which can provide critical early intervention to interrupt and prevent the well-documented link between human and animal abuse.

The animal welfare sector provides Canadians with a set of services that are critical for a healthy and humane society, and it appears government funding is currently not meeting the need.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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