This is Part I of a two-part series with guest blogger Kevin Mackenzie, Development Manager, Leadership Giving with the Ontario SPCA.
Having just joined the Ontario SPCA in a fundraising role, I was lucky enough to arrange spending some time with some of the individuals who are integral to the Ontario SPCA operations. During this time, I was able to better understand the front line work agents face on a day to day basis and had the opportunity to visit the sites most directly involved with the welfare of the animals.
When I told friends and family that I’d have the opportunity to ride along with an animal cruelty agent to learn more about the roles I will be helping raise funds for here at the Ontario SPCA, I found myself answering the same question over and over: “Are they the animal police?” The answer I would give to that question now, having spent a day with an agent, is yes. Well, sort of. They are much more than just animal police. They’re also teachers, ambassadors, relationship managers, dot connecters and, by definition, sworn peace officers with the powers of police officers in enforcing all animal welfare laws in Ontario. But most importantly, they work extremely hard and really know their stuff.
The agents respond to complaints or concerns that come in via phone or email about the welfare of animals. A skilled dispatcher, who will have completed the agent training as well, vets the calls prior to dispatching an agent. The identity of someone making a complaint is protected by the privacy act.
Each truck is equipped with some necessities: dog and cat food, water, hay cubes, duck feed, chicken scratch, blankets, nets, etc. If you might need it to care for, save or transport an animal, it’s in one of these vehicles. The agent and the truck are backed by a machine — a system, which to my “new eyes” certainly appeared well oiled — complete with a database for tracking complaints; training in the area of animal welfare legislation, legal jurisdiction, natural disaster response and personal safety; and a broad knowledge of animals that crosses breed and species.
The animal cruelty agent’s mandate is to first educate the owner by explaining what needs to change to meet the standards set for animal welfare in Ontario. Based on the conditions, education might not be enough. If so, orders are issued explaining the changes in the environment and care of the animal necessary to meet legal standards, with a date by which to make those changes. Should those orders not be met by the deadline, the animals can and will be removed from the conditions that led to the call.
The agent’s work is at the core of why the Ontario SPCA exists, and their roles are funded thanks to the generosity of our donors. Having gone on five calls the day of my ride-along, I can attest to the importance of their work and can’t fathom what would happen to the welfare of animals in Ontario without this great group.
Thank you to Agent Sara who allowed me to tag along and pester her with questions all day. I was blown away by her professionalism and knowledge. Her role is key to ensuring the Ontario SPCA strives to achieve our mission and vision.
Next page: A Day on the Road With an Animal Control Officer
Photo Credits: Ontario SPCA
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