The primary role of the Cruelty Investigations Department is to investigate reports of cruelty against animals in the province of B.C. and take the necessary steps to alleviate that animal's distress.
While the primary objective is to assist animals and relieve distress, the secondary objective of any investigation is to decrease the likelihood of repeated abuse through education of the owner, cooperation, and if necessary, deterrence in the form of legal proceedings.
The BC SPCA was created under the auspices of the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), and is the only animal welfare organization in B.C. which has the authority to enforce laws relating to animal cruelty and to recommend charges to Crown Counsel for the prosecution of individuals who inflict suffering on animals. The Department has 23 full-time, specially trained constables to carry out their life-saving work.
The Cruelty Investigations Department spent approximately 2.0 million dollars conducting investigations, caring for animals in distress, and preparing charges in 2009. The BC SPCA does not receive any provincial funding to assist them with animal cruelty investigations. On average, to bring one case of cruelty to Crown Counsel for prosecution, an investigation can cost more than $10,000. The BC SPCA relies on the generous gifts from its supporters to help us ensure that we can continue to help animals in need and end animal cruelty in the province of B.C.
In 2009, the BC SPCA's Cruelty Investigations Department investigated more than 5,800 complaints of cruelty and neglect throughout the province of British Columbia.
Power under the PCA Act
All of the provinces and territories in Canada have some form of animal protection law (sometimes called "animal welfare" law). In B.C., the law is called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act). This law is enforced by the BC SPCA.
It is a crime in Canada to willfully, or intentionally, harm animals. A person who deliberately harms animals can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada. This is a federal law that applies throughout Canada that lists crimes and sets out penalties for each crime. The code deals specifically with cruelty to animals in sections 444 to 447.
In order to appreciate what the BC SPCA can and can not do to assist animals in need it is important to have an understanding of the PCA Act and the steps of an investigation. To learn more, you can download this brief overview of a Cruelty Investigation (5.7 MB).