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What You Need to Know About Surrendering Your Pet to the SPCA

If you are finding that your elderly pet is in need of veterinary care or needs to be euthanized but you cannot afford or find a veterinarian to help you, here is what our criminal lawyer Calgary have to say about the surrendering process at the SPCA.

The first step is to fill out an intake form. This form will ask you why you are surrendering your pet and information about your pet. The form also asks about prior vet clinics that you have used and what your immediate health concerns are for your pet. After you fill out this form, you are required to make an appointment to take your animal into the SPCA. After you take your animal to the SPCA, you will be asked to sign a surrender form meaning you are voluntarily giving up your rights and responsibilities to your animal.

However, what you need to know and understand is that the SPCA now has full rights to examine your pet and take further steps after the examination. This means that if you are surrendering your animal for the purpose of euthanasia, they may still conduct an examination of your pet. If the animal is euthanized, they have the rights to perform a necropsy. A necropsy is similar to an autopsy which is a post-mortem (or post-death) examination of your animal. It is very common that the results of the necropsy are findings that the pet was suffering.  If this determination is made, it is likely that you will be contacted by a peace officer from the SPCA to investigate their findings. If you speak with them whatever you say may and likely will be used against you in a prosecution. It will depend on if your Charter rights were violated and if you have a competent and strategic defence lawyer reviewing this part of the investigation.  Furthermore, the information you provided in your intake form will also be considered in their investigation and prosecution against you.

The Animal Protection Act of Alberta sets out prohibitions and powers of the peace officers as well as penalties. Section 2 of the act prohibits a person from causing or permitting an animal to be in distress or to continue to be in distress. Section 2.1 lists the animal care duties for a person who owns or is in charge of the animal. This section states:

A person who owns or is in charge of an animal:

a) must ensure that the animal has adequate food and water,
b) must provide the animal with adequate care when the animal is wounded or ill,
c) must provide the animal with reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold, and
d) must provide the animal with adequate shelter, ventilation and space.

The powers of the peace officer include the following:

       Section 3(1) If an animal is in distress and

          (a) the owner or person in charge of the animal does not forthwith take steps that will relieve its distress,

          (a.1) a peace officer is of the opinion, on reasonable and probable grounds, that the owner or person in charge of the animal is not likely to ensure that the animal’s distress is relieved or to ensure that the animal’s distress will continue to be relieved, or

          (b) the owner or person in charge of the animal cannot be found immediately and informed of the animal’s distress,

a peace officer may, in accordance with section 4, take any action the peace officer considers necessary to locate the animal and relieve its distress, including taking custody of the animal in accordance with the regulations and arranging for transportation, food, water, care, shelter and veterinary treatment for the animal, if necessary.

       (2) A peace officer who takes custody of an animal pursuant to subsection (1) shall deliver the animal

          (a) to a humane society, or

          (b) to a caretaker, if there is no humane society close to the location where the animal is found or if the humane society does not have an appropriate facility in which to keep the animal.

       (3) If an animal is found to be in such distress that, in the opinion of

          (a) a registered veterinarian, or

          (b) if a registered veterinarian is not readily available, a peace officer,

the animal cannot be relieved of its distress and live without undue suffering, the peace officer may destroy the animal or cause the animal to be destroyed and the owner of the animal is liable for the costs of destroying it.

The decision to surrender your pet to the SPCA is difficult and often times heart breaking. What you need to know and understand is that there could be and often times there are legal consequences as a result of making this decision. You must also know that veterinary clinics (especially in Calgary) work in conjunction with the SPCA to initiate these animal investigations.

If you are charged and convicted under the Animal Protection Act the penalties include very high fines and prohibitions against owning other animals. The SPCA will likely add your name to the website which constitutes another form of punishment.

Additionally, it is important to know and understand that often times you may be charged with both an Animal Protection Act offence as well as a Criminal Code offence of animal cruelty. The potential punishments for Criminal Code offences typically start at jail and will involve a criminal conviction registered on your required, which of course, can result in life altering consequences.

If you have been charged with animal cruelty contact the serious lawyers at Alberta Legal who defend these cases in court every single day.