London man wants police, bylaw officers to be able to rescue animals locked in hot cars

Cole Benjamin's petition calling on London City Council to pass a bylaw allowing police and bylaw officers to remove pets from locked hot vehicles now has more than 1,100 signatures.
Cole Benjamin's petition calling on London City Council to pass a bylaw allowing police and bylaw officers to remove pets from locked hot vehicles now has more than 1,100 signatures. File photo/AM980

A London man wants the city to step up to make sure local pets don’t suffer when their owners leave them in hot vehicles.

Cole Benjamin started a petition on calling on Mayor Matt Brown and the rest of London City Council to establish a city bylaw that would allow municipal bylaw enforcement officers and members of the London Police Service to take action to free animals from locked vehicles.

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His campaign started on Friday, June 2 when he stopped to fill a prescription at a local Shoppers Drug Mart around 5 p.m. Benjamin says he spotted a dog in a car with its windows open just a crack, but believed the owners probably just ran into the store for something and would be back quickly.

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He carried on with his errand, but when he returned 30 to 40 minutes later Benjamin says the dog was still in the vehicle.

“When I first went in (the store) he was jumping around and barking at people,” Benjamin said on The Craig Needles Show on AM980. “This time he was more subdued, he was laying down.”

That’s when Benjamin called London police and the dispatcher said an officer would come by. If the owner returned before the officer arrived, he was told to take down the vehicle’s information and give it to them once on scene.

About 10 minutes after that call the vehicle’s owners returned and when Benjamin confronted them he says they told him to mind his own business and drove off.

Benjamin says his research has shown the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) is the body that’s technically able to enforce a provincial law related to endangering an animal’s life, but the agency can’t always act.

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If a complaint is made after the agency’s office hours or an officer arrives after the alleged offender has left, enforcing the law can be difficult.

Benjamin approached the city of London to see if it would enact its own bylaw empowering municipal bylaw officers and police officers to remove animals from vehicles, but says the response he received from Animal Control and Welfare co-ordinator Ron Oke wasn’t encouraging.

“Basically he says that there’s no need to create a bylaw in London because there’s already a law in place,” Benjamin said of his conversation with Oke.

“But my point is if no one’s enforcing this law, why have it?”

Benjamin says Oke told him Ontario municipalities aren’t actually allowed to enact their own bylaws surrounding this issue as it isn’t within their jurisdiction, but Benjamin says another community has managed to do just that.

“I’m calling him out on that because the city of Waterloo on April 4, 2017, passed a bylaw enabling the bylaw officers in Waterloo to actually break into cars to free animals that are in distress.”

Given the precedent set in Waterloo, Benjamin says he wants to know why London’s city council can’t take the same steps to help protect local animals.

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His petition on currently has more than 1,100 signatures.

“I would like to see bylaw officers and police officers attend the calls that they get about this situation and I would like London City Council to create this bylaw enabling them to do that.”