Petition asks Edmonton police for dedicated animal cruelty unit

File photo of an Edmonton Police Service vehicle. Global News

A group of veterinarians in Edmonton has launched a petition calling for the city’s police service to create a dedicated animal cruelty unit.

The Edmonton Association of Small Animal Veterinarians says the petition was necessary after the Edmonton Humane Society stopped enforcing the Animal Protection Act in January.

“The petition is directed at the chief of police,” EASAV president Natasha Russell said.

“He’s in a unique position to be able to formally bring in this unit, or a specialized task force, that [would] have the dedicated funding to investigate animal cruelty in Edmonton.”

The petition says that “investigations of crimes against animals are unique with many legal challenges simply because the victims can’t speak for themselves.”

It adds that there are only four dedicated city bylaw officers who enforce the Animal Protection Act in Edmonton.

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READ MORE: City will take over enforcement from Edmonton Humane Society: ‘Animals will be protected’

Russell said that the association has met with bylaw officers and police officers over the past several months to identify whether or not there is a need for a dedicated police unit.

“There’s a lot of holes in our system currently, so we really want to build something that will work in the future,” said Russell.

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said the police force is currently looking at data to see if there is enough of a need for a specialized unit.

“Do we have enough particular work to actually create a stand-alone section to look at that?” McFee said.

“There is some science and some data around the fact that cruelty [to] animals can lead to violence against people.”

McFee said he has been in contact with the Ottawa Police Service, which he says already has an animal cruelty unit.

“We only have so many resources and what we really need to focus on are things that are going to actually enhance community safety.

“If there is a demand, can we build it from within?” McFee said.

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Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday that while the city currently handles animal cruelty investigations, he’s open to discussing changing that.

“There’s an opportunity, as there always is, to look at whether there’s a better way to do something,” Iveson said.

Russell says she believes animal abuse cases should be of great concern to law enforcement.

“If there’s an abuse case against an animal, it’s often the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s often a cry out for help. It’s a red flag we’re ignoring right now,” said Russell.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had gathered over 2,800 signatures.

WATCH BELOW (Jan. 30, 2019): The Edmonton Humane Society recently announced it would no longer be enforcing the Animal Protection Act and now the city says it will take over those duties, at least temporarily. Vinesh Pratap reports.

Click to play video 'City to take over enforcement from Edmonton Humane Society' City to take over enforcement from Edmonton Humane Society
City to take over enforcement from Edmonton Humane Society – Jan 30, 2019

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