The Saskatchewan government’s funding approach to the Saskatoon SPCA lacks common sense and compassion, according to a member of the official opposition.
On Monday, the Saskatoon SPCA told the Ministry of Agriculture that effective April 1, it would stop investigating reports of animal abuse and neglect. The SPCA’s executive director cited a lack of provincial funding for its animal protection officers.
“Folks should be really disappointed with the provincial government on this front,” said Trent Wotherspoon, the Opposition NDP’s agriculture critic.
Last year, the Saskatoon SPCA and Regina Humane Society approached the provincial government for funding to carry out enforcement with their animal protection officers. The SPCA sought $600,000 for its activities in Saskatoon.
The province denied the requests.
Now people in Saskatoon face uncertainty as the April deadline approaches with no indication which agency might fill the void.
“The Sask Party needs to wake up to the reality that it’s not acceptable to leave Saskatoon without animal protection services,” said Wotherspoon.
He described the government’s approach as “horribly inadequate and without basic compassion and common sense.” He called on the province to begin funding enforcement through the SPCA or give money to another group to do it.
The Saskatoon SPCA’s board voted to end enforcement of the Animal Protection Act last week. Since learning of the situation Monday, ministry officials have been meeting with City of Saskatoon staff to find a solution.
In an interview, Agriculture Minister David Marit would not commit to having an animal enforcement agency take over by April on a permanent or temporary basis.
“It’s too early to make comments like that at this time until I really know where the discussions go,” Marit said. “We got caught off guard on this as well.”
Animal welfare remains a priority for the Saskatchewan government, Marit said.
Chief veterinary officer Dr. Stephanie Smith told Global News on Tuesday that the province is looking for a new model to ensure animal protection is equitable, consistent and affordable across Saskatchewan.
There is no consistent model for animal welfare enforcement across Canada’s provinces.
Considering Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan
One option, she said, would be expanding the jurisdiction of Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS) — a provincially funded organization with seven animal protection officers. It’s responsible for enforcement province-wide with the exception of Regina and Saskatoon.
The organization previously absorbed enforcement responsibilities in Prince Albert and Moose Jaw when their animal enforcement agencies ceased operation. APSS did not receive a “significant increase” in funding for the added work, according to its executive director Don Ferguson.
The organization could not take on Saskatoon’s workload without new resources including two new animal protection officers and a dispatcher, he said.
“We wouldn’t be able to continue to service the areas that we have now and take on the responsibility of the City of Saskatoon,” Ferguson said in an interview.
“There’s not an assumption that we could use the Saskatoon SPCA’s shelter for the housing as well as the veterinarians that they have access to.”
APSS has not been part of the conversations occurring between the Ministry of Agriculture and the City of Saskatoon, Ferguson said.
“We would certainly like to be involved in that conversation.”