In Hurley v. OSPCA, 2015 ONSC 7784 (CanLII), the
Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld an Ontario Animal Care
Review Board decision in support of the removal of 25 horses and
one goat from a northern Ontario farm by the Ontario Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the "OSPCA"). The
OSPCA removed the animals from the farm, in accordance with the
Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Act (the "Act"), and after the SPCA
inspected the farm and found the animals with no food or unfrozen
water available, and a number of the horses ingesting manure.
The OSPCA had initially visited the farm almost a year earlier,
and ordered Hurley to provide the animals with proper hay, salt and
mineral blocks, adequate dry resting places. Hurley was also
ordered to collect fecal samples for testing the health of the
horses and seek medical attention for a few horses with specific
injuries. Despite being granted a number of extensions,
Hurley failed to comply with the orders for more than a year.
After a week-long hearing, the Court ordered Hurley, the
self-represented farm owner, to pay for the OSPCA's costs for
caring for the majority of the animals over a period of nearly nine
months as well as the OSPCA's legal fees. The Court found
the OSPCA was not entitled to recover the cost of caring for two of
the 25 horses because the OSPCA's failed to name the horses on
the Notice of Removal.
Section 1(1) of the Act defines "distress" as
"the state of being in need of proper care, water, food or
shelter or being injured, sick, or in pain or suffering or being
abused or subject to undue or unnecessary hardship, privation or
Section 14, of the Act allows inspectors to remove animals in
distress where a vet has inspected an animal and advised the
inspector that it is necessary to remove the animal because of the
state of its health or well-being and an order respecting the
animal under section 13 has not been complied with.
Section 13(1) of the Act allows OSPCA inspectors to order the
owner or custodian of an animal in distress to take steps
"necessary to relieve the animal of its distress" or to
"have the animal examined and treated by a veterinarian at the
expense of the owner or custodian".
In the decision, Judge Kurke, found that the OSPCA
followed the Act when they removed 23 of the horses and the goat.
All the animals had been properly inspected by a vet and the
"chronic situation" of the horses and goat qualified as
distress under the Act. He further found that the test for distress
is not "imminent danger of demise". He found that
the OSPCA's costs for caring for the animals, although high due
to the number of animals, were very reasonable and reflected a
desire to minimize the costs maintaining the animals "so as
not to demand exorbitant amount for persons in the appellant's
The decision shows that the OSPCA has the authority to act and
remove animals when the animals are in chronic states of distress,
but that it must follow the letter of the legislation when using
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In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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