The Montreal SPCA’s Investigations and Inspections Department
The Montreal SPCA’s Investigations and Inspections Department is comprised of six inspectors, two dispatchers, an administrative assistant, a lawyer, and a director. Dispatchers receive and triage complaints, open files, and assist inspectors with information gathering. Inspectors are charged with enforcing the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with crimes against animals, as well as Quebec’s provincial animal welfare legislation, namely the Animal Welfare and Safety Act and the Regulation respecting the safety and welfare of cats and dogs. They spend slightly over half of their time in the field, treating complaints, conducting inspections at premises where animals are kept (pet stores, breeding facilities, kennels, etc.), and collecting evidence as part of their investigations. The rest of their time is spent writing reports and preparing files for court.
Powers and territory covered
At the federal level, Montreal SPCA inspectors have the status of peace officers and have the same powers as police for the purposes of enforcing the Criminal Code. With respect to the enforcement of provincial legislation, they are mandated as inspectors by the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ). At the provincial level, our inspectors are only mandated to apply the law to dogs and cats, while they have the power to apply the Criminal Code to all animal species.
The territory covered by Montreal SPCA inspectors includes the island of Montreal, Laval, as well as certain areas located in the Montérégie, in Lanaudière, and in the Laurentians.
In 2016, the Montreal SPCA’s Investigations and Inspections Department received over 10,000 complaints and reports, and inspected 18,213 animals, all species combined. A total of 194 animals were seized as a result of these investigations, and several criminal and penal charges were laid. At any given time, our inspectors are treating 50 to 70 active cases that require on-site visits.
What happens during an inspection?
The primary goal of an inspection is to determine whether the owner or the person having custody of the animal is complying with the law. In case of non-compliance, various measures can be taken by an inspector, including:
- Issuing recommendations aimed at improving the animal’s welfare
- Giving the owner or person having custody of the animal a formal written notice stating the non-compliance issues observed, along with a deadline to correct the situation
- Seizing the animal in order to remove him or her from the premises
- Submitting a file to the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (commonly referred to as « the Crown ») in order for charges to be laid.
Any animal that is seized by an inspector and placed in the SPCA’s custody continues to belong to his or her owner. Unless the owner agrees to surrender the animal to the SPCA, the animal can only be placed in adoption following a court order, which can take several months, or even years.
What constitutes an infraction?
Pursuant to the laws applied by Montreal SPCA inspectors, the following acts or omissions constitute infractions:
- Hitting, strangling, stabbing, burning, or poisoning an animal
- Training an animal to fight
- Trapping an animal using a method that causes pain
- Abandoning an animal without ensuring that someone else will properly care for the animal
- Failing to provide an animal with veterinary care when injured, ill, or suffering
- Failing to provide an animal with food or water
- Keeping an animal in a place that is soiled, unsafe, or that does not provide sufficient space or lighting
- Failing to provide an animal with protection from heat, cold, or weather conditions
- Failing to provide a dog who lives mainly outdoors with a doghouse that is waterproof, raised off the ground, and in good condition
- Using a collar that hampers an animal’s breathing, or causes the animal pain or injury
- Failing to groom an animal and trim his or her claws on a regular basis
What are the consequences of an infraction?
Anyone who contravenes the Animal Welfare and Safety Act or the Regulation respecting the safety and welfare of cats and dogs faces fines ranging from a minimum of 1,000$ to a maximum of 62,500$. In the case of a subsequent offence, the offender may also be sentenced to up to 18 months imprisonment.
As for the Criminal Code provisions dealing with crimes against animals, possible penalties in case of non-compliance are more varied. They can include fines, a probation period during which the offender has to abide by certain conditions, community service, or a maximum prison term of five years.
Additionally, both the Criminal Code and the Animal Welfare and Safety Act allow for the possibility of prohibiting someone who has been found guilty of mistreating an animal from owning animals in the future.
If you witness animal abuse, please report it!
To the Montreal SPCA’s investigations and inspections department:
Leave us a message at (514) 735-2711 extension 2230, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In case of emergency, call (514) 735-2711, extension 0.
All complaints are treated confidentially.
For incidents outside of the territory covered by the Montreal SPCA’s investigations and inspections department, to the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec:
Call 1-844-ANIMAUX or by send an email to email@example.com.
All complaints are treated confidentially.