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'Mere suspicion not enough'

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Animal-care orders issued to a retired Lyndhurst woman did not comply with the OSPCA Act, the lawyer for Jessica Johnson contends in a recent written submission to the Animal Care Review Board.

Kurtis Andrews argues the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did not have reasonable grounds to believe Johnson's dogs were in distress when they conducted a raid on her Lyndhurst-area home May 18.

The Ottawa lawyer, who maintains his client's Canadian charter rights were violated by the OSPCA, submits a moderate tartar dental problem identified with one of his client's dogs that led to the raid does not constitute distress as defined under the act.

With no veterinarian input identifying a specific medical problem, the OSPCA did not have reasonable grounds to search Johnson's home, argues Andrews in a document obtained by The Recorder and Times.

“As is the case with a search warrant, mere suspicion is not enough,” says Andrews, who believes the raid was unconstitutional partly for that reason.

Moreover, if the board does find reasonable grounds existed, Andrews believes the timelines given to Johnson to comply with orders – including immediate payment of a $2,449 bill for food, care and attention after a March 8 raid when four dogs were seized – are arbitrary, unreasonable and unnecessary.

Johnson, who lives on a pension, has previously made agreements to pay for veterinary services in installments, is in no position to pay a large bill on short notice, says Andrews.

Andrews argues the manner in which the raid was conducted was unconstitutional as well as all subsequent searches of his client's home.

The May 18 raid began when an OSPCA agent entered the home through a bedroom window while Johnson, who has limited mobility, was asleep on the couch.

The agent then proceeded to unlock the front door, allowing entry to another agent, an OPP officer and two college students not involved in the investigation.

During the hearing, the agent argued she called out at the window before climbing in the home but Johnson says she never heard the agent until she walked into the living room.

The OSPCA contends it acted properly in raiding Johnson's home.

Written submissions by the OSPCA are expected to be filed with the appellant by December 13, after which Andrews may file a response. A decision on the case by the animal care review board, which is an arm of the OSPCA, is not expected until early in 2013.

SIDEBAR:

WOMAN FINED FOR PETS IN DISTRESS

LYNDHURST – In an unrelated case, a local woman has been fined $1,500 by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) after pleading guilty recently to three counts of permitting animals to be in distress.

Jean Weeks was fined $500 for each of three counts of distress filed against her in relation to one dog, one rabbit and 28 cats found to be living in unhealthy conditions.

Weeks was also sentenced to two years probation, issued a lifetime ban on owning, living with and caring for an animal and ordered to repay $10,000 in restitution to the OSPCA as well as undergo counselling.

The agency raided her home with a warrant in September, 2011 after a complaint about cats being kept in an unsafe environment.

An attending veterinarian recommended removal of the animals which received care at the Brockville animal shelter. The animals recovered and were later adopted.

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