SPCA v Millette, 2007 CanLII 40186 (NLPC)

The SPCA made an ex parte application for a search warrant to enter Millette’s home and seize her dog and cat. The court denied the same application made the previous week, as the SPCA member indicated in the application that she intended to remove the dog and have it euthanized, yet there was no medical evidence of the necessity of putting the dog down. At that time, the court denied the application and suggested that there might be less drastic means of taking care of the apparent distress of the dog. Regardless, the SPCA member made a second application for a search warrant.

The second application (which is the present one) sought entry to seize the dog and take her to a veterinarian for the purposes of a further assessment. Once again, the court denies the application, indicating that a search warrant is unnecessary and unjustifiable, and that there is no reason to believe that a further assessment is necessary.

The first application was initiated after a social worker visiting 80-year-old Millette reported that the dog might be in distress. An SPCA member then visited the home without a search warrant, and Millette invited the member into her home. During that visit, the dog was noted to have matted fur, extremely long nails and a serious gum issue – the dog was missing teeth and its remaining teeth appeared to be rotten. The SPCA member persuaded Millette to let her take the dog to a veterinarian and volunteered that the SPCA would pay for the cost of the examination. Millette agreed. The examination concluded that the dog needed its teeth extracted, which would cost slightly less than $500. He did not say that the dog should be put down. Millette cannot afford the operation and, in the meantime, the dog is in discomfort. Apparently it was also aggressive towards a social worker on a subsequent visit.

On the second application, the SPCA indicated that it also cannot afford to pay for the dog’s dental repair. Therefore, it indicates that if the owner is unwilling to treat the dog, then the legislation “allows for the destruction of an animal that is in such distress that it cannot, in the opinion of a veterinarian, live without undue suffering”. The judge finds that there is no evidence that the dog cannot live without undue suffering. On the contrary, the dog’s discomfort could be alleviated by somebody paying less than $500 for an operation.

With regard to the cat, the first application stated that the cat was provided with food, water and a litter box, but that Millette sometimes struck the cat in the face when it jumped up in her lap. The present application mentions that the cat is losing weight and throws up a lot. The cat had not been examined by a veterinarian and there is no evidence that the cat is in any real distress or ill health.

The judge emphasizes Millette’s right to be secure in her home, free from unwarranted government action. He also indicates that human rights must trump animal rights – that Millette’s privacy in her home ought not to be put at risk of invasion by the SPCA using a search warrant, simply because neither she nor the SPCA can afford to pay for a veterinarian to pull her dog’s teeth. Millette is held to be entitled to her privacy and to the comfort of her pets. Lastly, the court indicates it would take very little imagination to come up with alternate and creative means of taking care of Millette’s dog while respecting Millette’s rights.

Source: Case Law

Jurisdiction: Newfoundland and Labrador

Topics: Animal Protection ActAnimal Rightscatcostdogeuthanizationex parte applicationhuman rightsmedical evidenceneglectoperationprivacysearch warrantseizureSPCAunwarranted government actionveterinarian

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