My OCD sometimes gets the best of me. One of my passions is doing my small part to end cruelty to animals. Early on in my career I was approached by the then manager of the old Chilliwack Branch of the SPCA to help them out with an animal cruelty investigation. Arguably I really didn’t know anything about animal cruelty investigations but she begged me to help because they had no one else to do so. So I was in. That day was an eye opener for me. I arrived at the scene of a rural farmhouse with the corpses of many cattle lying dead in the yard surrounding a home and throughout the barn structures on this property. The corpses were in varying states of decay. Amongst these bodies were the shuffling, nearly dead from emaciation remnants of once vibrant animals. Many of these were barely able to stand. I was horrified.
Following my time on the farm doing my veterinarian thing, came an onslaught of media demand for my time. For the first time in my life I had to compose myself and convey the details of the scene for TV, radio and print media. It was a steep and intimidating learning curve. Following this storm of activity was the mundane accounting in medico-legal report form of what had occurred and the varied and horrible ways in which these animals had suffered at the hands of these individuals. Then came court appearances and my first occasion giving opinion-evidence as a medical expert. Convictions for the responsible individuals followed and a sense that at least some justice had been done here.
Over the years I have developed some skill in this area and have appeared 19 times as an expert medical witness for the crown (a bit of a record in British Columbia) and have given my opinion to SPCA investigators on countless cruelty investigations. A common denominator has been that those who end up in court belong there having to give an account of behaviour often beyond what most of us might imagine possible. Most of the time, the law metes out punishment and the hope is that the behaviour will cease for good to the benefit of the animal population and society as a whole. In the end, the laws that exist in our land for protection of animals are weak, weak, weak. Despite this, I continue to do the best job I can within the system that we have in place with the hope that I can make a difference. I have taught many other veterinarians to do this work in hopes that where once I was the naive “only” choice of a desperate SPCA officer that there would now not be a shortage of those capable of helping.
If you come into our office, I ask that you would consider adding your name to a petition that will be forwarded to Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko that hopefully will compel the government to strengthen the animal cruelty protection laws. We really do have to move to laws that have enough teeth to truly put the practice of cruelty to animals to bed for good. I would not resist being put out of my part-time mostly volunteer job as an expert medical witness for the crown.