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This Registered Charity Has Secrets on the Books

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Big surprise -- the OSPCA wants more money. Some people think it gets too much money right now for how it handles the job of caring for animals. Complaints about the OSPCA abound, but somehow it seems to have the McGuinty government under its thumb -- or at least under its spell.

According to the Toronto Star which has been looking into the situation, the OSPCA says its $20-million annual budget (from government and donors) isn't enough. As a registered charity, whatever the organization gets will never be enough.

One of the many aggravating things about the OSPCA, is its view that the salaries it pays should be kept secret from the public. Another is that the names of donors are also kept secret. How can this be?

Tory MPP Frank Klees has it right when he points out that the books of a registered charity should be open. He wonders "what's there to hide?" by keeping salaries secret. The OSPCA was caught misleading the public and being less than honest when a while back it justified killing all the animals in its care that had ringworm. When it had to reverse its initial claim that ringworm was a fatal affliction, it acknowledged that not all the animals had yet been killed, and it halted the process.

The OSPCA is notorious for raiding places it accuses of mistreating animals. In at least one case it was sued, and eventually settled out of court for $40,000 -- donor money paid out because of its own misconduct and malice.

In other cases, I've heard of some people who've had their animal confiscated have been told they can get the animal back -- ransomed, it you like -- if they pay several thousand dollars. Evidence is plentiful that its inspectors can be inadequately trained and often behave like Gestapo when they investigate and seize. That's one of the grievous sore points about the OSPCA -- a charitable institution should not have policing powers that in cases can exceed the powers of the police.

Surely policing should come under the authority of the Attorney General, where there is greater control and more rigorous standards of investigation and prosecution. Kate MacDonald, CEO of the OSPCA says more investigators are needed (100 instead of the present 80), and more money provided for administrative costs and legal fees.

Right now there are cases where the OSPCA has been called on an emergency basis for an animal in trouble -- and nothing happens. This is a fairly common refrain. The OSPCA tends to circle the wagons when criticized.

A few years ago, when the new OSPCA Act was being debated in the Legislature, the OSPCA'S policy was to keep its bylaws secret from the public, which prompted the NDP's Peter Kormos to storm: "Let the public see the bylaws... Lord Jesus... public funds means public accountability."

Kormos' plea resonates with you and me, but not with the OSPCA and McGuinty government which often seems blind and deaf to concerns about animals.

If the McGuinty government had the sort of integrity voters expect of it, it would try to clear the air about the OSPCA by authorizing and independent investigation and assessment -- to go with various other reports that have been critical of that group's policies and actions.

The OSPCA should encourage such an inquiry -- its reputation needs burnishing.