Constitutional Law – Charter of Rights, Section 8
The accused was charged under s. 4(2) of The Animal Protection Act with, being a person responsible for an animal, causing the animal to be in distress, and under s. 446(1)(b) of the Criminal Code with, being the person having custody or control of animals (cattle, horses and dogs), wilfully neglecting or failing to provide adequate food, water, shelter and care for the animals. The charges were laid after animal protection officers employed by the Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) had obtained a searched warrant under s. 7 of the Act and searched the accused’s home and yard and his farm property in February 2012. The officer was responding to a number of complaints received about the condition of the accused’s cattle and dogs. After entering the properties, the officers contacted a veterinarian and asked her to attend at the properties. She examined the animals at both locations – dogs, horses and cattle. A cow was euthanized and a number of dogs were seized. The accused brought an application under s. 24(2) of the Charter alleging that: 1) his s. 8 right had been violated because the warrant authorizing the search was not lawfully obtained and the search was not conducted in a reasonable fashion; and 2) his s. 9 right was violated because he had been told by the officers to stay inside his house during the search of his property, which constituted arbitrary detainment and he had not been informed of his right to retain and instruct counsel under s. 10(a) and (b). The evidence was heard on a voir dire and the accused did not testify. He argued that the warrant was illegally obtained because the Information to Obtain a Search Warrant (ITO) contained information that was used to obtain a previous search warrant (May 2011), and this fact was not conveyed to the Justice of the Peace. Further, the ITO did not say that unwarranted searches by the SSPCA at his properties had occurred at various times in 2011. The ITO had not provided the name of the complainant or provided any information about the complainant’s reliability. The contents of the ITO upon which the Justice of the Peace issued the warrant were entered as an exhibit. The officer who had sworn the ITO testified. The officer admitted that she had entered the accused’s properties a number of times without a warrant. She believed that her entrance was lawful under the provisions of the Act. The accused alleged that the veterinarian had not performed sufficient medical tests on his animals, and they were subjective and inaccurate. The veterinarian testified as an expert in the assessment and treatment of the medical condition of animals and the adequacy of their food and shelter. She acknowledged that her assessments were subjective regarding the Body Content Score of animals. Finally, with respect to his position that he had been detained in his house, the Court heard testimony from the officers that denied making any such statements. The video recording of the search showed that the officers told the accused that they wanted to see his dogs in their current conditions after he had said that he was leaving that site to go to the location where the dogs were kept.
HELD: The Court dismissed the Charter application. It held with respect to each of accused’s allegations of Charter breaches that: 1) it was satisfied that on the evidence, the Justice of the Peace in this case could have issued the warrant and that the warrant was lawful. The officer’s entry of the accused’s properties prior to the search were authorized by s. 5(1) of the Act because she had reasonable grounds to believe that the accused was keeping animals for sale on those properties and to follow up on whether the accused had improved the care he gave his animals. The officer’s affidavit for the ITO laid out the lengthy involvement that the SSPCA had had with the accused and in preparing her grounds for the warrant, the officer acted reasonably in summarizing the SSPCA’s dealings with him. This was not misleading. The Court found that the complaint on which the ITO raised legitimate concerns about whether animals were in distress and the failure to name the complainant in the ITO was not fatal, given the long history of the SSPCA with the accused. She had in good faith when composed and swore the ITO and had not intentionally left out material or intentionally include misleading information; 2) the search was reasonable. The Court accepted that the evidence of the veterinarian and that she had fully explained the assessments that she conducted on the day of the search. In addition, in the absence of evidence from the accused, the Court based its decision on the testimony of the other Crown witnesses together with the video of the search; 3) the Court was not satisfied that there was any physical or psychological detention of the accused nor was there any obligation on the officers to comply with s. 10 of the Charter.