Below is the court process for an Ontario SPCA Inspector/Agent in prosecuting an animal cruelty charge.

Collecting evidence

When an Ontario SPCA Inspector/Agent receives a complaint that an animal is being neglected or abused, he or she sets out to examine the situation and relieve the animal of its distress. When the Inspector/Agent has collected what is believed to be sufficient information to pursue a criminal charge under the Criminal Code of Canada, he or she may consult with a Crown Attorney before laying a charge. The Inspector/Agent may also make charges under provincial legislation, including the Ontario SPCA Act, or utilize provisions within miscellaneous provincial laws outside of the Act including the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (related to the suffering of wildlife).

Laying a charge

In the case of a provincial or federal charge, the Inspector/Agent then takes the evidence to a Justice of the Peace and swears out an "information" (an official court document), which includes a summons for the accused. The alleged animal abuser is served with the summons, which details the accusation and gives a date for a court appearance. Next, the Inspector/Agent prepares a Crown Brief, which advises what information is available to be called as evidence against the accused. This brief will be disclosed to the accused person.

In the courts

At the first appearance date, the court may set the matter down to a future date to allow the accused more time to consult with a lawyer. If the accused chooses to enter a "not guilty" plea, a date will be set for a trial, at which time witnesses will be subpoenaed to provide their evidence to the court.

The verdict

Under The Ontario SPCA Act, a person could receive up to a $60,000 fine, imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both and could also receive a lifetime ban from owning an animal.

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