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Activists call for increased enforcement of cruelty laws
It was a short video, but what it depicted stirred outrage amongst animal rights advocates in the province over the weekend.
The video showed someone on the west coast of the province shaking a six- to seven-week-old kitten in a sexually suggestive manner, simulating masturbation. Other people in the room could be heard laughing in the video.
According to Frances Drover, president of the NL West SPCA, the person who shook the kitten was not its owner.
“I know the owner is responsible, but the owner is not the person that was doing that to the kitten. Apparently it was some sort of a party, or a group of young people together, and that’s where that incident happened, and the kitten was in that home.”
By Friday evening, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) in Corner Brook issued a news release saying it was investigating an incident under the Animal Health and Protection Act.
According to the release, investigators with the RNC worked with the provincial crown attorney’s office and the local chapter of the SPCA in response to the incident. Police also asked anyone with information about the incident to contact the RNC or Crime Stoppers.
On Saturday, Drover said the kitten was extensively checked by a veterinarian and no health concerns were found. The SPCA paid for the veterinarian visit.
“We had a good chat with the owner and the RNC constable was present,” Drover said, adding the owner will be keeping the cat.
As of Sunday, no charges were laid, but Sgt. Brad Elliott with the Corner Brook RNC said the incident was still technically under investigation. He said more information might be released on Monday.
Increase in animal rights complaints
Elliott said the RNC received “quite a few” calls from people concerned about the kitten after viewing the video.
“It seems since social media has taken as much root as it has, people are more aware of stuff, and it seems like the animal complaints are a lot higher because of that,” he said.
“People are vigilant with regards to animals, it seems, a little more lately.”
The province used to have special constables with the SPCA who had authority to investigate and remove animals from abusive or neglectful situations, however with the assent of the Animal Health and Protection Act in 2010 that authority was given to the RNC and RCMP.
“The RNC and the RCMP in the province have been overwhelmed with a number of animal problems that they’ve had complaints on,” said Drover.
However, she said a part of the concern with having special constables with the SPCA was that those people were volunteers, and the nature of the work often involved volatile situations.
Still, one animal rights advocate from Corner Brook who now operates a rescue organization in Nova Scotia, believes authority should be given back to the SPCA. She said it’s a system that works in Nova Scotia.
Sonya Higgins was a part of the effort to remove the cats from Little Bay Islands, and she’s using the attention that situation received as a “catalyst for change”.
Higgins said she believes it often takes public outcry, such as in the reaction to the kitten video over the weekend, for police to take action to enforce animal cruelty laws.
She said organizations across the province that worked together to remove all of the cats from Little Bay Islands are galvanized by that success, and are now working together to address other concerns — including advocating for increased enforcement of animal cruelty laws, and lobbying government to help create affordable spay and neuter programs to limit growth of feral cat colonies.
- Newfoundlanders, Nova Scotians working together to try to save Little Bay Islands cats, waiting on N.L. government reply on feral felines' fate
- Cat rescuers look to copy Nova Scotia groups' success with 'heart-wrenching' Newfoundland kitty colonies
- Hello, kitties: Feral cats arrive in Halifax after rescue from Newfoundland island