Below is the court process for an NB SPCA Animal Protection Officer in prosecuting an animal neglect or cruelty charge.
When an NB SPCA Animal Protection Officer receives a complaint that an animal is being neglected or abused; he or she sets out to examine the situation, and if necessary, relieve the animal of its distress. An investigation may involve having to obtain an Entry Warrant to enter a premises and the Animal Protection Officer must proceed only as authorized by the legislation. When the Animal Protection Officer has sufficient evidence to pursue a charge under the NB SPCA Act, or the Criminal Code of Canada, he or she must present the evidence (in the form of a Crown Brief) to a Crown Prosecutor.
The Crown Prosecutor will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant laying a charge. If the evidence warrants a charge under the Criminal Code, the local policing agency would be the main investigating agency and the NB SPCA would assist. Once a charge is laid, the accused is served with a Summons to appear in court to enter a plea.
At the first appearance date, the accused enters a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty”. 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 enters a guilty plea, details of the offence will be presented to the judge and he or she will impose a sentence. 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. After all evidence has been presented by the Crown Prosecutor and the Defence Attorney, the judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to convict the accused of the charge laid. If the accused is found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence.
Under The NB SPCA Act, minimum fines start at $140, and depending on the offence, can go as high as $200,000. A conviction under the Criminal Code may result in a fine or a fine and a term of imprisonment depending on the severity of the offence. A judge may also decide to prohibit that person from owning animals for a defined period or for life. A Prohibition Order imposed as a result of a charge under the NB SPCA Act is only applicable within the province of New Brunswick.
The NB SPCA gets authority to act under Provincial legislation. Animals may be seized by Animal Protection Officers where grounds exist and may be returned to the owner if payment is made pursuant to a Demand for payment to cover the boarding and veterinarian expenses incurred as a result of the seizure. An Animal Protection Officer can also issue a compliance order to an owner where there is a disregard for the standards of care relating to the animal.