As BC SPCA Animal Protection Officers enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), they must act in accordance with the legislation. The PCA Act does not permit BC SPCA Animal Protection Officers to search for evidence or remove animals without a warrant.
Many investigations can be conducted without a search warrant. Upon respectful request, animal guardians will usually permit us to view their animals and, if the animals are in distress, guardians often comply with notices provided.
It is only when our Animal Protection Officers are denied access to the animals, or if the guardians are unable or unwilling to comply with notices and relieve the distress of the animals, that it is necessary to obtain a search warrant. In order for a warrant to be granted, there must be reasonable grounds to do so and there must be animals in distress or an offence committed against them.
The only time BC SPCA Animal Protection Officers may remove an animal without a warrant is when the animal is in critical distress and not located within a dwelling house.
PCA Act: Authority to enter without a warrant
14 (1) In this section, “critical distress” means distress in an animal of such a nature that
(a) immediate veterinary treatment cannot prolong the animal’s life,
(b) prolonging the animal’s life would result in the animal suffering unduly, or
(c) immediate veterinary intervention is necessary to prevent the imminent death of the animal.
(2) An authorized agent who believes on reasonable grounds that there is an animal in critical distress in any premises, other than a dwelling house, or in any vehicle, aircraft or vessel, may enter the premises, vehicle, aircraft or vessel without a warrant for the purpose of taking any action authorized by this Act to relieve that critical distress.
Further, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. If the BC SPCA performed an unreasonable search, it would have serious consequences for the outcome of the case, the animal(s) involved and the Animal Protection Officers performing the search.