Animal Custody

BCFIRB hears appeals about certain animal custody and related cost decisions of the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA).

BCFIRB’s primary objective is to ensure the well-being of the animals involved.

In the interests of timeliness in addressing animal welfare issues, the PCAA establishes tight, strict deadlines for the filing of appeals. Similarly, there is a short timeline for submitting an appeal filing fee and an expedited appeal hearing process. Appeals must be made in writing AND be received by BCFIRB within those deadlines or you will lose your right to appeal. 

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    Types of Appeals BCFIRB can hear under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA)

    Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), BCFIRB may hear appeals in relation to certain BC Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) decisions, including:

    • A decision to take custody of an animal,
    • A decision to affirm notice that the animal will be destroyed, sold or otherwise disposed of,
    • The costs for which an owner is liable, and/or
    • The costs that an owner must pay before the animal is returned to the owner.
     

    Appeal Time Limits and Calculation of Days

    Notices of appeal must be made in writing and received by BCFIRB within the following time limits. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, BCFIRB cannot hear appeals of BC SPCA review or costs decisions submitted outside of the time limits below.

    I asked the BC SPCA to review the seizure of my animal.  The BC SPCA reviewed the seizure and told me they will not return my animal.  I am appealing their review decision to not return my animal.

    Appeal must be received by BCFIRB within four (4) calendar days of you getting the BC SPCA decision.

    Filing fees for these appeals must be received by BCFIRB within six (6) calendar days of you getting the BC SPCA decision.

    To calculate the four (4) days, start counting on the day after you receive the BC SPCA decision. If BCFIRB is not open on the 4th day (e.g. weekend or holiday) the time is extended to the next day the office is open.  The same method is used to calculate the six (6) days for the filing fee.

    I am appealing the amount of costs the BC SPCA has told me I must pay.

    Appeal must be received by BCFIRB within four (4) calendar days of you getting the BC SPCA decision.

    Filing fees for these appeals must be received by BCFIRB within six (6) calendar days of you getting the BC SPCA decision.

    To calculate the four (4) days, start counting on the day after you receive the BCSPCA decision. If BCFIRB is not open on the 4th day (e.g. weekend or holiday) the time is extended to the next day the office is open.  The same method is used to calculate the six (6) days for the filing fee.

    I asked the BC SPCA to review the seizure of my animal.  The BC SPCA has not provided a decision.  I want to appeal the original decision to take my animal.

    Appeal must be in writing and received by BCFIRB no earlier than 28 calendar days following your request to the BC SPCA for a review.

    Filing fees for these appeals must be received by BCFIRB within two (2) calendar days of the written Notice of Appeal.

    To calculate the 28 days, start counting on the day after you requested a review. You can file an appeal on or as soon as possible after the 29th day.

    If the above deadlines are not met, you will lose your right of appeal. If you have any questions, please contact BCFIRB by phone at 250-356-8945 (or Toll free 1-800-663-7867) or by email at firb@gov.bc.ca.

     

    Step 1: Request a BCSPCA Review

    Unless your appeal is only about costs, you must first ask the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) to review its decision to take custody of your animal(s) before filing an appeal with BCFIRB. This is a requirement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    • If you want to file an appeal only about costs charged by the BCSPCA, go to Step 2.

    If your animal is taken into custody by the BCSPCA, you will be given a Notice of Disposition that explains how to ask for a review. It is important you follow the BCSPCA instructions for asking for a review, and do so within the times set out below.

    If the BCSPCA...

    It will hold the animal(s) for...

    Takes an abandoned animal into custody and the owner is known

    No less than 4 days after giving notice to sell, euthanize or otherwise dispose of the animal

    Takes an abandoned animal into custody and the owner is unknown

    No less than 4 days before selling, euthanizing or otherwise disposing of the animal

    Takes a distressed animal into custody and the owner is known

    No less than 14 days after giving notice to sell, euthanize or otherwise dispose of the animal

     

    Step 2: File an Animal Custody Appeal

    Who can file an appeal?

    What can you file an appeal about?

    How do you file an appeal?

    What happens when you file an appeal?

    Appeals must be made in writing AND be received by BCFIRB within the deadlines set by the PCAA. Otherwise, you will lose the right to file your appeal.

    Who Can File an Appeal?

    If the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) has taken an animal because it appears to be abandoned or in distress and you are:

    • The animal owner
    • The operator in relation to the animal, or
    • Someone who has custody of the animal,

    you can file an appeal with BCFIRB about the BCSPCA decision to take your animal and/or any related costs you are charged by the BCSPCA.

    What Can You File an Appeal About?

    If the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) has taken your animal because it has been deemed abandoned or distressed, you can file an appeal with BCFIRB about one or more of the following:

    • The BCSPCA review decision confirming that your animal(s) will not be returned (they will be sold, destroyed or otherwise disposed of).
    • The original BCSPCA decision to take custody of your animal(s) if, after 28 days following your request for review, the BCSPCA has not given you a review decision.
    • The costs charged by the BCSPCA, and/or the costs the BCSPCA has determined you must pay before the animal(s) is returned.

    How Do You File an Appeal?

    When you file an appeal with BCFIRB, you are entering into a legal process and will need to follow specific steps required by BCFIRB. As a tribunal, BCFIRB is committed to a user-friendly process and will clearly direct both you and the BCSPCA in the steps you need to follow.

    To file an appeal with BCFIRB, you need to:

    1. Complete the PCAA Notice of Appeal Form (PDF); (or provide the same information in writing if you cannot use the form).
    2. Submit the form to BCFIRB by mail, courier, fax or email so that it will arrive within the time limit. Include a non-refundable $100 filing fee payable by cheque or money order to the Minister of Finance. If sending the form and filing fee separately, you must make sure the fee arrives not later than two (2) calendar days after the end of the time limit (address in table below).
    3. Send a copy of the form to the BC SPCA by mail, courier, fax or email (address in table below).
      BCFIRB BCSPCA
    Send to the attention of: Executive Director Chief Prevention and Enforcement Officer
    Mailing Address PO Box 9129 Stn Prov Govt
    Victoria, BC V8W 9B5
    1245 East 7th Avenue
    Vancouver, BC V5T 1R1
    Address for Courier 780 Blanshard Street
    Victoria, BC V8W 2H1
    1245 East 7th Avenue
    Vancouver, BC V5T 1R1
    Fax 250 356-5131 604 681-7022
    Email firb@gov.bc.ca mmoriarty@spca.bc.ca

    Appeal submissions must include

    • A clear statement of the issue(s),
    • The grounds for the issue(s),
    • Evidence,
    • Affidavits, and
    • Remedies requested.

    Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, BCFIRB cannot accept appeals submitted outside of the time limits below.

    What Happens When You File an Appeal?

    The exact process and timelines of an appeal process will be based on your specific appeal.

    1. BCFIRB receives the Notice of Appeal and filing fee
    The owner, operator in relation to, or the custodian of the animal sends a completed Notice of Appeal to both BCFIRB and the BCSPCA, and a $100 filing fee to BCFIRB.

    2. BCFIRB sends the submission schedule within three (3) business days
    BCFIRB sends the appellant (the person appealing the BCSPCA decision) and the respondent (the BCSPCA) a submissions schedule. The schedule sets out

    • The time in which the appellant has to make their submission to BCFIRB,
    • The time for the BCSPCA to respond, and
    • The time for the appellant’s reply.

    3. The appellant and BCSPCA send submissions to BCFIRB within thirteen (13) business days
    Written submissions, including witness affidavits and response submissions, from both the appellant and the BCSPCA must be sent to BCFIRB and copied to each other within the scheduled times laid out in the submission schedule.  Approved methods in which parties are to deliver documents to BCFIRB is outlined in the following practice directive:

    4. BCFIRB holds a telephone hearing within three (3) business days following submissions
    The appellant and the BCSPCA will present their summarized arguments and requested outcomes to a BCFIRB panel. Parties may have an opportunity to question each other, and may be required to answer any questions the BCFIRB panel may have. 

    5. BCFIRB makes a decision no later than ten (10) business days after the hearing
    BCFIRB will release a written decision with reasons, and send it to both the appellant and the BCSPCA. The decision will be posted to the BCFIRB web site within seven (7) days after it is delivered to the parties. BCFIRB decisions are final and only subject to judicial review by the B.C. Supreme Court.

    The full rules guiding BCFIRB’s appeal process can be found in the Rules of Practice and Procedure under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (forthcoming – please contact BCFIRB if you have any questions).

     

     

    Step 3: Animal Custody Appeal Hearing

    A hearing is where you and the BCSPCA present your issues, evidence (including witnesses), arguments and desired outcomes to a panel of up to three BCFIRB members.

    In general, hearings will be held by telephone, with the opportunity to provide written submissions ahead of time. Hearings will be scheduled by BCFIRB staff for a time and date that is agreed to by both you and the BCSPCA. The full rules guiding BCFIRB’s hearing process can be found in the Rules of Practice and Procedure under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA).

    What Happens at a Formal Hearing?

    A BCFIRB hearing is intended to be less formal than a court hearing. However, the BCFIRB panel will follow certain steps to ensure the hearing is fair and well-organized. In general, a hearing may consist of the following:

    Introduction

    The BCFIRB panel chair will introduce the panel members, and ask the parties to introduce themselves. The Chair will outline the matters under appeal and the statutory authority under which BCFIRB hears the appeal.

    Opening Statements

    You will be given the opportunity to make a brief opening statement to the panel, describing the issue under appeal, and your proposed solution. The BCSPCA will then have an opportunity to do the same.

    Presentation of Evidence

    You will have the opportunity to present your evidence to the panel. You can also present documents, and/or have other people appear as witnesses.

    The BCSPCA will have the same opportunity to present evidence.

    The chair will ask you, the representatives of the BCSPCA and all witnesses to promise to tell the truth.

    When evidence is presented, either by you, the BCSPCA, or witnesses, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. The BCFIRB panel may also ask questions.

    Note: The purpose of this step is to simply present evidence. It is not to argue how the evidence may or may not help your case. Arguments will be made in the next step (Closing).

    Closing

    In this part of the hearing, you will have an opportunity to argue why you disagree with the BCSPCA decision, based on the evidence that was presented. When making your arguments, you should clearly identify what remedies you would like from BCFIRB.

    When you are done, the BCSPCA will be given the opportunity to make its closing arguments.

    Decision

    The panel will not provide a decision at the hearing. The panel will meet after the hearing, and will prepare a written decision for release within approximately ten (10) days of the hearing. The time will depend on the length and complexity of the case.

    BCFIRB posts all of its decisions online.

    What Are the Alternatives to a Formal Hearing?

    A settlement agreement is one alternative to a formal hearing. At any time during the appeal process, you or the BCSPCA may ask BCFIRB to explore the potential for settlement of all or part of an appeal.

    A formal hearing always remains an option, even during facilitation or mediation focused on reaching a settlement agreement, until you withdraw your appeal.

    BCFIRB staff can assist in several ways, including, but not limited to:

    • Connecting parties with appropriate experts
    • Facilitating communication between you and the BCSPCA
    • Drafting a settlement agreement

    The rules guiding BCFIRB’s settlement process can be found in the Rules of Practice and Procedure under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (forthcoming – please contact BCFIRB if you have any questions).

     

    Step 4: Animal Custody Appeal Decision

    After you present your evidence and arguments at a hearing, the BCFIRB panel will make a decision. The decision will be in writing. It will be sent to you and the BCSPCA, and posted on the BCFIRB Animal Custody Appeal Decisions web page.

    The BCFIRB panel may consider whether the BCSPCA decision was

    • Consistent with ensuring the well-being of the animal(s) involved,
    • In compliance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and
    • Consistent with the principles of good decision-making (strategic, accountable, fair, effective, transparent, inclusive).

    These considerations arise out of BCFIRB’s primary objective of ensuring the well-being of the animal(s) involved, and its responsibility to adhere to administrative law.

    In its decision, the BCFIRB panel can, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act:

    • Require the BCSPCA to return the animal(s) with or without conditions regarding care;
    • Permit the BCSPCA, at the BCSPCA’s discretion, to destroy, sell or otherwise dispose of the animal(s); and/or
    • Confirm or change the costs the owner is liable for.

    BCFIRB decisions are final. There is no mechanism in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that allows BCFIRB to change decisions. However, you can apply to the B.C. Supreme Court for a judicial review within sixty (60) days of the BCFIRB decision, unless an extension is granted by the Supreme Court.

    BCFIRB processes and procedures can be reviewed by the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson, providing an additional layer of accountability.

     

    User Satisfaction Survey

    Your experience matters!  At the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) we are constantly trying to improve our service and would like to hear your feedback on how we performed.

    Starting March 1, 2017, BCFIRB is conducting ongoing user experience surveys of persons involved in its appeals and complaints processes. Surveys will be sent to appellants, complainants, respondents, legal counsel, and interveners involved in a hearing under one of BCFIRB’s three mandates:  

    1. farm practices complaints heard under the Farm Practices Protection Act
    2. appeals of animal seizure or cost decisions of the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), or,
    3. appeals of decisions made by the regulated agricultural commodity boards

     

    Individual responses will be confidential and anonymous and will not be shared with BCFIRB members. Information or reports generated or published from survey responses will present data in aggregate form only, protecting individual confidentiality and anonymity. The information will only be used to identify, evaluate and implement client service and business process improvements within BCFIRB.

     

    Supreme Court Judicial Review of BCFIRB Appeal Decisions

    BCFIRB appeal decisions are subject to judicial review. This includes both decisions that come after hearings, and decisions to summarily dismiss appeals without a hearing.

    To start a judicial review of a BCFIRB appeal decision, you need to file a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court within sixty (60) days of a BCFIRB panel decision. 

    A petition must allege that BCFIRB

    • Made a patently unreasonable finding of fact or law or exercise of discretion,
    • Acted in a procedurally unfair manner, or
    • Made an incorrect jurisdictional decision.

    If you wish to appeal a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, you can appeal to the Court of Appeal upon obtaining leave to do so (permission from a justice of the Court of Appeal).

    Judicial Review Decisions

    BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v British Columbia Farm Industry Review Board - December 19, 2013

     

    Enforcement of Animal Custody Appeal Decisions

    Enforcement actions can be taken if

    • The person who filed an appeal does not pay the costs as ordered and/or does not follow BCFIRB animal care orders once an animal is returned
    • The BCSPCA does not return an animal as directed by BCFIRB

    If one of the parties (person who filed the appeal or the BCSPCA) is not following a BCFIRB direction or order, the other party can file a certified copy of the direction or order with the B.C. Supreme Court. 

    Once the order is filed, if it is determined that the party has not followed BCFIRB’s direction, he or she may be found in contempt of court. Contempt of court may be punishable by fine or imprisonment. There is no time limit on filing a BCFIRB order with the B.C. Supreme Court.