Step 3: The 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:
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.
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).
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.
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).
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:
- farm practices complaints heard under the Farm Practices Protection Act
- 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,
- appeals of decisions made by the regulated agricultural commodity boards and
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.