The North Peace SPCA branch has added a new special constable to their staff roster in order to improve their capacity to respond to animal cruelty complaints and improve animal welfare in the Peace-Liard region.
Claire Corcoran was hired in June for this position and has since been busy responding to calls about animal cruelty, neglect or abuse and visiting communities and Aboriginal bands to educate people about her role.
"Claire will be responding to calls that we get about issues of abuse, neglect, abandonment and other similar things," said Rosalyn Kalb, a volunteer director with the North Peace SPCA branch.
Kalb said that hiring a special constable is a significant move for the North Peace SPCA and is something that has come to be as a result of long and hard lobbying.
"Because we are an area that is so vast, we desperately needed a constable stationed here rather than one that comes in from outside. So we're really pleased that we now have one permanent full-time that can respond to inquiries that we get," said Kalb.
In the past, Kalb pointed out that the branches in the Peace-Liard region have been extremely limited in their ability to respond to calls of animal abuse or neglect because they've only ever operated with volunteer constables.
"We've had volunteer constables. I was one. But I was, and still am, a volunteer. Because we have other jobs, and sadly they come first, a lot of the constable stuff was not able to be actioned in a timely matter. And that, to us, was unacceptable," said Kalb.
Kalb said that in her time as a volunteer constable, she found that she may get a call on Wednesday about abuse, but may not be able to respond until Friday because of other commitments.
"In many of the cases where we get complaints, action has to be taken right away. If we get a complaint of animals that are freezing to death in a field somewhere, we want somebody on the ground who can look after it immediately," said Kalb.
Timeliness was still an issue if they had to call in a special constable from another area, such as Prince George, according to Kalb. When bringing in an out-of-town constable, especially during the winter months, it could take days to weeks for claims to be investigated.
Because of this and the size of the region, the BC SPCA animal cruelty investigation department in Vancouver gave the go-ahead to advertise for and hire a special constable dedicated to the Peace-Liard Region.
Corcoran lives in Fort St John and works from the North Peace branch. Her job will be to respond to calls in the region, including Fort St. John, Hudson's Hope, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.
As part of her position, Corcoran will respond to any calls of animal abuse, neglect or cruelty. She will deal with all types of animals including domestics such as dogs and cats and farm animals including horses, cows, sheep and pigs.
"She's already gone out to different communities and made overtures and made people aware that she's available and around. She's here and if there are issues, she wants them to come to her so they can be proactive about proper animal care and animal welfare," said Kalb.
Kalb said that Corcoran will deal with the cases as necessary. Resulting action can be as small as talking to people about the proper treatment of their animals or as large as submitting a case to crown council to pursue charges.
Corcoran will also be following up with animal owners who have received warnings in the past to ensure that they are following through with proper care of their animals.
"At the end of the day, if none of that works, she will go the legal route to go to find relief for that animal in distress," said Kalb.
Kalb also said that having a special constable in place will allow them to accurately track and record all complaints received by the shelter. She said that the shelter currently receives almost one call per day of animal abuse or neglect.
If members of the community witness acts of animal cruelty, they are encouraged to report it to the North Peace SPCA by calling 250-785-7722.