Edmonton's animal cruelty investigations unit example for other police services
It started with a puppy they named Tucker.
In 2017, constables Ilka Cunningham and Ted Dyck with the Edmonton Police Service were sent to an animal cruelty call and found a puppy that had been beaten.
“When we seized (the puppy), I noticed that one of his eyes was quite bloodshot,” Cunningham said.
“We took him to the emergency vet and (the pup) had some trauma to his eye from probably being punched or kicked.”
She said the dog got its name because of how “tuckered out” he looked when they were driving him to the veterinary clinic.
“We had a ride-along with us that day who was holding him in his arms, and the puppy ... melted into his arms and fell asleep.”
The pit bull mix made a full recovery, but Dyck said he and his partner made a lot of mistakes in the investigation.
“We didn't get any veterinary statements and the biggest thing is that we didn't know anything about the provincial Animal Protection Act,” said Dyck, who, with Cunningham, now leads the police force's animal cruelty investigations unit.
It officially formed in May and is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.
Cunningham said Tucker's case would have been “bulletproof” if the officers had been trained to deal with animal cruelty files and known what is needed to prosecute abusers.
“We did get a conviction, but it certainly wasn't jail time or a very high fine,” she said.
Tucker was the catalyst for them to take on more animal abuse cases.
“We were still front-line patrol members, but we were doing these animal files off the side of our desk,” Dyck said.
He and Cunningham reached out to police services throughout Canada for advice, but couldn't find a dedicated unit for animal cruelty investigations.
They expanded their search to south of the border, where they worked with police in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston, Dyck said.
Today, the Edmonton unit has 17 animal liaison patrol officers with specific training. The unit works with veterinarians, city animal care and control officers and provincial Crown prosecutors.
In many parts of Canada, abuse files are often handled by animal welfare groups and city workers. But they do not have the same investigative resources as police for serious cases, Cunningham said, and in Alberta do not have the power to lay criminal charges.
Kendra Coulter, an associate professor of labour studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.,said research around the world has shown that there can be links between animal cruelty and violence against people.
“Animal cruelty issues can be just the tip of a much more dangerous iceberg,” she said. “It can be happening before other kinds of crimes or alongside.”
In 2019, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced it would no longer enforce cruelty laws, which it had been doing for more than a century. That same year, an Ontario judge struck down the society'senforcement powers as unconstitutional. The judge said the province made a mistake when it gave policing powers to a private organization without requiring accountability and transparency standards.
That prompted Coulter to do an online survey of 20,000 Ontarians about animal cruelty laws. It found that 90 per cent of those polled wanted police to enforce the rules.
“Canada's enforcement when it comes to animal cruelty laws is a patchwork of patchworks,” Coulter said.
“Who is going to be doing the investigation really varies depending on where you are in the country, where you are within a specific province, what kind of animals are involved, and even what day of the week it is.”
All those factors can be frustrating for people who want to report animal abuse, she said.
“Police always, anywhere in Canada, can enforce provincial laws or the Criminal Code. The question is, do they have the knowledge or do they have the experience?
“More often than not, the answer is, not necessarily.”
Coulter commends the work Dyck and Cunningham are doing and suggests the unit is a good model for other jurisdictions to follow.
The two constables have taken part in training others in the force. They said officers from other police services have also requested training.
They say what keeps them going through the roughest cases is their love for animals and dedication to protecting society's vulnerable creatures.
Cunningham said they keep in touch with many families who adopt rescued animals, including Tucker. They have a wall in their office of all the photos and cards sent to them of animals now in loving homes.
“We see a lot of terrible and negative things, so it's nice to see some of the positive of it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2021.
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre joined the final leg of a march led by a Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements that has sparked promises -- and fears -- of a new wave of protests in the capital.
Ottawa protest organizer Tamara Lich will spend at least five more nights in custody in Ottawa after she was arrested in Alberta for allegedly breaching bail conditions.
Two of Canada's largest airlines announced steps this week to cope with delays, cancellations and service issues. Head to CTVNews.ca to read about the changes announced by Air Canada and WestJet.
The Conservative Party of Canada says approximately 675,000 members will be eligible to vote in this year's leadership race.
Researchers examining the threat of emerging COVID-19 strains predict Omicron BA.5 will account for nearly 70 per cent of cases in much of the country by Canada Day.
The Supreme Court of Canada says the expanded rules to further prevent a sexual assault complainant's past from being used against them in a trial are 'constitutional in their entirety.'
As stocks continue to slump, it can be easy to let your emotions take over if you've got money invested in the market. But experts agree that there's no need to panic if you're invested in the right type of portfolio with the right level of risk.
More than a month after Canada reported a shortage of baby formula for allergic infants, Health Canada says supplies will continue to be limited during the summer even with new shipments on the horizon.
Animal rescue groups are criticizing a new policy by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that will ban the import of dogs from more than 100 countries.
Emergency crews are on the scene of a fatal crash that took place late Thursday afternoon.
Thousands of Calgarians are ready to ring in Canada’s 155th birthday as festivities are set to be held across the city, but not everyone is calling this a ‘celebration.’
The daughter of a Calgary man shot and killed by police earlier this year is calling for details regarding data the service is collecting about interactions between police and people of colour.
Saskatchewan's social services minister announced plans to cut funding to Saskatoon's permanent downtown shelter during a talk radio appearance.
A video captured by a Saskatchewan man shows a kayaker paddling away from a developing tornado.
It’s been 25 years since Saskatchewan’s last residential school closed, but some are still healing.
Live performance kicks off at noon on the main stage in Wascana Park with opening ceremonies, followed by a variety of entertainment:
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have 12 players on either the one or six game injured lists and 10 roster players listed as ‘out’ or ‘questionable’ leading into Saturday’s week four rematch versus Montreal.
Foam Lake is typically a quiet, small Saskatchewan community, but early Wednesday evening, the skies turned dark and the community was faced with a nasty twister.
The spouse of the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify mid-July before a public inquiry, but she won't face direct questions from lawyers representing victims' families.
As Claire Mahaney-Lion dropped her son off at school this morning, she questioned the reasons behind scheduling a school day that would last fewer than two hours.
Saint John is having its dog day. The host city of the 2022 Memorial Cup is celebrating after the Saint John Sea Dogs bested the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 in front of a capacity crowd during Wednesday's championship game at TD Station.
Ontario drivers could soon see the end of "unfair" insurance policies with premiums based on postal codes, Premier Doug Ford said Thursday.
Ontario gas prices are about to take a huge drop and one expert says it will be 'well worth waiting' if drivers can hold off on filling up.
If you are staying in the city for the Canada Day long weekend, there are several road closures to keep in mind.
Consumer rights advocates are demanding Air Canada provide compensation to many of the hundreds of thousands of passengers whose summer flights it cancelled.
Organizers of a Montreal Caribbean festival are looking for clarity from police as to why a large group of officers interrupted their pre-festival barbecue on Saint-Jean Baptiste Day.
Two people have been reported dead and one person is in critical condition after a fire broke out in a home in Longueuil on Montreal's South Shore.
Police officers in cruisers, on foot patrol and on bicycles are patrolling the Parliamentary Precinct, the ByWard Market and the so-called "motor vehicle control zone", as the city prepares for Canada's 155th birthday celebrations and possible protests.
Canadian Forces veteran James Topp marched through Ottawa on Thursday on the final leg of his cross-country march, and was joined by Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre for part of the walk.
Mayor Jim Watson also faced questions about a private WhatsApp chat with senior staff and members of his office, and the fact there were no city committee meetings for councillors to ask questions and receive information during the trial-running period.
The eviction deadline for people living at an encampment at Victoria and Weber Streets in Kitchener has come and gone, but residents of the property say they’re not moving.
A miscommunication involving a COVID-19 booster shot has left a Kitchener woman concerned for her 86-year-old mother.
The news comes just two days after the City launched a naming contest for the young bird, which it said was the first offspring of Victoria Park swans, Otis and Ophelia.
With Health Canada's permission, street drugs can now be consumed inside Safe Health Site Timmins.
Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services is helping seniors protect themselves against fire. The Assisting Seniors Awareness Program or Project ASAP is focussed on those 65 or older, and still living independently.
While the main suspect still hasn’t been caught, two people have been charged in connection with a murder that took place June 24 on Manitoulin Island.
AMC working to remove Arlen Dumas after probe found his conduct amounted to 'workplace sexual harassment'
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is working to remove Arlen Dumas as Grand Chief of the organization.
After working for more than two decades, Manitoba firefighters say the world's governing body on cancer research and prevention is finally acknowledging firefighters' cancer risk.
A crash involving a Transit bus that appears to have smashed into a home has shut down a road near Osborne Village.
The number of people with COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals remained at 273 on Thursday, still slightly above the lowest total seen in 2022 so far.
British Columbia's police complaint commissioner has ordered a review by a retired judge into a disciplinary decision against an officer who allegedly disobeyed orders during an investigation.
Multiple crashes involving bears in a B.C. national park earlier this month prompted a crackdown on drivers in the area, according to the B.C. Highway Patrol and Parks Canada.
Saanich police will hold another update on a deadly shooting that took place on Tuesday afternoon, leaving two suspects dead and six officers with gunshot wounds.
Mounties on Vancouver Island are warning of a recent spike in catalytic converter thefts, with more than 50 thefts of the devices reported to police in the Oceanside, B.C., area this year.
BC Ferries is cancelling several sailings between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland ahead of the Canada Day long weekend.