More tartar on teeth?
OSPCA orders dogs to have teeth checked but owner canít afford dentist for herself
By Patrick Meagher
LYNDHURST ó Jessica Johnson has been ordered to take five of her dogs to a veterinarian to have their teeth checked even though she hasnít been to a dentist in 16 years and says she canít afford one.
It was on the afternoon of May 18 when Johnson was sleeping in her livingroom and Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigator Maryanne Hitchen climbed through a window and unlocked the front door to let in at least one other OSPCA investigator and two police officers. They showed her a search warrant and said someone complained that her dogs were not properly taken care of, Johnson said.
Johnson has five adult Yorkshire terriers and eight puppies and breeds them for therapy. She says what she earns from breeding pays for the care of the dogs.
After the about 30-minute investigation Johnson said she was told the electrical cords in the house were a danger to the dogs and was given an order to have a veterinarian check the teeth on the five adult dogs by June 4.
The orders note "possible dental issues" and "All hazardous cords, materials must in an area where adult dogs and puppies do not have access."
Johnson was also ordered to provide clean water and a clean environment but argues that she already provides that.
The Johnson case is the latest of numerous complaints by farmers and rural landowners of heavy-handed OSPCA investigations over the past year. The current case is reminiscent of the OSPCA raid on an Amish community in Western Ontario. Numerous farms were raided and one farmer was ordered to have a vet remove the tartar from the teeth of one of his dogs. An OSPCA officer later apologized to the Amish community.
In this latest case, Johnson, 64, said the cost to have the vet check the teeth would be about $350.
"Iím on a pension and I have $30 on me to last until the end of the month," Johnson said on May 24. "I have soup, potatoes and rice for the rest of the month. I have three fillets of fish and a package of steakettes."
Sounding rattled, she added: "I havenít been to a dentist since 1996 because I canít afford to pay to go to a dentist for myself but I have to take my dogs to the dentist."
She said that she only feeds the dogs dry dog food and chicken jerky for snacks. "They might have tartar on their teeth but theyíre not rotten."
Johnson is a retired postal worker and has limited movement of her hips. She needs a walker to get around and said she suffers from back pain, arthritis and depression, lives alone on a few acres outside the village of Lyndhurst, north of Brockville, and is visited by a nurse every second day to redress an open wound.
Asked about the raid on her home she said, "They were just nitpicking."
Johnson is appealing the orders thanks to a fundraising effort and is being represented by lawyer Kurtis Andrews, who also represents David Robinson, a Chesterville dairy farmer facing OSPCA animal cruelty charges.
Andrews said the fundraising might cover out-of-pocket expenses but that taking her case is "simply the right thing to do."
Andrews called the OSPCA actions "shameful.
"I cannot imagine a more vulnerable person than Ms. Johnson," Andrews told Farmers Forum.
"Imagine, a disabled person living in a remote location, being subject to forced entry into her house while she is sleeping. We are going to provide Ms. Johnson with the representation she deserves, and hope that we can help end this nightmare."