Manitoba bylaw officer charged with fraud for keeping animal surrender fees: police
A bylaw officer in Manitoba is facing fraud charges for allegedly keeping the surrender fees when people gave up their pets, according to the Brandon Police Service.
The investigation began on Dec. 24, 2022, when a bylaw officer, who was assigned to animal control duties, went to a home in Brandon and collected a fee for an animal surrender. Police said this money was not turned over to the pound agent.
On Dec. 28, a Brandon police employee learned of this anomaly through a separate investigation and reported the incident to their supervisor. Following preliminary fact-finding and a review, the Brandon police launched an investigation at the beginning of January.
Through their investigation, police said they discovered four similar incidents between March and August 2022, where money was collected for the surrender of animals but was not deposited to the pound agent.
The bylaw officer, a 57-year-old man from rural Manitoba, has been charged with five counts of fraud under $5,000 and five counts of breach of trust by an official. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 24. In total, around $500 in animal surrender fees was not deposited.
None of the charges have been tested in court.
The suspect has been relieved of all responsibilities as an animal control officer, and at his request, has been on unpaid leave since Jan. 25, 2023.
“The Brandon Police Service has high expectations of ethical and moral standards from all of our staff and to see what has happened is detrimental to each employee and no doubt, to those who we serve within our community,” said Brandon Police Chief Wayne Balcaen at a news conference on Thursday.
Police note that protocols were in place when these incidents took place, but the bylaw officer did not follow these processes.
A review is ongoing to determine best practices and ensure this type of incident doesn’t happen again. Based on this review, the bylaw supervisor will be examining animal control calls for service on an ongoing basis.
“As part of our review, our animal control supervisor will be looking at each one of these cases and making sure that, if there’s a surrender fee, that it matches up with both what comes to the pound, as well as what has been collected by the officer,” Balcaen said.
Anyone with concerns regarding their animal surrender fees and whether the money was deposited can call 204-729-2345.
Lindsay Gillanders, a spokesperson for Manitoba Underdogs says shelters are overwhelmed.
“That’s the heartbreaking aspect: that the dollars were meant to go to an animal in need and that need wasn't met,” Gillanders said. “There is such a large need that its extra frustrating to know that those dollars didn't touch the lives that they were supposed to touch.”
Kaitlyn Mitchell, the legal director of Animal Justice in Manitoba, says in a statement she is deeply troubled about the incident, echoing Gillanders' concerns about shelter capacity.
“In these incredibly challenging times, both city-run shelters and charitable rescue groups need every penny they can get,” she said. “Manitobans faced with the heartbreaking decision as to whether to surrender a companion animal should be able to trust enforcement officials.”
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