Special Constable John Meneray shook plenty of hands and a few paws on Haida Gwaii last week.
An investigator with the BC Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Meneray normally works in Surrey.
“I do a lot of animal cruelty investigations, but a big component of my job is education,” he said.
The BC SPCA has 30 full-time special constables who enforce B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act — something the non-profit gets no provincial funding to do.
To relieve an animal in distress, they can get warrants to remove an animal from an owner if he or she doesn’t co-operate.
But Menerary said that’s not the approach he prefers, especially here.
“In this case, I didn’t want to be the guy who shows up in uniform — someone they’ve never seen before — and start doing that,” he said.
“I wanted to first offer a hand.”
In one case, Meneray said local people volunteered to help an owner with veterinary care that they couldn’t afford.
Meneray said he saw lots of concerning things on island, such as dogs left alone all day, or tied up without shelter or water.
Several B.C. towns and cities have bylaws to limit the length of time an owner can keep a dog on a chain or a rope. While Haida Gwaii’s band and village councils are aware of such issues, no such bylaws or enforcement officers exist here yet.
“A lot of people don’t even know what they’re doing is not right,” said Meneray.
“There’s a great need for just basic education on animal welfare.”
The Haida Gwaii branch of the SPCA is pushing for islands-wide animal welfare bylaw, and for a modest shelter to avoid burnout by its overworked volunteers.
After they posted a photo of him in uniform on social media last week, Meneray was amazed to get handshakes on the street and local thanks for his work.
“I did drink the water at St. Mary’s spring,” he said.
“So I will be coming back.”