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The Edmonton Police Service (EPS), the municipal police force for the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has formed Canada’s first investigation unit dedicated to abusive behaviour toward domestic animals. Although this type of specialised unit has been used in the United States and Europe for some years, it is believed this is the first one in Canada.

Animal care and control officers have the authority to enforce the city’s animal licensing and control bylaws but the police are needed to enforce the provincial Animal Protection Act 2000. Last year, EPS investigated more than 400 incidents of animal cruelty, ranging from severe neglect and starvation to breeding dogs in puppy mills. In 2017, there were about 270 animal abuse investigations. Because of this high incidence of animal cruelty crime, the Animal Cruelty Investigation Unit was formed. It will be headed up by two officers who have spent recent years learning about animal cruelty issues, and who will train other EPS members.

Ted Dyck, one of the unit’s officers, said to CBC News: “Edmontonians would be quite shocked at the files we’re catching and the files we’re investigating… very sinister and heinous stuff that people do to animals.”

The other leading officer, Const. Ilka Cunningham, said in a news conference: “It started with our love for animals and then we realized there’s a much bigger picture here and we quickly recognized the link to child abuse, domestic violence.” 

Welcoming the new unit, the Edmond Humane Society said: “EHS wholeheartedly supports the move by EPS to have a dedicated unit for investigating concerns of animal cruelty. Animal abuse persists in our community, and we see first-hand in our work caring for animals the unfortunate lasting effects that it can have on those involved. It is critical that these cases be attended to by law enforcement professionals both for the protection of animals as well as people. The evidence of the violence link between harm towards animals and people is undeniable, and with focused, timely attention on these cases by EPS the lives of both animals and people will be saved.”