Marcie Moriarty is the Chief Prevention and Enforcement Officer for the British Columbia SPCA (BC SPCA). With separate degrees in animal biology and law, Marcie draws on both sides of her education and experience in her work. She was called to the bar in May 2003, and her passion for animal welfare and advocacy soon led her to a career in the field starting in 2005. In 2012, Marcie took on her current role leading a department that combines cruelty investigations, stakeholder relations and scientific programs. She is one of the Canadian thought leaders being featured at the 2017 CFHS Canadian Violence Link Conference December 4-6 in Ottawa.
CFHS: Can you tell me how you started out in this work?
MM: I came out to BC to do an animal biology degree thinking I would want to be a vet, but eventually realized that my conversation skills far outweighed my technical skills and that I might be better suited to a career in law. While I was articling, a friend saw an ad in the paper for a general manager of cruelty investigations at the BC SPCA, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, that’s my dream job." At the time, I did not feel qualified to apply but knew that I wanted to learn more about the position and so I ended up contacting the successful candidate – which turned out to be Craig Daniell [the current CEO of BC SPCA]. I asked if he would be available to go out for coffee or lunch to talk about his job. He said yes, and after talking with him I knew that I needed to make a career change to something that I was more passionate about – animal welfare. When the job posting popped up again in 2004, that was it for me. I started in January 2005.
CFHS: What has made you so passionate about animal law in particular?
MM: Finding out that I could work in the legal field for animals to me was just an incredible thing. I wanted to bring my legal background to this to affect long-term change for animals. As a young kid, I wanted to be a detective – I'm not sure if it was connected to Sherlock Holmes with my Moriarty name – but I was drawn to the concept of fighting crime. To do it on behalf of animals, which is my area of passion, was a dream for me and it still is.
CFHS: Can you tell me about your role in helping to launch the National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty?
MM: After I had been in this job for a few years, one of the things that I was noticing and was exceptionally frustrated about was that we were doing a pretty amazing job in the investigation of animal crimes, but we weren't doing a particularly great job as a society on getting those cases before the courts. And I kept hearing "The laws are terrible." But, quite frankly, they aren't terrible. Don't get me wrong, the laws need improvement, but while we work towards those changes, there are opportunities to better utilize the current laws.
I know that back in my Law School days, most of us did not get taught animal law. And animal cases are rare in court, so this can sometimes result in lawyers not being as well equipped to argue these cases as they could be. Because we have a national Criminal Code, it isn't enough to just do animal prosecution well in one region or one province. We needed to make sure that, across Canada, there was a general understanding of how to effectively prosecute these crimes while we work toward changing the law. I knew if we could provide resources, training and networking in the area of animal cruelty law for prosecutors, it would make a huge impact. So I started brainstorming with Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of CFHS, and realized we had this platform through CFHS as the national voice for animals in Canada to get the National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty started.
CFHS: At the Canadian Violence Link Conference, you’re going to training other professionals, not just lawyers, on how animal investigations and prosecutions work so that people in other disciplines feel empowered to collect evidence of animal crimes to support more charges and more potential convictions of animal crimes. Can you tell me how you decided to get involved and to teach at this conference?
MM: There is such a clear link between interpersonal violence and animal cruelty. To me, this is a perfect opportunity to bring together stakeholders who are doing anti-violence work, whether it’s on the people side or the animal side, to learn how to help each other in our work. The missing piece that I keep seeing is how do animal investigations accommodate crimes involving people and how do animals get incorporated into people investigations? We need a multi-disciplinary approach to welfare. The One Health/One Welfare concept is exceptionally powerful.
CFHS: What do you hope people will be able to bring into their work after attending your session?
MM: I’m excited to be reaching a different audience, like police officers and social workers. My hope is that people will come out of the session with an understanding of the complexity of animal investigations and feel empowered about how they can include that knowledge within their own area of practice. I’m looking forward to a great dialogue during our session, and I’m excited to attend the presentations about the people side of the violence link – especially the talk by Tracy Porteous.