Ontario introduces new animal welfare legislation, but does it go far enough?

October 29 2019

The Ministry of the Solicitor General announced today a new model for the protection of animals in Ontario. The bill that will be introduced on October 29th is called the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act

 The new model would improve animal welfare by:

  • Introducing new offences to combat activities such as dog fighting;
  • Giving inspectors necessary powers to help animals in distress and to hold owners accountable;
  • Giving government the ability to empower others, beyond inspectors, to take action when an animal is in imminent risk of serious injury or death when a pet is left in a hot car;
  • Significantly increasing penalties for serious, repeat and corporate offenders. These new penalties would be the strongest in Canada; 
  • Improving oversight and ensuring increased transparency and accountability, including establishing a one-window complaints mechanism for the public; and
  • Establishing a multi-disciplinary advisory table made up of a wide range of experts, including veterinarians, agriculture representatives, academics, animal advocates and others to provide ongoing advice to the ministry to improve animal welfare.

World Animal Protection commends the Ontario government and the Solicitor General’s office for prioritizing the protection of animals. We are encouraged that the Government recognizes the importance of improving protection of animals and has listened to some of the feedback provided by people and organizations that deal with animal welfare every single day. We agree that the responsibilities for the protection of animals is a provincial matter and should not be left to individual municipalities.

World Animal Protection will be asking the Ontario Government to:

  • Restrict the keeping of wild animals kept as pets through a positive list. It is best practice to regulate which animals can be kept as pets rather than which animals cannot be kept.
  • Establish a comprehensive captive wildlife licensing scheme to put an end to roadside zoos.
  • Strengthen existing captive wildlife standards to better protect animal welfare and peoples’ safety.

Many questions remain about the future model and World Animal Protection will be following this process closely and keeping you informed of opportunities to participate.

How the review came about

Since 1919, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) has been enforcing animal protection laws in Ontario. The Ontario government hired the OSPCA to perform these duties. Over the years more complaints accumulated about the capabilities of the OSPCA to enforce these laws. Concerns were voiced about transparency, number of enforcement officers and the effectiveness of the system. Earlier this year the OSPCA announced that it was going to withdraw from its enforcement duties as of March 31 because of inadequate funding. The Ontario government responded to this by appointing a Chief Inspector and creating a toll-free phone number.

How to report animal abuse in Ontario

In June 2019, the Ontario government set up the Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre: 1-833-9-ANIMAL (264625).

If you encounter animal abuse in Ontario, we encourage you to report it to this number. You can also contact your local police division to report animal cruelty and learn more about what you can do.

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