Ontario Newsroom

Improving Animal Welfare, Strengthening Enforcement


Improving Animal Welfare, Strengthening Enforcement

Initiatives introduced since 2009 to strengthen the protection of animals and enforcement of animal welfare laws include:


  • Developing new standards of care specifically for marine mammals in captivity that would be among the highest in the world.
  • New standards of care would cover:
  • The size of pools used to house marine mammals
  • Environmental considerations such as bacteria content, noise and lighting
  • Social groupings
  • Regulations for the handling, display and performance of marine mammals
  • Standards of care are based on recommendations made in a University of British Columbia Report on Standards of Care for Marine Mammals in Captivity, commissioned by the Ontario government. The report was prepared by a team of scientists led by Dr. David Rosen, a respected marine biologist.
  • Will introduce legislation that would prohibit any future breeding or acquisition of orcas (killer whales) in Ontario and;
  • Establish a working group consisting of animal science and veterinary specialists, animal welfare, business and enforcement stakeholders to provide technical advice on the new standards of care for marine mammals, and an implementation schedule.

Unique Features of Orcas

  • Orcas (killer whales) are the largest of the marine mammals in captivity.
  • Orcas travel in pods of 5-30 whales in the wild, although some pods combine to form a group of 100 or more.
  • Orcas typically dive 500 feet or more.
  • Orcas typically swim up to 100 miles per day.


New investment in the OSPCA and its affiliates to:

  • Ensure province-wide animal protection enforcement by improving coverage to underserved areas of the province such as rural and northern communities.
  • Create a Major Case Management Team responsible for coordinating investigations that require specialized expertise such as dealing with puppy and kitten mills. This team has been activated more than 12 times since its inception.
  • Introduce a 24/7 centralized dispatch service to ensure timely responses to complaints of animal abuse and neglect across the province. More than 14,000 calls were received in 2014.
  • Establish regular inspections off all zoos and aquariums and develop a registry of those facilities to support the inspection process. Every zoo and aquarium has been inspected , and is expected to have been inspected at least twice by the end of March 2015.


  • Commissioned the University of British Columbia (UBC) to prepare an expert report on the care and maintenance of marine mammals.


In 2009, the government modernized the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act, giving the province the strongest animal welfare legislation in Canada.

Improvements included:

  • New provincial offences for causing or permitting distress to an animal.
  • Tougher penalties for causing harm to any animal, including jail terms of up to two years, fines of up to $60,000 and a potential lifetime ownership ban.
  • Comprehensive standards of care applicable to all animals with special standards for dogs kept outdoors, wildlife and primates in captivity.
  • Requirement for veterinarians to report suspected abuse and neglect, and protect them from personal liability for doing so.
  • Authorization for the OSPCA to inspect places where animals are kept for entertainment, exhibition, boarding, sale or hire, including all zoos and aquariums, circuses, pet shops and breeders.
  • A specific offence for causing harm to a law enforcement animal, such as a police horse or dog.
  • Offences for permitting or training an animal to fight another animal, or for keeping related equipment.

Media Contacts



Law and Safety