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Ontario's New Animal Welfare Model

Backgrounder

Ontario's New Animal Welfare Model

Ministry of the Solicitor General

The Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act is a made-in-Ontario animal welfare model which, if passed, will better protect animals in the province. 

New Enforcement Model

The new enforcement model would establish a provincial enforcement team made up of a chief inspector, locally deployed provincial inspectors and specialized inspectors for agriculture, zoos, aquariums and equines. Inspectors would conduct:

  • Outreach and education on animal care best practices and how to be compliant with the legislation

  • Proactive, risk-based inspections, including, for example, of zoos and aquariums
  • Reactive inspections to respond to animal welfare concerns
  • Investigations to collect information and evidence and determine whether to lay charges.

The new enforcement approach would also provide resources to support investigations, including:

  • Ontario Provincial Police regional specialized capacity for animal welfare
  • Providing resources for crowns to support successful animal welfare prosecutions.

Modernized Legislative Framework 

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act would be repealed and replaced with the PAWS Act. If passed, the new act would:

  • Establish prohibitions, offences and requirements (e.g., compliance with prescribed standards of care)

  • Introduce penalties that would be the strongest in Canada, and focus on non-compliance and repeat offenders and would differentiate between individuals and corporations

  • Require veterinarians, and enable requiring others through regulations, to report animal abuse to the province

  • Allow inspectors, as well as others to be prescribed in regulation, to enter motor vehicles to address the issue of pets in critical distress in hot cars

  • Outline the duties and powers of the chief inspector as well as powers provided to inspectors and others such as police and First Nation constables

  • Provide inspectors with the specific powers they need to carry out their duties, instead of broad, police-like powers that were provided under the OSPCA Act

  • Establish regulation-making authority such as enabling the government to develop regulations that prohibit certain animals or procedures, or require a license to possess or breed certain animals

If the legislation is passed, the government intends to introduce transitional regulations to ensure protection of animals while long-term regulations are developed through consultations, including with advice from a multi-disciplinary table. 

Stiffer Penalties

Penalty TypeExisting PenaltiesNew Proposed Penalties

More serious offences

Examples:

Causing or permitting distress, animal fighting, contravening standards of care, etc.

Individual or corporation

  • maximum $60,000 fine, and/or
  • maximum two years jail

Individual

  • First offence - maximum $130,000 and/or maximum two years jail
  • Subsequent - maximum $260,000 and/or two years jail

Corporation

  • First offence - maximum $500,000
  • Subsequent - maximum $1,000,000

Less serious offences

 

Example:

Knowingly make a false report to an inspector, failure to comply with an order, etc.

Individual or corporation

  • maximum $1,000 fine, and/or
  • maximum 30 days jail

Individual

  • First offence - maximum $75,000 and/or maximum six months jail
  • For subsequent - maximum $100,000 and/or maximum one year jail
Corporation
  • For first offence - maximum $100,000
  • For subsequent - maximum $250,000  


Modernized Oversight Framework

New oversight mechanisms would include:

  • Introducing new complaint mechanisms for inspector conduct, including a one-window system for the public
  • Oversight by the Auditor General, Ombudsman, Privacy Commissioner, and freedom of information and protection of privacy legislation  
  • Continuing the Animal Care Review Board as the body to appeal orders and seizures
  • Consistent, comprehensive data collection through a case management data system which will enable measurement of progress against outcomes, identify emerging system issues and predict and plan for risk.

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