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Ontario's New Animal Welfare System

Backgrounder

Ontario's New Animal Welfare System

Ministry of the Solicitor General

The Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act establishes a made-in-Ontario animal welfare system, which will better protect animals. 

New Enforcement Model

The new provincial enforcement team will be made up of a chief animal welfare inspector, locally deployed provincial inspectors and specialized inspectors for livestock, zoos, aquariums and equines. Inspectors will 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 approach will also provide resources for Crown attorneys to support successful animal welfare prosecutions.

Modernized Legislative Framework

The PAWS Act repeals and replaces the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act. The new act:

  • Establishes prohibitions, offences and requirements (e.g., compliance with prescribed standards of care)
  • Introduces new offences to combat activities such as dog fighting, harming or attempting to harm an animal that works with peace officers or a service animal, and prohibiting an individual from knowingly or recklessly causing an animal to be exposed to an undue risk of distress
  • Introduces the strongest penalties in Canada, focused on non-compliance and repeat offenders, and differentiates between individuals and corporations
  • Continues to require veterinarians to report animal abuse to the province
  • Allows inspectors, as well as others to be established in regulation, to enter motor vehicles to help pets in critical distress in hot cars
  • Outlines the duties and powers of the chief animal welfare inspector as well as powers provided to inspectors and others such as police and First Nation constables
  • Provides 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
  • Establishes regulation-making authority, such as enabling the government to develop regulations that require a license to possess or breed certain animals
  • The government intends to bring forward transitional regulations to ensure animals are protected while long-term regulations are developed through consultation. Consultations on long-term regulations will seek advice from a multi-disciplinary table comprised of a wide range of experts, such as veterinarians, animal advocates, agricultural experts and academics, among others.
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 include:

  • A complaint mechanism for inspector conduct and a public phone number to report animal abuse
  • Oversight by the Auditor General, Ombudsman, Privacy Commissioner, and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act  
  • Continuing the Animal Care Review Board as the body to appeal orders and seizures
  • Consistent, comprehensive data collection which will enable measurement of progress against outcomes, identify emerging system issues and predict and plan for risk.

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