Province passes new government-based animal welfare legislation

Ontario is set to have the strongest penalties in Canada for those who violate the new animal welfare law. Shutterstock

TORONTO – Last week, Ontario passed legislation that will better protect animals from abuse and neglect by implementing the first provincial government-based animal welfare enforcement system. Once in force, Ontario will have the strongest penalties in Canada for people who violate the new law. 

“I am proud to say we have followed through on our commitment to deliver a modern animal welfare system,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Ontario is now a leader in Canada when it comes to protecting animals, especially when it comes to penalties for offenders.”

The new system comes into force on January 1, 2020 and will improve animal welfare across the province by: Implementing a new enforcement model, including provincial inspectors to provide province-wide coverage, and inspectors with specialized expertise in livestock, zoos, aquariums and equines; updating prohibitions and obligations, such as barring the return of dog fighting equipment to a person convicted of an offence as well as increasing penalties for offences; enabling inspectors to enter motor vehicles to help pets in critical distress in extreme weather conditions; establishing new oversight provisions of inspectors that offer increased transparency and accountability, as well as 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. 

“Ontario is setting the bar for other provinces when it comes to a modern animal welfare system,” said Parliamentary Assistant Christine Hogarth. “Our government has said how committed we are to the well-being of animals and we have proven our commitment by passing this new legislation.”

This new animal welfare system was developed based on input from municipalities, police, industry, technical experts, veterinarian organizations, advocacy organizations and the public. The government will continue to work with partners to ensure the best protection and support for animals.

After more than 100 years enforcing the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act, the OSPCA stopped providing enforcement services as of June 28, 2019 following a court case suspending the act. In June, the government passed the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Amendment Act (Interim Period), 2019, a temporary measure to keep animals safe during the transition to the new animal welfare model.