Steps to better animal welfare enforcement

By MPP Toby Barrett

The province has brought in interim animal protection measures, which are a temporary solution until a better permanent system is in place by next January.

Animal welfare legislation has been enforced by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) since 1919, however, the OSPCA recently decided to stop providing animal welfare enforcement services.

Ontario is taking action to ensure the laws we have in place protect animals from abuse and neglect, and hold people accountable when they do not properly look after animals under their care. The interim OSPCA Amendment Act allows local humane societies to continue the enforcement work they have been doing for many years.

To ensure animals are protected in the interim, the public can report animal welfare concerns by calling 1-833-9ANIMAL.

Enforcement of animal welfare legislation has links to many complex issues. In addition to animal abuse and cruelty, an animal welfare situation can involve mental health, hoarding, domestic violence, puppy mills, pets in care, dogfighting and cockfighting – to name a few. This is why many partners are currently involved and why a model that has been in place for over 100 years cannot be replaced overnight. 

In March, the OSPCA informed the Solicitor General that it would no longer enforce the OSPCA Act as of April 1 of this year. This was later extended to June 28, but with exceptions. The OSPCA also indicated to the ministry they would no longer be enforcing livestock and horse complaints. The Solicitor General wrote to the OSPCA asking they continue animal welfare enforcement until the government introduces a new model – unfortunately, they refused.

The OSPCA Amendment Act is a temporary solution that will help fill the gaps while we build a new, permanent enforcement model and develop a legislative framework for the future. Animal welfare is complex. Its stakeholders range from veterinarians, pet owners and animal advocacy groups to livestock farmers. We are talking to all of these groups as well as municipalities and police services.

For the sake and safety of our animals, we are not going to rush the new long-term model. The stakes are too high. We will take the time needed to get the new model right. That includes making sure the people have their say.

Our government takes animal welfare seriously. Following the withdrawal of the OSPCA from enforcement of livestock and equine cases, our government acted quickly to ensure all livestock and equine welfare cases were directed to the local police authorities across the province. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs and our farm organizations continue to provide expertise to police authorities, as needed, in partnership with our local veterinarians.

Ontario farmers are already world leaders in maintaining the highest standards of animal care. They rely on the welfare of their animals to make a living, just like they rely on taking sustainable care of the land and the environment where their animals thrive.

Allowing animals to go unprotected is simply unacceptable to our government. Since this government was elected, we have clearly stated the animal protection enforcement system across this province can be and will be made better, and we are taking action to do so. The OSPCA Amendment Act is the first step along that path.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk