Ontario proposes PAWS Act to replace existing animal welfare laws and enforcement model

Ontario’s government has released its proposed animal welfare model to replace the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act. Earlier this year, the OSPCA informed the province it would no longer carry out animal welfare enforcement in the province, necessitating a revamp of the current animal welfare enforcement model and rules.

Dubbed the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act, the law carries stiff penalties for animal welfare offences, would require vets to report animal abuses, and creates a new enforcement model.

The new enforcement model would establish a provincial enforcement team made up of a chief inspector, local inspectors, and specialized inspectors for agriculture, zoos, aquariums, and equines. Inspectors would conduct inspections, investigations, and outreach on animal care best practices.

According to the provincial government, penalties would be the stiffest in Canada, and focus on non-compliance and repeat offenders and would differentiate between individuals and corporations. A first offence for an individual would carry a maximum penalty of $130,000 and/or maximum two years jail. A subsequent conviction would carry a maximum fine $260,000 and/or two years jail. For corporations, a first offence would carry a maximum $500,000 fine. That number would climb to a maximum of $1,000,000 for subsequent offences.

The act would also:

  • 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; and,
  • 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.

If the legislation passes, the government says it 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.

Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) says it is pleased to see the proposed Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act bill announced by the Ministry of the Solicitor General, and will examine the proposed act in detail over the coming days. The group also “looks forward to engaging with government throughout the stages of the bill’s review through the house.”

Over the past several months, BFO and other livestock commodity organizations have been actively involved in the consultation process as part of the development of this legislation, the organization says.

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