Ontario looking to introduce strongest penalties in Canada for animal abuse

Oct 29 2019, 8:32 am

The Ontario legislature has only been back in session for a day and it’s already making some changes.

On Tuesday, the Ford government announced it’s introducing legislation to better protect animals from abuse and neglect by proposing the strongest penalties in Canada for offenders, and a more robust enforcement system.

“We made a commitment to take action and develop a modern animal welfare enforcement system to keep animals safe. I am proud to say we are delivering on that commitment with new legislation that includes the toughest penalties in Canada,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in a statement.

“Ontarians can be confident the government is proposing a system that will better protect animals from negligent care.”

The newly proposed Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act, 2019 would improve animal welfare by:

  • Introducing new offences to combat activities such as dog fighting.
  • Giving inspectors the necessary powers to help animals in distress and to hold owners accountable.
  • Giving government the ability to empower others, beyond inspectors, to take action when an animal is in imminent risk of serious injury or death when a pet is left in a hot car.
  • Significantly increasing penalties for serious, repeat, and corporate offenders. These new penalties would be the strongest in Canada.
  • Improving oversight and ensuring increased transparency and accountability, including establishing a one-window complaint mechanism for the public.
  • 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 to improve animal welfare.

One of the more notable improvements under the new model includes stiffer penalties for animal abuse-related offences.

According to the government, more serious offences, including animal fighting, will see first-time offenders receive a maximum fine of $130,000 and/or two years in jail, or a maximum of $260,000 fine for second-time offenders and/or two years in jail.

The existing maximum penalty for animal fighting is $60,000 and/or a maximum of two years in jail.

Additionally, less serious offences, such as making a false report to an animal inspector, will see first-time offenders receive a maximum fine of $75,000 and/or six months in jail.

The current maximum penalty for less serious offences is a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or a maximum of 30 days in jail.

Additionally, the government says the system will be strengthened by hiring more provincial inspectors to ensure better coverage across the province, including specialists in livestock, agriculture, horses, zoos and aquariums.

“The PAWS Act would introduce the strongest penalties in Canada for offenders and make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement a full provincial government-based animal welfare enforcement model,” said Parliamentary Assistant Christine Hogarth.

“This made-in-Ontario model demonstrates that our government understands how significant the well-being of animals is to the people of this province.”

The provincial government said the proposed new animal welfare system was developed based on input from municipalities, police, industry, technical experts, veterinarian organizations, animal sheltering and advocacy organizations, and the public.

If passed, the government would continue to work with partners to ensure the best protection and support for animals.

If you have concerns about animal distress or abuse you can report it to the Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre at 1-833-9-ANIMAL (264625).