In the Legislature on October 29th, I was pleased to announce the introduction of the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act – or the “PAWS” Act for short. This legislation, if passed, will better protect animals from abuse and neglect by proposing the strongest penalties in Canada for offenders, as well as a more robust enforcement system.
After the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) ended its 100-year role as the enforcement agency of Ontario’s animal welfare legislation, we took immediate action to ensure that animals remained protected throughout the province. We partnered with 13 local humane societies across the province to appoint animal welfare inspectors, and the Legislature passed interim changes allowing us to appoint a new Chief Inspector to oversee enforcement.
During this time, we also consulted with animal welfare stakeholders from across the province, including local humane societies that assisted in protecting animals in the interim, veterinarians, technical experts, police services, municipalities, and the public. As part of our public consultation, we received over 16,000 responses from Ontarians, and we heard loud and clear about how important that animal welfare is to the people. Because the public cares so deeply about this topic, it was important for us to take the time to consult, listen, and get it right.
Our new system will be the strongest in Canada when it comes to the enforcement of animal welfare laws. We have developed a province-wide model led by a Chief Inspector with provincial inspectors deployed locally, supported by local police forces and the Ontario Provincial Police for criminal investigations.
This system will also be strengthened by hiring more provincial inspectors to ensure coverage across the province, including specialists in livestock, agriculture, horses, zoos and aquariums. This provincewide system will achieve the best outcomes for animal welfare in every corner of Ontario, while addressing concerns about a lack of oversight over the previous system. Local humane societies and SPCAs will continue the good work they do adopting and sheltering animals, and crown attorneys will be provided training to better support prosecutions.
In addition to this consistent enforcement model, our proposed new animal welfare system comes with stronger fines for individuals convicted of animal abuse. For example, someone whose abuse causes an animal to die, who engages in dogfighting, or who harms a service animal would face a minimum fine of $25,000.
All Ontarians will have access to a one-window system to report animal cruelty. Anyone who suspects animal abuse or cruelty should call 1-833-9ANIMAL in order to have complaints investigated. For more information about the PAWS Act, visit sylviajonesmpp.ca or call 1-800-265-1603.