reveals proposed changes to legislature
Mar 20, 2012
Sudbury Northern Life Staff
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) didn't have much to say
about proposed changes to the OSPCA Act, except that it does not take into
consideration what is best for the animals.
In 2009, the Ontario SPCA Act was amended placing Ontario the front runner for
animal welfare legislation across Canada, according to a statement issued by the
OSPCA. The recent amendments would cause Ontario to hold the worst animal
welfare legislation in Canada.
Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren revealed the proposed changes to
the Ontario SPCA Act March 19. Deemed Bill 47, he said the changes will see
tighter controls to enforcement under the OSPCA Act.
Drastic changes have been made to the legislation since it was formed as Bill
37, which basically eliminated more than half of the existing Act, he said. It
virtually rewrote inspection and enforcement. For example, fines and offences
were taken out, and everything relied on the Criminal Code of Canada. First
responders, inspectors and enforcement would have been police officers. Bill 47
“is nothing like that,” MacLaren vowed.
Bill 47, if passed, would separate the inspections to ensure animal welfare
against abuse into farm animal inspections and non-farm animal inspections. Farm
inspections would be carried out by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food
and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), while non-farm animal inspections would still be
carried out by the OSPCA.
“The OSPCA has its niche, which does not include farm animals, and those
animals should be looked after by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural
Affairs, where inspectors would be given the same power the OSPCA inspectors
would have, but for farm situations,” he said.
Both the OMAFRA and OSPCA inspection officers will be the first response to
complaints and will be limited to observing, advising, educating and writing
reports on visits made. Inspectors will no longer be able to inspect without the
permission of the land owner, unless in the case of an animal welfare emergency.
Removing an animal will only be done with the recommendation of a veterinarian
and then sanctioned by a justice of the peace, and the animal owner will have
the right to accept the veterinarian that is called to examine the animal and
make this decision, or the animal owner can choose their own.
The OSPCA would no longer be able to invoice animal owners, and only the police
will be able to lay charges under the Provincial Offences Act or the Criminal
Code of Canada.
Essentially, an inspector, under Bill 47, would attend and inspect the animal.
If abuse is noted, a written report is filed to police. If an order was written
to either seize the animal or destroy the animal, it would have to be
recommended by a veterinarian, and the vet's report would have to be sanctioned
by a justice of the peace. Simple orders for corrective measures would still be
issued by the inspector.
Prior to his election in October, MacLaren spent about 10 years with the
Ontario Landowners Association, supporting what he called “victims” of the OSPCA,
people who were “raided” or had animals seized by OSPCA inspectors. In some
of those cases, he said it was very difficult to understand how they could call
what had happened abuse.
“The penalty didn't match the crime,” he said. “For very minor circumstances,
there were very heavy penalties. We came to see there were things with the OSPCA
we felt weren't quite right.”
The OSPCA is a charity, with about one-quarter of its funding coming from the
province, he said. It has to raise the rest of the money. Under current
legislation, as a charity, there is no oversight, which becomes a conflict of
interest for people in positions of power, like police officers or the OSPCA,
There is a clause in the OSPCA Act that states if investigators seize an animal
from a property, they can charge the owner for the care, transportation or
veterinarian work, and “it can become a source of income, and I've seen bills of
upwards of $100,000,” MacLaren said.
Basically, the OSPCA is a private police service operating as a charity,
which means there is no accountability mechanism in place, he said. “That
was an error in the existing legislation,” he said.
With any kind of policing agency, there is an accountability process, he
said. Police officers are properly screened and trained, and if they make a
mistake, or something goes wrong, they are made to account for their action.
“Traditionally, there is very little training for OSPCA enforcement staff, who
have, at times, more power than a police officer,” MacLaren said. “I'm not
saying a lot goes wrong with the agency, but there is still nothing in place
there to ensure the proper measures are taken if and when something does go
Current legislation is fine with respect to animal welfare, MacLaren added,
and Bill 47 doesn't eliminate the fines, rules and regulations of pet owners;
rather, it changes who is able to enforce the legislation and removes money from
the situation that could “present the opportunity or the temptation for
The new legislation would also look at the current hiring practices for the
province's chief inspector. Currently, the OSPCA board of directors hires the
chief inspector for the province, a person who must be a member of the OSPCA,
according to MacLaren.
“We've changed that a little bit, and want the Lt.-Gov. and council to have
the ability to approve or disapprove anyone hired for that position, and that
person doesn't have to be a member of the OSPCA. That would provide government
Bill 47 will be debated on March 29 and MPPs will vote on whether to send it to
public committee where it will be scrutinized and amendments can be made. During
this process, residents and stakeholders have an opportunity to make
recommendations to the committee. After these changes have been made, it will go
back to the house for third reading where it will be debated again and another