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Ontario PC Party Bill Would Gut Animal Cruelty Laws

A Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario bill before the legislature would gut animal cruelty laws and remove prohibitions on causing cruelty and distress to animals, says Animal Justice Canada (Animal Justice), a Toronto based Canadian registered charity.

“The PC Party seeks to strike down Ontario laws that prevent cruelty to and abuse of animals. This would have a significant impact on animal law and treatment in the province of Ontario,” said Nicholas dePencier Wright, Executive Director of Animal Justice.

Bill 37 – An Act to Amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was introduced by Ontario PC Party MPP Jack MacLaren of Carleton–Mississippi Mills and can be read online here:

The Bill passed first reading on February 23, 2012 and proposes a number of amendments to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (the “OSPCAA” or “Act”). The following are the most pertinent proposed changes:

•    The Bill seeks to repeal a number of definitions, including “distress.” The Bill also proposes to repeal Section 11.1, which outlines the standards of care that animal owners must meet. In addition, the Bill seeks to repeal Section 11.2, which prohibits causing distress to an animal or permitting distress to an animal.  The repeal of these sections would effectively eliminate the prohibition against animal cruelty and eliminate an owner’s obligations to care for her animal and meet prescribed standards of care. Moreover, the proposed OSPCAA would lack any standards of care by which to determine: (a) whether an animal has received adequate care; and (b)  whether cruelty has occurred .

•    The Bill would repeal the current prohibition against animal fighting.

•    Currently, under the Act, inspectors of the OSPCA are granted police  powers, such as the right to: (a) search the premises where an animal is held; (b) seize animals or other property; (c) inspect animals; (d) supply necessities to neglected animals. One other particularly important provision is the right of OSPCA inspectors to enter any place—other than a  dwelling—without a warrant where the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that an animal is in immediate distress. The Bill proposes to repeal all provisions regarding the enforcement of the Act. It would eliminate all references to inspectors and agents of the OSPCA, including the provisions that outline their powers.

•    The Bill would repeal the current obligation of veterinarians to report abuse or neglect of animals where they have a reasonable grounds to believe that such abuse or neglect has occurred.

•    Under the Act, if a justice of the peace or a provincial judge has ordered the OSPCA to take custody of an animal, and in other prescribed circumstances, the OSPCA may bill the owner of the animal for all expenses associated with keeping the animal, such as food and veterinary treatment. The Bill proposes to repeal this section, revoking the OSPCA’s right to recover the costs it spent in tending the animal. The Bill effectively frees the owner of a seized animal from any liability associated with the OSPCA’s care of such animal.

•    The Bill proposes to repeal all provisions of the Act that set out offences and the penalties associated with such offenses.

•    The Bill would repeal all regulations made under the Act, including Ontario Regulations 59/09 (Forms/General), 60/09 (Standards of Care) and 62/09 (Exemptions).

•    The Bill proposes to add sections to the Act regarding the sale of animals held by the OSPCA if the owner of the animal cannot be found.

If enacted, the Bill would effectively strip the Act of all its substance and power. As a result, the Criminal Code would become the governing statute regarding cruelty to animals, unless or until a new provincial law governing the treatment of animals was enacted. Critiques of the Criminal Code and its cruelty to animals provisions abound, but for the sake of brevity, shall not be reproduced here. However, the thrust of the critiques is that the structure of the Criminal Code, including its higher burden of proof, renders enforcement of the cruelty to animals provisions virtually impossible. As a result, animal abuse and neglect go undetected and/or unpunished.

Animal Justice Canada (Animal Justice) is an incorporated Registered Charity dedicated to advancing public knowledge of animal practices and preventing the abuse and killing of animals through the enforcement of existing laws.

Tax deductible donations can be made on the website using credit card or PayPal at: or by contacting the organization to make alternative arrangements.