Definitions of key terms 
  1. What is animal welfare?
  • Animal welfare refers to the overall well being of animals. The main components that make up an animal’s welfare are its protection, its health, and its management:
    • protection from harm and neglect;
    • health, both physical and mental; and,
    • management to ensure their positive coexistence with people, other animals and the environment.
  1. How is animal welfare provided in Ontario?
    • The province’s primary animal welfare law is the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act, which authorizes the OSPCA to enforce any law in force in Ontario pertaining to the welfare of animals. The Act is administered by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS).
    • The OSPCA Act itself contains numerous animal protection provisions including various offences for harming an animal and standards of care that set out the basic requirements for responsible animal ownership.
    • There are also other provincial laws that address animal welfare (especially for agriculture and wildlife), animal-related sections of the federal Criminal Code, and many Ontario municipalities have relevant bylaws.
  1. What does the term “animal rights” mean?
    • Animal rights refers to the belief that animals should have the same entitlement to basic rights as humans. This usually includes a call to ban hunting, fishing and eating animals as well as using animal-based products and other restrictions. AWWO takes the position that currently legal activities involving animals should not be made illegal but that all animals should be treated humanely. AWWO believes in a strong animal welfare system but AWWO does not advocate animal rights and we are not an animal rights group.
Enforcement of animal welfare laws 
  1. Can the OSPCA enforce the law throughout the province?
    • The OSPCA has law enforcement authority throughout Ontario. 
  1. Is the OSPCA obligated to enforce the law?
    • The Act authorizes but does not require the OSPCA to conduct law enforcement activities. 
  1. Are there specific areas where there are concerns about OSPCA enforcement?
    • Yes, these areas of concern include Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Northern Ontario and others.
  1. Do police enforce the OSPCA Act?
    • There are no known instances where police have enforced the OSPCA Act.
    • However, police do lay criminal charges for animal cruelty and other Criminal Code violations pertaining to animals. This is often in situations where public health and safety are also at risk.
  1. Can municipalities enforce the OSPCA Act?
    • Municipalities and their bylaw officers are not authorized to enforce the OSPCA Act. 
  1. Can municipalities pass local bylaws that address animal welfare?
    • Under the Municipal Act, municipalities can enact animal-related bylaws. Usually this authority is used to enact animal control-related bylaws. Animal control usually pertains to protecting human health, safety and well-being, but it can also pertain to the health and well-being of other animals or the environment. 
  1. Have municipalities passed and enforced animal welfare-related bylaws?
    • Yes, but this relatively recent trend seems to be a “work around” response to deficiencies inherent in the current animal protection system. It does not provide for the best possible animal protection.
    • Municipal bylaws do not enable the laying of provincial (OSPCA Act) charges with their significant potential penalties and deterrence value.
    • The OSPCA Act also provides a number of important enforcement tools such as the ability to enter property without a warrant when an animal is in immediate distress, the ability to write orders to compel action be taken to relieve an animal of distress and the ability to remove an animal in distress. 
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) 
  1. What is the OSPCA?
    • As set out in the OSPCA Act, the OSPCA is the charity that can train and appoint investigators (known as “agents” and “inspectors”) who have the authority to enforce any law in force in Ontario pertaining to the welfare of animals. 
  1. How is the OSPCA organized?
    • The OSPCA delivers its services through a network of approximately 28 independently operated but affiliated humane societies (known as “affiliates”) and approximately 13 directly operated branches. The OSPCA’s headquarters is in Newmarket, Ontario.
  1. How is the OSPCA governed?
    • The OSPCA is governed by a board of directors. In 2016, the OSPCA adopted an operating bylaw that eliminated board elections, making the board effectively permanent and self-appointed. Board meetings are now held in secret.
  1. How can a charity eliminate board elections?
    • The OSPCA bylaw that effectively eliminated board elections was challenged by a number of OSPCA affiliates in court and a judge ruled that the bylaw was not inconsistent with the provisions of the OSPCA Act that set out how the OSPCA can determine who its “voting members” are.
  1. Is there anything the provincial government can do to make the OSPCA more accountable with respect to its governance?
    • The OSPCA Act enables the Minister of MCSCS to annul the OSPCA’s bylaw. 
  1. How is the OSPCA funded?
    • The OSPCA and its affiliates are primarily (approximately 65%) funded privately through fundraising and donations, with additional income from fees for service (including contracts with municipalities to provide animal control bylaw enforcement) and some government funding. In 2017 in total, the OSPCA and its affiliates had a total income of approximately $80 million.
  1. How much does it cost the OSPCA to deliver law enforcement services?
    • While figure this is not available from the OSPCA, independent estimates place this cost at approximately $15-20 million annually.
  1. Is it unusual that a privately funded charitable organization enforces animal protection laws?
    • No, it is not unusual. In fact, this model is used in many jurisdictions including most Canadian provinces, many US states and the United Kingdom.
  1. Is any public funding provided to the OSPCA?
    • In 2013, the provincial government initiated an annual grant of $5.5 million to the OSPCA. The funding agreement includes a number of conditions and requirements that the OSPCA must fulfill as well as specified items on which the money must be spent. That agreement has continually been renewed and is now for $5.75 million annually. The agreement is between MCSCS and the OSPCA.
  1. How does the annual grant provided to the OSPCA by the provincial government compare to other jurisdictions?
    • The $5.75 million annual grant to the OSPCA is by far the most public funding provided to any animal protection agency anywhere in the world. Most provinces provide no funding to their provincial SPCAs or equivalent agencies.
  1. Is the OSPCA subject to provincial Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation?
    • The OSPCA is an independent charity and is not included in the types or lists of agencies covered under provincial FOI legislation. That makes the OSPCA the only known law enforcement agency in Ontario that is not subject to some form of FOI process.