Changes to Animal Protection in Ontario

The new number to call regarding animal cruelty is 1-833-9ANIMAL (1-833-926-4625). Until recently, the Ontario Society for the Protection of Animals (OSPCA) had been the agency responsible for handling animal cruelty calls and investigations in Ontario. They held this position for 100 years. If someone suspected an animal was in distress or being neglected they could contact the OSPCA. Officers would then evaluate the animal or animals in question to determine what steps needed to be taken. They were truly a valuable resource and worked incredibly hard to ensure the health and welfare of animals.

In January of 2019, the Superior Court of Ontario decided that the provincial animal welfare legislation was unconstitutional and that the laws should no longer be enforced by a private charity. The OSPCA essentially had police powers because they could enforce both provincial and Criminal Code animal cruelty laws. This ruling was the catalyst for a shift away from investigations by the OSPCA.

In March of 2019, the OSPCA announced that it would not be renewing its contract and that the organization would transition out of animal cruelty enforcement by June 28. It was felt enforcement should be a function of government, and therefore the government should fund and operate animal cruelty investigations as well as enforcement. It would also allow for greater transparency and accountability standards.

Certainly, this news left the public and particularly those of us dealing with animal welfare on a daily basis, wondering what would happen. Who would we call if there was a concern about an animal’s health and welfare? In June of 2019, Ontario’s solicitor general answered that question by launching a temporary anti-cruelty enforcement system. A new interim chief inspector was appointed to oversee the operations with the help of temporary welfare inspectors from many local humane societies and local SPCA’s. In addition, a 24-hour animal cruelty hotline was introduced.

If there is a concern about an animal that is in distress or who is being neglected the new number to call is 1-833-9ANIMAL (1-833-926-4625). The call will be answered by a representative at the Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre. An incident ticket will then be prepared, and they will connect you with the appropriate local contact. If warranted, the ticket may be triaged and dispatched for further investigation by local authorities. They may contact you if more information is needed. Calls can be placed anonymously.

It is not the permanent animal protection system, but a temporary system put in place to protect animals during the transition period.

Eventually, Ontario will move to a new model for animal protection in 2020.

Written by: Dr. Jaime Lawless, Veterinarian