Ontario eyes strongest penalties in Canada for animal abuse

Justice following his neuter surgery. (Photo courtesy Windsor/Essex County Humane Society)

The Ontario government is introducing a bill to better protect animals with some of the harshest penalties in the country for offenders.

Under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services or PAWS Act, first-time offenders could be fined up to $130,000 and sentenced to two years in jail. Repeat offenders could face a fine of up to $260,000, and corporations $1 million.

That would include charges for dog-fighting or contravening the standards of care.

One of the 151 cats rescued by the Humane Society London and Middlesex on August 19, 2019. Photo courtesy of the humane society.

One of the 151 cats rescued by the Humane Society London and Middlesex on August 19, 2019. Photo courtesy of the humane society.

“We made a commitment to take action and develop a modern animal welfare enforcement system to keep animals safe,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “I am proud to say we are delivering on that commitment with new legislation that includes the toughest penalties in Canada.”

If the bill passes, the province would hire more inspectors and give them greater powers to inspect more zoos, aquariums, and farms across Ontario. It would also establish a “one-window complaints mechanism” for the public and create a case management data system to identify risks and repeat offenders.

The public can report animal distress or abuse by calling the Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre at 1-833-9-ANIMAL (264625).

The bill was developed after consultations with municipalities, police, veterinarian organizations, animal shelters, and advocates for animal welfare. About 17,000 people also responded to a public survey.