Since coming into effect on January 1st, 2020, equine welfare enforcement in Ontario has been carried out under the new Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act. Ontario is the first province to introduce this provincially-operated enforcement system that includes local inspectors for companion animals and specialized inspectors for horses and other livestock as well as zoos and aquariums.

The goal of the PAWS Act is to provide a seamless province-wide system that provides the best outcomes for horses and other animals while addressing concerns about the previous system’s lack of oversight. Ministry of the Solicitor General spokesperson Kristy Denette says while it would not be appropriate to provide details of ongoing investigations, they are underway.

“We are continuing to hire full-time inspectors to protect animals as part of our plan to have 100 full-time inspectors across the province,” says Denette.

Inspectors have enhanced powers to protect animals, including horses. These powers include removal of an animal, conducting inspections to determine if standards of care are being met, or entering a premise without a warrant in certain situations. It also provides for an oversight regime to hold the system accountable.

Transitional regulations are currently in place and more consultations will be held this year to develop additional regulations. Specialized inspectors for agriculture and equines will continue to provide advice and support to inspectors and police.

The PAWS Act has the stiffest penalties in Canada for offenders. The increased penalties demonstrate that animal abuse won’t be tolerated in Ontario, says Denette. Offenders’ sentences may include up to two years in jail, fines of up to $130,000 for an individual with a first offence, up to $500,000 for a first-time offending corporation, and a lifetime ban on animal ownership.

To prevent the spread of Covid-19, Ontario’s inspectors are following the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. All staff are to report any changes to their health status and have been instructed about proper handwashing and coughing/sneezing etiquette. Inspectors have been provided with a screening tool to protect themselves and others during their investigations.

The animal welfare hotline remains open and can be reached at 1-833-9ANIMAL or 1-833-926-4625. More information is available here.

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Have you used PAWS’s services yet to report animal welfare concerns? We would love to hear about the experience – email details to [email protected]