The OSPCA Act Amendment: It’s a Money Matter
June 14, 2019 | By Marie Versteeg
On June 6th, Ontario passed the OSPCA Amendment Act (Interim Period), 2019, which will fill the gap in animal welfare enforcement left by the OSPCA when it quits the ground on June 28.
Previously, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones had asked the OSPCA to continue its role while government develops new legislation, but the OSPCA declined. It also refused to appoint a Chief Inspector, as required by the OSPCA Act, meaning no one else could take charge of enforcement either.
In response, government amended the Act to transfer the power of appointment to the Solicitor General, and several local humane societies have agreed to continue their enforcement work independently.
The OSCPA’s motives for dropping its enforcement role have been questioned by critics, such as former OSPCA chair Robert Godfrey and agricultural lawyer Kurtis Andrews (Ontario Farmer, June 4, 2019). They voice concerns that the OSPCA’s new Enforcement Support Services seem to have been aimed at generating revenue by providing fee-based supports to local police who aren’t experienced in animal care.
This might suggest the OSPCA is willing to risk animal welfare in the present for financial stability in the future. But it would be wrong to villainize the organization: The $5 million in provincial funding they received for enforcement has hardly been adequate. (Consider, for example, the fact that Edmonton recently raised its animal protection service budget to $800,000 to cover a city of 980,000 people).
The problem is obvious: We don’t spend enough on animal welfare.
Recent debate in the legislature shows that MPPs across parties acknowledged huge gaps in service across the province. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones noted that the OSPCA provides coverage to only a third of Ontario. NDP Kevin Yarde pointed out that the local humane societies continuing in their enforcement role represents only 35% of the OSPCA’s previous enforcement reach. Local police forces will be left holding the bag.
Training is also a problem. NDP Agriculture Critic John Vanthof acknowledged the very difficult situations OSPCA enforcement officers often find themselves in and reported that they do not receive equal training across the province. PC Stephen Crawford acknowledged that “standards of care for each group of livestock are so intricate and unique…that this can’t be equated to proper standards of care for domestic pets.” He also noted that government recognizes the need for proper education to be part of future legislation.
Vanthof perhaps summed up the situation best by saying, “There are places now in this province where there is no training and where there are no people….Quite frankly, to do this right, it’s going to cost money. The government has to make a decision: Is it worth doing right, or is it worth risking animal welfare and at times risking people?”
Marie Versteeg is Manager of Executive Board & Committees for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.