PERTH—National animal law non-profit Animal Justice has been granted intervener status in a lawsuit that attempts to strike down key aspects of provincial animal welfare laws and their enforcement.
The case, Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario, is a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s provincial animal welfare legislation and its enforcement. Specifically, the applicant is asking the court to rule that:
- granting police powers to the Ontario SPCA, a private charity, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Ontario SPCA is not subject to transparency, oversight, and accountability measures that apply to other law enforcement agencies;
- search and seizure powers used to protect animals and investigate animal welfare offences are too broad, violate the Charter, and should be struck down; and
- animal protection offences in provincial law are criminal in nature and fall outside provincial powers, thus unlawfully intruding on federal jurisdiction.
“This case could weaken protections for millions of animals in Ontario—not just family pets like cats and dogs, but also animals confined in farms, fur farms, zoos, and aquariums,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “It could also have national ramifications, potentially affecting the validity of animal protection laws and enforcement in other provinces. Animal Justice will be there to ensure the animals and their interests are represented in court.”
Animal Justice will argue that animals must be protected to the maximum extent possible under the law. To that end, Animal Justice shares many of the applicant’s concerns over the transparency, oversight, and accountability of animal law enforcement. However, Animal Justice believes that broad search and seizure powers are necessary in the unique context of protecting animals, who are often kept behind closed doors and cannot report illegal abuse themselves.
The case is scheduled to be heard in the Superior Court of Justice in Perth, Ontario on Wednesday, May 16. Animal Justice is represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.
More information about Bogaerts v Attorney General of Ontario is available on a website maintained by the applicant, found here.
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