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OSPCA Withdraws From Enforcing Animal Cruelty Laws

Animal Justice March 4, 2019

The Ontario SPCA has announced that it will withdraw from enforcing animal protection laws in the province of Ontario as of March 31, when its current funding agreement with the province expires.

While many animal lovers may be concerned by this news, and fear that it will be bad for animals, Animal Justice is applauding the Ontario SPCA for this bold move. We believe it will prompt the government to create a new, stronger, public enforcement system that will be better-equipped to protect animals from cruelty and suffering.

What’s the problem? First, animal law enforcement is woefully underfunded. The Ontario SPCA is not a government agency—it is a private charity. The Ontario SPCA is expected to enforce publicly-enacted animal protection laws in the province, and responds to nearly 16,000 animal welfare complaints each year, province-wide. But the agency receives less than $6 million from the provincial government to carry out its important work, and is forced to fundraise so it can afford to enforce public laws, run shelters, and care for animals. The funding provided to the Ontario SPCA represents a mere 0.001% of the $4.4 billion in public money that is spent on policing in Ontario every year, and the agency is ill-equipped to carry out its mandate. There are more fare inspectors working at the Toronto Transit Commission than there are animal welfare inspectors in the entire province.

Second, many people have questioned whether it is appropriate in 2019 for a private charity to enforce public laws. The Ontario SPCA is not subject to freedom of information laws, police accountability legislation, and other oversight mechanisms that apply to virtually all other law enforcement agencies. In January 2019, an Ontario judge ruled that giving police powers to a private body without transparency and accountability is unconstitutional. Animal Justice intervened in the case in support of the court’s decision, because we believe transparency and accountability are important to making sure animal cruelty offences are investigated and addressed. The case is now being appealed.

Animal Justice believes it is time for a new system, and the Ontario SPCA’s move should prompt the government to implement a well-funded, public law enforcement regime. Caring for animals is a public responsibility, and the government needs to step up and properly fund this vital area of our legal system so that vulnerable animals in our society have strong protections from from cruelty and neglect.

The Ontario SPCA decision will not leave animals unprotected in Ontario. Police officers have always had the authority to enforce federal and provincial animal cruelty laws, and have often done so despite the Ontario SPCA’s overlapping authority. The Ontario SPCA has also offered to continue to provide enforcement services for a three-month transition period, until the end of June 2019.

The private, SPCA enforcement model is a quirk of history, and occurs in virtually no other area of the law. When early animal cruelty laws were enacted in the 1800s in England, most prosecutions were done privately by aggrieved individuals. The Royal SPCA formed to ensure animal laws were enforced, as animals were unable to prosecute cases on their own, and the SPCA enforcement model spread throughout Commonwealth countries.

Other provinces have already moved away from private animal law enforcement. The Edmonton Humane Society announced in January 2019 that it would end enforcement, concluding that it is no longer appropriate for a donation-supported body to fulfill a public enforcement function. Manitoba animal protection laws are primarily enforced by the office of the Chief Veterinary Officer, a public agency. In Newfoundland, the police enforce animal protection laws.

Animal Justice is committed to working with the Ontario SPCA and the province to examine the best options for a strong new enforcement system that puts animals’ interests first. We will keep you updated on future developments, and for ways you can help.

 

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Animal Justice

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VICTORY! Dairy Industry Forced to Remove Misleading Ads

Animal Justice February 26, 2019

Ad Standards has confirmed that a misleading transit ad campaign from the Dairy Farmers of Canada has been removed!

The advertisement claimed “there are zero growth hormones in milk produced in Canada”, but this is entirely false. IGF-1 is a naturally occurring growth hormone that is present in all cow’s milk, which helps turn calves into thousand-pound adults.

When Animal Justice heard from concerned citizens who were appalled by the dairy industry’s deceitful ad campaign, we assisted the public in filing complaints to the national regulator.

We’re pleased that the truth prevailed, and that the dairy industry is no longer permitted to advertise through this unlawful, false messaging.

Full view of the misleading transit ad.

Many Canadians are shocked to the learn that the dairy industry has a $80 million annual advertising budget, duping people into drinking milk that is inherently cruel to animals, linked with health problems, and detrimental to the environment.

This is not the first time that the dairy industry has tried to mislead consumers through false advertising. Back in 2016, Animal Justice filed a complaint with authorities when the Dairy Farmers of Canada partnered with health agencies to run ads suggesting that daily dairy consumption was necessary for good health. In fact, dairy is not a necessary part of the human diet and can in fact have adverse health effects.

It’s clear that the dairy industry is feeling the pressure of an evolving society that is looking to more humane, healthy, and sustainable alternatives to traditional dairy products.

Plant-based milks now make up nearly 10% of all milk sales, and according to Statistics Canada, milk consumption has fallen by 21.5% per capita since 2009. Dairy was even booted from having its own food group in the new plant-focused Canada Food Guide.

This massive societal shift to plant-based milk products will only continue to grow. Here’s to a future that is dairy-free, and better for everyone!

 

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Parliamentary Committee Supports Animal Justice’s Changes to Bestiality & Animal Fighting Laws

Animal Justice February 22, 2019

The House of Commons Justice Committee approved changes proposed by Animal Justice to Bill C-84, an animal cruelty bill that would improve laws related to bestiality and animal fighting.

Bill C-84 would make all sexual abuse of animals illegal. Currently, non-penetrative sexual contact with animals is not a criminal offence, in the wake of a shocking Supreme Court decision in 2016. But originally, the bill didn’t give judges the ability to ban a person convicted of bestiality from owning or residing with animals in the future. Animal Justice proposed this amendment earlier this month while testifying before the Justice Committee, and and Members of Parliament unanimously adopted this critical change at a meeting this week.

Animal Justice also encouraged the Justice Committee to repeal a provision of Canada’s animal fighting laws that imposed an automatic death sentence for birds rescued from a cockfighting ring. Animal Justice told the Committee that birds forced to fight deserve our compassion, and should be assessed as individuals to see if they can receive veterinary attention and be sent to live in the care of an animal sanctuary. The Justice Committee approved this change as well, potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of innocent birds from unfair execution.

Now, Bill C-84 will move back to the House of Commons for a final vote, and will then be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk and board member Peter Sankoff testified before the Justice Committee in support of Bill C-84, and we are grateful to committee members from all political parties who worked together to strengthen this legislation by accepting our amendments. However, Canada’s animal cruelty laws still fall very far behind the rest of the western world, and Animal Justice will keep fighting for stronger laws that better reflect Canadian values of compassion and respect for animals.

 

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Photo: Sandy Sharkey Photography

Animal Justice

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