The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) has announced that it will not sign a new contract with the province after the current one expires at the end of March.

For the last 100 years, the organization has been charged with investigating and enforcing animal cruelty laws in Ontario. The OSPCA was essentially given police powers to enforce both provincial and Criminal Code animal cruelty laws under the OSPCA Act of 1919.

But, the OSPCA says the $5.75 million it receives from the province each year is not enough to cover the cost of enforcement. In a statement released today, the OSPCA announced that they are initiating transfer of enforcement services to the government. It reads:

“The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society is offering the Ontario Government a new operational model where it supplies animal-related expertise to the Ontario Government as a support service to enforcement agencies, similar to the ASPCA model in the United States. The Ontario SPCA has informed the government it will no longer enforce animal welfare legislation in the Province of Ontario once the present contract expires on March 31, 2019. The Ontario SPCA has offered a three-month transition phase of the current working arrangement that could see the charity continue service to June 28, 2019.

“The Ontario SPCA is one of the largest, most responsive animal organizations in the country, with 146 years of expertise in providing care and shelter for tens of thousands of animals every year in over 40 communities. The Ontario SPCA prevents cruelty to animals and promotes animal advocacy, providing humane education, sheltering, fostering and adoptions, crisis intervention, animal rescue and mobile veterinary services.

“Currently, enforcement represents about 20 per cent of its services and is governed by a 100-year-old piece of legislation called the OSPCA Act. Recently, an Ontario Superior Court Judge created a new legal principle and ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Province of Ontario to enact legislation that permits a private charity to have policing powers without government oversight. The Ontario SPCA took no part in the court case. The Government of Ontario is appealing the court decision.

“We want to see a system in place that provides maximum protection for animals. The Ontario SPCA is a 146-year-old animal charity. Our expertise, working as a support service to enforcement agencies, will be a powerful combination in enforcement and we believe the right combination to best protect animals,” says Kate MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer, Ontario SPCA.

“Enforcement is the responsibility of government, one that we can confidently support by offering animal protection services to enforcement agencies. Being an outside agency, we have been woefully under-resourced to provide legislation enforcement. We have struggled to meet the need and have struggled with both Officer safety and, at times, conflicts with our charitable mission. It is simply not in the interests of animals or this charity to continue along the same path,” says MacDonald.

The Ontario SPCA will also draft its recommendations for a new Ontario Animal Protection Act. These recommendations will assist the government in proclaiming legislation that will provide the maximum protection of animals. This work will recommend that Ontario create stronger regulations, establishing animals as sentient beings with their well-being, health and treatment protected under the law.

“This work will allow us to keep pace with updated thinking regarding the value of animals and the social justice that we, and the public, see as a priority for animals,” says Brian Shiller, General Counsel, Ontario SPCA.

“Animal Justice supports this bold and courageous move by the Ontario SPCA. Change doesn’t always come easily, but it is necessary. It’s clear that our animal law enforcement system must evolve to keep pace with the 21st century. We are committed to working with the Ontario SPCA and the provincial government to help develop a robust, well-resourced public enforcement model that puts animals first,” says Camille Labchuk, Executive Director, Animal Justice.”

Melissa Kosowan, Associate Director, Communications at the OSPCA said, “The Ontario SPCA will continue to provide coverage for all animals until March 31st. We are still waiting on an update from the government on how the legislation will be enforced following March 31st.”