Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act
Ontario farmers care about their animals. Farm animal owners and farm organizations endorse the humane treatment of all animals: livestock, poultry, equine, domestic pets and wildlife. Farmers uphold high standards of care of their animals in alignment with accepted codes of practice and normal farming activities. Ontario farmers treat them with the utmost care and consideration, as they genuinely care about their well-being.
The Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act came into effect January 1st, 2020. This new statute replaces the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and brings with it an updated, more uniform approach to delivering animal welfare enforcement in Ontario. The revamped government funded animal welfare enforcement system provides for increased accountability, transparency, and government oversight. The PAWS Act will keep farmers and our entire industry accountable and responsible for the care and protection of animals in Ontario. As farmers, we welcome this legislation to protect animals with stiff penalties and zero tolerance for animal abuse and neglect.
The PAWS Act implements a system headed by a Chief Animal Welfare Inspector and includes trained animal welfare inspectors. Established in regulation, every person who owns or has custody or care of an animal must comply with the standards of care and administrative requirements. Certain exemptions apply for agricultural activities carried on in accordance with accepted practices of agricultural animal care, management or husbandry. No person shall cause or permit an animal to be in distress, or knowingly or recklessly cause an animal to be exposed to an undue risk of distress, subject to certain exemptions.
Shortage of Rural Veterinarians
Animals and animal-related agriculture are crucial to the economic stability of Ontario’s rural communities. Veterinarians play a critical role, promoting the health and welfare of animals, and playing a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and safe food supply. Healthy livestock means productive livestock, and in turn contributes to food production, income and job generation, and economic development and growth. However, access to veterinarians and veterinary services can be limited in rural and Northern Ontario. Lack of veterinary services can be detrimental to rural communities, and leave farm animals, and ultimately the food system at risk.
Animal diseases and plant pests can affect the health of animals, wildlife, the environment, the economy, and also people’s health. Infectious diseases and pests can spread through direct contact with a plant or animal, and indirect contact through contaminated means, such as soil, equipment, clothing, footwear or vehicle tires. Movement between barns and farm properties can introduce new diseases and pests which can have a significant and widespread negative impact. An individual or group entering farms or farm buildings, handling animals, or moving between barns and farm properties without observing biosecurity protocols puts the health of animals, the safety and security of food, and the livelihood of farms at risk. The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 protects Ontario farm animals, farms, farmers and their families, agri-food employees, and the safety of the entire food supply by addressing the ongoing threat posed by trespassing and from unauthorized interactions with farm animals.
Antimicrobials play a critical role in maintaining the health of both humans and animals, helping to assure animal health and welfare, food safety and quality, as well as farmer livelihoods. They also play an important role in treatment to control and prevent the spread of disease to other livestock and humans. Over- and misuse of antimicrobials in human and animal medicine can contribute to resistance. Prudent and responsible use is essential to ensure antimicrobials remain an available and effective tool in the treatment of humans and animals. OFA understands the prescription requirements for medically-important antimicrobials, but believes greater investment is needed to enable the use of electronic prescriptions where a veterinarian-client-patient relationship exists. Efficient and timely access to prescriptions would help to ensure animal health and welfare is not compromised, and a sustainable livelihood for Ontario farmers.
Livestock Rabies Vaccination Requirements
As of July 1, 2018, all livestock “for which a rabies vaccine licenced for use in Canada is available” shall be immunized against rabies with the exception being made for only livestock “that is accessible only to the person or persons who are responsible for the care and control of such animal”. To clarify the livestock rabies vaccination requirements for livestock producers, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has provided responses to questions submitted by OFA in the attached expanded Q&A document. Reasonable measures restricting the general public’s access to livestock at events such as farm tours, fall fairs, auctions, etc. can be implemented such that the exemption from the livestock vaccination requirement would apply.
OFA firmly believes in the humane treatment of all animals, including farmed livestock and poultry. OFA is committed to working with the Solicitor General’s office to develop regulations for animal protection, investigation, and enforcement of farm animal welfare in the province.
OFA believes that timely access to appropriate veterinary care, services, and medications in rural and Northern Ontario is critical to the health and welfare of livestock, and contributes to food security, income generation, job creation, and economic growth. OFA advocates the importance of focusing on distributed economic development to help rural communities attract and retain qualified medical professionals, including veterinary professionals, and to grow the agri-food sector.