OFA provided comments and recommendations to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy regarding Schedule 6, Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019 of Bill 102, Strengthening Safety and Modernizing Justice Act, 2023. OFA firmly believes in and advocates for the humane treatment of all animals, including farmed livestock and poultry. OFA’s recommendations would help strengthen the protection of livestock and animal welfare.
The proposed amendments regarding Statements of Account and cost recovery are concerning to OFA. OFA understands the need for cost recovery; however, costs under the current Act are uncontrolled and highly subjective. OFA believes that the costs able to be recouped by Animal Welfare Services (AWS) need to be warranted, reasonable and justifiable, linked into an actual cost of production model related to the animal(s) in question, and should not exceed the market value of the animals in care.
OFA understands the necessity for guidance for the Animal Care Review Board (ACRB) to consider when assessing whether to confirm, vary or revoke Statements of Account. OFA would not support changes that would limit the ACRB’s authority to determine whether Statements of Account were warranted, reasonable and justified; The ACRB needs to retain the ability to assess, confirm, vary, and revoke Statements of Account if costs were applied unreasonably or unjustifiably by AWS, but with additional guidance to ensure decision consistency.
OFA supports the proposed amendments to Subsection 38(2), which would enable the ability to prescribe in regulation under the Act the timeline for animal owners and custodians to appeal orders, decisions to remove, keeping of animals in the Chief Animal Welfare Inspector’s care, or Statements of Account.
OFA questions taking animals into the possession of AWS when they are not deemed to be in distress. We believe other actions and compliance approaches should be prioritized in lieu of animal removal in the event of non-compliance with orders by animal owners or custodians unless the animal is indeed in distress.
OFA is concerned that the targeted amendments proposed in Schedule 6 of Bill 102, focused on enhancements and clarifications to inspector powers, cost recovery and streamlining operations, and updates to ACRB processes, do not go far enough. Alongside livestock commodity groups, OFA wishes to meet with the Ministry of the Solicitor General to discuss how the PAWS Act can better protect animal welfare in the province and meet the expectations of all concerned. OFA believes a thorough review is warranted to ensure the process is functioning as intended and meeting expectations.
OFA suggests that the proposed changes to the PAWS Act, recommended in Bill 102, should be delayed until a more thorough review of the PAWS Act can be conducted and additional gaps addressed.