October 3, 2011
OFA seeks animal care regulation reform
By Bette Jean Crews, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
If you raise livestock or poultry in Ontario, you know your operation is governed by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act. The Act includes national codes of practices to determine normal farm practices for the care and handling of farm animals. And there are currently 13 different codes of practice for livestock and poultry, and one for animal transportation.
In 2008, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) made a number of recommendations on behalf of our members for changes to the legislation amending the OSPCA Act. The OFA also appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy which held public hearings into the amendments in the summer of 2008. Our recommended changes were not incorporated in the Legislation.
Since then, OFA has been advocating for changes to the Act and we are now looking to the next provincial government to make necessary reforms by reviewing the legislation’s structure and its enforcement. We believe farmers are being unfairly and unnecessarily targeted while using standard animal care practices, and are vulnerable to unwarranted farm inspections and even harassment.
OFA is asking the next provincial government to update and revise the OSPCA Act. Specifically the OFA has four areas of concern.
• That the Act delivers a higher level of accountability to the government through mandatory annual reporting of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) activities; investigations, enforcement activities, case outcomes, appeals and the training and qualifications of enforcement staff
• Reverse the provisions pertaining to farm entry without warrant
• Clarify the application of the term “immediate distress,” which relates to entry without a warrant
• Separate SPCA’s dual and often conflicting roles of being the enforcer of provincial and federal animal protection laws and a registered charity that actively raises funds
These matters will soon be discussed with the livestock and poultry organizations. We will develop our priority issues and a strategy to move ahead with the new provincial government to modernize and improve the rules affecting our farm businesses.
Regulatory modernization – like the necessary changes to the OSPCA Act – are important issues as we approach the provincial election. The next provincial government needs to address much needed changes to outdated or inefficient regulations that inhibit agri-food production practices. There’s no doubt that regulations are needed in our society, but it’s our job as the OFA to make sure that our 37,000 farm business members can conduct their business as effective and efficiently as possible every day.