To the Honourable Sylvia Jones,
The National Farmers Union – Ontario gratefully received a copy of the first draft of Bill 136, An Act to enact the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act. As an accredited farm organization representing farmers across the province, many of whom own and work with livestock, and all of whom are concerned about the welfare of animals, we are very supportive of the provincial government taking over the responsibility of protecting animal welfare in Ontario.
We support the provision for enforcement officers to be publicly appointed and accountable as that was a flaw in previous legislation. We encourage regular training for officers, in particular those who work in rural areas, on agriculture and livestock matters.
After reviewing the Bill, there are a few areas that we feel must be addressed.
In Section V (Protection of Animals), the fifth paragraph states, “Inspectors may enter any place, other than a dwelling, without a warrant if they have reasonable grounds to believe that an animal is in critical distress and may enter a dwelling if the time required to obtain a warrant may result in serious injury or death to the animal.” As it is worded, this indicates that an animal welfare inspector can enter a barn without needing a warrant. We would like to see the same rules apply for entry into a farm building as to a private dwelling.
In the same section, the eighth paragraph states, “Persons to be prescribed in regulation are authorized to enter motor vehicles to relieve animals in critical distress. They may cause reasonable damage in entering the vehicle. They must promptly notify an animal welfare inspector and must allow the inspector to inspect the animal and determine whether to take possession of it.” We see two potential issues with this statement as it is currently written.
The first issue is the possibility for this authority to be interpreted as applying to livestock trailers. As you know, there have been issues of interference with livestock trailers that are in transit with animals on board. This interference poses serious health risks to the animals. Therefore, we feel that there ought to be an addendum added here that specifically states that tampering with livestock trailers or trying to handle the animals on board (e.g. trying to provide water) by anyone other than an animal welfare officer is not allowed.
Furthermore, we would like to suggest that allowing a member of the public to break into a vehicle at all, deeming an animal to be in distress, is unsuitable. Without proper training, a member of the public can easily over react or misinterpret a situation, causing damage and stress to both the animal and animal owner.
Lastly, due to the number of incidents of trespassing onto farm property lately, we would like to suggest that there be some distinct wording in this bill that states appropriate consequences for any unauthorized persons who take it upon themselves to break and enter onto any property that is housing livestock. We understand that legislation is currently being drafted regarding the farm trespassing issue, and we recommend that this Act refer to that legislation once it’s in effect.
Thank you for taking these suggestions into account as you move forward with this much needed legislation.