Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Animal protection

Animal welfare

Animal Welfare

Cruelty to any animal is not tolerated in Ontario. If you think an animal is in distress or is being abused, call: 1-833-9-ANIMAL (264625).

What happens when you make a call

1

Call representatives at the Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre will file an incident ticket and connect you with the appropriate local contact. 

2

Based on the location and nature of the incident, the ticket may be flagged for further investigation with the appropriate authorities such as a provincial inspector or local police. 

3

Based on the location and nature of the incident as well as after the incident ticket is reviewed by the appropriate authority, they may investigate on-site or involve other authorities, as needed. If more information is required, you may be contacted directly.

The Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre is unable to provide updates on calls or investigations. You may be contacted by authorities only if more information is required.

Provincial inspectors will work with local police, veterinarians, agriculture commodities and local humane societies, as appropriate, to ensure animals remain protected. Inspectors are always required to follow a standard code of conduct and, upon request, will provide identification and explain why they are attending on-site, such as for an inspection or for an investigation.

Know who to call

1-833-9-ANIMAL

Call this number if an animal is in distress or being neglected. This includes animals that are injured, in pain, sick, suffering or abused, or lack proper care, water, food or shelter.

Local animal control

Call your local animal control if a wild animal is in distress, injured or deceased, or if a wild or domestic animal is roaming on public property.

911 (Emergency)

Call 911 in an emergency when a life is in immediate danger or distress, such as an animal attack, animal in a hot or cold vehicle, or illegal activity such as dog or cock fighting rings.

Penalties for committing acts of animal cruelty

Ontario has the strongest penalties against animal cruelty. It is an offence, for example, to:

  • cause or permit distress to an animal
  • cause harm or attempt to cause harm to a law enforcement or a service animal
  • knowingly or recklessly cause an animal to be exposed to undue risk of distress
  • promote, arrange, receive a financial benefit from, train, or permit animals to fight other animals
  • own or possess equipment or structures used in animal fighting or in training animals to fight
  • fail to comply with any applicable standards of care
  • obstruct an inspector or agent

As of January 1, 2020, the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act has replaced the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act. Transitional regulations are in place, such as carrying over the previous standards of care and administrative standards, to ensure animals are protected while long-term regulations are developed through consultation.

Basic standards of care that apply to all animals covered under the act, include requirements for:

  • adequate and appropriate food, water, medical attention and care
  • ventilation, light and protection from the elements, including harmful temperatures
  • sanitary conditions and space to enable natural movement and exercise
  • pens or enclosed structures
  • humane euthanasia to minimize pain and distress to animals
  • transportation in a manner that ensures an animal’s physical safety and general welfare

There are some exceptions to the above-listed offences related to causing distress and complying with standards of care, including hunting wildlife. A full list of exemptions can be found in the PAWS Act and its regulations.

Ontario also has additional standards of care for animals in unique circumstances like dogs that live outdoors and marine mammals such as cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises), pinnipeds (walruses, sea lions) and sea otters.

Committing an offence under the PAWS Act can result in sentences that may include up to two years in jail, fines of up to $130,000 against an individual on a first offence, or up to $500,000 against a corporation on a first offence, and a lifetime ban on animal ownership, as well as other penalties.

Our goal is to ensure that Ontario’s animals are always protected and treated a humane manner.

Animal Care Review Board

The Animal Care Review Board hears appeals from individuals whose animals have been removed under the PAWS Act, those who have been issued orders by an inspector, or those who have been served with a statement of account to cover the costs of food, veterinary care or sheltering for an animal that has been removed by the inspector.

Our provincial animal welfare inspectors are directly accountable to the Chief Animal Welfare inspector, who is in turn accountable to the Solicitor General. If you have a complaint or compliment about an inspector, please send an email to animalwelfareservices@ontario.ca.

Related legislation

Downloadable resources

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