You don’t always get what you want! By Shirley Dolan

Published December 1, 2019
Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan

“You don’t always get what you want” goes the lyrics of an old Rolling Stones song. This may be the sentiment of many people across the province when the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a lower court “that found it was unconstitutional for the province to hand over policing powers to the Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) without imposing accountability and transparency standards on the agency”.

Despite the loss, I believe the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) got a lot of what we wanted.

First, heartfelt thanks to Jeff Bogaerts, the appellant in the Charter Challenge that was filed in the Superior Court of Justice in October 2013. It took over five years for the court to render a judgment, one that led to the Provincial Government developing a new animal welfare model – a significant achievement by any yardstick.

Thanks also to Kurtis Andrews, lead council for the application for his excellent representation of the complex questions presented to the court. See www.fixthelaw.ca.

Many thanks to the individuals and organizations who supported this Charter Challenge with donations and volunteer hours.

Following the decision in our favour, in January 2019, the OLA drafted Recommendations for a New Animal Care Act for Ontario.  So, what did we get?

  1. The government has proposed new legislation called the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act which will replace the old OSPCA Act. Our recommendation was to consider a new name for the legislation – Animal Care Act. Close enough. At least we are rid of the the title Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), which was anathema to so many.
  2. The proposed legislation brings the animal welfare system under provincial control and funding, something the OLA advocated.
  3. During the court case, calls to the OLA asking for help because of abuse by an over-zealous and abusive organization fell significantly.
  4. We raised awareness of the issues related to a bad law. Despite the appeal of Justice Minnema’s ruling, the government did redraft the OSPCA Act, as the court had asked.

As we stated on our website www.fixthelaw.ca, “ the purpose of this application is to seek a declaration from the Court respecting the constitutionality of the OSPCA Act. The objective of this application is not to undermine the protection of animals. On the contrary, if this application is successful, it is expected that the law will be changed to ensure that animals are better protected in a manner expected by Ontario residents.”

The old law was struck down. It remains to be seen whether animals (and their owners) will be better protected by the new proposed legislation.

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