The Northern Animal Welfare Unit (NAWU) has assumed the legal authority for animal cruelty and neglect investigations for northern Ontario.
When the Ontario SPCA made the decision in early 2019 to stop enforcing provincial and federal animal cruelty-related legislation, former Ontario SPCA affiliate bodies remained willing to continue to provide investigative services to protect animals in the province, while the long-term model for animal welfare services could be further developed.
The Timmins and District Humane Society (TDHS) was one of the affiliate societies that remained committed to animal welfare. TDHS now oversees animal welfare services in the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, and Temiskaming-Cochrane, in addition to Timmins. Animal Welfare Inspectors were hired to protect animals in each of these regions resulting in the Northern Animal Welfare Unit.
Notably, Thunder Bay Inspectors–under the umbrella of the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society–are also included in the Northern Animal Welfare Unit.
Each NAWU Inspector has been granted the powers of a peace officer for the purpose of enforcing animal welfare related legislation. A number of Animal Welfare Inspectors have also been appointed to enforce animal cruelty laws in southern Ontario.
What do these powers allow NAWU Inspectors to do? It allows them to investigate any reported cases of animal cruelty or neglect. If that investigation confirms that an animal is in distress (i.e. suffering from medical neglect, no shelter, abuse, etc.), an Inspector in any of those regions can take necessary measures to have the pet owner or caretaker address and relieve the distress. If an owner or caretaker does not alleviate the distress of an animal, Inspectors have the authority to remove the animal(s) if necessary, as well as to charge offenders via provincial and/or federal legislation for animal cruelty or neglect.
Some municipalities have animal care bylaws in place. What is important to keep in mind is that such bylaws do not allow for Municipal Bylaw Officers to enforce provincial or federal legislation as it relates to animal cruelty. What this means is that whereas a Municipal Bylaw Officer may issue a resident a monetary fine for not complying with animal care-related bylaws, an appointed Animal Welfare Inspector has the legal authority to (1) make the owner address any neglect/abuse, (2) remove an animal from an owner’s care for allowing ongoing distress/abuse, or (3) charge someone under provincial or federal laws for animal cruelty/neglect.
Animals are an important part of people’s lives, and as such, they make up an important part of the community. If an animal is suffering from abuse or neglect, it is critical that the most appropriate enforcement body is contacted to ensure that the animal’s well-being and safety is addressed promptly in a lawful manner with all aspects of the case thoroughly considered.
If you need to report a case of animal abuse or cruelty, please call the province-wide number at 1-833-9-ANIMAL (264625). In doing so, an Animal Welfare Inspector in your region will be dispatched for the case.
For more information on animal protection laws in Ontario, please visit the following resource:
Inspector Carrie Conforzi Northern Animal Welfare Unit. SSM. Ontario