PERTH—National animal law non-profit Animal Justice will intervene today in a legal challenge that seeks to strike down key aspects of Ontario’s animal welfare laws and the way they are enforced.
The case, Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario, is a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s provincial animal welfare legislation and enforcement. Specifically, the applicant is asking the court to rule that:
- granting police powers to the Ontario SPCA, a private charity, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Ontario SPCA is not subject to transparency, oversight, and accountability measures that apply to other law enforcement bodies;
- search and seizure powers used to protect animals and investigate animal welfare offences are too broad and violate the Charter; and
- provincial animal protection offences are truly criminal in nature and fall outside provincial jurisdiction, thus unconstitutionally intruding on the federal criminal law power.
“Animal protection laws are unacceptably weak as is, and often under-enforced and under-prosecuted,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “This constitutional challenge raises important policy questions about whether the current private enforcement model is still appropriate in the 21st century. It could have national consequences, potentially affecting the validity of animal protection laws and enforcement in other provinces. Animal Justice will be in court to make sure that what’s best for animals is front and centre in this case.”
Animal Justice will argue that animals must be protected to the maximum extent possible under the law. To that end, Animal Justice shares many of the applicant’s concerns over the transparency, oversight, and accountability of animal law enforcement. However, Animal Justice believes that broad search and seizure powers are particularly important in the unique context of protecting animals, who are often kept behind closed doors and cannot report illegal abuse themselves.
The case will be heard today, Wednesday, May 16, at 10 am in the Superior Court of Justice in Perth, Ontario. Animal Justice is represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.
More information about Bogaerts v Attorney General of Ontario, including Animal Justice’s factum, is available on a website maintained by the applicant, found here.
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