Learn About Cruelty and Neglect

Learn About Cruelty and Neglect

If an animal’s life is in immediate distress as a result of cruelty or neglect, please contact the police at 911. For non-urgent calls about animal neglect or cruelty, please call the OSPCA at 310-SPCA.

In an emergency, to speak with someone immediately between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., please call 613-725-3166 and press 7.

Please note: The Ottawa Humane Society is currently experiencing an interruption in its services. If an agent is not available to respond to your call, you will be directed to the most appropriate service available to help you. We apologize sincerely and are working rapidly to restore full service to our community.


Rescue and Investigation Services (RIS) has trained OSPCA agents and inspectors who investigate suspected cruelty and/or neglect of an animal. In cases of neglect or cruelty, the animal(s) concerned may be removed from the owner’s premises if they are in immediate distress. Agents or inspectors “remove” animal(s) with strict adherence to regulations under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA) Act. They may also lay charges where wilful neglect or abuse can be proven. Charges are laid under the Criminal Code of Canada, primarily sections 444 through 447, or the OSPCA Act.

Distress as defined in the OSPCA Act:
“Distress” means the state of being in need of proper care, water, food or shelter; or being injured, sick or in pain, or suffering; or being abused or subject to undue or unnecessary hardship, privation or neglect.

Bill 50 was tabled in the Legislature by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in 2008 and is the most comprehensive amendment adopted since the provincial animal welfare legislation’s inception in 1919. The Provincial Animal Welfare (PAW) Act changes took place in March 2009 and it toughens and modernizes the Ontario SPCA Act; creating new provincial offences and imposing stiffer penalties for those convicted of animal abuse.

Key changes in the amended Ontario SPCA Act or Provincial Animal Welfare (PAW) Act include:

  • Establishing new provincial offences against animal cruelty, including causing or permitting distress.
  • Providing judges with greater flexibility to impose stiffer penalties, including jail time, fines up to $60,000 and a potential lifetime ban on animal ownership.
  • Providing inspection powers to the Ontario SPCA; allowing investigators to inspect premises where animals are kept for the purposes of exhibit, entertainment, boarding, sale or hire.
  • Permitting the Society to apply for the custody of an animal victim while a case is still before the courts.
  • Expanding the standards of care to be applicable to all animals, not just dogs and cats.
  • Requiring veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse or neglect with protection under the law.
  • Making it an offence to train an animal to fight with another animal or to own animal fighting equipment.
  • Making it an offence to harm a law enforcement animal, such as a dog or a horse.

Report Animal Cruelty

An Important Message from the Ottawa Humane Society:

On July 18, the OSPCA suspended the OHS’s affiliate status, effectively stripping our Rescue and Investigation Services officers of their ability to investigate animal cruelty cases.

At no time was the performance of the OHS or any of our staff in question. The OSPCA took this action in retaliation after the OHS spoke up to protect our community’s voice in provincial animal welfare.

This spring, the OSPCA cancelled the voting rights of all local humane societies in Ontario. We believe the decision to change a core bylaw without affiliate member approval is against the law.

The OHS and six other affiliates then got to work to reinstate your right to be represented in provincial animal welfare.

Without notice, on July 18, the OHS was told that the OSPCA had suspended its affiliate status. This means OHS officers are no longer empowered to provide investigation services into animal cruelty and neglect.

The OHS will be in court on July 28 in an attempt to restore this vital service to its community. We are seeking a temporary injunction against the OSPCA to restore our status.

We have been working behind the scenes to both address any immediate impact on animal welfare, filling gaps as best we can, and to do our best to return to full affiliate status as quickly as possible. Keeping our community’s animals safe has been our focus.

We remain committed to integrity in everything we do for the animals and for our community. This promise was reaffirmed in April when we achieved prestigious accreditation from Imagine Canada’s Standards Program, recognizing excellence in non-profit accountability, transparency and governance.

Thank you for your patience during this trying time. We will continue to keep you informed as this issue progresses.

In the meantime, if an animal’s life is in immediate distress as a result of cruelty or neglect, please contact the police at 911. For non-urgent calls about animal neglect or cruelty, please call the OSPCA at 310-SPCA.