Animal Health Act, 2009
Questions and Answers - General

The Animal Health Act, 2009 (AHA) was passed by the Ontario Legislature in December 2009, and came into effect on January 21, 2010

Q1. What are the key elements of the AHA?

The act will help reduce negative economic and public health impacts associated with animal health issues by allowing us to better address and control them. The act includes legislative powers that provide for:

  • prevention measures, including a framework for enhanced efforts to protect animals from hazards, proper animal handling at specific premises and proper use of medicines;
  • detection, including disease monitoring at specific locations (i.e., sales barns and auctions) and the collection, use and disclosure of information;
  • appropriate actions to control or mitigate the effects of diseases; and
  • respose to animal health issues or emergencies.

Q2. Does the act apply to ALL animals, or just farm animals?

All animals have the potential to carry and transmit diseases that can pose risks to animal or human health. Therefore, the act applies to all animals (except humans). The implementation, however, will focus primarily on farmed animals (livestock and poultry).

Q3. How does this act connect with human health?

Public health authorities continue to have the lead in the event of any significant human health risk.

The AHA will allow us to work more closely with public health officials to address animal health issues that are, or could become, a significant concern for public health. The Chief Veterinarian for Ontario is responsible for reporting to the Chief Medical Officer of Health any animal health matter that poses a significant risk to human health.

Q4. What are my obligations now that the act has passed?

Should there be an animal health issue in Ontario, such as a serious animal disease, you could be required to comply with orders issued by the Ministry to control the issue.

There are a number of orders that could be made under the act to help prevent and quickly control animal diseases. You could be asked to:

  • destroy or dispose of animals or animal-related products
  • comply with a quarantine
  • submit samples for laboratory testing.

Q5. Am I now obligated to report any animal health issues to OMAFRA?

Not at this time. A list is being developed in consultation with industry and other key stakeholders, which will name specific hazards - including animal diseases - that will need to be reported to the ministry.

If the Minister approves a regulation with this list, details will be made available along with information on how to report.

Q6. Are you establishing an industry advisory committee? How will it work?

Several of our industry partners suggested an advisory committee be established to advise the Ministry on animal health issues, and we agreed.

The Chief Veterinarian for Ontario is currently working with an Ad Hoc Animal Health Committee to develop the Reportable Hazard Regulation list.

Q7. Can I call OMAFRA now to come check on my animals if I think they're sick?

Producers with concerns about the health of their animals should always call their private veterinarian first. Your veterinarian is best positioned to evaluate your animals, and can take samples, or prescribe medicines, as appropriate.

OMAFRA staff are available to provide advice if needed.

Q8. What has changed with the passing of the act? What will OMAFRA do now for animal disease prevention and detection?

If we become aware of an animal health issue in Ontario - particularly a disease - the legislation would allow us to not only respond directly to that issue, but take actions to minimize the issue's impact.

For example, inspectors may sample or test an animal that may have been exposed to a disease or the Minister could establish animal health control areas.

If an animal disease was identified in another province, the Minister would be able to put controls on the movement of animals and animal products into or within Ontario.

If a disease were found in an Ontario animal, the legislation would allow the Ministry to take action to prevent or minimize its spread through actions such as quarantines or surveillance zones.

Q9. Does the act allow OMAFRA to come onto my farm at any time to examine my animals and my farm practices?

No. The act allows designated staff who are appointed as inspectors to come onto a farm, or other premises, only under certain circumstances, such as:

  • if there were reason to believe there was a disease or other issue present that posed a risk to animal or human health, or
  • if we needed to check for compliance with a regulation or order that had been served.

Q10. Besides animals, what related products are covered by the Act?

Animal products, by-products, inputs and waste are all subject to the act, meaning that the Ministry could include them in an investigation into an animal health issue, and could require their identification and tracking under future traceability initiatives.

Examples:

  • Animal products: eggs, meat, milk
  • Animal by-products: hides, hair
  • Inputs: medicines, feed
  • Waste: anything excreted or secreted by an animal (manure, blood), or animal products and by-products that have been discarded.

Q11. Other than animal diseases, what animal health hazards are covered by the act?

The act covers a broad range of issues that could affect the health of animals - not just diseases. In the legislation, this larger group of issues is referred to as "hazards". Experience internationally has shown that other situations that may require action to protect animal and human health are:

  • Chemical
    • Example - melamine or dioxin in animal feed
  • Radiological
    • Example - nuclear contamination
  • Physical
    • Example - glass shards

Q12. Will this act have any impact on the general public?

We know that it is important to protect the livestock and poultry sectors not just for economic reasons, but also because there can be links between animal health and human health.

This legislation gives us tools to address animal health issues that could have an effect on public health.

Protecting our food animals can help us better protect our people.

Q13. Does this act help make Ontario food safer?

The legislation is another tool for Ontario's food safety system, one which already includes a comprehensive meat inspection system that makes sure unhealthy animals don't enter the human food chain.

We know that having healthy animals is a first step to having quality food products. The proposed legislation would add an additional level of security in the system by making it easier for us to proactively identify and respond to animal diseases.

Q14. Do other provinces have animal health legislation?

Ontario was the only province without animal health legislation. Our new legislation is consistent with the legislation of other jurisdictions, the federal government, and other provinces with similar livestock sectors such as Alberta and Quebec.

Q15. Does the act provide for compensation to livestock and poultry producers?

Yes. A new law is meaningless if farmers don't let us know about a problem, and they need to know that we will help them with the costs they may face when addressing an animal health issue.

We want to address any animal health issue quickly and effectively, before it spreads. Compensation for farmers is there to encourage them to bring us in to help.

Q16. What does the traceability component of the proposal involve?

The act provides a framework for the Minister to establish and oversee a provincial traceability system for animals and animal products that aligns with national traceability initiatives. Such a system would better protect the economy, human health and animal health.

We continue to work with producers to develop a comprehensive traceability system. If traceability regulations are needed, they will be developed in consultation with industry partners.

Q17. How will OMAFRA notify the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care about a potential threat to human health from an animal issue?

If such a situation arose, the CVO would directly contact the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Q18. Who is the CVO? What qualifications does this person have? What authority does he/she have?

Dr. Greg Douglas has been appointed CVO.

The CVO is a ministry employee, appointed by the Minister to act as the CVO for the purposes of the legislation.

The legislation requires that the CVO have been engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine for at least five years. This is in addition to a requirement that he or she hold a veterinarian licence without conditions or limitations.

Q19. Why is animal welfare not covered in the proposed legislation?

Animal welfare contributes greatly to the health of animals, and is already provided for under various provincial and federal statutes. The proposed legislation will complement existing statutes:

Under the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

  • Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act, which mandates humane treatment of all animals, including livestock and poultry

Under OMAFRA

  • Livestock Community Sales Act, which mandates humane handling of animals at sales barns
  • Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, which mandates humane handling of all food animals at provincially licensed slaughter plants

Under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

  • Health of Animals Act, which mandates humane transportation of animals

This is consistent with other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, where animal welfare and animal disease are dealt with under separate legislation.

In addition to carrying out inspection duties at sales barns and slaughter plants, staff in OMAFRA work closely with livestock organizations, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, and the OSPCA to develop and maintain humane handling guidelines for food animals.

Q20. How will this impact other animal facilities (zoos, fairs, markets, petting zoos, expos, horse tracks, research facilities)?

The act applies to all animals. It is important that the scope be broad to ensure thorough follow up and response in the event of an animal health issue - particularly one that could affect human health. Application of the legislation, however, will focus on livestock and poultry.

The legislation complements existing legislation that cover many non-agricultural facilities, including various municipal bylaws, Animals for Research Act, OSPCA Act (which covers general welfare of all animals).


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca