Peter Kuitenbrouwer | 25/10/13 | Last Updated: 25/10/13 6:29 PM ET
The Ontario government will give $5.5-million a year to the Ontario SPCA to create a bspecial investigations unit that will lead enforcement of zoos and aquariums and puppy and kitten mills,b Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community safety, told reporters at the High Park Zoo Friday morning.
The OSPCA will also use the cash to also set up a round-the-clock call centre to help enforce animal welfare rules.
The government also announced a voluntary registration regime for the 60 zoos and aquariums in Ontario.
bA fair and just society must protect the animals who live among us,b Ms. Meilleur said, while llama and geese looked on from a pen behind her. Honking from the geese drowned out some of her remarks.
Rob Godfrey, chair of the Ontario SPCA, called the announcement ba watershed moment.
bIt is our job to protect those in our society who do not have a voice,b Mr. Godfrey said. bWe will now have a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week call centre to take calls of abuse and neglect. It is this minister and this government that have taken the first step.b
The OSPCA will schedule inspections at zoos and aquariums twice a year, Mr. Godfrey said. He said there could also be surprise inspections.
Ms. Meilleur said the province would establish standards of care for all marine mammals in captivity.
bI care deeply for these wonderful creatures, including whales, dolphins and seals,b she said.
Asked about Kiska, a killer whale at Marineland who has suffered in captivity, according to news reports, Mr. Godfrey said, “We are looking at engaging an expert to look at what the proper move is for standards of care.”
Ms. Meilleur added, bI am expecting the report from the expert in June.b
Cheri DiNovo, the local MPP for High Park, who is a New Democrat, told reporters that bmore money is not going to solve the problem. What we need is a law change.
She added that, “Whistleblowers [of conditions at Marineland] are being sued and nobody has supported them.”