Investigations FAQs Ontariospca

Investigations FAQs


Who should I contact if I witness or suspect animal abuse?
To report suspected animal abuse, call the Ontario SPCA at 310-SPCA (7722) or email You can also report your concerns to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Animal Centre, affiliated Humane Society, or police.

Who do I call about loose dogs or stray cats?
If the animal is a stray, please call your local animal control department. If the animal has been abandoned by its owners, please call your local Ontario SPCA Community or 310-SPCA

Who do I contact if I have a complaint about an Ontario SPCA Order or the removal of an animal?
Any Ontario SPCA Orders, or the removal of an animal under the authority of the Ontario SPCA Act, are actions that may be appealed to the Animal Care Review Board of Ontario. The Animal Care Review Board is an independent tribunal, with members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. An animal owner or custodian who considers themselves aggrieved may take advantage of this route of appeal. This is outlined in the Ontario SPCA Act, subsection 17.(1): The owner or custodian of any animal who considers themself aggrieved by an order made under subsection 13 (1) or by the removal of an animal under subsection 14 (1) may, within five business days of receiving notice of the order or removal, appeal against the order or request the return of the animal by notice in writing to the chair of the Board. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36, s. 17 (1); 1993, c. 27, Sched.; 2006, c. 19, Sched. F, s. 3 (1). This information is clearly printed on all relevant Ontario SPCA forms, and includes the contact information for the Chair of the Animal Care Review Board.

What are the Ontario SPCA bylaws?

How do I make a complaint against an Ontario SPCA Agent/Inspector?

Defining a Complaint

1. Conduct of an Agent or Inspector

Making a Complaint
Only the person directly affected by the incident or whose animals were directly affected may make a complaint. Anyone from the public making a complaint should first speak with the officer’s direct supervisor as a complaint may be resolved with some simple clarification.

A complaint must be in writing and signed by the person making the complaint, and contain all of their true particulars (name, physical address and phone number). The complaint may be written in a letter but the Public Complaint Form must also be completed. All complaints must go to the Chief Inspector or Public Complaints Committee.

Animal Centres and affiliates that receive a completed formal complaint at their office may either provide the person with the information below so they may forward it themselves, or receive the complaint and forward it within 5 business days, noting the date it was received.

Off-Duty Complaints
A complaint may be filed about the conduct of an off-duty officer; however, there must be a connection between the conduct and either the duties of an Agent, Inspector or the reputation of the Society.

Time Limits
A complaint must be filed within 20 business days after the incident happened. Complaints made after the 20 business day criteria may be investigated depending on the nature of the concern.

Receiving a Complaint
A complaint may be received by mail, or email addressed to the:

Office of the Chief Inspector
Ontario SPCA Provincial Office
16586 Woodbine Avenue
Newmarket, ON L3Y 4W1


Public Complaints Committee
Ontario SPCA Provincial Office
Investigations Department
16586 Woodbine Avenue
Newmarket, ON L3Y 4W1*

*(For complaints about the conduct of the Chief Inspector or any other correspondence intended for the Public Complaints Committee)


The Chief Inspector will ensure that a member of the Public Complaints Committee is advised immediately of any correspondence intended for the Committee.

If a complaint regarding the conduct of the Chief Inspector is received by the Committee, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario SPCA must be notified immediately and will then continue to be part of the complaint process.

The complainant will be notified in writing that the complaint has been received. These notifications will be mailed within five business days of receiving the initial complaint.

Complaints that also allege criminal behaviour must be handled by the police. The Chief Inspector or Public Complaints Committee will involve the police when necessary.

Complaints that are filed with the Human Rights Commission will be handled by the Commission and this process does not apply.

Informal Resolution
Less serious complaints about an officer's conduct may be resolved by way of an informal resolution. This involves the Agent/Inspectors supervisor, speaking with the complainant and resolving the issue or bringing the complainant and subject Agent(s) or Inspector(s) together to hear each other's concerns. Such a resolution requires the mutual consent of the complainant and subject Agent(s) or Inspector(s), and the approval of the Chief Inspector or Committee. An informal resolution of a complaint is an option that is available at any time during the process; i.e., before, during or after an investigation. A Record of Resolution will be completed for this option and act as the written decision.

Withdrawing a Complaint
A complaint may be withdrawn at any time by forwarding a written letter or email to the Chief Inspector or Public Complaints Committee, however the Chief Inspector or Committee may continue to deal with the complaint if it is felt that the allegation should be investigated further.

Dealing with the Complaint
The Chief Inspector or Committee may decide not to deal with the complaint for one of three reasons:

-Complaint was filed more than 20 business days after the occurrence which led to the complaint

-Frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith

-Complainant or animals were not directly affected by the incident

It must be determined within 20 business days of receipt of the complaint how a matter is to proceed, and written notification will be mailed to the complainant advising that the matter is in fact proceeding.

What is the responsibility of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) in regulating facilities in Ontario?
CAZA is a national, membership-based organization that represents zoological parks and aquariums in Canada.
While CAZA promotes the welfare of zoological parks and aquariums, CAZA is not a regulator. For more information, visit the web site at

Why do some zoo and aquarium facilities in the province fall outside of the Ontario SPCA Act?
Some facilities have classifications that fall under different legislation.

For example, the Toronto Zoo and the African Lion Safari are classified as research facilities and fall under the Animals for Research Act, which is overseen by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). For more information, visit the web site at

Does the Ontario SPCA inspect wildlife facilities like the Wye Marsh or Toronto Wildlife Centre?
Both the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre and the Toronto Wildlife Centre are classified as wildlife facilities and fall under the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). For more information, visit the MNR's web site at
In order to provide or facilitate wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Ontario, a Wildlife Custodian Authorization is required. This designation is granted by the MNR.
Unique to the Wye Marsh is its designation as a Wetland Conservation site. This designation is granted through the federal government, so the Wye Marsh is also regulated through Environment Canada.

Why can't the Ontario SPCA close a facility when the treatment or condition of animals is in question?
The Ontario SPCA maintains and enforces animal welfare legislation on behalf of the Province of Ontario. We do not license businesses nor do we oversee business operations. In Ontario, corporations are formed through the provincial government and business licenses are issued by municipalities.
The role of the Ontario SPCA is to ensure that all animals, in any facility in Ontario that falls under Provincial Animal Welfare legislation, are meeting the Ontario standards of care and are free from distress.