Ont. to tighten rules on livestock health response

Proposed legislation in Ontario would boost and clarify the province’s powers to act in a livestock health crisis, the provincial government said Thursday.

The province said it’s now in the consulting stage on its proposed farm animal health initiatives, meant to “help prevent, or minimize the impact of, animal health emergencies.”

And if introduced and passed, the proposed legislation could also provide a framework for a traceability system “that would provide consumer assurance and strengthen market opportunities for Ontario’s agri-food industry.”

“The ability to trace and track animal movement is an integral part of an effective biosecurity system,” Gord Coukell, chair of the Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council, said in the province’s release.

“Being able to quickly isolate potentially infected animals and locations is extremely important in reducing the spread and economic impact of any livestock and poultry disease.”

The province, in calling for public comment to the agriculture ministry by July 20, said its proposed legislation would provide “a broad and enabling framework for the protection and promotion of animal health” and “would broadly apply to all animals in the province, with a focus on those animals used for agriculture purposes.”

Reporting, responding

The proposed legislation would require reporting to the province when a certain hazard (such as a disease) is suspected to be present in, or is affecting, an animal or animal product, the government said.

The proposed statute would set out who must report such hazards (such as animal owners, those in care or control of animals, veterinarians and operators of animal health labs), as well as the reporting requirements. Specific hazards that must be reported and conditions of reporting would be set out in a regulation.

Some hazards wouldn’t require immediate reporting but would, however, require “occasional” reporting to monitor the overall health of the livestock and poultry sector, the province said.

The scope of the legislation is proposed to cover all animals, as any animals can potentially pass on hazards to humans or farmed animals. There would also be the ability to take action to control other things that may transmit hazards, such animal products and byproducts, inputs such as feed) and waste material such as manure.

The proposed legislation is not intended to duplicate existing provincial legislation for wildlife and animal welfare, the province said.

The legislation would let the government take “appropriate action” to control the spread of a disease or eradicate a hazard, the province said, by allowing the minister, chief veterinarian for Ontario and inspectors to undertake a “broad range of response actions upon suspicion or confirmation of a hazard.”

“Case-by-case”

Upon suspicion or confirmation of a significant animal disease of concern on a premise, inspectors would have authority to go on that premise but (not a residence); conduct a thorough inspection; take samples from animals or other things on the premise for analysis; restrict movement of vehicles, animals and other things; impose measures to prevent further spread of disease; order treatment or vaccinations of animals; declare that premise an infected place; quarantine the premise or certain animals; and/or require “specific cleaning and disinfecting efforts.”

Ministry officials could also then establish a surveillance zone around an affected area and could order relevant records to be produced by third parties. Ministry officials could also establish broader control areas, order the exhumation of animals and require the production and disclosure of information from any person.

Destruction of animals and other related things may also be a required in some cases when it is in the best interest of animal and human health, the province said, and such a determination would be made by the province’s ag ministry on a “case-by-case basis.”

If introduced and passed, the proposed legislation would also enable the minister to award compensation for “direct losses to persons following decisions or directions made by authorized persons.”

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