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Dog and Cat Control Law (Ontario)
(August 2008)

Chapter 2 - Dog and Cat Seizures


  1. Overview
  2. Municipal Seizure Authority
  3. DOLA Terminology
  4. DOLA Warrant Entry
    (a) Overview
    (b) Criteria for Warrant
    (c) Warrant Authority
  5. DOLA Warrantless Entry
  6. DOLA Seizure in Public Places
  7. Disposition After Seizure
________________________________________

1. Overview

This chapter covers the legal authority to seize cats and dogs, both with and without warrant, and to deliver them to "pounds".

There are two main legal sources for such seizure authority, the Dog Owners Liability Act (Ontario) ("DOLA") and by-laws passed by municipalities. Additional miscellaneous seizure authorities are also sometimes located in parks-related statutes: see Ch.7: "Dog Trespass and Related".

Municipal animal by-laws vary widely in content and purpose, and may apply to other animals in addition to dogs. There primary 'seizure' authority is in relation to cats - and particularly dogs - "running at large" [see Ch.8: "Dogs, Cats and Municipalities"].

Most of this chapter is addressed to the relatively highly codified DOLA dog seizure provisions.

What is common to both DOLA-seized dogs, and to municipally-seized cats and dogs, is that they will - by definition, regardless of the intended nature of the facility they are taken to - then find themselves in "pounds", often with a very uncertain and ominous future. The very important topic of pounds is discussed in Ch.3: "Pounds, Shelters and Research".


2. Municipal Seizure Authority

Municipal by-laws relating to cat and dog seizure can vary widely in content and purpose. As no standard such by-law exists, each by-law must be examined on its own terms.

That said, the City of Toronto may have one of the most elaborated and thorough-going of these, integrated sensibly into one unified by-law. It is linked in Ch.8: "Dogs, Cats and Municipalities".

For purposes of illustration I quote its' dog seizure provision here:
s.349-13 Seizure; impoundment; redemption; fees.

A. Any dog running at large contrary to the provisions of this chapter may be seized and impounded by the Medical Officer of Health.

B. Where, in the opinion of the Medical Officer of Health, a dog seized under Subsection A is injured or ill and should be euthanized without delay for humanitarian reasons or safety to persons, the dog may be euthanized by the Medical Officer of Health without permitting any person to reclaim to dog.

C. Any dog seized by the Medical Officer of Health under Subsection A shall be impounded for a minimum period of five days from the time of its impoundment, exclusive of the day on which the dog was impounded, and days on which the animal centre is closed, during which time the owner shall be entitled to redeem the dog.

D. If a dog is not redeemed within the time period referred to in Subsection C, the dog shall become the property of the City and may:

(1) Be adopted for a fee in the amount specified in Chapter 441, Fees and Charges; or

(2) Be euthanized by the Medical Officer of Health.

E. Where a dog is seized and impounded by the Medical Officer of Health under Subsection A:

(1) A per diem impoundment fee shall be paid to the Medical Officer of Health in advance of redeeming the dog by the owner in the amount specified in Chapter 441, Fees and Charges; and

(2) The owner shall ensure that the dog is identified with a microchip.

F. Where a dog seized and impounded by the Medical Officer of Health under Subsection A is injured or ill and receives veterinary care necessary for the well-being of the dog, the Medical Officer of Health shall, in addition to any amount charged pursuant to Subsection E, be entitled to charge the person claiming the dog under this article the cost of the veterinary care to the Medical Officer of Health.
As noted above - and as a consequence of the broad (even ill-defined) municipal jurisdiction over "animals" [discussed in Ch.8], there are few fixed rules regarding the content of municipal animal control by-laws.

For instance, in the above City of Toronto example the administration of the by-law could just as easily have been delegated to any other municipal functionary such as a "municipal clerk" or a created "small animal control officer" position. Indeed, in Toronto the delegation of the animal control role to the Medical Officer of Health is likely a conscious choice made by City Council to try to ground a broader municipal "animal welfare" jurisdiction.

Toronto's by-law, with its time-limited redemption period, also reflects to influence of similar provisions in the Animals for Research Act ("ARA"), discussed at further length on this issue in Ch.3: "Pounds, Shelters and Research".

Note as well the complete absence of mention in the By-law of reference to any pound duty to provide cats and dogs for research purposes under the ARA. While technically any City "pound" is under such duties [again, see Ch.3] under superior provincial ARA legislation, direct inclusion of such duties in the by-law may be too politically unpalatable to countenance directly. In 1999 the (pre-amalgamation) City of Toronto passed a resolution that it would disregard its ARA research sale duties - a position that neither the research industry nor the province has seen fit to challenge for their own reasons.


3. DOLA Terminology

The "peace officers" who are granted seizure authorities under the Dog Owners' Liability Act include [DOLA s.12]:
  • police officers, special constables, First Nations constables and auxiliary member of a police force;

  • municipal law enforcement officers (by-law officers);

  • OSPCA inspectors or agents;

  • any other "public officer designated as a peace officer for the purposes of this Act"

    Note:
    DOLA provides regulation-making authority for such further peace officer designations [DOLA s.20(2)(f)], but its has not yet been used for this purpose.
"Pounds" are premises "used for the detention, maintenance or disposal of dogs or cats" impounded under authority of a municipal by-law or under the Dog Owner's Liability Act ("DOLA"). The definition excludes animal shelters (ie. OSPCA, humane societies and other private) UNLESS they also maintain premises for the keeping animals brought to them under by-law or DOLA seizure authority [DOLA s.1; Animals for Research Act s.1]. Any portion of shelter premises so maintained are legally "pounds" [on this important subject see Ch.3].


4. DOLA Warrant Entry

(a) Overview

It is normal for the law to require that law enforcement entry into premises be preceded by consideration of the justifying circumstances by a justice of the peace (JP). If the JP agrees that such entry is merited then they issue a "search warrant" setting out the terms and conditions of entry.

Application for a search warrant is normally made by a peace officer and supported by an affidavit setting out the circumstances of justification.

(b) Criteria for Warrant

The JP may issue a search warrant where they are satisfied on the evidence that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that a dog is in a "building, receptacle or place, including a dwelling house" (other than a pound or a registered research
facility under the Animals for Research Act), and that "it is not desirable in the interests of public safety that the dog be in that location" [DOLA s.13(1)].

The key criterion of "not desirable in the interests of public safety that the dog be in that location" - in addition to its general meaning - IS MET in ANY of the following circumstances [DOLA s.13(3)]:
  • the dog has on one or more occasions bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal;

  • the dog has on one or more occasions behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals;

  • an owner of the dog has on one or more occasions failed to exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from,

    (i) biting or attacking a person or domestic animal, or

    (ii) behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals;

  • the dog is a restricted pit bull [explained in Ch.5: "Pit Bulls"] and an owner of the dog has on one or more occasions failed to comply with one or more of the requirements of this Act or the regulations respecting restricted pit bulls;

  • the dog is a pit bull other than a restricted pit bull [ie. a "banned" pit bull: see Ch.5];

    OR

  • there is reason to believe that the dog may cause harm to a person or domestic animal.
(c) Warrant Authority

Unless otherwise specified in the warrant, warrant entry can only be made between 6am and 9pm [DOLA s.13(6)].

The seizure authority in the warrant may cover the dog and as well "any muzzle, collar or other equipment for the dog" [DOLA s.13(2)].

Entry authority granted to a peace officer under a warrant automatically includes additional authority for them to take along "one or more veterinarians or animal control personnel as are reasonably required to give effect to the safe and humane
seizure of the dog" [DOLA s.13(4)]. 'Animal control personnel' would normally be municipal small animal control officers.

Warrants must name the date at which they expire, and cannot last for more than 30 days after issuance [DOLA s.13(5)].

Search warrant authority authorizes the peace officer to "use as much force as is necessary" to execute it [DOLA s.16].


5. DOLA Warrantless Entry

Where a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that ALL of the following circumstances exist:
  • the warrant criteria set out in s.2(b) above ["not desirable in the interests of public safety that the dog be in that location"],

  • entry is necessary to prevent "imminent bodily harm or death to any person or domestic animal" ('exigent circumstances'), and

  • the exigent circumstances render it "impracticable to obtain a warrant",
then they may enter "any building, receptacle or place, including a dwelling house" to prevent the harm or death without a search warrant [DOLA s.14].

On such entry they have the same authority as if they had been issued a warrant [as per s.2(c) above], including the authority to "use as much force as is necessary" to exercise the authority [DOLA s.16].


6. DOLA Seizure in Public Places

Dogs may be seized by peace officers when they are in public places if they believe on reasonable grounds that ANY of the following circumstances are met [DOLA s.15(1)]:
  • the dog has on one or more occasions bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal;

  • the dog has on one or more occasions behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals;

  • an owner of the dog has on one or more occasions failed to exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from,

    (i) biting or attacking a person or domestic animal,

    (ii) behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals;

  • the dog is a restricted pit bull [see Ch.5] and an owner of the dog has on one or more occasions failed to comply with one or more of the requirements of this Act or the regulations respecting restricted pit bulls;

  • the dog is a pit bull other than a restricted pit bull [ie. a "banned" pit bull: see Ch.5];

    OR

  • there is reason to believe that the dog may cause harm to a person or domestic animal.

    Note:
    These circumstances are identical to the specifically-listed "public safety" criteria set out for warrant and warrantless entry (above s.2 and 3). Note however that they are restricted to those circumstances specifically-listed and do NOT include any additional 'general' form of the criteria.
This seizure authority permits the peace officer to "use as much force as is necessary" to exercise the authority [DOLA s.16].

This 'public' seizure authority does not preclude any other legal authority that may exist for the seizure of dogs (ie. under municipal by-laws [see Ch.8], running a large in parks [see Ch.7] or for reasons of public health, etc) [DOLA s.15(2)].


7. Disposition After Seizure

A dog seized under DOLA authority must be "promptly deliver[ed] ... to a pound" by the peace officer [DOLA s.17].

Practically the same duty rests on any dog or cat seized under a municipal by-law. Indeed, the essential definition of a "pound" IS that of premises which receive DOLA and municipally-seized cats and dogs.

The important topic of dogs and cats once they are in such "pounds" is discussed at length in Ch.3: "Pounds, Shelters and Research".

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