Trespassing on farms or agri-food facilities
Learn about the rules for ensuring the safety of your farm animals from trespassers, and understand the exemptions, including Aboriginal and treaty rights.
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Trespassing on farms or other agri-food premises where farm animals are located and interfering with livestock transportation poses risks to biosecurity and the security of our food supply.
These actions may also create unsafe work conditions, cause stress to animals and introduce diseases to farms.
The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 9 (the “Act”) and Ontario Regulation 701/20 — General (the “Minister’s Regulation”) help protect Ontario’s farmers, farm family members, agri-food workers, farm animals and food supply.
The Act establishes animal protection zones on farms, animal processing facilities and other prescribed premises. The Act also allows certain people to make an arrest as a last resort.
Aboriginal and treaty rights
Although the act provides arrest powers, a person cannot be arrested if they are lawfully exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights on private property.
The Act balances the safety of farmers and other agri-food industry members and the rights of people participating in lawful protests on public property.
The Act and Minister’s Regulation meets the needs of the agri-food industry while respecting Aboriginal and treaty rights, and indigenous customs and cultures
The Act and the Minister’s Regulation apply to:
- farm animals
- animal protection zones
- motor vehicles that transport farm animals
Farm animals are animals that are raised, bred or kept on farms.
Any livestock, poultry, cultured fish or fur-bearing animal is defined as a farm animal provided it is raised, bred or kept on a farm for one of the following agricultural purposes:
- for consumption
- to provide a commodity, such as milk, eggs, wool or textiles, for consumption or human use
- to propel vehicles
- to provide labour on or off the farm, including the guarding of other farm animals
- to be ridden for pleasure
- to be shown publicly at an exhibition
- to undertake competitions that are authorized under the law
Animal processing facility
An animal processing facility is a facility at which farm animals are processed for consumption. For example, a processing plant that receives live farm animals for processing into meat.
Unless exempted, the Act and Minister’s Regulation applies to all farms, animal processing facilities and premises defined in the Minister’s Regulation if farm animals are kept there.
The Act does not cover areas of a farm property where farm animals are never or rarely present and where Aboriginal and treaty rights are more likely to be exercised, such as fields used exclusively for growing crops or woodlots.
Aboriginal and treaty rights1
The Act and the Minister’s Regulation recognizes and respects Aboriginal and treaty rights, including the right to hunt, trap, harvest and fish on traditional territory, as stated in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. However, the Act would not apply if an individual was unlawfully exercising an Aboriginal and Treaty Right, such as harming a farm animal. The exemption for those lawfully exercising Aboriginal and Treaty Rights is in section 7(f) of the Act.
Indigenous persons lawfully exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights on private farm property and in the vicinity of an animal protection zone:
- can do so without seeking consent of the farm owner
- should face no risk of being arrested for trespassing
Where private property is not impeded by the exercise of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, then Indigenous people may use the property in the exercise of their existing Aboriginal or Treaty Rights.
A person cannot be arrested if they are lawfully exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights on private property.
Indigenous peoples lawfully exercising Aboriginal, or treaty rights may enter an animal protection zone without first obtaining the prior consent of the owner of the farm.
Treaties in Ontario
Treaties are legally binding documents that set out the rights, responsibilities and relationships of the First Nations and provincial and federal governments.
Treaty rights are set out in either a historic or modern treaty agreement and may include hunting, fishing and harvesting rights and the establishment of reserve land and payment of annuities.
Animal protection zones
The Act establishes animal protection zones on farms, animal processing facilities and other prescribed premises, where farm animals may be kept or located.
A single farm property may have one or multiple animal protection zones. The Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21 would continue to apply to all other parts of a property that are not animal protection zones.
Types of animal protection zones
An animal enclosure (includes barns and fully fenced pastures where animals are kept).
Areas marked as an animal protection zone by an owner or occupier of the property with signs that follow the requirements found in the Minister’s Regulation.
Because each parcel of land is unique, the Act authorizes an owner or occupier to create a type B animal protection zone on their property.
The Minister’s Regulation outlines that the following requirements must be met for an area to be considered a type B animal protection zone:
- it does not include the entire property
- it can only include lands on which farm animals are reasonably likely to be kept or located
- it is located within the legal boundaries of the property
- it does not impede access to the front door of any residence found on the property
Other areas that are prescribed as an animal protection zone in the Minister’s Regulation. These include:
- land where farm animals are gathered before being transported from the farm to another place
- any rings or other areas where farm animals are displayed or shown
- any areas for loading or unloading farm animals at the premises
- an area of one metre from the outside wall of any building where farm animals are kept if there is an entrance, exit or other opening into the building located on the wall and the one-metre area is located within the boundaries of the property
- pens within the premises where farm animals are kept
Prescribed premises under the Minister’s Regulation include:
- livestock auction markets, if licensed under the Livestock Community Sales Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. L.22
- premises at which farm animals are displayed for public viewing
- premises at which farm animals lawfully compete against one another (for example, fall fairs and cattle shows)
Signage is only required for type B animal protection zones.
The absence of signs does not imply that consent has been given to enter an animal protection zone.
Although it’s not mandatory, you may post signage for type A or type C animal protection zones. As a best practice, we recommend that you follow the requirements for type B signage as outlined.
If you’re creating type B animal protection zones on your property, you must mark the area clearly and follow these requirements:
- location — the boundaries of the animal protection zone are marked clearly
- colour — an orange sign is located at all ordinary access points to the area
- size — the sign must be large enough to include a circle of 30-centimeters in diameter within the sign
- language — the sign indicates clearly that the area is an animal protection zone
- visibility — the sign and any markings can be seen clearly in the daylight
The sign must be:
- a minimum size in which a circle with a 30 cm diameter could fit inside
There is no requirement for a circle to be on the sign or for the sign to be shaped like a circle.
Entering an animal protection zone
The Act requires that a person have explicit prior consent of the owner or occupier before entering an animal protection zone.
The Act also prohibits interference or interaction with a farm animal in or on an animal protection zone without prior consent. The Act sets out several exceptions to these prohibitions. They include:
- police officers, firefighters, inspectors appointed under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019, S.O. 2019, c. 13
- provincial officers and municipal officers provided they are acting in the course of their duties
- individuals lawfully exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights
Consent obtained under false pretences
Any consent obtained under duress or using false pretences is invalid.
There are exceptions for journalists and whistleblowers who obtain consent under false pretences, if they meet all the conditions in the Minister’s Regulation.
Farm animals in transit
The Act and the Minister’s Regulation prohibit the following activities:
- Stopping, hindering, obstructing or interfering with a motor vehicle that is transporting farm animals.
- Interfering or interacting with farm animals being transported by a motor vehicle without explicit prior consent.
The same exceptions set out for requiring consent to enter an animal protection zone or to interfere or interact with a farm animal in an animal protection zone apply to farm animals being transported by a motor vehicle.
Other prohibited activities
The following activities are also prohibited under the Act:
- Entering prescribed areas of a farm or processing facility without explicit prior consent.
- Failing to comply promptly with a request to leave the premises or stop interacting with animals from the owner or occupier of a farm or processing facility.
- Failing to comply promptly with a request from the driver to stop hindering or obstructing a livestock transport vehicle or to stop interfering or interacting with the animals.
- Providing false or misleading identification.
- Defacing, altering, damaging or removing any signs that have been posted to identify prescribed areas where farm animals are kept, such as a sign marking an animal protection zone.
The Minister’s Regulation clarifies that the following conduct is considered interfering and interacting with a farm animal, and is prohibited unless prior consent has been obtained:
- Having physical contact with a farm animal, directly or indirectly, whether the farm animal is dead or alive.
- Providing any substance to a farm animal, whether in liquid or solid form (including spraying or throwing any substance on or at a farm animal).
- Releasing a farm animal from an animal protection zone or a motor vehicle.
- Creating conditions in which a farm animal could escape from an animal protection zone or a motor vehicle.
- Conducting any activity that causes or is likely to cause harm to a farm animal or harm with respect to food safety.
Offences and penalties
The court may impose a penalty if it finds a person to be guilty of an offence. The penalty is at the discretion of the court.
The Act provides for escalating fines of:
- not more than $15,000 for a first offence
- not more than $25,000 for subsequent offences
The Minister’s Regulation also sets out a series of aggravating factors that a court may consider to justify an increased penalty (for example, if an animal was harmed or died during the commission of the offence).
The court may also make a restitution order requiring a person or persons to pay for the damages that they cause as a result of committing the offence. Restitution orders may be made in addition to any fine imposed by the court.
The Act sets the limitation period for the laying of charges at either:
- two years from the day of the offence
- two years from the day when evidence of the offence was uncovered
By comparison, the Trespass to Property Act provides a limitation period of six months.
The Act enhances the protection of landowners and occupiers against civil liability from people who are hurt or suffer an injury or loss while trespassing or contravening the Act. This is provided there was no deliberate intent to do harm or damage to, or willful or reckless disregard shown for, the trespasser.
When enforcement is necessary, calling the police is the recommend action.
The ministry have shared resources about the Act and enforcement measures with the:
- Ontario Provincial Police
- local police services
- nine-self-administered First Nations police services
Police officers have the authority to enforce the Act. They have the discretion to determine how best to enforce the Act, including issuing a:
- ticket (where applicable)
- summons to require a person to attend court
Provincial and municipal prosecutors deal with offences according to the Provincial Offences Act.
Any arrest powers exercised under the Act are the same as what is currently available under the Trespass to Property Act.
The Act allows certain people to make an arrest, including:
- police officers
- occupiers of the premises (for example, a property owner or renter)
- persons on behalf of the occupier (for example, a farm worker or security guard)
The Act does not offer any new powers.
This means that the person making the arrest must have reasonable and probable grounds that the person being arrested is in contravention of the Act.
Use of force
Any person making an arrest can only use force that is reasonable and necessary to effect the arrest. This is context specific to the situation. For example, it would be inappropriate to apply force to someone who has already surrendered and is willing to be arrested.
If the person making the arrest uses force that is beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances, that person could lose the additional civil liability protections that prevent them from being sued.
1 Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
Aboriginal rights are collective rights of distinctive Indigenous societies flowing from their status as the original peoples of Canada. The rights of certain Aboriginal peoples to hunt, trap, harvest and fish on their traditional territory are examples of Aboriginal Rights.
Treaty Rights are also protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act. Treaty Rights are specific rights of Indigenous people embodied in the treaties they entered into with a Crown government. They often address matters such as the creation of reserves and the right to hunt, fish and trap.