This consultation was open from:
April 3, 2023
to May 18, 2023
We are proposing to amend the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, and associated regulations, to allow for the issuance of licences of new dog train and trial areas, and to allow the transfer of licences.
Train and trial areas are enclosed areas on private land where certain wildlife (i.e. cottontail, snowshoe hare, red fox or coyote) are kept captive for the purposes of teaching dogs hunting skills such as picking up scent trails, tracking, and pursuing game at a safe distance. They are also used to conduct hunting dog competitions (known as “trialing”). The fenced areas are designed to keep both the wildlife and the dogs confined to the area (not allowing for the free passage of wildlife).
Train and trial areas are utilized to:
- train hunting dogs to only pursue specific game species in the wild by having them practice in a controlled environment
- exercise hunting dogs in the off-season
- provide a dedicated space for training where dogs and wildlife are contained and safe, to avoid conflicts with other land and resource users
- run trialing competitions where dogs are scored by judges for their hunting abilities
These areas are regulated under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 (FWCA), and persons must obtain a licence to own and operate a train and trial area and meet regulatory requirements including:
- standards of care for wildlife
- minimum standards for facility size and areas of wildlife refuge
- appropriate fencing
- restrictions on the types and number of dogs that may be used
- maximum frequency of trialing activities
- record keeping
- prohibition on use of firearms
New train and trial areas were last approved to be established in 1997 and were intended to be phased-out over time. At one time there were 50-60 train and trial areas in Ontario; currently there are 24 licensed train and trial areas in the province. The FWCA does not allow for the issuance of licences for new train and trial areas or the transfer of a licence to a new owner/operator. Over time, the ministry has received requests for changes to allow dog train and trial areas to continue to persist, including allowing for licence transfers in response to aging licence holders, as well as new licences to be issued.
In response to these requests, the ministry is proposing to make changes to allow for:
- the issuance of licences for new dog train and trial areas through a one-time 90-day application period, and
- the transfer of licences to own and operate a dog train and trial area to new persons
All train and trial areas would be required to conform to strict regulatory standards.
The ministry is proposing to amend the FWCA and supporting Ontario Regulation 668/98 (Wildlife in Captivity) to implement the proposal. If approved, the ministry implement the changes through a one-time 90-day application period for new train and trial licences, followed by associated application review and site inspections to ensure an new train and trial area meets regulatory standards.
Regulatory impact analysis
The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are expected to be neutral. Coyote and red fox may be obtained through lawful trapping activity (e.g., on registered traplines). Licensed train and trial areas may obtain rabbits from existing licensed facilities or by obtaining ministry authorization to acquire rabbits. These species have sustainable populations and there are no concerns with limited take of small numbers for licensed train and trial areas.
The anticipated economic consequences of the proposal are expected to be largely neutral to positive. The proposed legislation would enable licences to be issued to new persons who were previously unable to obtain a licence. This removes barriers and creates an opportunity for new persons to participate in the existing regulatory framework.
There is no specific fee associated with the transfer of a licence. Persons who wish to transfer their train and trial area to a new licence holder would be required to notify the ministry about the transfer and the new owner.
A person interested in obtaining a licence to own and operate a new train and trial facility, or assuming a licence to own and operate an existing train and trial facility from an existing licence holder, would be required to meet strict regulatory standards and apply for a licence and pay the associated licence fee ($100) on an annual basis. No changes to the existing licence fees are proposed. Licence holders would be responsible for any costs associated with facility maintenance and operation.
The proposal would provide an opportunity to establish new train and trial areas in Ontario. The proposal would support the continued operation of licensed dog train and trial areas and offer benefits to persons who use dogs to hunt or track wildlife, or who run their dogs in trialing competitions, as they would continue to have access to dedicated space for dog training and trialing to avoid conflicts with other land and resource users.
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