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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone February 22, 2022

No, Ottawa didn’t threaten to punish protesters by killing their pets

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  • Ottawa By-law & Regulatory Services in a tweet told protesters that animals brought to demonstrations may be taken into protective custody if their owners are jailed.

  • Pet owners would have eight days to make arrangements to retrieve their animals.

  • The Ottawa Humane Society, where the animals would be taken, says it “keeps every adoptable animal until the right home is found, regardless of length of stay.” Euthanasia is only considered  if the animal is “suffering severely or incurably” or considered too dangerous to adopt out.

Did Ottawa authorities really threaten to kill the pets of truckers to punish them for protesting Canada’s vaccine mandates?

That’s what some on social media were saying after a tweet by Ottawa By-law & Regulatory Services on Feb. 17, a day before police started moving in to clear the downtown area of protesters who had been camped out on city streets for more than three weeks.

But that’s a distortion of the tweet, which warned protesters who brought their pets along to the demonstration that the city may have to take their animals into "protective custody" should the owners be arrested.

"SHOCK POLICY: Ottawa may euthanize truckers’ pets as punishment," read a Feb. 20 Facebook post. It’s a screenshot of a headline from the website The Counter Signal, a website that describes itself as helping "conservatives to fight back and share the news that Justin Trudeau would prefer to cover up." 

Underneath that headline in the Facebook post is a photoshopped image of Dr. Anthony Fauci supposedly saying, "You stole that from me!" (That's a reference to another claim we already tackled here.)

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Here’s why the post is misleading.

By-law and Regulatory Services is a city law-enforcement agency that handles non-criminal issues, such as nuisances, business licensing and traffic. On Feb. 17, the agency’s Twitter account, @OttawaBylaw, tweeted out a warning to protesters who brought pets with them that if protesters are jailed, their pets will be "placed into protective custody for 8 days." If arrangements aren’t made after that, the tweet said, "your animal will be considered relinquished." 

We don’t know how many protesters brought their pets along with them, but only one pet was placed in custody, officials said. On Feb. 21, the Ottawa Police Department reported 196 arrests of protesters.

Ottawa police and the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa made similar statements to protesters, urging them to arrange care for their children should parents be sent to jail.

Jennifer Therkelsen, acting director of By-law and Regulatory Services, said that Ottawa’s Animal Care and Control By-law (2003-77) allows officers to take animals whose owners cannot care for them "as a result of incarceration, fire, medical emergency or eviction" into "protective custody."

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"This authority is applicable citywide and intended to ensure the animals’ safety and well-being, including the provision of basic needs, while their owner is unavailable to do so," she said. 

The bylaw declares the Ottawa Humane Society as the "operator of the pound." 

"When the city places an animal in protective care, the owner has eight days to make arrangements for their animal," said Stephen Smith, a spokesperson for the Ottawa Humane Society.

Arrangements can be made by phone or the owner can have someone make them on their behalf. If that doesn’t happen, the organization assumes ownership and assesses the animal for adoption, Smith added.

"We received one animal as a result of arrests at the protest, and the animal was returned to its owner the same day," said Smith.

The organization’s euthanasia policy reads that it "keeps every adoptable animal until the right home is found, regardless of length of stay."

"Humane euthanasia" may be necessary when an animal is suffering incurably, is considered dangerous to the public or "professionally assessed as not suitable for adoption, either medically and/or behaviourally, using a best-practices protocol," the policy says.

The organization’s most recent annual report covering 18 months in 2020-21 said it took in 2,585 animals, reunited 690 of them with their owners, adopted out 1,278 and transferred 73 to other shelters.

The shelter had a live release rate of 79.4% of animals taken in, the report said. There were 674 animals euthanized — 39% of those at their owners’ request, 51% due to serious medical issues and 10% due to serious behavioral issues such as aggression and/or extreme fear, the report said.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said that the city of Ottawa may euthanize the pets of protesters as punishment for participating in the recent truckers’ protest against vaccine mandates.

The city did not threaten to kill any pets "as punishment." Ottawa By-law & Regulatory Services did tweet a warning that if protesters were incarcerated, the city would place their pets in protective care for up to eight days. If no arrangements were made to retrieve the animals by then, the pets would be considered "relinquished," it said.

Animals taken into the city’s custody are brought to the Ottawa Humane Society, which says it euthanizes animals only if they have serious medical or behavioral issues, the organization’s website said. Only one animal from the protest was brought to the shelter and it was returned to its owner, the shelter said.

While it is possible that any animal brought into the shelter may meet the agency’s euthanasia criteria, the shelter’s numbers show such situations are rare.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Tweet from Ottawa By-Law, Feb. 17, 2022

City of Ottawa, "Animal Care and Control (By-law No. 2003-77),"

Ottawa Humane Society, "Euthanasia of companion animals at the OHS

Ottawa Humane Society, "2020-21 annual report"

Emailed statement from Jennifer Therkelsen, acting director of By-law and Regulatory Services, Feb. 21, 2022

Emailed interview with Stephen Smith, communications manager with the Ottawa Humane Society, Feb. 22, 2022

Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa, "Message to parents at the Ottawa demonstration," Feb. 16, 2022

Ottawa Police Department, tweet on Feb. 18, 2022

Ottawa Police Department, "Update on Police Operations to Remove Unlawful Protesters," Feb. 21, 2022

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More by Jeff Cercone

No, Ottawa didn’t threaten to punish protesters by killing their pets

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