All property owners in Ontario have the right to keep hunters off their property. But how? And how can you protect your farm animals – including your potbelly pigs and dogs, from trespassing hunters? Here is the 101 on keeping unwanted ‘guests’ off your property.
Some of you may remember the devastating story from November 2017 of the pet potbelly pigs who were shot and killed by hunters while they were on their own property. As a sanctuary full of animals thought by many as food, including acres of forested and wet lands, this is a serious concern for us. We have looked into what we need to do to keep our animals safe in Ontario, and are happy to share our findings with you.
When first delving into the Ontario trespass laws we learned that they are somewhat convoluted and almost unreadable, and they are difficult to enforce. In Alberta the law is pretty clear; encroaching on lands which are fenced or occupied, is trespass. However, we don’t live in Alberta.
So here we go…
You need to familiarize yourself with the Ontario Trespass to Property Act - R.S.O. 1990.
In order to keep this as simple as possible, here is a synopsis from Chapter T.21, #3
‘Under this provincial law, trespassing occurs when someone remains on
private property after they have been instructed by the occupant of
that property to leave the property. This instruction can be in
written form (such as a 'No Trespassing' sign), or verbal. Ontario's law has the highest maximum
fine in Canada, at up to $2000 per offense.”
Click here to read the actual law, section #3, Prohibition of Entry, as summed up above.
So this basically means that a person can wander anywhere they please as long as they have not been warned to stay out nor are they infringing on someone’s livelihood. Remember that even if you post signs a trespasser could say that they didn’t see a sign that was posted. Then it's your word against theirs. Make sure you follow all of the guidelines given below and that you post as many signs as possible.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF), a total of 450,000 people hold a ‘Hunting’ Outdoors Card. (2015). OMNRF spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski states that “any person can enter onto private property for lawful purpose without asking permission from the landowner/occupier until the entrant has received notice that entry is prohibited or activities are regulated by the land owner/occupier.”
So…lets talk about notification.
No hunting signs and marking systems
In order to notify hunters/trespassers that they are not welcomed on your property they must be informed. According to Legal Line.ca one way to do this is by putting signs around the property indicating that hunting is not permitted. The signs must be posted in a particular way, as set out in the Trespass to Property Act. Signs posted on the property must be clearly visible in daylight under normal conditions from the approach to each ordinary point of access to the premises. You could use signs that have the word “hunting” written on them or show a graphic representation of someone hunting and then put an oblique line through the word or the picture.
Instead of signs, you could use a marking system to notify hunters that hunting on your property is prohibited. The Trespass to Property Act has detailed instructions on what is considered suitable. In a nutshell...
the use of red or yellow markings that are made and posted, provided they are of sufficient size that a circle which is 10 centimetres in diameter could fit wholly inside the marking.
markings must be clearly visible in daylight under normal conditions from the approach to each ordinary point of access to your property.
red markings mean that entry on the premises is prohibited.
yellow markings mean that entry on the premises is prohibited except for the purpose of certain activities.
It may be a good idea to seek legal advice to ensure that the markings you use are correct. Another option is to contact the Ministry of Natural Resources which oversees hunting. You can also contact the Ministry of the Attorney General, which administers the Trespass to Property Act.
Wait, what about hunting dogs?
Often, hunters use their dogs to go on ahead of them and flush the hunted animals out. This can be extremely dangerous for your animals, including potbelly pigs and birds. Unfortunately the law isn’t clear. Sadly protecting your animals, children and property is not a straightforward task in Ontario.
You’ve done your part, now what?
In the case where a hunter or a hunter’s dog is on your property, you should consult the police and the local Ministry of Natural Resources office. If you have posted proper signs or markings on your property, you, a person authorized by you, or a police officer can arrest the trespasser without a warrant. However, anyone making an arrest who is not a police officer must promptly call for the assistance of a police officer.
If the person has trespassed and has since left the premises, only a police officer can go after them and make the arrest. Under the law, the trespasser may be ordered to pay a fine, or go to prison.
In the end it's up to you to make sure that hunters/trespassers are duly notified.
Carla R. Moore is the co-founder and Director of Operations of Happy Tails Farm Sanctuary, a not-for-profit registered charity in Ontario, Canada.
Charity registration number 868244476RR0001