TORONTO - The Ontario government says it will spend $5.5 million a year to toughen enforcement of animal welfare laws, crack down on puppy and kitten mills and improve care for marine mammals in the province.

Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community safety, says there will be regular inspections of zoos and aquarium to ensure the health and safety of animals in captivity.

Speaking at Toronto's High Park Zoo on Friday, Meilleur said the annual funding will go to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help it strengthen its animal protection work.

And she said the government has come up with several ways to help the society's investigators respond better to complaints.

They include plans to create a centralized dispatch service so OSPCA officers can respond to animal abuse calls from anywhere in the province, as well as a squad of specially trained investigators to crack down on puppy and kitten mills.

The government says the OSPCA will also be conducting twice-yearly inspections of zoos and aquariums.