Why do we need better laws to protect the animals? Who would want more restrictions on our ‘personal liberties’? Where on earth would we find funding for enforcement? What is wrong with the status quo? In other words, how would we benefit?
The answer is simple! When compassion and common sense cannot compel folks to ‘do the right thing’, laws are the shield that protect the innocent! How? Penalties can provide a deterrent! Statutes clearly state how we as a society are evolving from the social mores of the past! It really is just frosting on the cake that animal welfare laws always do double duty by serving as public safety and consumer protection measures!
So what exactly DO we need in order to protect the animals and provide safer communities for our children? Quite a bit actually! Is it realistic to expect to see one broad stroke of someone’s pen change everything immediately? Of course not!
The short version is that, here in Canada, there are three jurisdictional levels where laws affecting the animals are written.
1. At the Federal level, our MP’s are responsible for submitting new laws or amendments to the Property Section of the Criminal Code. ( where companion animals sadly still fall under the same category as any trinket in the dollar store or unwanted object peddled in the free online ad sites )
2. Every province in the country has their own version of an Act to Protect Animals. Here in NS, there are two principal pieces of provincial legislation that affect the animals:
- Our Act to Protect Animals and Aid Animals in Distress provides the legal authority for the society’s structure and activities. In addition, it provides broad general definitions of distress and suffering. It should be noted that although our Act was revised in 2010, it was not proclaimed until 2011. To date, the only regulations that have been written have been housekeeping measures to define the authority of cruelty investigators.
- The Municipal Government Act … specifically clauses 175 – 179, which provide all municipalities with the framework and the authority to write and revise their Dog Bylaws.
3. Consequently, each and every Municipality in this Province has their own unique Dog Bylaw.
At the Federal Level
First and foremost, it is important to understand that at the Federal Level, animal advocates, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and sympathetic MP’s have been trying to effect the necessary changes to our Criminal Code for the last twenty-five years! What has the hold up been? Bill C-17, and its six successors fell victim to election calls and prorogued parliament, except for Bill 10 B. (which was supported by all parties in the House but died in the Senate )
In 2005, Senator John Bryden from NB introduced another version, Bill 24, which eventually morphed into Bill S 213. What was wrong with this bill? It retained the new penalties from its predecessors but made no changes to the Offences in the Act. This bill was strongly opposed by animal advocates and the CFHS! Not surprisingly, it was very strongly supported by most industry groups! In spite of repeated presentations and a petition with over 100,000 signatures, this bill was passed through the house, with no opposition in the Senate, and was enacted in 2008.
Bill C-229 is still ‘in play’ but has sat on the back burner since it was introduced. Why? For the very same reason that all legislation gets sidelined! The way ahead for the animals will only ever be paved by strong voter feedback! Do you know who your Federal MP is? Click here to find out.
Special Note The next Federal Election is tentatively scheduled for the third Monday in October, 2015. It is to be expected that campaigning will begin after the Liberal Leadership Convention in April of this year.
At the Provincial Level (Please note that all items with an asterisks may also be independently implemented by your local municipality)
In 2008, the (then) PC government tried to bring BSL to Nova Scotia under the cover of Bill 138, which was on the surface a simple housekeeping to update the Municipal Government Act. Politicians from all parties were stunned by the strength of the swell of support at the grassroots level. After all, the society had not made any objections, eh? Who knew that so many would email and phone and write in spite of that?
This galvanized our provincial MLA’s into a newfound enthusiasm for Animal Welfare and prompted the fast tracking of a new animal Protection Act! After a bit, people stopped emailing and calling and writing. Consequently, the “new” act was not proclaimed until the following year. To date, the only regulations that have been written have been housekeeping measures to clarify the powers of the cruelty investigators.
So what would be helpful at the Provincial Level? It is the opinion of the undersigned that it is not realistic to expect everything at once. For purposes of clarity, it has therefore been prioritized into three groups:
Low Hanging Fruit
These are the measures that do not involve significant cost outlay or controversy. Indeed, some of them are simple public service measures that would do double duty by proactively preventing homeless pets: The Municipal Government Act Clauses pertaining to Dog Bylaws should be amended to include:
- * Making it illegal to leave a dog in a hot car! Come on, folks! This is the ONE thing that would find very little opposition anywhere! Otherwise, every year our overworked police will continue to have to respond to calls about dogs in distress in hot cars! Passing a law would not stop the practice, but most folks would think twice if there was the possibility of a fine!
- * Free lifetime licences for pets that are spayed or neutered and microchipped. It estimated that less than fifty percent of dogs in this province are currently registered. Even worse, the administration costs of annual licensing exceeds the revenue, which is of no benefit because the revenue does not go into Animal Control coffers. Worst of all of course is that every day impounded dogs are unclaimed because the reclaim fees for unlicensed dogs can easily be beyond a family’s means!
- * Free Ride Home programs for all first time running at large offenders. It is cheaper to take them home than to pay to house them, eh?
- * Animal Control contact information, including the location of the facility or the contractor where impounded animals are kept, should be freely available on the municipal web sites and in their newsletters mailed out with their tax bills
- * All Animal Control statistics should be published on the municipal websites.
- * Free Petfinder accounts are easily available for Animal Control. The Act should be amended to make use of this mandatory. It would help advertise impounds, clarify availability dates and provide rescues with the information needed to save lives.
- * All municipalities should be required to make impounded animals available to rescues and shelters after the hold period is over.
Medium Hanging Fruit ( It should be noted that everything in this category, and the next, does double duty by serving as either a public safety or consumer protection tool )
- * Anti Tethering Legislation Support is building for this legislation. The undersigned feels so strongly on this subject that there is a separate page on this blog devoted exclusively to this topic. Please note that although this can be implemented at the local level, to date no municipality has been willing to set the precedent … nor is it realistic to expect to see any one go out on a limb like that anytime soon. If you have not already signed the Anti Tethering Petition, click here to go to the People for Dogs Facebook Group.
- Appeals Board It will take strong voter feedback to convince any sitting government that Clauses 31 – 33 of our Animal Protection Act should be proclaimed, when the society has not made that a priority. Until that is done, the last resort that any tax paying individual has in this province to appeal a decision made by a society inspector is the provincial board of the same society. The current Listeria crisis is only the latest example of how unsuccessful the old “fox guarding the henhouse’ approach has been to date. The tumultuous relationship between society inspectors and the animal advocates who complain about chained dogs, breeding facilities and hoarding situations only highlights the need for an impartial appeal mechanism.
- Minimum Housing Standards It is the express opinion of the undersigned that more specific regulations must be written within the existing Act. It would enable the society inspectors to take meaningful action on hoarding, breeding and chained dog complaints. Even better, by keeping it separate from the issue of mandatory breeder registration minimizes the muddying of the waters by commercial pet breeders. Best of all of course is that it would provide an educational tool for the public by outlining the essentials.
- Meaningful Penalties for Convicted Animal Abusers. In 2008, residents of this province were horrified as the footage from the Celtic Pets Seizure rolled across TV and computer screens. After the trial, animal advocates and those who volunteered with rehabilitating the abused animals were devastated to see that although two women charged were given a lifetime ban on owning or working with a rescue able to keep their personal pets and were only fined $1000 on each count. As of this writing, convicted animal abuser Gail Beniot is still merrily operating in this province. At the end of the day, meaningful penalties will not completely stop animal abuse, but they will act as a deterrent!
- Province wide ban on BSL – In these economic times, Nova Scotians need to move where the work is. No resident of this province should be required to put their family pet at risk .. BSL should be banned in the Municipal Government Act.
Top Hanging Fruit (It should be noted that everything in this category comes with a price tag that politicians will be unwilling or unable to pony up for without strong voter support!
- Low and / or No Cost Spay Neuter. The chief public opposition to this stems from the responsible pet owners who DO spay and neuter their pets and see no reason for their tax dollars to be spent on somebody’s else’s pets. Even worse, most responsible everyday folk do not see why community ( ie stray and feral ) cats should be supported on the public dime. Saddest of all of course is that every year that politicians put this issue on the back burner, the cat population problem continues to escalate … making future solutions even more expensive 🙁 It should be noted that while most vet clinics in this province support one or more rescues with some level of discounted work, there is general opposition to any mandated low-cost spay neuter program that could cut into their business models and bottom lines.
- Mandatory Breeder Registration Lets face it … the pet business is Big Business! When so much money is at stake, it is only to be expected that PIJAC … “the voice of the Canadian Pet Industry” would attempt to ally itself with the CKC breeders, That has the unfortunate side effect of cloaking backyard breeders and puppy millers in the same respectable sheep’s clothing as the CKC Breeders 🙁 To be effective, Mandatory Breeder Registration should include minimum ages for breeding and lifetime limits on litters per bitch
- Limit the traffic of animals in the free online ad sites to Pet Adoption from Reputable Rescue.. Why? Because the free online ad sites provide a smokescreen that allows convicted animal abusers to continue their activity in relative anonymity. Reputable breeders do not need the free ads .. indeed they normally have waiting lists. This does double duty as a consumer protection issue because reputable rescues and breeders screen their adopters and never hide known health or behavior issues.
What time is it? It is always time to remember that at the end of every leash is a voter who CAN speak for the the animals!