Kristin Williams, executive director of the Nova Scotia SPCA, says amendments to the Animal Protection Act proposed by Minister of Agriculture John MacDonell seek to create parity between the Department of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia SPCA with respect to authority to investigate farm animals and companion animals.
"We're pleased to see that amendments we proposed are addressed and incorporated into this Bill and look forward to seeing what changes may come to pass. It would appear that much of what we requested was addressed," Williams says.
"Animal protection is an important issue for Nova Scotians," MacDonell says. "As a farmer and as someone who cares about animals, I'm very pleased with this comprehensive law. It enables fair and timely investigation into complaints and enhances the way the province looks after animals in distress."
The majority of changes are technical clarifications intending to improve the functioning of the Act. The new bill, if passed, would address the following:
• the investigative powers of the Chief Inspector would apply to all special constables appointed under the Act and all peace officers in the province (this is currently implied).
• the full definition of distress would be put in one section of the Act, making it easier to understand and enforce.
• judges would be given greater discretion to impose a penalty of his/her own determination and render alternatives to fines that are specific to the circumstances of the case.
• inspectors would be able to determine whether an animal should be returned to an owner instead of an application having to be made to a judge.
• the time before the department can seize abandoned farm animals would be shortened.
• the Society's board of directors would be called upon if an accused party requests a decision to remove an animal be reviewed (this doesn't negate the powers of the yet to be established Appeals Board, but it does add another layer of protection and ensures the Society doesn't incur costs associated with the care of the animals for any extraordinary length of time by having to wait for a court ruling).
• costs incurred by the Society in the remediation of distress would be sought through Small Claims Court instead of through a collections service.
"Costs can be substantial for necessary veterinary and medical treatment and the care of animals," MacDonell says. "The proposed changes are necessary to ensure those costs are recovered. These amendments provide courses of action that will lessen the burden on taxpayers."
An additional amendment that would strengthen to the Act would be to include regulations. The Society has the power to author standards of care, which are used in education and enforcement, but these aren't currently part of the Act. These standards of care comprise a more significant change to the legislation.