New animal act cause for concern
Government’s approach to its proposed Animal Welfare Act is inexplicable. In the five years it’s spent on this bill, it provided no opportunity for public consultation, unlike other provinces. It issued no general call for submissions, instead consulting the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, whose priority is the economic value of animals, not their welfare. It’s been silent regarding criticisms of this bill, providing no explanation of what it contains. Instead, its partners are calling for it to be passed quickly without debate.
The bill’s predominant change to current legislation is that it would put more power in the hands of industries that use animals by excluding a whole new range of animals from protection, exempting an array of inhumane industry practices from prosecution, and creating an Appeals Board that can be dominated by appointees with no knowledge of animal welfare or the law.
It wouldn’t change the fact that inspectors aren’t required to inspect businesses, follow up on complaints, or follow veterinary advice in cases of distress. It wouldn’t even require that a business be inspected before receiving a license, allowing puppy mills to continue.
There’s nothing even close to the progressive steps other provinces are taking, like recognizing animals as sentient beings, banning selling animals in stores, banning keeping exotic species in captivity, or prohibiting abusive practices like tethering.
The main improvement is that it would increase options for penalties on conviction. But with such low minimum standards, such widespread exemptions, and no obligation on the part of inspectors to act, penalties are largely irrelevant if convicting abusers is unlikely.
If the criticisms of this bill are inaccurate, the government needs to explain why. If they’re accurate, the government’s partners need to explain why they’re supporting legislation that’s clearly not in the best interests of animals. Elizabeth Schoales, Charlottetown