New legislation better protection for animals
The new Animal Welfare Act will modernize the province’s animal welfare legislation and improve the ability of authorities to act in cases of animal neglect or abuse. The new act replaces a portion of the current Animal Health and Protection Act and the entire Companion Animal Protection Act.
The new act combines livestock and companion animals under a single act. It will offer both similar protection from abuse and neglect and ensure the revised offences and penalties can be applied. The act also amends penalties for offences by increasing fines and adding the potential for imprisonment. In addition, it more more closely aligns Prince Edward Island with other jurisdictions in Canada.
The standards of care provisions introduced in the new legislation will allow animal protection officers to intervene prior to an animal being in distress by using nationally recognized codes of practice as a guide to proper care.
“The shift from distress trigger to standard of care legislation is crucial to improve protection for animals in Prince Edward Island,” said Dr. Alice Crook, co-ordinator of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College. “This well-crafted legislation will enable inspectors to intervene earlier-before animals experience prolonged distress and before they develop major medical issues that make it much more difficult to rehabilitate them.”
Each owner of an animal must ensure that it is provided with adequate food, water and shelter and reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold, veterinary care when it is injured or ill, a reasonable opportunity for exercise and transportation in a manner that ensures its physical safety and general welfare. The act also sets out what would be considered improper confinement.
If animal protection officers believe on reasonable grounds that an animal is in distress, they can conduct an inspection, seize of take into custody an animal and take any other reasonable action, including rescuing the animal and providing medical care. Animal protection officers can also make an order to require the owners to take any action that is believed necessary, including having the animal examined and treated at the owner’s expense.
They can also take an animal into custody without a warrant with the consent of the owner, if the animal is believed to be abandoned, on the opinion of a veterinarian or if the officer believes that taking the animal into custody will protect it from immediate life-threatening distress.
An appeal board will be established if owners contest the findings.
Corporations convicted under the act can face a minimum fine of between $1,000 and $20,000 and individuals are subject to fines between $500 and $10,000. They could as well face imprisonment of up to six months.
The new legislation sends a strong signal that animal cruelty and neglect will not be tolerated. Once the act has received final approval, it will be posted on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.