Second Reading - Bill 110
(28 November 2017)

From Hansard - 28 November 2017

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Bill 110 — The Animal Protection Act, 2017

Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, at the end of my remarks I will move second reading of the animal protection amendment Act, 2017. Mr. Speaker, our government is moving forward with amendments to animal protection legislation in Saskatchewan. We are updating The Animal Protection Act as part of our government’s commitment to animal welfare in our province.

The Act came into force in 1972 to provide a legislative framework for animal welfare and animal protection enforcement in Saskatchewan. The Act has been amended a number of times since 1972. Mr. Speaker, amendments to this Act are necessary from time to time to keep pace with changes in our society and our expanded knowledge with respect to animal welfare. We must be responsive to public expectations and the latest evidence supporting the need for better animal health and welfare.

In 1999 the Act was rewritten to improve animal protection enforcement in our province. By amending the Act, the province ensured we were responding effectively to concerns and addressing them as needed. In 2010 the Act was amended to increase the maximum penalty. This change brought Saskatchewan into line with other provinces. The term of maximum allowable imprisonment increased to two years. Another amendment in 2010 was to ensure that any person could be held accountable for neglect or cruelty to an animal, not just the person responsible for the animal.

It remains critical that current legislation has sufficient authority to address animal cruelty. The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for administering the Act and ensuring that it provides clear direction for enforcement of animal protection in the province for all animals. The ministry also approves humane societies and appoints animal protection officers to enforce the Act. Animal protection officers, APOs, must be able to respond to and address animal cruelty cases effectively.

Our government is seeking to amend the Act to ensure it is up to date, consistent with other jurisdictions, and provides clear direction for enforcement agencies. Heightened public scrutiny and increased public expectations demand accountability. Stakeholders have requested amendments to the Act to improve animal protection. We have listened to stakeholders and developed a balanced approach with these amendments.

Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan is not the only province to amend animal protection legislation. Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia have all recently amended their animal protection laws and regulations to ensure that they meet current animal welfare expectations.

I will outline some of the key amendments to the Act. The amendments will provide the Ministry of Agriculture with the authority to approve organizations beyond humane societies to enforce provisions of the Act. This will provide greater flexibility and will expand investigation capacity within the province.

The amendments will revise the definition of “distress” to broaden the scope of what is considered animal neglect or abuse. Animals will not be considered to be in distress when they are handled according to accepted codes of practice. Mr. Speaker, in the current animal protection regulations 2000, there is a list of codes of practice and guidelines that provides nationally recognized animal care requirements and recommended practices for various species of animals. This list will remain in the regulations under the amended animal protection Act and will continue to be updated as required.

The Act will clearly state what is required of animal owners and their duty of care for any animal they own or are responsible for. The Act will also state that animal owners will have met the duty of care required if they are following a code of practice or guideline listed in the regulations.

The amended legislation also includes a provision for mandatory veterinary reporting of animal neglect or abuse. The Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association requested this amendment which aligns with other provincial legislations.

Animal protection officers will be able to order corrective actions be taken by the person responsible for the animal to relieve it of distress. If corrective actions are not taken by the person responsible, the animal protection officer will be able to take the necessary steps to relieve the animal of distress, including seizing the animal.

Amendments will define an abandoned animal. These changes will allow animal protection officers to take an abandoned animal into custody prior to it suffering from distress.

The Act will be amended to provide clearer direction to animal protection officers on when animals can be returned after they have been seized. In order to return an animal to its owner, animal protection officers will need to be satisfied the animal will not be subjected to further distress.

Inspection powers for animal protection officers will be broadened, allowing them to inspect additional sites such as transport trailers, slaughter plants, boarding kennels, and other sites where animal services are provided. Provision for humane slaughter and euthanasia will also be added to the Act.

A prohibition on transporting unfit animals will also be included. This will clarify that unfit animals may be loaded and transported to obtain veterinary care.

We are increasing fines for second offences. The fine or imprisonment time for second or subsequent offences would increase based on the numbers of days the offence continues. Courts will continue to have the ability to prohibit the guilty person from owning or having custody of an animal for a specific period of time.

We know there is public concern about animal welfare. Mr. Speaker, the agriculture industry recognizes the importance of securing and increasing public trust. One of the things we can do as government is to ensure our legislation is relevant and responsive. These changes will continue to strengthen our government’s commitment to improve animal welfare and protection in Saskatchewan. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the animal protection amendment Act, 2017. Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

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