Updates to Saskatchewan’s laws will give animal protection officers more power and potentially give that power to more officers.
Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart introduced the Animal Protection Act amendments in late November.
During second reading debate, he said the amendments would allow the ministry to approve organizations other than humane societies to enforce provisions of the act.
“This will provide greater flexibility and will expand investigation capacity within the province,” he said.
Animal protection officers will be able to inspect slaughterhouses and kennels, which they currently can’t enter, as well as transport trailers.
Veterinarians will also have to report suspected cases of animal abuse or neglect.
Stewart said animals won’t be considered in distress when handled according to accepted codes of practice. Those practices are included in regulations under the act.
“Animal protection officers will be able to order corrective actions be taken by the person responsible for the animal to relieve it of distress,” Stewart said.
“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.”
Officers must be satisfied that the corrective measures are taken before returning the animal to the owner.
The amendments set out provisions for humane slaughter and euthanasia.
Unfit and disabled animals may not be transported, unless for veterinary care.
As well, the amendments will increase fines for second offences.
“Clearly society demands more and more protection for animals and rightly so,” Stewart told re-porters. “It’s bound to keep those who operate slaughterhouses or kennels on their toes. They’ll make sure they’re in compliance at all times.”
Kaley Pugh, executive director of Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, and Dr. Lesley Sawa, president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, said updated legislation would go a long way to improving animal health and welfare.
The amended act would also set out a clear definition of an abandoned animal and allow protection officers to take it into care before it suffers from distress.
Stewart said there are still likely to be situations where people suffering from addiction or mental illness don’t care for animals as well as they should.
“I think these changes are necessary because society demands them, and we do want to keep our animals safe and well cared for.”