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Want authority returned to SPCA; province says no plans to change legislation
Animal rescue group Rescue NL is calling for increased enforcement and changes to animal protection laws in the province.
Founder Heather Ballard said she sent a proposal to Gerry Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, detailing changes the organization would like to see.
Ballard said she’d like to see the Animal Health and Protection Act amended to:
- Deem animals as sentient beings instead of property.
- Implement tethering legislation to restrict how long a dog may be tethered outdoors.
- Implement breeding regulations to follow specific standards.
- Return investigative and seizure authority to the SPCA and other credible rescue organizations.
- Provide additional resources to credible rescue organizations.
- Abolish the use of gas chambers for euthanizing.
- Increase training for enforcement officers.
Ballard received a letter from Byrne which she shared with The Telegram.
In his letter to Ballard, Byrne wrote that he has heard from “a number of concerned citizens” on this matter, and that the government takes animal welfare seriously.
His letter goes on to say fisheries and land resources regularly engages enforcement authorities on the implementation of legislation.
“At this time, there are no immediate changes to be made to the provincial animal welfare legislation or its enforcement model,” Byrne wrote.
A spokesperson with the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources acknowledged the letter and reiterated there are no plans to change the legislation.
Plans for animal welfare rally
Ballard said she’s not satisfied with Byrne’s response, and she is now meeting with other activists to plan a rally.
She is also circulating a related petition.
Ballard said enforcement of the current legislation is a problem she deals with frequently.
“I know that first-hand because it’s so frustrating. I get all these complaints, and I try to do my best, but it often comes back on us as a rescue, saying, why didn’t you do anything? But, really, we don’t have the authority to do it.
“More animals are suffering now, I believe, because of it.”
The government states “this Government takes animal welfare seriously” and “At this time there are no immediate changes...Posted by Rescue NL on Saturday, February 22, 2020
The province used to have special constables with the SPCA who had authority to investigate and remove animals from abusive or neglectful situations, however when the Animal Health and Protection Act came into force in May 2012 that authority was given to the RNC and RCMP.
The Telegram asked an RCMP spokesperson if officers have time to properly investigate animal welfare complaints.
“It’s really kind of a situational type thing. So, that might be a yes at some times, and it might be no, that’s not the case, other times.
“So, you can imagine if we have, let’s say, a detachment who got a call concerned for an animal, then they get a call on an armed robbery — we know which one is going to get that priority, right? But it doesn’t mean they’re not going to respond to the animal complaint.”
The spokesperson said the role of the RCMP is to enforce the legislation and a complaint does not always mean laws are broken.
A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary spokesperson said officers are educated in the legislation and any call about the welfare of animals is investigated.
The SPCA could not be reached for comment by deadline.
However, Frances Drover, president of the NL West SPCA, previously told The Telegram that a part of the concern with having special constables with the SPCA was that those people were volunteers, and the nature of the work often involved volatile situations.