It will be illegal to sell a dog whose health has not been certified by a veterinarian under provincial legislation introduced on Monday in Nova Scotia.

Agriculture Minister John MacDonell said the measure is one of several he is proposing in an effort to beef up penalties for people who abuse animals.

'There are far too many cases of mistreated animals in this province not to look at it.' —PC critic Chris d'Entremont

The amendments to the Animal Protection Act would also give the agriculture minister the authority to create regulations about the standard of care for animals, including shelters such as dog houses, animal restraints and tethers.

MacDonell said the government wants to address the problem of puppy mills and crack down on people who sell dogs without ensuring the health and protection of the animals.

"For me it was the issue around people selling pets in the parking lot and people finding out later that they weren't healthy," said MacDonell.

"This would ensure that when somebody gets a pet they get a certificate or some document that shows that a vet has recently looked at it."

MacDonell said once the legislation is passed the regulations would be made in consultation with animal welfare groups and other interested parties, such as veterinarians, although he wasn't sure how long that would take.

The announcement also includes increased maximum penalties for animal abuse. The fine for a first time offence would increase to $25,000 from $10,000, while a second offence jumps to $50,000 from $25,000 and a third or subsequent offence would increase to $75,000 from $50,000.

Liberal agriculture critic Leo Glavine said the key problem remains enforcement of the new measures unless the government increases the number of animal protection officers.

"The SPCA do what they can with the resources they have, but if you just have a couple of protection officers across Nova Scotia that's totally inadequate," said Glavine.

Progressive Conservative critic Chris d'Entremont said the Agriculture Department must either find the funds to hire new officers or better allocate its own staff to adequately deal with abuse cases.

"There are far too many cases of mistreated animals in this province not to look at it," said d'Entremont.

The province currently has two officers who look after neglect cases involving farm animals, while abuse cases involving domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, are handled by the SPCA.