P.E.I.'s Department of Agriculture has been told it must release inspection reports and other information regarding a pet shop owner who went to jail on animal cruelty charges.

'P.E.I. has a long way to go in terms of good protection for animals.'— Elizabeth Schoales

Law student Elizabeth Schoales put in two requests for information about pet store owner Bud Wheatley, who was sentenced to five months in jail last year for animal cruelty at his online pet store. During his trial, it came out Wheatley had been allowed to operate for 15 months without a licence, even though inspectors visited his operation.

Schoales asked for the inspection records and other information, but the Department of Agriculture turned her down, saying the information was not in the public interest.

But in an appeal to the Freedom of Information office, the department was ordered to release the reports.

Supernumerary information and privacy commissioner Karen Rose found agriculture officials were misguided, made errors and failed to respond openly, accurately and completely to Schoales.

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Bud Wheatley was sentenced in October to five months in jail. ((CBC))

Schoales said she put in the requests to make a point.

"It's about government accountability in the area of animal welfare," she said.

"P.E.I. has a long way to go in terms of good protection for animals."

MacDonald ordered the Department of Agriculture to reduce the fees it assessed Schoales, provide access to records it previously denied and ensure adequate freedom of information training for staff.

Agriculture Minister George Webster declined an interview request, but an official told CBC News the department accepts the Commissioner's findings and will follow through with her orders.

Corrections

  • The decision in this case was made by supernumerary commissioner Karen Rose, not commissioner Maria MacDonald.
    Jul 14, 2011 9:35 AM AT