Animal protection in New Brunswick needs more teeth, minister says
Jeff Carr says rules can be strengthened to protect pet population
Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr said his department is looking into improving animal protection laws after a New Brunswick man pleaded guilty Tuesday to animal abuse.
Kyle Springer, 27, will be sentenced in April for leaving his dog, Diesel, to starve to death in a locked home for two months.
Carr, who met with an animal rights group Wednesday, said rules can be strengthened in New Brunswick to protect the pet population.
In particular, Carr said his department is looking at the New Brunswick SPCA's code of practice on animal care. The code, which has yet to be passed into legislation, was drafted in conjunction with animal rights groups and the Department of Environment and Local Government.
"There's a whole host of different items in it, right from keeping a safe space for a dog to stay in when they are outside, as far as sizes of doghouses, to how you walk your dog … a lot of it is code of practice that should be common sense for people, and some of it should be regulation," he said.
"That's the goal of everybody, I think, to move the code of practice closer to regulation and to put some more teeth around what our enforcement officers can have to stand behind."
Outside the Woodstock courthouse where Springer appeared Tuesday, animal rights advocates called for people to use their voices to speak up for abused animals.
"It's really important that everyone get out and speak to their MLA, speak to their advocacy group, everyone needs to play a part in protecting animals," said animal advocate Lisa Paulin.
"We need [the government to] step forward and change legislation," added Wendy Hallihan, another animal rights activist.
Tony Porter, chief animal protection officer for the New Brunswick SPCA, said the group is always looking for ways to improve animal protection and meets with the Department of Environment and Local Government regularly.
"As people don't understand, and I fully appreciate that, these changes don't come overnight," Porter said.
Porter said it would be premature to disclose what specific improvements the SPCA and provincial government are currently looking at to strengthen legislation.
Porter did say increasing punishments for offenders may be a way to alleviate problems.
Educating the public
In addition to improving regulations and enforcement, Carr said public education is key to reducing animal abuse.
He would like to see a public awareness campaign and more work done in the school system with the New Brunswick SPCA to educate people on what to do if they can't care for their animals or if they suspect abuse is taking place.
"If people are overwhelmed with the care of their pets, reach out to these groups of people that are there to help, the NB SPCA as well as the advocacy groups … don't sit in silence and let your pet suffer," Carr said.
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said his party is also beginning research to look into how the SPCA Act of New Brunswick could be improved.
"We're open to finding ways to either make the legislation tougher or beef up enforcement," Austin said.
"The injury done to the animal is bad enough in and of itself, but when you look at the nature of the individual doing these things, it would certainly question … their ethics toward human life as well."
Austin said ensuring animal protection officers can properly enforce the act is key, and perhaps stricter punishments for repeat offenders.
"People that do these types of things, you have to question if they are fit to be in society."
With files from Shane Fowler