New Brunswick

Province to raise penalties for mistreating animals

The New Brunswick government wants to raise the penalties for mistreating animals and introduce a new penalty for abandoning them.

The New Brunswick SPCA will also receive $100,000 to enforce animal welfare laws

The New Brunswick government plans to raise the penalties for mistreating animals and provide $100,000 to the SPCA to enforce the rules. (CBC)

The New Brunswick government wants to raise the penalties for mistreating animals and to introduce a penalty for abandoning them.

In a news release Monday, the Department of Environment and Local Government said a bill was coming this week that would strengthen animal protection.

Fines would be raised for holding animal fights, improperly tethering an animal, and failing to euthanize an animal humanely.

The New Brunswick SPCA, which had to lay off its executive director last year, would get $100,000 in provincial funding to help it enforce animal welfare laws, the release said.

Steven Turner, past president of the society, said the province talked to the SPCA and other groups about changes needed in legislation.

He said he hoped the amendments this week will include some of the society's recommendations.

He added that the New Brunswick SPCA rarely has to prosecute people for animal fighting or destroying an animal without the approval of a veterinarian.

"We have not prosecuted a case for dog fighting in some time, though there have been rumours of dog fighting in some communities."

New penalty for abandonment

A proposed bill to strengthen animal welfare will include stronger penalties for offences such as animal fighting contests, improperly tethering animals, and failing to humanely euthanize an animal. (CBC)

The department also said it wants to make it an offence to abandon animals, something that has not been covered by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The release did not say what the penalties would be for any of the offences it cited, but Turner said they would likely involve fines. In some cases, judges have prohibited people from owning animals for several years or for a lifetime, depending on the offence, he said.

Liability protection for officers

The SPCA requested "good-faith" legislation protecting its officers from being sued for taking actions against animal cruelty, said Turner, and the government did mention liability protection among the proposed amendments.

"It doesn't eliminate the possibility of civil action … but it raises the bar a bit," said Turner.

Last year, the society had to lay off its executive director, Hilary Howes, and make other cuts after it faced increased costs and more public demand for animal protection services. (CBC)

He added that with the $100,000 from the province this year, and a commitment to continued annual funding "at that level," the SPCA would be able to provide better services.

Last year, after having to make staff and other cuts, the society faced increased costs because of more public demand for animal protection services.

"So this new grant will make it possible for us to re-examine those measures and see what can be done to put us on a firmer financial footing,"  said Turner.

The Department of Environment and Local Government could not be reached for comment Monday.

The news release said the amendments came from consulting with animal welfare stakeholders and monitoring legislation in other jurisdictions.  

"It became clear that we needed to strengthen our laws and we needed to ensure the society had access to stable funding to enforce the legislation and continue their important role of education and awareness," the minister, Serge Rousselle, said in the release.