Nova Scotia

Animal protection bill proceeds despite concerns it gives SPCA too much power

The McNeil government is pushing ahead with a bill to toughen the rules around pet ownership in Nova Scotia and give the SPCA greater powers to seize animals in distress.

'The overreaching legislation does open it up for abuses,' says Canadian Kennel Club representative

Bill 27 will give the SPCA new powers to seize animals that are in distress. (Shutterstock/Chendongshan)

The McNeil government is pushing ahead with a bill to toughen the rules around pet ownership in Nova Scotia and give the SPCA greater powers to seize animals in distress, despite the proposed law being opposed by some dog breeders and owners.  

Bill 27 also outlaws cosmetic procedures such as declawing cats, tail docking and ear cropping, unless medically necessary and carried out by a veterinarian.

Many opponents of the bill spoke up during last week's law amendments committee, calling the proposal too far-reaching and suggesting it could lead to an abuse of power by SPCA inspectors. 

The Liberals halted the bill's progress through the legislature after that intense criticism but on Monday pushed it through the committee without any changes. 

Jo-Anne Landsburg of the SPCA says inspectors won't be sent to kennels or homes without a good reason. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The way it's written the bill appears to allow the SPCA to inspect kennels and barns without the need for evidence that an animal is being abused or mistreated.

"We're not saying the SPCA are devils or villains and we're not saying they have agendas, but the overreaching legislation does open it up for abuses," said Emily Gratton, a representative of the Canadian Kennel Club. 

"And one thing I find rather scary is that they can camp out on your neighbour's and spy on you to make a case against you. I think it's turning neighbour against neighbour."

Some dog owners and breeders worry that the new bill will give the SPCA the power to inspect kennels and barns without the need for evidence. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

But the SPCA said the new provisions in the act will simply make it easier for inspectors to take animals in distress away from people abusing them.

The bill does not give the SPCA the power to enter someone's home without just cause, said Jo-Anne Landsburg, the SPCA's chief provincial inspector. 

"SPCA inspectors still need a warrant to enter anybody's personal dwelling. That is in the current act and that is not changing with the amendments," she said.

"So I think people need to just rest assured that for any inspector to enter a dwelling a warrant is still required." 

Retired veterinarian Hugh Chisholm heads up the cat welfare society Tuxedo Party. (Pat Lee)

One group that's comfortable with the new bill is the Tuxedo Party, a cat welfare society. Hugh Chisholm, the head of the organization, said he's not the least bit concerned about the SPCA abusing its new powers. 

"There's been a lot of hard work go into this. I was part of that process. I know there was consultation in spite of what has been said by other groups. So really I think the bill is well written and it will do what it is designed to do and that's protect Nova Scotia's animals."

Bill 27 will now go back to the floor of the legislature for more debate. 

Read more stories from CBC Nova Scotia.

With files from Jean LaRoche