Nova Scotia

Appeal board, more investigators proposed in animal protection law

The Nova Scotia government plans to revamp an animal welfare law in response to concerns about the SPCA and its handling of an animal cruelty case in Cape Breton.

The Nova Scotia government plans to revamp an animal welfare law in response to concerns about the SPCA and its handling of an animal cruelty case in Cape Breton.

Under proposed legislation, introduced Tuesday, the Nova Scotia SPCA must hold its annual general meetings in public and submit yearly reports on its cruelty investigations.

The proposed new act, called An Act to Protect Animals and to Aid Animals That Are in Distress, also calls for an animal cruelty appeal board, where pet owners can complain if they feel they've been unfairly targeted.

Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor said the new rules will make the SPCA more accountable.

"A number of these disputes were generated as a consequence of disagreements relative to investigations, seizures, somebody claiming the SPCA didn't respond in an appropriate fashion or an appropriate time," he said.

"With the appeal panel in place, we feel that some of those disputes should be somewhat mitigated."

The proposal also makes the Agriculture Department responsible for investigating cruelty against farm animals, leaving the SPCA to handle complaints involving domestic animals, such as cats and dogs.

The SPCA came under fire earlier this year when one of its volunteer agents was charged with animal cruelty after 100 dogs and cats were seized from Celtic Pets Rescue, near Port Hawkesbury.

Later, some members who complained about the way executives handled the Celtic Pets case said they were kicked out of the organization and barred from the group's annual meeting.

SPCA president praises investigative tool

"We have volumes of correspondence regarding those incidents," said Taylor. "There's no big secret that those two certainly highlighted the need to revamp the Animal Cruelty Act."

SPCA president Pamela Keddy said one of the proposed rules is a particularly useful tool and, if put in place earlier, might have sped up the Celtic Pets case.

Under the new act, pet owners are required to take an animal to the door for inspection if the SPCA suspects abuse.

"It would have been helpful because there were two buildings on the property so we would have been able to call out if there were animals in the other building," Keddy said.

Under the proposed legislation, both the SPCA and the province would have to hire more investigators, which officials estimate would cost about $250,000 per year.

Taylor said MLAs will debate the proposed legislation in the fall.