Animal Welfare Act passed in P.E.I. legislature

P.E.I. legislators have passed a new Animal Welfare Act that lays down the rules on humane treatment of pets and farm animals, but some critics are still calling for changes.

But critics say farm animals get lower standard of protection than companion animals

An Animal Welfare Act was passed in the P.E.I. Legislature Friday, but some critics say it diesn't go far enough for farm animals. (CBC)

P.E.I. legislators have passed a new Animal Welfare Act that lays down the rules on humane treatment of pets and farm animals, but some critics are still calling for changes.

MLAs passed the bill in the P.E.I. Legislature Friday.

The roots of the Animal Welfare Act extend back to the prosecution of a so-called puppy mill five years ago on P.E.I.

Gaps in existing legislation at the time made it difficult for authorities to protect the dogs that were housed in sub-standard conditions.

Camille Labchuk, director of legal advocacy for the Ottawa-based Animal Justice Canada, says the new act takes the 'wrong approach.' (CBC)
The new act is intended to change that.

"We've met with many, many groups over the last five to six years dealing with and getting this act in place and most people are just super happy that we now have the new legislation in place," said Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac.

But Islander Camille Labchuk, director of legal advocacy for the Ottawa-based Animal Justice Canada, says the act creates two tiers of protection, one for companion animals and a lower standard for farm animals.

"We say this is the wrong approach," said Labchuk.

"Other provinces are moving towards making more standards for farmed animals to ensure that they're protected while on their own farms and P.E.I. should be moving in that direction and strengthening their protections instead of rolling them back."

Standards of care

Among the group's recommendations, Animal Justice Canada wants the government to:

  • remove what it calls exemptions for industrial agriculture (i.e. farm animals);
  • include fish and marine mammals in the act;
  • allow regular, unannounced inspections of animal facilities;
  • impose a ban on keeping exotic animals as pets and a ban on circuses and zoos.
Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac says most people are 'super happy' the legislation in now in place. (CBC)
However, in an email sent to CBC News, a Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries spokesperson said the "bill does not allow for exemptions for farm animals." The email notes sections 7.1 and 7.2 of the act, pointing out that the latter talks about standards of care for farm animals that owners are required to provide. 

'I don't understand the criticism'

Despite the objections of Animal Justice Canada, the new act has many supporters, among them, the P.E.I. Humane Society, the P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association, and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Vet College.

Veterinarian and the welfare centre's co-ordinator Alice Crook helped draft the legislation. She says it's among the best in Canada.

"Well, I don't understand the criticism, to be frank, because there are so many steps forward with this act," said Crook.

"These are all nationally accepted standards that are developed with input from humane associations, widely accepted, used across Canada, and these are standards on which this act will be based."

McIsaac says one change suggested by Animal Justice Canada is in the new act. It clarified the definition of extreme anxiety for assessing cases of animal abuse.

Animal Justice Canada wants government to further amend the Animal Welfare Act when the legislature resumes next fall.

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