Animal welfare survey still open for input

The province is asking for opinions on animal welfare and protection on Prince Edward Island as it works to identify gaps in existing laws and policies.

Animal advocates looking for tighter rules, more inspections

The animal welfare survey is open until Feb. 15. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The province is asking for opinions on animal welfare and protection on Prince Edward Island as it works to identify gaps in existing laws and policies.

The Department of Agriculture launched an online survey in December. It's set to close Feb. 15. There have already been hundreds of responses.

The purpose of the survey is to determine how well P.E.I.'s Animal Welfare Act is working. 

The act came into effect in April 2017.

"We felt that it was really time to gauge folks perceptions of the act. We've been using it now for several years," said Dr. Carolyn Sanford, veterinarian and P.E.I.'s director of animal health and welfare.

"We wanted to see if it's meeting the needs, if it's doing what it needs to do and we just wanted to gain general people's opinions."

Dr. Carolyn Sanford, a veterinarian and director of animal health and welfare, says they will compile the data from the survey. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Animal advocates hope the results will lead to improvements for animal welfare and protection.

The P.E.I. Humane Society runs a shelter in Charlottetown. It also enforces the Animal Welfare Act and the Dog Act with three animal protection officers.

"I think there are always concerns about animal abuse and neglect," said Jennifer Harkness, the society's development and communications manager.

"It's an issue that really doesn't seem to go away."

Officers investigated 400 complaints of abuse and neglect in 2020.

The P.E.I. Humane Society hopes the province's online survey could help animals on the Island. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The society would like to see more funding for animal protection. Harkness said they would also like to see more power for protection officers to lay charges and stronger rules for dog breeders.

"Limits to how many animals they can have. Limits to how often a female can be bred," Harkness said. "Things like that that are easier to regulate."

Many breeders meet the standards of care, Harkness said, but the protection officers do see cases of neglect and abuse. She suggests a commercial breeding registry with support staff.

Animals in agriculture

Another P.E.I. animal advocate would like to see better protections for animals in agriculture.

Animal protection officers work out of offices in the P.E.I. Humane Society building. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Elizabeth Schoales, an animal advocate consultant, would like to see surprise inspections. She said she doesn't like the complaint-driven system that leads to investigations now. 

"The vast majority of agricultural animals are hidden from the public, so it's very difficult for anybody to be able to see anything," said Schoales.

"If there is a problem, the government is probably not going to know about it unless it hears from the public."

The animal welfare survey is open until Feb.15.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Meader