By Kathryn Tonita, Animal Health and Welfare Specialist, Livestock Branch, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
The Government of Saskatchewan is committed to a high standard of animal welfare. The Ministry of Agriculture continues to ensure animals are treated humanely through education, training and enforcement of effective animal protection legislation. The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for administering The Animal Protection Act, 1999 (Act) and ensuring that the Act provides clear direction for enforcement of animal protection in the province for all animals. The Ministry approves Humane Societies and appoints Animal Protection Officers (APOs) to enforce the Act. Police Officers are also considered APOs under the Act.
Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS) receives funding annually from the Ministry for enforcement of animal protection legislation for livestock cases and all other animals outside of the four major cities. Humane Societies in Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert employ APOs that investigate companion animal cases in those cities.
Under the Act, animals are considered in distress if they are not provided with adequate food, water, care and shelter, or if they are injured, sick, suffering, abused or neglected. An animal is not considered to be in distress if it is handled in a manner consistent with a standard or code of conduct, criteria, practice or procedure that is prescribed as acceptable; or in accordance with generally accepted practices of animal management. Fortunately, the majority of welfare investigations result in owners being educated in the necessary care of their animals, but an APO can take action to relieve an animal in distress. A person who causes animals to be in distress could be charged provincially under the Act and federally under the Criminal Code.
It is prudent to ensure the Act is up-to-date in the interest of the public's increasing intolerance for animal cruelty. The Ministry's approach to animal protection is one that is based upon outreach as opposed to enforcement. It remains critical that current legislation has sufficient authority to address animal cruelty cases as public expectations demand accountability. Animal welfare stakeholders have high expectations regarding the welfare of animals. Proposed amendments to the Act have been drafted and the new Bill was introduced in the fall 2017 sitting of the legislature, with expected passing in spring 2018.
Some of the proposed amendments to the Act include: a revised definition of distress to broaden the scope of what is considered animal neglect or abuse; broadened inspection powers to allow APOs to inspect additional sites such as transport trailers, groomers, slaughter plants and boarding kennels; veterinarian’s duty to report suspected animal neglect or abuse; addition of humane slaughter and euthanasia provisions; a prohibition on transporting unfit animals while clarifying that animals may be loaded and transported to obtain veterinary care; and increased fines for second offences.
Another proposed amendment is allowing APOs the ability to issue corrective action orders which would order the person responsible for the animal to take any corrective actions necessary to relieve the animal of distress. As well, this allows for APOs to follow-up with the person responsible for the animal to ensure interventions are continuing and take action if the person responsible has not complied with the order.
How do you report suspected animal cruelty? If you are located in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw or Prince Albert please contact the Humane Society in that community. Anywhere else in the province please contact APSS from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at 1-844-382-0002. After hours emergencies should be directed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or municipal police service.