By Stephanie Derbawka, DVM, Animal Health Veterinary Intern, Regina
The Ministry of Agriculture is committed to protecting the health and welfare of Saskatchewan’s animals and, as such, ensures that The Animal Protection Act and its Regulations are up to date. As part of this mandate, the Ministry of Agriculture is replacing The Animal Protection Act, 1999 with The Animal Protection Act, 2018.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for administration of The Animal Protection Act and ensuring this Act and its Regulations provide adequate protection of animals and clear direction for animal protection enforcement in the province, including the appointment of animal protection officers (APOs). The Ministry also approves animal protection agencies under The Animal Protection Act, 2018, replacing its responsibility to approve humane societies under The Animal Protection Act, 1999.
How this affects you
Everyone has a responsibility to protect animals from cruelty. It is also important to know that in a case of suspected cruelty, not only is the owner of the animal responsible, but so are those who have control or custody of the animal.
New to the Act
While many parts of the previous Act have been reworded or updated, there are a few new provisions to be aware of.
One of the first changes in the new Act is the term “animal protection agency.” This term encompasses organizations, including humane societies, designated as animal protection agencies that enforce the new Act and employs animal protection officers. The Animal Protection Agency of Saskatchewan, Regina Humane Society, Saskatoon SPCA and Prince Albert SPCA will enforce the new Act.
The term “abandoned animal” has also been added to the definitions. This term does not include those animals that are running at large. The new Act allows an APO to take an abandoned animal into custody and deliver them to an animal protection agency or caretaker.
An essential part of any welfare case is determining whether an animal is truly in distress or not. The new Act has a very detailed description of what is defined as distress. Because animals are still considered personal property and do not have their own legal rights as people do, having a clear definition of distress is key to ensuring that animal protection agencies have the ability to intervene in cases where animal cruelty may be occurring.
What is also important in the new Act is the continued allowance for use of a standard, code of practice, or guideline listed in the new regulations, to guide what is considered appropriate practice and use of animals. This is especially important for those who manage livestock, as many procedures are considered standard practice to those in the industry but may not be so clear to those outside of industry.
Animal care duties
Every person responsible for an animal has a duty to provide for their care. The new Act includes a section detailing what these duties involve, including provision of food and water, adequate veterinary care, and appropriate shelter. This section also states that animals cared for in accordance with the appropriate standard, code of practice or guideline will be considered as being provided adequate care.
What APOs can do
The new Act provides greater detail into the actions an APO can take in a suspected cruelty case and also provides a fair approach for the person responsible for the animal.
APOs have always had the ability to take any action to relieve an animal in distress following guidelines as set out by the Act. In the new Act, APOs can take a more proactive approach and investigate cases where animals are likely to be in distress and act to prevent distress of animals, rather than waiting until distress has already occurred.
Also in the new Act is the provision for Corrective Action Orders. APOs can order any corrective action needed to prevent or relieve distress of animals. This action specifies the timeframe in which these orders must take place and allows the APO to follow up and ensure that orders were followed.
Who must report
A major change in the new Act is the requirement for veterinarians to report suspected cruelty cases. While veterinarians always had the ethical obligation to report such cases, there was no law requiring them to do so, until now.
How long are animals to be held
In the new Act, the hold time has increased prior to taking any action with that animal, such as posting for adoption. In the previous Act, any animal that was taken into a humane society required a hold time of three business days to allow the owner to come forward and claim the animal. In the new Act, this time has been extended to five business days.
If you have questions or comments on animal welfare or if you suspect an animal cruelty case, contact your local animal protection agency, police detachment or the Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan at 306-382-0002.