Changes to the provincial Animal Protection Act are being welcomed by veterinarians as well as the Saskatchewan’s horse federation.
The Animal Protection Act 2017, includes several updates, most notably a requirement for veterinarians to report cases of suspected animal abuse or neglect to the authorities. According to the Ministry of Agriculture the updated act also broadens the definition of animal distress, which allows animal protection officers to issue corrective orders and intervene. Animal protection officers will also be allowed to inspect boarding kennels and other sites where animals are cared for under the new laws.
Dr. Anne Allen, a practicing veterinarian with the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, said she was delighted to read about the updates to the act.
The most significant change for vets is the obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect, Allen said. While many veterinarians already consider reporting to be a moral obligation, she said the updated act will make the practice mandatory under law.
“Though it is our moral obligation, it has not been our legal obligation,” she said. “Many provinces have mandatory reporting required of veterinarians in the same way it’s required of other professions.”
Allen said Saskatchewan has a huge animal agriculture sector as well as high rates of pet ownership, yet cases of abuse or neglect are very rare. Even though cases are uncommon, Allen said it is good to see the province taking notice of the issue.
“The vast majority of people take very, very good care of their animals,” she said. “When they do happen they’re rare events, but even rare events have to be addressed.”
Audrey Price, executive director of the Saskatchewan Horse Federation, echoed Allen’s appreciation for the updated act.
“We’re very pleased,” she said. “The provincial government did ask for our input when they were considering the proposed changes.”
Price said she was very glad to see the provincial government taking an active role in animal welfare. Animal protection officers do a difficult job, she said, and work hard to ensure all animals are free from abuse and neglect.
“I applaud them when they have to deal with very serious cases,” she said. “That’s a very difficult job that they do well.”
Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said he was glad to hear the praise from the provincial organizations. The government took plenty of time to consult with as many stakeholders as possible, he said, to ensure the updated laws work for everyone.
“We were criticized by some groups for taking too long,” Stewart said, “but I’d rather be criticized temporarily for taking too long than criticized long-term for not doing it right.”
The updated act will likely come into force at the end of the spring session, Stewart said.
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