The most recent government session was a big one for animals. Three pieces of legislation were introduced – including Bill 24 to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and two other bills on animal health and dog and cat breeding are still under consideration, which could have major ramifications for animal welfare in the province.
Bill 24, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act, received Royal Assent on May 14. Fortunately, during committee review, changes were made to the bill to accommodate for the person accused to pay for the costs of holding the animal during its stay with the BC SPCA. It also made it possible for the minister to require specialized training for anyone appointed to be an authorized agent in a cruelty investigation. The BC SPCA was pleased with these amendments, which addressed some of the society’s main concerns about the bill and its potential to compromise its effectiveness in conducting investigations to relieve animal suffering.
On April 30, Bill 37 was introduced to create a new Animal Health Act for B.C. An expansive piece of legislation, this bill would replace the Animal Disease Control Act, Fur Farm Act, Game Farm Act, and the Bee Act. With only four weeks left in the session, this Bill was introduced within the same two weeks as 15 other government bills. The Animal Health Act was received with much concern by the opposition party and B.C.’s privacy commissioner due to extensive exemptions it would grant to the provinces freedom of information legislation and due to the speed with which it was progressing through the legislative process. The BC SPCA submitted correspondence outlining its concerns, which was referenced during committee proceedings. Bill 37 was shelved on May 31, as it was the end of session and the bill had not been fully reviewed in committee.
Finally, Jane Thornthwaite introduced M 214, Standards of Care for Breeders of Companion Animals Act on April 23, aimed at eliminating harmful living conditions in puppy and kitten mills. The Act proposes standards that would enhance the BC SPCA’s existing ability to correct animal welfare problems in breeding establishments, particularly by ensuring adequate housing standards and socialization for dogs and cats used for commercial breeding. The BC SPCA supports Ms. Thornthwaite in her aim of eradicating puppy and kitten mills, but as a private member’s bill, it is unlikely to receive a second reading in the current session. Nonetheless, the government has the ability to immediately implement this bill as a regulation to the PCA Act if they so choose.
British Columbians who want to see higher standards of animal welfare in the province can help by writing to MLA Jane Thornthwaite and to the Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Don McRae to express their support for her private member’s bill M 214.