Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

NDP scores changes to animal cruelty amendment bill 

April 19, 2012 Times Colonist

B.C.’s Opposition NDP appears to have scored a rare victory on a government bill, by convincing Agriculture Minister Don McRae to change his animal cruelty legislation. The bill, introduced last month, has been slammed by the B.C. SPCA because it would send appeals of animal seizures to the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board instead of B.C. Supreme Court. 

The SPCA was worried the farm review board appeals process would take much longer, and the agency would be stuck with the cost of caring for the seized animals without any way to get the owner to pay until the appeal was complete. That could have threatened the SPCA’s ability to pay to care for other animals on a limited budget.

The amendments, to be introduced in the legislature Thursday, will give the SPCA the ability to ask the farm review board for interim costs from the owner of the seized animals. It’s similar to how the agency is currently able to ask the B.C. Supreme Court for interim costs — a provision that wasn’t carried over in McRae’s original bill. SPCA CEO Craig Daniell said his organization is “really pleased” with the changes.

“That was probably our biggest concern about the bill when it was originally introduced,” he said. “Our opposition has always been, without having the mechanism to have interim costs, the matter could be further delayed. With this particular amendment a lot of our concerns have been addressed. Not all of the concerns but some of our biggest concerns.”

The amendments were originally proposed behind-the-scenes by the NDP and then accepted and turned into government amendments Thursday by minister McRae, said agriculture critic Lana Popham. “This is a big deal because these cases, depending on how complicated they are, are very very expensive,” said Popham. “It may not just be a cat that’s seized it could be a herd of horses that take a lot of expense. The government currently does not fund any of that for the SPCA, even though they are required to house these animals. It just makes it more fair.”

It’s relatively rare for the Opposition to convince government to change its own legislation while it is being debated on the floor of the legislature. “It actually wasn’t that painful, it was a fairly co-operative process,” said Popham.

A second amendment changes the bill to also require any government agents that seize animals to have approximately the same training as current SPCA officers, said Popham. The Opposition will now vote in favour of the bill with the changes, said Popham. It’s set for committee-stage debate at the legislature Thursday.

Comment:  We have not heard back from government yet as to whether there have been any advancements on the Sled Dog Task Force Recommendation #1 to amend the PCA Act to define Standards of Care for animals, those specifically raised for food or whether, like the recent announcement of Australia’s Labor Party, an Independent Office of Animal Welfare will be established.