B.C. already has strict penalties for animal abuse – but it appears the government believes fines alone are not enough of a deterrent.
The provincial government is consulting with the SPCA, veterinarians and breeders to establish new rules governing the dog and cat breeding industry in this province.
The consultations began last month and are continuing with greater intensity following the discovery of a puppy mill in Langley, where 66 dogs were seized.
“I was horrified like most people. How can people do that to these innocent animals?” asked North Vancouver MLA Jane Thornthwaite.
In 2013, Thornthwaite introduced a private members bill to establish standards of care and licensing rules for cat and dog breeders. The bill never passed, but the province is now taking up her cause.
“What we need to do is be more proactive and so by having standards of care that reputable breeders have approved and agree on, we cut shut down the ones that aren’t abiding by those recommendations,” she said.
Four other provinces already have legislation in place. If B.C. adopts best practices, breeders could be required to buy a yearly license, welcome the SPCA to their facilities for inspections, and maintain basic living conditions for animals in their care.
“It comes down to what kind of housing would they have, how much space would they have, water, food, visits from veterinarians, health, these are all standard code of conduct,” says Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick.
The SPCA welcomes the consultation and says new rules are needed to govern the industry. In B.C., breeders are not currently required to register, and the SPCA can’t inspect them until someone files a formal complaint.
“This is part of the problem, we investigate up to 200 complaints against dog breeders in B.C. every year. But we have absolutely no idea how many operations like this are going on in .B.C because there’s no proactive licensing requirement,” says Geoff Urton, the SPCA’s Senior Manager of Stakeholder Relations.
Dr. Adrian Walton is a veterinarian who has helped care for several pets seized through SPCA investigations. He says new rules will benefit both buyers and breeders.
“Get the bad people out of the industry, and you’re going to have an increased market for your own animals, it might cost you a little bit more, but you’re going to get better quality animals, better quality pets, and basically the animals are going to be better off overall.”
Advocates will consult with the province on new laws through the spring.