Nova Scotia farmers whose livestock are seized by animal protection officials may soon expect the province to charge those farmers for the animals’ care.
Agriculture Minister John MacDonell on Tuesday introduced amendments to the province’s Animal Protection Act, which mirror provisions already in place for the province’s SPCA to recover costs from domestic pets’ owners relating to those animals’ seizure and care.
"Costs can be substantial for necessary veterinary and medical treatment and the care of animals. The proposed changes are necessary to ensure those costs are recovered," MacDonell said. "These amendments provide courses of action that will lessen the burden on taxpayers."
The proposed changes also allow for the SPCA to seek such cost recovery through Small Claims Court rather than a collections agent.
The change allowing for cost recovery on seized farm animals is one in a package of amendments to the Act, including:
- shortening the time span before the province can move in to seize abandoned farm animals;
- allowing judges greater discretion to impose penalties of their own determination and to order alternatives to fines where such penalties are "specific to the circumstances of the case;"
- specifying, rather than just implying, that the investigative powers of the province’s chief inspector apply to all peace officers in Nova Scotia and to any special constables tasked with enforcing the Act;
- allowing an inspector to decide whether a seized animal should be returned to its owner, where such decisions currently have to go to a judge; and
- reworking the Act to place a full definition of "distress" in one section, making it easier to understand and enforce.
For domestic pets, MacDonell’s amendments also allow for the SPCA’s board of directors to review a decision to remove an animal, if an accused party asks for such a review.
According to the SPCA in a separate release Tuesday, this change won’t cancel out the powers of a yet-to-be-established appeals board, but it "does add another layer of protection."
It also ensures the SPCA won’t have to incur costs associated with the care of animals for any "extraordinary" length of time on account of having to wait for a court ruling, the SPCA said.
The SPCA noted the amendments "seek to create parity with respect to authority to investigate farm animals and companion animals, which the department of agriculture and the Nova Scotia SPCA handle respectively."
"It would appear that much of what we requested was addressed," Nova Scotia SPCA executive director Kristin Williams said Tuesday.