By IAN FAIRCLOUGH Staff Reporter
Sat. Jan 23 - 4:49 AM
Veterinarians are now required to report possible animal abuse, neglect and cruelty under changes to the provincial Animal Protection Act that came into effect this week.
The new laws mean that vets no longer have to fear court reprisals from owners for telling the SPCA that animals they are treating appear to be abused, says Nova Scotia SPCA executive director Kristin Williams.
It is similar to the law that requires doctors to report suspected abuse of children.
"That is a much-needed, much-improved part of the legislation," said Ms. Williams.
She said divulging information about the condition of pets was considered "personal information pertaining to the owner," and therefore private.
"There was certainly a risk associated with reporting abuse" before the changes, she said.
Another change in the new act gives responsibility for farm animals to the Agriculture Department. Livestock had previously fallen under the auspices of the SPCA.
"They are a ministry within the government that has dedicated resources that are paid through tax dollars to facilitate these investigations," Ms. Williams said. "They have access to training and veterinarian services that are specific to large animals, and other specialties in terms of skills."
The change moves responsibility — and the big price tag — for investigating allegations involving large farm operations away from the SPCA and its relatively small budget.
"In the past, we’ve had to incur tremendous costs related to farm animal incidents," Ms. Williams said.
The change means the animal protection organization can concentrate on companion animals like dogs and cats, she said.
The SPCA has three investigators in the province who handle more than 1,500 complaints a year.
Ms. Williams said the changes, including one that increases fines for those convicted under the act, will allow Nova Scotia "to be much more responsive to the need and welfare of animals across the province, and allow the SPCA to play a much more active role on behalf of animals."