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N.L. to consolidate animal welfare laws

“Modern and tougher” animal health and protection legislation is being drafted to merge six separate sets of Newfoundland and Labrador’s laws for poultry, other livestock, heritage animals and pets.

The provincial government confirmed Monday it will introduce a single new Animal Health and Protection Act in its spring session.

“We are now ready to bring forward an all-encompassing piece of legislation for debate that will address concerns and issues raised over cruelty to animals in this province and stiffer penalties for such behaviour,” Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale said in a release.

Details will be released along with the draft bill during the spring session, the province said.

The government last April started a review of current statutes and other provinces’ laws, as well as consultations with stakeholder groups, toward “consolidation of these acts into a new, modern and tougher” set of laws, said Dunderdale, who’s also responsible for the provincial Forestry and Agrifoods Agency.

Stakeholders included municipalities, livestock producers and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), among others, the province said.

The six affected acts — the Animal Protection Act, Dog Act, Heritage Animals Act, Livestock Act, Livestock Health Act and Poultry and Poultry Products Act — were largely put in place in the 1970s and haven’t been “significantly updated” since, the province said.

“Stiffer penalties”

“Societal expectations and attitudes towards the care of animals have changed since much of the existing legislation was introduced,” the province said.

The new act is expected to address the definition of “animal cruelty” as well as appropriate fines and penalties, enforcement and animal control activities.

“Our department has received letters and e-mails from concerned citizens about the recent cases of animal abuse and neglect in our province, and this public awareness and outrage will go a long way in improving the reporting of these incidents and the rescuing of animals that may be in crisis,” Dunderdale said.

“Cruelty to animals is illegal and we all have a responsibility for reporting any incidents,” she said. “Our new legislation will provide stiffer penalties for those individuals convicted of these crimes.”

All six current animal health and welfare acts will still be enforced while the draft bill is developed, the province said, noting that “extreme cases of death and grievous treatment” can also be handled under the federal Criminal Code.

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