The Nova Scotia government has split responsibility for animal protection in the province between its agriculture department and the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (SPCA).
“The department of agriculture will look after all agriculture-related cruelty complaints while the SPCA will handle complaints concerning domestic animals,” said Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor in a release Tuesday.
Each will have a head inspector to oversee inspectors throughout the province, the department said.
All inspectors will have to meet criteria that will be established in the legislation to make this change, the province said. Inspectors will also have to meet the justice department’s qualifications and standards to be designated a “special constable.”
The new legislation, the Act to Protect Animals and to Aid Animals That Are in Distress, was introduced Tuesday and will replace the provincial Animal Cruelty Prevention Act.
“We are also establishing an animal cruelty appeal board to hear appeals of animal seizures and investigation issues,” Taylor said Tuesday. “This is an opportunity for individuals to have the seizure of an animal reviewed by an independent board in a timely manner.”
The new legislation will also require veterinarians to report animal neglect or abuse to the SPCA.
The legislation will also require the SPCA to provide an annual report of investigations to the ag minister, thus “enhancing its accountability,” and to hold a public annual meeting.
If for some reason the SPCA “fails to perform the duties” set out in the new legislation, the ag minister will be able to revoke the society’s ability to enforce the act and name another organization to do the job, the province noted.
The society has 11 branches in the province, five of which operate animal shelters. “The SPCA remains an independent society and will have the authority to do its work under the act as it relates to non-farm animals,” Taylor said.
The province didn’t say specifically why it made the change, but the Canadian Press said Tuesday it stems from allegations of infighting at the SPCA and criticism of how the society handled alleged problems at a Port Hawkesbury animal shelter, not operated by the SPCA.
Two people face charges following the removal of over 100 cats and dogs from the shelter in February and critics allege the SPCA didn’t move in soon enough to remove the animals, CP reported.
CP also reported that the ag department and SPCA will each have to hire more investigators as a result of the new legislation.