Today the NS SPCA issued a press release "applauding the Town of Windsor for the creation of new progressive animal control bylaws" (see bottom of post for media release) - so when I received the email I was very eager to go read this fabulous new dog bylaw that the town of Windsor was going to be lucky to be living under.
When I went to read it, I was pretty disappointed. I could see the clauses that the SPCA would have worked really hard to get into the bylaw - which is fabulous (you'll see below where I talk about the really good things in the bylaw, so it's not all bad) - but then there's all the same, old, tired language that really needs to be taken out of our legislation - so I'm going to talk about legislation, and see what you think, because to me - it's a super important topic - it's life or death to a lot of our dogs.
Whenever I go to any talk about animal control or the SPCA - usually the first thing that's said is that "Animal control exists to protect humans from pets - and it's usually just dogs" - if a dog has attacked a human, or is annoying a human by barking or running at large - you contact Animal Control.
The SPCA exists to protect pets - and in the SPCA's case - it's usually all animals, dogs/cats/rabbits/horses - whatever - from humans - so if a human is being to, or abusing a pet - you contact the SPCA.
The SPCA is governed and enforces provincial laws - namely the "Act to Protect Animals and to Aid Animals that are in Distress" that was revised since 2008 in the wake of the Celtic Pets scandal and the horribleness that was the Executive of the SPCA. The NS SPCA is the only group - that has the power to enforce that particular piece of legislatio - other than the Department of Agriculture who enforces animal cruelty laws in regards to farm animals.
Animal Control follows laws that are written under the Municipal Government Act.
We learned in the Brindi trial of January 2009 - you can check it out in section 88 of the court transcript - that Municipalities have to follow the MGA when writing their laws, and keep within the boundaries of it in order to stay legal - and when they don't - the town's dog bylaw - is not in fact legal.
There are several portions of the Town of Windsor's dog bylaw that are not covered by the Municipal Government Act - that are therefore - archaic, and really should have just been taken out when they updated their bylaw. There is no good reason why they're still there.
I am a dog owner #1 - and that's how I look at things when I read legislation and bylaws, and then #2 I'm a person who is interested in protecting animals who are potentially being abused. Number one in my mind is protecting my own animals from abusive and intrusive government officials. And to me - that should be everyone's first priority - because if they're willing to do that to your dogs - what's next? Are they going to start telling you what books you can read and what tv shows you can watch, and which blogs you can read? It's a slippery slope. And also - what if your neighbour gets pissed off because they don't think you're mowing your lawn enough - and they decide to get even by calling a complaint in about your dog barking - and then boom goes the dynamite, it's all over.
So let's get to the specifics -
38.06 (B) Name and breed of the dog
When you register your dog you have to give the breed of your dog. Nowhere in the MGA does it suggest that you have to name the breed of your dog - but it DOES say that municipalities can "define dogs as fierce or dangerous, including defining them by breed, cross-breed, partial breed or type;"
So why WOULD a town want to know the breed of your dog? It is completely unnecessary information - especially since probably 70% of dogs are cross-breeds - so what's even the point? There is absolutely no point in a town needing to know the breed of your dog - that clause needs to be REMOVED. It is the first and a huge step to breed specific legislation - and it is evil.
38.01 f "Fierce of dangerous" includes a dog:
iv) Owned in whole or in part for the purpose of dog fighting;
This is a HUGE bugaboo of mine. Dog fighting, owning dogs for dog fighting, owning materials for the use of dog fighting is all criminalized through the Criminal code of Canada - it's a federal offence. Having it be in every municipal dog bylaw in Nova Scotia under the Fierce or Dangerous section is absolutely meaningless.
That's why dog fighting is also not dealt with in the provincial legislation at all - because it's covered in the federal criminal code - where (supposedly) - more serious consequences coud be meted out because it is such a serious crime.
I also have a problem with it being in municipal dog bylaws - because in most bylaws - you're allowed to keep fierce and dangerous dogs with certain restrictions - so by keeping "dogs kept for the purposes of dog fighting" under the fierce and dangerous designation - it also means you're allowed to keep your dog fighting dogs - which also means you're allowed to keep fighting your dogs - if you follow the logic - which is wrong and evil - and must be REMOVED.
Here is perhaps the most heinous part - and this is unfortunately in a lot of dog bylaws across the province -
38.14 (2) Any Constable, Bylaw Enforcement Officer, or Peace Officer without notice to or complaint against the owner of any dog, may kill on sight without impounding any dog and impound and kill any dog:
i) which is fierce or dangerous or;
ii) which is rabid or appears to be rabid or exhibiting symptoms of canine madness.
You may ask yourself - why is a clause like that even in a dog bylaw?
As you can see, the answer can be found in the very confusing dog bylaw for Westville, that's where the letter to the left comes from - the reason why this silly "shoot on sight" article was put into dog bylaws was only supposed to be in more rural areas of Nova Scotia so that dog catchers could shoot dogs who were chasing farm animals.
I think that in 2011 - we can let that article go. And as well - there is NO rabies in Nova Scotia. So the excuse of being able to shoot a dog on sight because you believe he "may" have rabies is absolute bullshit.
This section in every dog bylaw in Nova Scotia needs to be removed because it's EVIL.
So that's my view of the awful parts of the Windsor bylaw - and I hope you will agree with me. Nobody should EVER be able to shoot ANY animal on sight EVER EVER EVER.
It is unnecessary to ever need to know the breed of my dog by the town that I live in - and any dog fighting language needs to be taken out of every municipal bylaw because it belittles it and turns it into some minor infraction that it most definitely is NOT.
Now for the great, enlightened things that are in the Windsor dog bylaw - the parts that the NS SPCA - and specifically, the parts that Kristin Williams - Executive Director, worked really hard to liaise with Windsor to get into their bylaw. Hopefully it's the first - and not the last dog bylaw that will have Animal Cruelty standards of care written into them.
One of the problems with Animal Control historically has been - that they exist solely to protect humans - and there's been very little protection for the animals - they are merely collatoral damage - as you can see by the above problems that I've pointed out in the parts of the bylaw that the SPCA (and obviously the public) wasn't allowed input on.
Allowing the SPCA input at all is a huge shift - and shows that the town of Windsor does care about their companion animals - the SPCA, through their no-kill committment - has assured that no animals in the town of Windsor will be euthanized for lack of space with the insertion of clause
38.21 - Any dog which has not been reclaimed after a period of 72 hours... may ... be offered to the SPCA for adoption.
That is a huge move forward - imagine if that was put into A300 here in Halifax - there would be no need for Homeward Bound to shelter the animals and adopt them out - they'd be automatically just transferred to the SPCA after 72 hours.
As well - under 38.18 - when the bylaw enforcement officer suspects that abuse or neglect of an animal is taking place - they have to take an animal cruelty officer along with them to the call - so that not just the human aspect of the call is covered - but the animal welfare aspect is covered as well, which is unprecedented - and I'm sure will be a relief to bylaw enforcement officers across the province. They too would love to see something like in their own bylaws I'm sure.
So the things that Kristin was able to get were fabulous - along with the mention of the Standards of Care that the NS SPCA works under - which is a baseline for any animal owner.
I would however - like to put forward a dog bylaw here in Nova Scotia - that I think is the "bee's knees". One that I am VERY impressed with - and one that I think is almost better than even Calgary's bylaw - and one that has been on the book's since 2003.
It is the dog bylaw for Parrsboro. I think you will find it very surprising. I would like to meet the person who wrote this bylaw. They are very smart.
Here are some of the things that are in it - although really - I could just cut and paste the whole document here, I think it's all killer, no filler.
1b) "Dangerous dog" means any individual dog:
i) that has killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owners property;
ii) that has bitten or injured a human being or domestic animal without provocatio, on public or private property;
iii) that is attack trained;
iv) that is kept for the purpose of security or protection, whether residential, commercial or industrial, of persons or property; and
v) that has shown the disposition or tendency to be threatening or aggressive
Do you see any differences there between Windsor's definition of dangerous dog and Parrsboro's? I think there is a world of difference.
There is a whole section on "Provision of Needs" - and that includes "clean, fresh drinking water and suitable food of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal, healthy growth and the maintenance of normal, health body weight" - and a whole section on standards for dogs that normally reside outside unsupervised for their shelter requirements.
But the best part of that is that it says -
"No person may cause an animal to be hitched, tied or fastened to a fixed object where a choke collar or choke chain forms part of the securing apparatus, or where a rope or cord is tied directly around the animal's neck".
Can you believe that that is written into a dog bylaw in Nova Scotia? Well it is - and it is written into Parrsboro's dog bylaw.
There are also several things that you will NOT see in the Parrsboro bylaw -
- there is no dog fighting language
- there is no ability to "shoot on sight"
- owners have five days - not 48 hours or 72 hours - to find their dogs at animal control
- there is no limit on the amount of animals you can own
- there is no bsl
- there is no requirement to tell them the breed of your dog
- there is no cost to register/licence your dog
- if you don't comply with the bylaw - your name is given to the SPCA and you're not allowed to adopt an animal from them
- poundkeeper doesn't have any power - it's a provincial court judge who rules if you've been bad under the penalties section.
So all those things added up - makes me believe that Parrsboro - has the best bylaw in Nova Scotia - and one that we should be modelling other bylaws by. And that's because I have actually read every dog bylaw in Nova Scotia.
And if you've read this far down - you deserve to go get an ice cream. I wish I had some in the house, because I definitely deserve some for writing this all out in one evening.
Here is the media relese from the NS SPCA:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nova Scotia SPCA applauds the Town of Windsor for the creation of new progressive animal control bylaws
Nova Scotia (Wednesday, March 23, 2011) –– The Nova Scotia SPCA applauds the Town of Windsor for taking a proactive approach to their new dog bylaw. The Town of Windsor invited the Society to provide critical input. As a result of this joint effort, Windsor now has some of the most progressive bylaws in the province!
“This project represents the first collaboration of its kind and it is our hope that we can work with other municipalities in Nova Scotia to ensure that we address the gaps that currently exist between animal welfare and animal control. By working together, we can better address the needs of the communities that we all serve,” said Executive Director of the Nova Scotia SPCA, Kristin Williams.
The new dog bylaw includes an adoption pact, whereby animals that are retrieved by municipal officers and whose owner cannot be found will be turned over to the SPCA to be adopted. The SPCA, with a strategic commitment to no kill, will ensure that no animal will be euthanatized because of lack of space. Additionally, the bylaw also references adherence to the Society’s Standards of Care and terms of engagement with SPCA special constables on matters related to cruelty investigations.
38 Dog Bylaw 2011: http://www.town.windsor.ns.ca/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=42&Itemid=190
Standards of Care: http://www.spcans.ca/about/documents/WP_standards-care_20100929.pdf
ABOUT THE NOVA SCOTIA SPCA
The Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (Nova Scotia SPCA): Protecting animals from cruelty since 1877, the Nova Scotia SPCA is a registered charity, comprised of a network of Branches, which rely primarily on volunteers and donations to fund animal protection; care and rehabilitation; advocacy; and humane education. The Act to Protect Animals and Aid Animals in Distress mandates the Society to enforce animal cruelty laws, making the Nova Scotia SPCA unique among animal welfare organizations in the province. To learn more, visit www.spcans.ca.
The mission of the Nova Scotia SPCA is to prevent abuse, neglect and cruelty to animals, and provide for province-wide leadership on matters that promote and improve the welfare of all animals through animal protection; care and rehabilitation; humane education; advocacy and engagement and collaboration with stakeholders.
The vision of the Nova Scotia SPCA is that Nova Scotia be a No Kill province and a safe place for all animals with zero tolerance for animal cruelty.
Nova Scotia SPCA
1-888-703-7722 x 228