Thank you for your email sent to Honourable Darrell Dexter on June 12, 2013, regarding the tethering of dogs. As Minister of Agriculture, Premier Dexter has asked that I respond to you on his behalf.
The Animal Protection Act (the Act) currently states that no person shall cause an animal to be in distress and no owner, or person in charge of an animal, shall permit an animal to be in distress. If an animal is tethered in such a way as to cause it distress, action can be taken to alleviate the distress and/or hold those responsible accountable.
Distress encompasses all of the concerns you have raised in your letter, including failing to provide a dog with adequate shelter or protection from injurious heat or cold, failing to provide veterinary care or medical treatment, abusing the dog, allowing it to suffer injury, sickness and undue hardship. Our current animal protection act applies to these exact situations, whether the dog is tethered or not. In order for the appropriate authorities to become involved, these sorts of problems must be reported. In the case of distress to dogs, the appropriate authority is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
Minister of Agriculture
So in his letter the honourable John MacDonnell is saying that current legislation we already have gives the SPCA the power to deal with the tethering of dogs and the suffering that they go through on a daily basis - and that we don't need additional laws to help chained dogs.
If that's the case, why are so many dogs in our province (seemingly) still suffering silently in backyards tied to doghouses - even after having been visited - sometimes on numerous occasions by SPCA constables?
And why is it that the NS SPCA says that there number two most often call is for tethered dogs in distress? Why are they leaving so many dogs behind?
On the Facebook group that I copied the above communication from - "People for Dogs" - "a small group of advocates who are concerned about the lack of legislation and enforcement to help permanently tied/tethered/penned dogs in Nova Scotia" - a group that's actually not so small anymore because the group numbers almost 4,000 now - there are 63 comments on the thread that this email from - and one of the comments is from a former president of the Nova Scotia SPCA and he says of Mr MacDonnell's letter -
" The animal has to be in Medical distress in order for the SPCA to charge the person. If an animal does not have water and the SPCA shows up and the animal is not in distress then they cannot lay the charge and or seize the animal, or if they do the charge will not stick. He is either mislead or misrepresenting the truth."
As well - what constitutes distress? Nearly dead? Or just without water?
That would probably be where regulations would come into play - but the fact is - that the honourable John MacDonell has not passed/proclaimed the changes to the Animal Cruelty Act that were promised months ago.
Why is he holding back? Can anybody tell us? With an election coming up - I think these are good questions to ask any candidates who come up and ask us for their vote.
I think it's a little late for the Minister of Agriculture to be continuing to pawn this problem off onto the NS SPCA - he needs to stop misleading himself and the public - and proclaim the Animal Protection Act so that work on the regulations can begin - so that teeth can put into things like the definition of distress - so that when SPCA Constables go to a dog chained up who's suffering - they can seize him.
Or he can agree to anti-tethering legislation. Which is what the people of Nova Scotia really want. He could go the easy way. Or he can go. Which is what is probably going to happen.
Because at the end of every leash is a voter. If he doesn't know that now, he will know it.