So here is what I said -
Permanent tethering in Nova Scotia is not going to end and shouldn’t be included in any effort to enhance our animal cruelty legislation. It will only turn a lot of dog owners into criminals for no good reason and put animals into jeopardy because dogs who were minimally being cared for previously will now be either murdered or dumped in the woods or on neighbours properties – and the humane community will have a crisis on their hands trying to deal with the influx of previously unknown backyard dogs.
As well – a lot of dogs that were previously permanently tethered outdoors might be just moved indoors and kept in basements or somewhere else segregated from the family because the reason they were dumped outside was because of some behavioural issue that wasn’t dealt with – so just banning permanent tethering isn’t the answer – it’s the culture around it that’s the problem.
The real problem with tethering revolves around the issue of distress –what is distress – and that is something that is quantifiable that can be defined – and if a dog is permanently tethered – he will fall into certain categories so he can be removed from the home.
You would think that the current legislation that exists in Nova Scotia would allow must dogs that are permanently tethered in Nova Scotia to qualify as being distressed under our definition:
Animal Cruelty Prevention Act, 1996, c. 22, s.
2. (2) An animal is in distress, for the purpose of this Act, where the animal is
a. in need of adequate care, food, water or shelter; or injured, sick, in pain, or suffering undue hardship, privation or neglect. 1996, c. 22, s. 2
Unfortunately that is not the case – only the constables of the NS SPCA know why this is so – the one’s I have spoken to say that the dog has to be in obvious medical distress at the time they are on scene. Just because their coat is completely unkempt, their nails are overgrown, there is no water, there is no food, there is feces everywhere, the dog is panting – none of this is good enough for the animal to be seized – unless the owner offers up the dog.
The NS SPCA say that in 2012 calls about dogs being tethered and in distress were their number 2 call – so this is a topic that the people of Nova Scotia care very much about. When the SPCA put forward that number though – they didn’t say how quickly they responded to them all – they only say that they had 336 calls that were about dogs being tied out. (http://spcans.ca/documents/about/DOA_YE-Report_2012.pdf ) And it also doesn’t say how many of those ended in seizure of the dog – only that 780 of the total 1632 of their calls for the year were unfounded.
One would think that if the special constables had better guidelines – their unfounded calls statistics would become a lower number.
On the CVMA’s website they have a page that lists out what the provincial legislation is for each province when it comes to distress in every province - http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/programs/reporting-abuse-provincial-legislation.aspx#.UiDlLhuTiSo
Manitoba has perhaps the most succinct wording for the legislation that includes the buzzwords we hear today –
The Animal Care Act, C.C.S.M. 1996, c. 84
6(1) Subject to subsection (2), for the purposes of this Act, an animal is in distress if it is
a) subjected to conditions that, unless immediately alleviated, will cause the animal death or serious harm;
b) subjected to conditions that cause the animal to suffer acute pain;
c) not provided food and water sufficient to maintain the animal in a state of good health;
d) not provided appropriate medical attention when the animal is wounded or ill;
e) unduly exposed to cold or heat; or
f) subjected to conditions that will, over time, significantly impair the animal’s health or well-being, including
i. confinement in an area of insufficient space
ii. confinement in unsanitary conditions
iii. confinement without adequate ventilation,
iv. not being allowed an opportunity for adequate exercise, and
v. conditions that cause the animal extreme anxiety or distress.
You’ll notice that Manitoba’s legislation includes conditions that allow for being able to remove an animal so that it won’t be subject to future conditions – future distress – and it also includes the word “anxiety” – “conditions that cause the animal extreme anxiety or distress”.
There are some who believe that tethering a dog out at all causes anxiety – separation from family – subjecting the dog to conditions that they have no control over – and that in and of itself is cruelty.
The CVMA states outright that “Tethering of dogs (i.e., chains or ropes used to tie the animal to an immoveable object such as a stake or building) as a primary method of confinement is not acceptable.”
So as for specific regulations that could be written as having to do with tethering of dogs when they have to do with helping constables decide whether or not they are in distress:
• What are the sanitary conditions the dog is living in – is it gravel based or grass based – is it obvious that the dog has paced so much it’s created a rut in his living space;
• What is his body shape in – are his nails long and overgrown, is he emaciated under his fur, are his ears dirty;
• What is his demeanour – can you get close to him? No? Or is he over friendly like he never gets any attention – both states signal that he is permanently tethered;
• Is his water dish something other than a normal water dish you’d use inside for a water dish – ie a several gallon white bucket and the colour of the water is a colour other than normal drinking water?
• When you talk to neighbours does the dog bark a lot at odd hours?
In conclusion – tethering is not the enemy of dogs – it’s the unattended tethering that is deadly – not only to dogs, but to the communities that they live in. That’s when dogs – and the children around them – die.
Tying your dog out while you garden or attend to activities because you don’t have a fenced in yard – or while your dog does his business is not a problem. Abandoning your dog to your backyard because you don’t feel like dealing with him anymore – is a problem – and that’s what legislation should deal with. Those are the dog owners who are being negligent – and putting our communities at risk – and hurting their dogs. I hope your regulation process aids in that process.
I said earlier that tethering dogs out was part of a cultural problem – and that is what it is – a cultural problem – and we can’t change that through legislation – we can only do that through actions and changing people’s minds on how to live with our canine companions – all we can really do is help the dogs out there right now living lives of misery by removing them from where they are who are in distress – and adding regulations to the legislation is a first step.
Another area that can help dogs in Nova Scotia is regulations around the Municipal Government Act.
The scourge of breed specific legislation has to end – so therefore the Municipal Government Act has to be amended – under the dog bylaw – section 175 it says (1) Without limiting the generality of Section 172, a council may make by-laws
(e) defining fierce or dangerous dogs, including defining them by breed, cross-breed, partial breed or type;
That is breed specific legislation and belongs no where in Nova Scotia. We love dogs unconditionally here – and we should be treating dogs as individuals – which they are – and only have legislation that deals with dogs on a case by case basis – ie dangerous dog legislation that places liability square on the shoulder of the dog’s owner.
Studies are showing that breed specific legislation is on the decline – it is completely unnecessary and does not lower the incidence of dog bites – and Nova Scotia is much the poorer for implementing or maintaining it anywhere and only will hurt tourism. (http://animalfarmfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/bsl-trends/ )
This small line from the Municipal Government Act must be removed – if dogs are going to be protected in this province this is non-negotiable.
Also under the dog bylaw section 175 (4) The owner of a kennel of purebred dogs that are registered
with the Canadian Kennel Club may, in any year, pay a fee set by council, by policy,
as a tax upon the kennel for that year and upon payment of the amount, the owner of
the kennel is exempt from any further fee regarding the dogs for that year.
It should be mandatory for all owners of dogs who own any unspayed or unneutered dogs that number over 2 of each to register their dogs as a kennel with the municipality that they live in and pay a kennel tax and register with said municipality – and be subject to inspection by NS SPCA. Kennels do not require registration with Canadian Kennel Club.
In this section there should also be a provision that no person who has been convicted of animal cruelty should be allowed to breed or sell domestic animals.
There could be a database of breeders developed provincially who can apply to be licenced through the Municipal Government Act through the Province’s website for an associated fee which accompanies a clause that they will be checked annually and/or frequently without any prior notice or warning.
Back yard breeders and puppy mills have been allowed to multiply around Nova Scotia unfettered – there are no regulations around them whatsoever – and I think the Municipal Government Act could stop that with section 175 section 4 – if any owner of any unspayed or unneutered dog had to register with their municipality – we would know very soon where all the back yard breeders and puppy mills were – and I don’t know if we could shut them down – but we could at least make them nervous.
It’s more than what we’re doing right now, anyway!