On March 25, 2011 Premier Christy Clark announced BC is acting on all ten recommendations made by the Sled Dog Task Force.
While I am relieved that there is finally going to be more serious accountability, I have concerns about how this legislation will be implemented in rural BC.
Basic human values and decency should guide the decisions we make regarding the animals with which we live. Unfortunately this is not always the case as we saw when the 100 sled dogs were culled in Whistler.
While new legislation is desperately needed to help avoid situations such as this repeating in the future, we also need to proceed with caution.
One of the issues that comes to mind is the introduction of the mandatory reporting requirement by BC Veterinarians. This falls in step with the Child Protection Act that requires anyone to report suspected child abuse/neglect to the authorities.
While both of these are excellent measures, I wonder how many dogs will receive less or no veterinary care if owners are afraid that the vet will misinterpret a legitimate accidental injury as intentional abuse inflicted on an animal.
This happens with parents who take their children to the hospital with a bump, cut or break. There they sit – knowing they are going to face questioning but also knowing that if it helps one child then they are okay with it.
Now most of us would be okay with that with our animals. However, I don’t think we are the ones to be worried about. The people who abuse or neglect animals are less likely to attend veterinarian office for any reason. If that is the case, much of the reporting will be left to people like you and me.
While I am pretty sure I know what animal abuse and neglect looks and sounds like, am I willing to report on my neighbour? How about my friend who doesn’t look after their dog the way I think they should?
Do I really know how abuse and neglect present? Do my values conflict with my neighbours? Do my values conflict with what is best for the animal?
What happens when someone from the city comes to Terrace and sees a dog tied up outside in the rain? The dog has a home, it is fed, and is kept from running into traffic. Is that abuse? Is it neglect?
What about the guy with his dog in the back of his truck? We all know that can be dangerous and potentially lethal for the dog, but is it abuse or neglect? The animal may have a wonderful home with loving masters, a good diet and healthy active lifestyle. How do you balance it out?
The Premier’s office stated: “…we are acting on all of the recommendations of the Sled Dog Task Force and sending a strong message that those who engage in that type of behavior will be punished under tough new laws.”
My concern in implementing changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is all the animals in the system now how are they going to handle an increase? How is the government going to implement a program based on legislation that hasn’t been written yet with only $100 000 allotment of funds to do so?
We need to identify clear guidelines to implement in all of our communities. Next we need to educate people, and we are going to need much more than $100 000. In the end we need to help the animals who need it the most.
Trish Seal lives in Terrace and is a dog groomer. For details on the task force, go to http://www.gov.bc.ca/agri/taskforce.html