Buddy the dog had to be euthanized
Calls are being made for the province to strengthen legislation protecting companion animals such as dogs and cats.
HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s agriculture minister wants to make sure there are no more cases like Buddy, a dog that had to be euthanized late last week after allegedly spending several years tethered outside a Joggins home.
“We are rewriting the regulations around companion animals like cats and dogs that will make it easier for authorities to go in and take the animal,” Keith Colwell said Monday. “It will also give us the authority to write tickets on the spot, the same as you would for speeding. We’re working with Justice on that and we’ll make the tickets substantial so people will get the message.”
Colwell said there are already options when it comes to an abused animal. The SPCA and law enforcement officers have the ability to ask a vet to assess a dog and if it feels it’s in distress it can order it can removed. Still, he said, the regulations need improvement.
Buddy was bought by representatives of the No Chains All Love Dog Rescue Society and taken from his Joggins’ home late last week, but his health was so poor that he had to be euthanized. He was underweight, his nails were overgrown and had several tumours – one of which had ruptured leaving a bulge on his lower abdomen that affected his ability to urinate.
Colwell said he’s a dog lover and Buddy’s story affected him deeply. He wants to improve the legislation, but wants to make sure the job is done right. He hopes to have draft regulations in place within the month and wants the new regulations in place soon after that.
“We have to get it right. There are a lot of people out there who want us to act right away and I agree with them because I’m a dog lover myself. But it has to be right because it will be tested in court,” he said. “We have to make sure the interest of the animal is the first concern. We need to put sensible regulations in place that actually work, we don’t want to put regulations in place that are no better than what we have now.”
Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie said animal cruelty laws need to be strengthened and he’s prepared to bring forward his own legislation if the government doesn’t move forward.
He wants it made an offence for anyone who cruelly tethers a dog and he wants it to be made an offence to leave any animal unattended in a hot car in summer. He also wants to remove from the Wilderness Act the provision that allows any person to shoot a dog they suspect of chasing a deer.
“These three things prove that we need modern, strong anti-cruelty laws. No one could help Buddy because his tethering was not considered an offence. I don’t want to see another incident in which people are told there’s nothing that can be done,” Baillie said. “What we can do is change the law. I’m willing to work with the government, but I will also bring forward my own bill in hopes we can work together to do a good thing. This is a tragedy.”
L.A. Animal Shelter president Marilyn Williams said she was heartbroken after Buddy was euthanized. She said she felt so helpless when the RCMP said there was nothing they could do as long as there was food, water and shelter for the dog.
“Personally, and this is just my opinion and not that of the shelter, I don’t think the RCMP or SPCA did enough. Even though there was no legislation, I think there was more they could have done,” she said. “If they had looked a little more they would have seen that dog was not well. Not enough attention was paid to the dog himself. They could have seized that dog.”
Williams said she plans to take up the case of Buddy and other dogs to anyone who will listen. She plans to ask why the Municipality of Cumberland no longer has a canine officer and she plans to talk to Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell.
Joan Sinden of No Chains All Love Dog Rescue Society, who helped negotiate Buddy’s purchase, says not all tethered dogs end up like him. She said most people treat their dogs with compassion, but tougher laws are needed for those who don’t.
“We would like to see the SPCA constables and RCMP officers have better tools so they can take care of the dogs better so that when a dog is in distress they can remove the dogs,” she said. “We don’t want to see legislation put in force that can’t be enforced. If you were to ban the tethering of dogs, how can you enforce it? I want things put in place so that the people who are there have the power to remove a dog that is in distress and they have the tools to know when a dog is in distress. Buddy was in distress, he was dying and that RCMP walked away because either he didn’t notice or didn’t feel he had the power to do anything about it.”
She said Buddy’s story is the worst-case scenario, but she added there are also many positive stories of dogs being rescued before it’s too late.
Scott Saunders of People for Dogs said there are other dogs like Buddy out there, but there’s little that can be done for them. He said organizations like the SPCA can only do what the law allows.
“Without regulations the legislation is useless. There’s nothing in place that could have helped Buddy. If we had been aware of the tumour we could have done something on the failure to provide medical care angle,” he said. “He lived in isolation for so many years. He wasn’t even interacting with the person who was providing him with food and water. To prevent this from happening we need better legislation to prevent people from chaining their dogs outside 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in cold and hot, mosquitos, ticks and the danger from other wildlife. That’s no life for any animal.”