New standards are a positive step, but only a step

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Draft legislation designed to protect dogs that are left tethered outside for hours, or days, should not be viewed as the end of the story on animal cruelty. Instead, it should be a starting point to a discussion on how far we’re prepared to go to protect those animals who should be under our care.

On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell ended several weeks of speculation when he brought forward draft standards of care for animals that, among other things, will stop pet owners from tying their animals outside for more than 12 hours and being a pet owner in name only.

The legislation includes regulations covering animal restraints, outdoor shelters, animal enclosures and the transportation and sale of pets. And, because of discussions from last fall, the legislation is being expanded to include cats..

Earlier this year, when the community and the province, were horrified to hear the case of Buddy the dog from Joggins there was a public outcry calling on the province to get tough with people who leave their pets outside to shiver in sub-zero temperatures with little or no shelter and not much food or water.

In Buddy’s case, SPCA and law enforcement agencies said there wasn’t much they could do because the dog had shelter and someone was feeding him food and water. A closer inspection would have revealed the dog was in poor health and would eventually have to be euthanized once the true extent of its health was realized – but only after a fee was paid to buy the dog from its previous owner.

If the new standards go through, law enforcement officers will have the power to issue tickets to pet owners who refuse to look after their pets either willingly or through neglect.

While tougher legislation and penalties are welcome, there remain questions on who is going to enforce the enhanced standards of care? Who is going to step in and make sure there are no more cases like Buddy’s and who is going to take the lead in education the community about its role in reporting cases of abuse and neglect.

If anything, this whole affair should lead to greater awareness and education about the responsibilities that go along with pet owners. Caring for any pet, whether it be a cat, a dog or a horse, involves much more than being an acquaintance, it requires a commitment to care and developing a bond that includes loving the animal in the good times and the bad as well as in fair weather and poor.

 

Geographic location: Joggins

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