March 29, 2012 - Update
The BC SPCA is grateful to the more than one thousand supporters who contacted their MLAs to express their concern over Bill 24, the proposed amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act introduced into the Legislature on March 6. Many of you have received a standardized response back from the government stating that the new appeal process for those whose animals have been seized because of distress will be shorter and that the BC SPCA will be consulted on the process.
- While the BC SPCA is pleased that the government is on record guaranteeing that the new process will take less time, it is clear that this will not be feasible without significant additional funding to the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BC FIRB), the body who has been appointed to take over the appeal process from the current court system. The government has not been forthcoming about any plans to provide additional funding to BC FIRB.
- In addition to the need to increase funding to BC FIRB under the proposed amendment, the government has not factored in the significant additional costs of the proposed system to BC SPCA donors to deal with the increased bureaucracy.
Based on the Minister of Agriculture’s own estimate of the number of appeals anticipated, the new system will cost the BC SPCA, conservatively, an additional $300,000 per year. In addition, the need for SPCA constables to sit in hearings will mean a minimum of 60 fewer days per year of constable time available to respond to animal cruelty calls. Based on the current number of complaints handled per day, the system proposed by the government will reduce the number of animal cruelty investigations possible per year by 250.
- We note that the minister, in his template response, has also expressed his commitment to consult with the BC SPCA on the design of the new appeal process. Our experience with the Bill 24 consultations was that insufficient time was provided for consultation and that the concerns of the BC SPCA were not heard. Without meaningful dialogue, the process of consultation cannot lead to better protection for animals in B.C.
- The minister is also quoted as saying he supports the good work being done by the BC SPCA and that the government supports initiatives that improve animal welfare. We see no tangible demonstration of this support. The government has made it clear that it has no intention of providing any funding for any aspect of the BC SPCA’s work, including the enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. In addition, with Bill 24 the minister has introduced amendments to the PCA Act that will result in greater bureaucracy, fewer animals helped and the expectation that SPCA donors will foot the increased costs. This is unacceptable to the BC SPCA.
NEXT STEPS: PLEASE ADD YOUR VOICE TO HELP THE ANIMALS!
It is not too late for the government to consider amendments to Bill 24.
PLEASE FOLLOW UP with your local MLA with the following message.
Message to MLAs
Despite assurances from the Minister of Agriculture that the amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act proposed in Bill 24 will be beneficial for animals, some serious concerns have not been addressed.
- The minister has guaranteed that the proposed appeal process for individuals whose distressed animals have been seized will be shorter (less than 75 days) than the current court process. How much additional funding does the government plan to provide to the BC Farm Industry Review Board to ensure appeals are handled within the timeframe the minister has outlined?
- If additional funding can be found in the budget to create a new appeal system for those whose animals have been removed because of distress, why has the government told the BC SPCA that there is no funding available for animal protection and BC SPCA enforcement activities? Does the government expect SPCA donors, who already fund $2.2 million a year for SPCA animal cruelty investigations, to cover the significant additional costs ($300,000+) that the new system will impose on the non-profit BC SPCA?
- The need for SPCA constables to sit in hearings will mean (based on the minister’s own estimate of the number of annual appeals) a minimum of 60 fewer days per year of constable time available to respond to animal cruelty calls. Based on the current number of complaints handled per day, the system proposed by the government will reduce the number of animal cruelty investigations possible per year by 250. How does the government justify this reduction in investigations as beneficial for abused and neglected animals?
- Is the government open to meaningful amendments to Bill 24 that would address the serious concerns of the BC SPCA and animal welfare supporters across B.C.?
Help us speak out against Bill 24
March 12, 2012
The BC SPCA is appealing to British Columbians who are concerned about the impact of proposed changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on B.C.’s most vulnerable animals to help take action to stop the passage of Bill 24.
The bill, which was introduced into the Legislature by the government on March 6, will see responsibility for hearing the appeals of individuals whose animals have been seized because of distress, move from the B.C. Supreme Court to the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BC FIRB).
The SPCA has expressed deep concerns that, based on the recorded history of BC FIRB decisions, the earliest that appeals will be heard is six months and in many cases, it may take much longer.
During this time, affected animals will have to be held in shelters awaiting a ruling. “Under the existing process, we have decisions within 75 days on average,” says Craig Daniell, chief executive officer for the BC SPCA. “We believe this process is cost effective, timely, and fair for all parties. If we have to hold animals in our shelters for prolonged periods of time, it not only increases our costs of care significantly, but it is poor welfare for animals who have already suffered so much.” He also notes that if SPCA shelters are filled with animals awaiting rulings, the society will be unable to accommodate other abandoned and abused animals who urgently need care.
“Since the announcement about Bill 24, we have been overwhelmed with calls from our supporters asking how to help stop these proposed changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” says Daniell. “We are deeply grateful to all those who are helping us speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
How you can help:
Contact your local MLA urging them to support the withdrawal of Bill 24 (we would appreciate being copied on your email at email@example.com). Sample letter:
"I am writing to you to express my serious concerns about the proposed changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The changes outlined in Bill 24, in particular establishing BC FIRB as the body to hear appeals from individuals who have had animals seized because of distress, will result in increased costs for the BC SPCA. Animals will also be held at shelters in legal limbo for longer periods of time. It makes no sense to move to a more costly system where fewer abused and neglect animals will get the help they urgently need. I urge you to support the withdrawal of Bill 24."
Help us spread the word through Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
For more details, read the BC SPCA’s letter to Premier Christy Clark.
Thank you for your support of animals in need!
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.