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No longer worst in protecting animals: report

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - After two years tied with Nunavut for last place among Canadian provinces and territories for having the worst animal protection laws, the NWT has moved into third last, ahead of Quebec and Nunavut, in a report released last week.

The annual report by the U.S.-based Animal Legal Defense Fund cites the NWT's revised Dog Act, passed March 4, as the reason for the territory's improved ranking.

Dr. Tom Pisz, veterinarian for Great Slave Animal Hospital, said he thinks the amendments made to the Dog Act, which include larger fines and extended jail time for neglecting or abusing a dog, are a step in the right direction, but they're still not enough.

The treatment of dogs in the North is an "out-of-control situation," with many malnourished, mistreated dogs arriving at Yellowknife's animal hospital for treatment, said Pisz. He said that kind of treatment isn't going to stop just because there is the risk of a fine.

"The act is just the act. I think the Northwest Territories needs more education than rules," he said.

Pisz also noted there are a lot of animals in the North that need to be cared for, not just dogs.

Bonnie Dawson, founder of Action for the Protection of Northern Animals, agrees, noting that although the NWT has moved up in the rankings, it still remains in the bottom tier with Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut.

"Until such time as the territorial government comes up with the comprehensive animal protection act ... we're going to remain in the bottom tier," she said.

The report analyzes animal protection laws in all of the provinces and territories and places jurisdictions in one of three categories: top tier, middle tier, bottom tier. The top tier has Ontario in first place, as the safest jurisdiction for animals, followed by Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Dawson said Ontario is in first because it has a comprehensive act that considers the care and standard of care for all domestic animals, not just dogs.

Dawson said despite the need for an overarching act in the NWT, she still sees the amended NWT Dog Act as a victory.

"Hooray for dogs in the NWT," said the Hay River resident. "I'm really hopeful that this is going to make a big difference."

"Animals in the NWT have suffered for decades to violence, abuse, neglect, it's been horrific and hopefully now with the new Dog Act in effect, combined with the (Criminal Code of Canada), means that these perpetrators of this horrific violence against animals should face consequences that they have not faced at all in the history of the NWT."

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