Friday, April 20, 2012

A rare victory!

Kye with our rescued dog, Jake
Yesterday I had a good day at the Legislature. Even though I am part of the "Official Opposition" our job is to do more than  "oppose". And even though the Legislature is an inescapably partisan place, opportunities arise to work in a cooperative way with the government.

Over the last few weeks, I've spoken to many people who strongly opposed the government's proposed amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Most of the people who contacted me about this raised concerns that echoed the SPCA's perspective. The SPCA - which is responsible for the work laid out in this Bill - was very worried about  several parts of it and was demanding that it be withdrawn. 

To try and address a number of the concerns raised, I proposed several changes to the Bill. I'm happy to report that most of them have now been incorporated and will become part of the legislation. The SPCA is also pleased about these changes and is no longer calling for the Bill to be repealed.

There are more details in the article below by Rob Shaw of the Times Colonist and underneath that is a statement put out yesterday by the BC SPCA.

NDP scores changes to animal cruelty amendment bill

by Rob Shaw, Times Colonist. Nov. 19, 2012

B.C.’s Opposition NDP appears to have scored a rare victory on a government bill, by convincing Agriculture Minister Don McRae to change his animal cruelty legislation.
The bill, introduced last month, has been slammed by the B.C. SPCA because it would send appeals of animal seizures to the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board instead of B.C. Supreme Court.
The SPCA was worried the farm review board appeals process would take much longer, and the agency would be stuck with the cost of caring for the seized animals without any way to get the owner to pay until the appeal was complete. That could have threatened the SPCA’s ability to pay to care for other animals on a limited budget.
The amendments, to be introduced in the legislature Thursday, will give the SPCA the ability to ask the farm review board for interim costs from the owner of the seized animals. It’s similar to how the agency is currently able to ask the B.C. Supreme Court for interim costs — a provision that wasn’t carried over in McRae’s original bill.
SPCA CEO Craig Daniell said his organization is “really pleased” with the changes.
“That was probably our biggest concern about the bill when it was originally introduced,” he said. “Our opposition has always been, without having the mechanism to have interim costs, the matter could be further delayed. With this particular amendment a lot of our concerns have been addressed. Not all of the concerns but some of our biggest concerns.”
The amendments were originally proposed behind-the-scenes by the NDP and then accepted and turned into government amendments Thursday by minister McRae, said agriculture critic Lana Popham.
“This is a big deal because these cases, depending on how complicated they are, are very very expensive,” said Popham. “It may not just be a cat that’s seized it could be a herd of horses that take a lot of expense. The government currently does not fund any of that for the SPCA, even though they are required to house these animals. It just makes it more fair.”
It’s relatively rare for the Opposition to convince government to change its own legislation while it is being debated on the floor of the legislature.
“It actually wasn’t that painful, it was a fairly co-operative process,” said Popham.
A second amendment changes the bill to also require any government agents that seize animals to have approximately the same training as current SPCA officers, said Popham.
The Opposition will now vote in favour of the bill with the changes, said Popham. It’s set for committee-stage debate at the legislature Thursday.

BC SPCA pleased with progress on Bill 24

The BC SPCA’s chief executive officer Craig Daniell says the society is pleased with the progress being made to address theSPCA’s main concerns about Bill 24, a bill introduced by the Minister of Agriculture Don McRae on March 6 to amend thePrevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The BC SPCA had raised public concerns about increased costs and other potentially negative changes the bill might bring about, but Daniell said today that several of the key issues raised by the SPCA are being addressed through amendments to the bill.

“We appreciate Minister McRae’s willingness to review these issues and the work of NDP Agriculture Critic Lana Popham to bring our concerns forward.”  Daniell says the BC SPCA is also extremely grateful to supporters from across the province who reached out to their local MLAs to help raise awareness about the SPCA’s concerns. “There is no doubt that the voice of British Columbians is being heard and reflected as discussions on the bill move forward.”

Daniell notes that Minister McRae is on record guaranteeing that the new appeal process for seized animals will take less time than the current system. The SPCA had expressed concern that the proposed process of appealing to the BC Farm Industry Review Board rather than the B.C. Supreme Court would mean lengthier waiting periods, increased costs and welfare concerns for animals held in legal limbo.

“It is our mission to speak out on behalf of animals, and as a charity that is reliant on donors to carry out our work, it is also critical that we voice our concern if we believe new legislation will put an unreasonable financial burden on our supporters,” says Daniell. “We understand now that a proposed amendment being introduced would still allow the SPCA to seek interim costs for the care of animals who must be kept in custody during an appeal process.”

Bill 24 received second reading in the House yesterday and has now been forwarded to Committee for further discussion and consideration.