VICTORIA - A Liberal backbencher who describes herself as a dog lover wants more legal teeth to protect animals in British Columbia from puppy and kitty mills.
North Vancouver-Seymour Liberal Jane Thornthwaite introduced a private member's bill Monday that seeks to ensure animal breeders treat their animals with the highest standards of care.
"This bill targets the less scrupulous breeders who always seek monetary gains from the mass production of animals with little or no consideration for the animals' well being," she said in the legislature. "This bill gives teeth to enforce animal cruelty regulations."
Thornthwaite said the slaughter of 54 sled-dogs in Whistler in 2010 prompted her to fight for better protections for young dogs and cats.
Last week, the Crown approved an animal cruelty charge against Robert Fawcett, the former general manager of Howling Dog Tours, in the deaths of the dogs.
"People had approached me and said, 'that's really good what you're doing for sled dogs, but what about other animals?'" Thornthwaite said at a news conference outside of the legislature attended by several people with dogs.
"That's what prompted me to investigate and do more for all companion animals," she said.
The proposed Standards of Care for Breeders of Companion Animals Act attempts to put the onus on breeders to ensure better care for their animals and seeks to ensure pet owners know where and under what conditions their new pets were born and initially raised.
"As you can probably imagine, puppy mills do not advertise that they are puppy mills," said Thornthwaite. "Just look in the classified ads at all the animals that are being sold and there's no licensing, no regulation, no way to check up on them."
Private member's bills are rarely passed by governments, but often influence future laws. Thornthwaite said she reviewed existing legislation in Manitoba and New Brunswick and in Texas, New Zealand and Ireland to prepare her bill and also consulted veterinarians and animal rights groups.
She said the bill proposes to ensure breeders with three or more female dogs or cats are required to meet standards of care in handling and breeding of their animals.
The proposed bill outlines the requirements for breeding dogs and cats, including food, water, containment, shelter and sanitation.
It includes breeding regulations that ensure females are not bred before they reach 18 months and that they are permitted to give birth to a maximum of six litters and no more than three over three years.
Penalties for breeches of the proposed law are under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which includes maximum fines of $75,000 and maximum jail terms of two years or both.