Animal protection falls short in territory

The territory’s animal protection laws are not working, says a new Yukon government report. “The Yukon Animal Protection Act is not…

The territory’s animal protection laws are not working, says a new Yukon government report.

“The Yukon Animal Protection Act is not functioning as it was intended to,” wrote local veterinarian Ken Kilpatrick, author of the 11-page report.

While the legislation, which used laws in western provinces as a template, is well written, the funding and support offered by those model provinces don’t exist here, wrote Kilpatrick.

“To improve the effectiveness of the Yukon Animal Protection Act, the primary focus should be on policy, procedure, funding and staffing to be put in place to support the act,” said the report.

“Implementation of the act can be improved without changes to the legislation itself.”

Commissioned in 2006, the report compares Yukon legislation to laws in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories and will make recommendations for improving the animal protection in the territory.

The government released phase one earlier this week and phase two, which will include specific recommendations, is expected in October.

Phase three will analyze implementation of options based on the recommendations.

To write the report, Kilpatrick met with representatives from the RCMP, Humane Society Yukon, prosecutors and other individuals involved in drafting the legislation.

Phase one does offer some thoughts on where improvement is needed to strengthen protection and stop cruelty to animals.

The effectiveness of the local humane society as an enforcement agency suffers from lack of funding, said the report.

Animal abuse complaints are routed through the humane societies in Alberta and BC, which then investigate and, on a regular basis, successfully prosecute cruelty to animal charges.

“The humane societies in the Yukon are neither structured nor funded in such a way that would place them in a position to provide adequate enforcement of the (act),” said the report.

While humane society volunteers regularly work with RCMP to enforce legislation, the system has not been consistently successful.

“Effective enforcement requires a regulatory professional,” said the report.

“Humane societies in the Yukon do not have available the person(s) with the above qualifications, and are likely limited for the foreseeable future to the provision of animal shelter and animal advocacy services.”

The Yukon legislation makes room for supporting a more effective humane society.

Changes to the “reasonably well written” animal protection legislation can be made easily and require only small amendments to make big improvements, said the report.

“The fact that legislation very similar to the (act) is working well in other jurisdictions indicates that the legislation itself is not the weak link of animal protection in the Yukon,” said the report.

“The missing parts of the supporting structure for the Yukon (act) are enforcement programs, policies, staffing and funding.”

The report can be viewed on the Government of Yukon website.

YTG paid Kilpatrick $24,000 in December 2006 for the study, according the government’s contract registry.

The Yukon Party government decided to study the legislation following a 2,500-signature petition was introduced in the legislature in December 2006.

Several troubling incidents of animal abuse have been reported in the Yukon over the past two years, prompting the call for tougher legislation.

After accidentally dragging his dog Trooper behind a vehicle before abandoning him in the industrial area on a bitterly cold night, Stanley Gostel was sentenced to pay $2,473 in fines and had his pet confiscated.

And during the record-setting cold snap in November 2006, approximately 30 abandoned cats were discovered wandering near Beaver Creek looking for shelter.

Kilpatrick declined to comment on the report.

Humane Society Yukon representatives could not be reached for comment.