Yukon dog mushers are an example of Yukoners affected by the <em>Animal Protection and Control Act</em>. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file)

Yukon dog mushers are an example of Yukoners affected by the Animal Protection and Control Act. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file)

Yukon MLAs pass new Animal Protection and Control Act

The Liberals and NDP voted in favour while the Yukon Party voted against the new Act

Yukon legislators have passed an act intended to improve animal welfare and control in the territory.

Liberal and NDP MLAs voted together in favour of the Animal Protection and Control Act, which is replacing and building on the Animal Protection Act, the Pounds Act and the Dogs Act, while the Yukon Party voted against it on Nov. 15.

Environment Minister Nils Clarke told the House prior to the vote that communities have expressed public safety concerns due to roaming dogs and the need to control cats, livestock and working animals.

“We have created a flexible regime for enforcement that will allow the Government of Yukon to work with communities to develop unique solutions appropriate for that community, thereby supporting better relationships with First Nation governments and Yukon municipal governments,” he said.

Clarke said Yukoners raise concerns about dogs in their communities on a weekly basis, among other animal-related complaints.

“Yukoners are frustrated with the limitations of government response to date. The tools enabled by this act will address those limitations and allow us to respond,” he said.

“We will move forward with additional engagement.”

According to Clarke, the act will set standards for the care and humane killing of animals, as well as provide a framework for managing which species of exotic animals may be owned in the Yukon and regulating the operation of animal rescues and pet stores.

“Without this new act, the Government of Yukon will fail to address long-standing concerns of Yukoners about the enforcement of animal laws in the territory and will fail to mitigate risks that uncontrolled animals pose to public safety, the environment and property,” he said.

Brad Cathers, the Yukon Party MLA for Lake Laberge, noted the legislation will affect thousands of Yukoners with animals.

Cathers summarized some of his key points from the hours of debate leading up to the vote, noting there are “some good parts” in this legislation given the act itself needed strengthening in some areas and replacement in others.

Despite meetings and a Yukon-government issued survey in which more than 900 Yukoners responded, the Yukon Party called on the Yukon government to consult more before moving forward.

Multiple letters echoing the call were submitted to the Yukon government and tabled in the House, including an Oct. 24 letter from Jim Frank, president of the Yukon Outfitters Association. Frank expressed his disappointment in the lack of consultation on the content and the details of the legislation, and asked for a pause in the adoption of the bill to allow industry groups to weigh in.

“It is disappointing that the government chose to reject an amendment we proposed, which would have made it clear that animals can be loose on public property as long as they aren’t causing damage, endangering public safety or running at large,” Cathers said.

“We have also made it clear that the section regarding entry without a warrant is something that we do not support.”

NDP Leader Kate White reflected on what happened in Ross River in 2015 when a man was killed by dogs.

“That was a pretty traumatizing time,” she said.

“It was hard to be supporting the community through that, and it was hard to be dealing with a government who didn’t make changes at that point.”

White addressed the minister’s pledge to consult with affected groups as regulations are being worked on.

“I do really appreciate this chamber’s willingness to make sure that the religious practices of halal and kosher slaughtering are now actually protected under law, as opposed to just being put into regulations,” she said.

“There were lots of reasons why those communities brought forward those concerns, and so we do appreciate the House’s willingness to work with us on that.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com