A lawyer with an interest in animal welfare says she’s “disappointed” with proposed changes to provincial law aimed at preventing cruelty.
“I don’t know where this is coming from on the part of the government,” Rebeka Breder, a board member with the Vancouver Humane Society, told the Straight by phone. “The bottom line is that this does not help animals in any way or further the protection or welfare of animals in British Columbia. If anything, I find that it impedes it.”
On March 6, Don McRae, B.C.’s minister of agriculture, introduced Bill 24 for first reading in the legislature. The crux of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act is the creation of a new appeal process.
“Many of you remember, when we brought forward the amendments to this act in spring 2011, we discussed the possibility of increasing oversight to the BCSPCA decision-making,” McRae said in comments recorded in Hansard. “The ministry has reviewed this issue with the BCSPCA and considered the input of the public on this issue as well. Today, I am pleased to introduce the amendments to the act that will increase transparency and accountability for decisions related to taking animals into custody, with an independent appeals process that will be led by the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board. The board has a successful history as an administrative tribunal, independent of government, in its general supervision of B.C.-regulated marketing boards and commissions.”
Breder said she agrees with the concept of independent oversight, such as the municipal animal court in San Antonio, Texas. However, she said putting the B.C. appeal process in the hands of FIRB raises some legal red flags.
“If someone, say the SPCA, wanted to appeal a FIRB decision to the court by way of judicial review, the courts will normally defer to the decision of a tribunal, because it expects that—because the members are appointed by governments—they are experts in their own field,” Breder said. “And the courts generally don’t like interfering with tribunal decisions, because they start off with the premise that they are experts, much more than the court system.”
However, she maintained that FIRB members are not experts in “general animal-welfare issues”.