The amended Dog Act has passed its first reading at the Legislative Assembly.
During the Nov. 2 legislative session, the newly amended act was presented by Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, Robert McLeod, after months of delay. The House has 120 days from the first reading to respond to the suggested changes.
The changes to the Act, entitled Bill 16, will allow harsher penalties for dog owners or caretakers who neglect or abuse their dogs.
Authorities will be able to impose a fine of up to $5,000 and/or three months in jail for anyone mistreating a dog. In the current act, the punishment for the same crime is a $25 fine or 30 days in jail.
The amendments, which broaden the scope defining animal cruelty, will also allow by-law officers to take custody of a dog in distress, or who has been abandoned.
According to local animal rights activist Bonnie Dawson, this amended act is a huge improvement, but it is only the first step towards improving animal rights in the NWT.
“It is about bloody time,” said Dawson. “It’s been three years. I am very happy though. It is good to see that it wasn’t postponed for a fourth time.”
“This is the first step towards what I wanted.”
Dawson said that she is pleased that the changes include harsher penalties for anyone charged with cruelty against a canine but other animals are not included in the legislation.
“I am going to continue working to have a full, comprehensive domestic animal act,” she said.
She also added that she will be sending the amended act to various groups, including the Animal Defense League, to provide their own feedback on the chages;
“I read the whole thing over and it looked very good,” said Dawson. “But this is the first step. We still have a long way to go yet.”
McLeod was unavailable for comment as of press time.