VICTORIA - British Columbia has adopted codes of practice for commercial dog and cat breeders, as the province moves towards regulating the unlicensed and controversial industry.
Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick announced Sunday that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act now recognizes the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association's codes of practice for kennels and catteries as generally-accepted practices for dog and cat breeders.
The codes of practice set out minimum standards for housing, ventilation, food and water, care and supervision and record-keeping.
"It gives breeders the benchmark by which they should look at all their practices if they're going to breeding in B.C.," Letnick said in an interview. "It also provides the SPCA enforcement officers clear standards that they can look at when they're visiting breeders."
Premier Christy Clark announced plans to adopt the codes in February, weeks after the SPCA revealed two mass seizures of sick and neglected animals in alleged animal cruelty cases. She also vowed at the time to work on crafting regulations to licence breeders.
Letnick said a consultation paper will be available on his ministry's website starting Monday to allow stakeholders to provide feedback on possible licence or registration requirements by May 20. The general public can also email him with their comments, he added.
"We take the health of our animals very seriously," he said, adding that regulations are expected to be in place in 2017.
Craig Daniell, CEO of the B.C. SPCA, said his organization already uses the codes of practice as guidelines when investigating breeders, but adopting the codes into law will help officers when bringing cases to Crown counsel.
"The courts basically now are obliged to look at the codes of practice as a guide for determining what a generally-accepted practice of animal management is. In terms of prosecuting cases, that will be the real big benefit that we'll see," he said.
Daniell applauded the government's plans to regulate the industry and urged it to require regular inspection of commercial breeders. The province said on Sunday that it was considering proactive monitoring and enforcement.
"The challenge we have right now is that everything is complaint-driven," Daniell said. "For people who operate puppy mills, they're generally very careful about making sure that no one ever gets on their property.
"Having the mechanism to be able to go and do regular inspections, regardless of whether there's a complaint or not, is really the only way to make sure that we ultimately eradicate puppy mills."
On Feb. 4, 66 dogs and puppies in Langley were taken into care in what the SPCA alleges was one of the largest puppy mills in B.C. history. Some animals were suffering from infections, broken limbs and missing eyes or ears.
On Feb. 16, constables seized 82 cats and dogs from a breeding and boarding facility in Surrey. Two suffering cats had to be euthanized.