Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act)
The BC SPCA derives its powers to investigate and take action in instances of animal cruelty from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 372 (the "PCA Act").
In April 2008, amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act significantly increased protection for abused and neglected animals in British Columbia. The BC SPCA had been actively campaigning for changes to the PCA Act for more than two years through its province-wide End Animal Cruelty campaign. The non-profit animal welfare organization collected more than 50,000 petitions in support of the campaign.
The amendments will dramatically increase our ability to respond quickly and effectively in cases where animals are abused, abandoned or neglected. The amendments not only enable the BC SPCA to enter property more quickly to assist animals in distress, but will lead to stronger cases and an even more successful conviction rate for animal abusers.
The new legislation includes the following key changes:
* Expands the definition of distress beyond "inadequate food, water and shelter" to include animals who are deprived of adequate ventilation, space, care or veterinary treatment. This is particularly significant in cases involving overcrowded puppy mills, animals deprived of veterinary care and other cases where officers have not been able to intervene unless an animal was in critical distress.
* Enables BC SPCA constables to obtain a warrant to seize an animal using the telewarrant system - a life-saving change for animals in distress in remote locations. In the past officers in remote areas have sometimes been forced to delay helping an animal in distress because a judge was not available in the area to issue a warrant. With the ability to obtain a warrant via telephone, BC SPCA officers can enter property and act immediately to help an animal in distress.
* Increases the maximum penalties handed down under the PCA Act from $2,000 to $5,000 and to $10,000 for a second offence. In the case of repeat offenders, such as puppy mill operators, the fines will now be a significant deterrent.
* Increases obstruction of justice penalties in animal cruelty cases from $100 to $2,000. This provides a significant deterrent to individuals, such a pet stores owners and breeders who refuse to let the BC SPCA inspect their facilities and others who obstruct the investigation of an SPCA constable.
* Enables BC SPCA constables not only to search for evidence but to seize evidence of an offence. Logistically it has been difficult in the past to obtain the two warrants needed to seize evidence (one PCA Act warrant to search the property and a second warrant under the Offence Act to seize the evidence). Any evidence found without the second warrant could not be used in the prosecution of an accused animal abuser. Under the new bill, evidence discovered under the PCA Act warrant would be admissible in court