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Wild Animal Law of Canada


Animal Protection Act (NS)

(current to 15 October 2016)

Note Re Application of the Animal Protection Act ('APA')

While the Animal Protection Act ('APA') broadly defines 'animals' as "non-human vertebrate(s)" [APA 2(1)(a)], it exempts the following from it's application [APA 3]:
  • "wildlife as defined in the Wildlife Act that is not in captivity" (see that module);

  • "mandatory testing procedures undertaken by a research laboratory that are required by Health Canada or the World Health Organization".
Note as well the internal APA enforcement division between responsibility for farm animals (with the Ministry of Agriculture) and non-farm animals (with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty or other appointees).

This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
  • SALE
The full current text of the Animal Protection Act and it's Regulations may be viewed at the Nova Scotia statute website.


Table of Contents
1. Overview
2. Protections and Prohibitions
(a) 'Distress'
(b) Primary Prohibitions
(c) Additional Provisions
(d) Animals in Society Custody
(e) Euthanasia
(f) Veterinarian Duty to Report Abuse or Neglect
3. Enforcement
4. Civil Liability

1. Overview

Nova Scotia's Animal Protection Act ('APA') is similar to 'SPCA' (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) statutes found in other Canadian provinces and in much of the common law world. Like those other statutes, the APA is essentially a police statute [APA 5], authorizing both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty ('Society') [APA 4] to, through it's branches [APA 8], agents and inspectors [APA 11-12], enforce the substantive protections contained within both the APA and the cruelty-related provisions of the federal Criminal Code (see that module). The APA also contains authority for the Minister to appoint a "one or more individuals, organizations or municipalities in place of the Society, to carry out any or all of the functions or duties of the Society pursuant to this Act" with respect to non-farm animals [APA 20].

2. Protections and Prohibitions

(a) 'Distress'

The APA's primary criteria for animal welfare is that of 'distress', which is defined (more broadly than in other jurisdictions) as being where an animal is any of the following [APA 2(2)]:
  • "in need of adequate care, food, water or shelter";

  • "in need of reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold";

  • "injured, sick, in pain, or suffering undue hardship, anxiety, privation or neglect";

  • "deprived of adequate ventilation, space, veterinary care or medical treatment";

  • "abused";

  • "kept in conditions that are unsanitary or that will significantly impair the animal’s health or well-being over time";

  • "kept in conditions that contravene the standards of care prescribed by the regulations"; or

  • "abandoned by its owner or by a person in charge of the animal in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, distress resulting from any or all of the [above] factors".
(b) Primary Prohibitions

The following are the primary APA animal welfare prohibitions and provisions:
  • it is prohibited for anyone to "cause an animal to be in distress" [APA 21(1)];

  • it is prohibited for an owner or custodian of an animal to "permit the animal to be in distress", unless they "take() immediate appropriate steps to relieve the distress" [APA 21(2,3)]. However this 'immediate steps' exemption is itself excepted where "the owner of an animal or the person in charge of an animal has demonstrated a pattern of causing or permitting any animal to be in distress [APA 21(5)].
The prohibitions are exempted where the distress, pain, suffering or injury results from an activity carried on [APA 21(4)]:
  • in the practise of veterinary medicine;

  • in accordance with reasonable and generally accepted practices of animal management, husbandry or slaughter; or

  • in "an activity exempted by the regulations".
(c) Additional Provisions

Additional provisions with respect to non-farm animals include that the owner or custodian shall [APA 22]:
  • "ensure that the animal has an adequate source of food and water";

  • "provide the animal with adequate medical attention when the animal is wounded or ill";

  • "provide the animal with reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold";

  • "not confine the animal to an enclosure or area with inadequate space, unsanitary conditions, inadequate ventilation or without providing an opportunity for exercise so as to significantly impair the animal’s health or well-being".
Additional enforcement authorities, which arise where an animal is found in 'distress' [see s.2(a) above], include the following [APA 23(1)]:
  • the taking of the animal into custody;

  • "arranging for any necessary transportation, food, water, care, shelter and medical treatment";

  • "delivering the animal into the custody of the Society, the Minister or a suitable caretaker".
These authorities however only arise where the owner or custodian either fails to act to relieve the distress, or cannot be promptly found after the inspector or peace officer has undertaken "reasonable steps to find the owner or person in charge of the animal and, where the owner is found ... endeavour(ed) to obtain the owner’s co-operation to relieve the animal’s distress" [APA 23(2)].

Where custody of an animal is taken under these provisions, and no appeal to the Animal Cruelty Appeal Board is filed within the time required, then the Minister "may sell, give away or euthanize" the animal [APA 32A].

(d) Animals in Society Custody

Where a Society (or other APA-authorized custodian) takes custody of an animal it shall "take reasonable steps to find the owner and inform the owner that the animal is in custody" [APA 26(1)]. Where the animal remains unredeemed for 72 hours after coming into their custody, then they "may sell or give the animal to any person who, in the opinion of the Society or the Minister, will properly care for the animal" [APA 26(4)]. Where the animal "bears an obvious identification tattoo, brand, mark, tag, licence or other device or identification prescribed in the regulations" then the redemption period is ten days [APA 27(1)].

The Society (or other APA-authorized custodian) has similar authority, exercised on notice to the owner where possible. to retain custody and sell or gift the animal where, "due to the animal’s state or situation or previous actions of the owner" the owner is not a fit person to care for the animal" [APA 26(5)].

Where an animal is sold or gifted under these provisions, the recipient takes ownership of the animal free and clear from any claims of the previous owner [APA 27A(4)].

(e) Euthanasia

Where the animal cannot be sold or gifted to a suitable person [as per (c) above] and the applicable redemption period has expired, then the animal may be euthanized [APA 27(3)].

Where an animal is found in critical distress, it may be euthanized [APA 25]. For this purpose, 'critical distress' means "distress in an animal of such nature that ... immediate veterinary treatment cannot prolong the animal’s life ... or prolonging the animal’s life would result in the animal suffering unduly" [APA 25(1)].

(f) Veterinarian Duty to Report Abuse or Neglect

A veterinarian who, "in the course of practising veterinary medicine, has found reasonable grounds to believe that an animal has been or is subject to neglect or abuse that threatens the animal’s health", other than in the exempting circumstances set out in s.2(b) above, shall report this to the Society [APA 29(1)]. Such a veterinarian is immune from civil liability for any such actions unless "done falsely and maliciously" [APA 29(2)].

3. Enforcement

The APA is unusual for it's splitting of enforcement responsibilities between the provincial Ministry (for farm animals) [APA 16-18] and the non-profit Society and it's branches (for non-farm animals). As well note that the APA only applies to wildlife (as defined in the Wildlife Act, see that module) in captivity [APA 3(1)].

For these purposes, appointed inspectors have typical police-type authorities to investigate, inspect facilities ("including stables, kennels, agricultural shows, pet shops, research laboratories and animal shows") [APA 13, 18A, 18AA] and warrant and warrant less entry of premises [APA 23(4-9)].

They also have authority to issue 'directions' (better described as orders) for purposes of enforcing the Act, first orally if necessary but to be confirmed in writing when practicable [APA 18C-18D].

The APA contains a broad offence provision that allows prosecution of it's violations. In addition to punishment on conviction, it allows the court to issue an order "restraining the person from having custody, care or control of animals for such period of time as is specified by the court" [APA 35].

4. Civil Liability

Any person doing anything in accordance with the APA is immune from civil liability as long as they are acting in good faith (eg. without malice) [APA 37].

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