Fisheries and Land Resources

Forestry and Agrifoods

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Protection in Newfoundland and Labrador

Q.1. How are domestic animals protected in Newfoundland and Labrador?

A.1. Domestic animals in this province are protected by both federal and provincial laws. The primary piece of federal legislation is the Criminal Code of Canada, which applies to wilful acts of cruelty or neglect. Section 264.1 covers threats conveyed to a person to kill, injure or poison an animal. Sections 444 to 447 address cruelty directly, and are contained in the Part XI "Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property".

The provincial legislation protecting domestic animals is the Animal Health and Protection Act, with its 8 sets of accompanying regulations. They came into effect May 2, 2012.

The regulations governing care and humane treatment of animals are:

Q.2. Does the Animal Health and Protection Act cover more than animal protection?

A.2. Yes. There are also provisions under the Animal Health and Protection Act that cover animal health and nuisance animals. Part II - Animal Protection (along with the regulations mentioned above) is dedicated solely to animal protection.

Q.3. Who enforces the animal protection sections of the Criminal Code?

A.3. In this province, only members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can enforce the animal cruelty and neglect sections of the Criminal Code of Canada,.

Q.4. Who enforces the animal welfare provisions of the Animal Health and Protection Act and its regulations?

A.4. The RNC and RCMP have authority to enforce provincial laws, including the Animal Health and Protection Act. They, along with interested municipalities and Conservation Officers with the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency, are the primary enforcers. More detail is provided below.

Q.5. Are all municipalities enforcing the animal welfare laws?

A.5. No. Only those communities that have identified an interest in enforcing provincial animal welfare laws will be doing so. Currently, the following municipalities enforce the animal protection provisions:

Q.6. What does the term "Special Constable" mean and who are "Special Constables"?

A.6. The term "Special Constable" is out-of-date in this province. It refers to a person appointed to enforce the old Animal Protection Act. This Act is no longer in effect, so there are no longer any Special Constables; nor will there be any new ones. The recently adopted Animal Health and Protection Act provides for the appointment of "Inspectors" to enforce its provisions.

Q.7. Who can be appointed as inspectors under the new Act?

A.7. Section 68 of the Animal Health and Protection Act (AHPA) provides for the appointment of inspectors by the Minister of Natural Resources to enforce provisions of the Act and its regulations. It also designates members of the RCMP and RNC as inspectors. The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) and staff veterinarians are designated as well. It should be noted that the CVO and staff veterinarians do not actively conduct animal protection investigations. The provisions of the Act extend beyond animal protection and also cover matters related to animal health and various diseases. Under Section 77 a municipal authority may be designated by the minister to administer provisions of the Act.

To be considered for appointment as an inspector under Section 68, one must be an employee of a municipality, or work as a Conservation Officer within the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency of the Department of Natural Resources. Once someone has met one of these criteria, and completed the required animal protection enforcement training, he/she may be appointed as an inspector by the Minister of Natural Resources.

Municipally appointed inspectors have authority within their respective municipal jurisdictions, or region, if there is regional cooperation between municipalities, to enforce the provincial animal protection law for companion animals. Some municipalities also cover horses. Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers across the province have authority to do animal protection enforcement for farm animals.

Q.8. Will those enforcing the Animal Health and Protection Act receive proper training?

A.8. The Department of Natural Resources, through the Animal Health Division of the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency, has put significant time and resources into developing a comprehensive training program for new inspectors. The courses have already been delivered to several municipal employees. Eighteen have been appointed as inspectors, 4 are in the process of being appointed and 5 are still undergoing training. Further training for additional municipalities which would like to enforce the Act will take place. Approximately 45 Conservation Officers working across the province have been fully trained and appointed to enforce the laws for farm animals.

Training is ongoing. Contact is maintained with inspectors and opportunities are identified for short updates or roundtable discussions, as well as continuing education options.

Q.9. What is the role of the SPCA in animal protection?

A.9. The Animal Health and Protection Act recognizes the SPCA as the corporate body known as The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Newfoundland and Labrador). The SPCA does not have enforcement powers under the Animal Health and Protection Act. There are, however, provisions concerning custody and care of seized animals that apply only to inspectors, the SPCA, a municipal authority or the minister; not to any other person, group or agency. As the only provincial animal welfare organization in Newfoundland and Labrador, the SPCA receives operational funding from the provincial government in the amount of $110,000 per year.

Q.10. What is the role of animal shelters and rescue groups?

A.10. All animal shelters and rescue groups, including the SPCA, provide very important animal welfare services to the community. They offer temporary shelter to unwanted animals while seeking permanent homes. They also educate and create community awareness of animal welfare issues.

The value of these services is recognized by the public who provide support through financial and in-kind contributions. The role of these organizations in assisting enforcement personnel by helping to arrange for transport, shelter and care of animals is significant. It is only through professional and confidential working relationships that animals will be protected and removed from neglectful and abusive situations.

Q.11. Are animal shelters also subject to the Animal Health and Protection Act?

A.11. Animal shelters must also provide adequate care for any animals that they house. There are specific provisions in the Act and Regulations that relate to such operations.

Q.12. What happens when an animal is seized under the Animal Health and Protection Act?

A.12. Under the Act an inspector has the authority to, "take custody of an animal in distress". The Act clearly sets out the conditions under which animals can be taken into legal custody, as well as the options for legal custody to then be transferred and/or retained. Ultimately, an animal can only be permanently kept from an owner through an order of a Provincial Court judge upon being found guilty of an offence, or by an owner giving up legal rights to the animal in writing. The sections covering this topic are very detailed and would be applied individually to the circumstances of each case.

Seizing an animal is a significant legal action and considered very seriously by law enforcement. Attempts are made, where appropriate, to educate the owner and see if the animal can be kept at its home through improvement of the facilities and care provided. Many owners may be unaware of the law or are unknowingly following what they thought were acceptable ways of maintaining animals.

Q.13. How do I report a suspected case of animal cruelty or neglect?

A.13 For small companion animals (primarily dogs and cats), reports can be made to municipal enforcement authorities operating within St. John's, Mount Pearl, CBS, Wabana, Carbonear, Placentia, Gander and Lab City. If you live in any of these municipalities, please check with your town office for more details. Reports can also be made to your local RNC or RCMP Detachment.

For farm animals (including horses) reports may be made to the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer by calling 709.729.6879 or emailing Conservation Officers working in the Department of Natural Resources can then conduct a proper investigation. For urgent matters, please contact your local RNC or RCMP Detachment.

Please note that there are a limited number of municipalities with authority to investigate reports pertaining to horses. Again, please check with your town office if your municipality has enforcement authority.

Any other questions on the provincial Animal Health and Protection Act can be addressed by email to, however complaints not related to farm animals (Q.13 above) will have to be directed to the proper authorities.


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