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Sweeping Changes to Nova Scotia’s Animal Protection Act Offer Cautionary Tale for American Dog Enthusiasts

Earlier this month, the Legislature of the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia passed Bill 27, an “Act to Protect Animals and to Aid Animals in Distress” proposed by the province’s Minister of Agriculture.  According to the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), Bill 27, which awaits Royal Assent to become effective, removes the rights of animal ownership by changing the word “owner” to “custodian” in province law and includes any person who has possession of an animal.  The bill also gives the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty greater freedom to enter private property and demand that pets in a home be produced for inspection, and to enter any dwelling that is not a private home at any time without probable cause.   The new law would also ban cosmetic surgery on animals—which it defines as including tail docking, ear cropping, devocalization or debarking, onychectomy (declawing) or dewclaw removal—unless performed by a veterinarian to treat an injury or disease or for other medical reasons determined by a veterinarian as necessary or beneficial to the health of the animal.

In response, the Canadian Kennel Club has expressed deep disappointment that Bill 27 was passed.  “As the Canadian authority and proponent for the health and welfare of purebred dogs, CKC has worked with, and participated in consultation with municipalities and provincial legislatures…in the area of responsible dog ownership and dog breeding, to support the development of well-crafted, fair laws.  However, we are very disappointed that we are not invited to participate in the consultation process, given that these amendments will affect thousands of CKC members, purebred dogs, and dog owners.  The reality now is that the local enforcement agency has increased powers regarding the search and seizure of animals…Our next steps are to seek clarification of the interpretation of the law with local enforcement.”

As the leading non-profit advocate in protecting and promoting America’s purebred dogs, including the rights of their responsible breeders and owners, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is no stranger to the ongoing public policy threats targeting dogs, their breeders and owners, and accepted practices of animal husbandry, like Nova Scotia’s Bill 27.  The AKC’s Government Relations Department (AKC GR) tracks well over 3,000 dog-related legislative and regulatory proposals at all levels of American government annually, many of which restrict animal ownership, regardless of whether owners have a proven track record of meeting their responsibilities.  The volume of proposals, however, is not the only measure of the governmental issues facing purebred dogs.  A wide variety of subject matter also poses significant challenges and the AKC has  33 Canine Legislation Position Statements on a range of topics. These help the organization promote consistent, reasonable laws and regulations related to dog ownership. In addition to AKC’s organizational expertise on dogs, which dates back 134 years, the AKC’s Government Relations team, including its regional field staff, utilizes cutting-edge tracking systems, an extensive network of volunteer grassroots advocates, and institutional knowledge on animal husbandry to help lawmakers and their staffs develop reasonable and enforceable dog laws.

AKC provides tools and analysis for constituents to successfully represent their interests with their lawmakers.  This assistance makes it easy for dog owners and enthusiasts to get involved and it relies on their activism to ensure that laws such as those in Nova Scotia—which have already been introduced in a numerous states and localities in the United States—do not become law in the U.S.

As a responsible AKC dog enthusiast, you have a special opportunity and responsibility to make your voice heard in representing the interests of responsible dog owners in your club(s) and the community.

Most politicians know very little about dogs and even less about breeding or showing. Educating our legislators–especially before an issue ever comes up—is one of the most important things you can do to protect the interests of dog owners and breeders when canine policy is being considered.  Here are a few easy things you can do that can provide huge returns in the long run:

  • Set up a 10-minute appointment with your local representatives; introduce yourself and offer to be an expert resource on dog issues. Follow up on your initial meeting and stay in touch with your representatives. This will give you access if canine legislation is introduced in the future.
  • Make sure all your clubs have active Legislative Liaisons and work within a state federation, where available. GR depends on liaisons and federations as two-way information channels to learn about possible local ordinances and to get the word out about new legislation. If GR does not hear about a local issue, we cannot help. If clubs and individuals do not get our information, they cannot respond to it.
  • Support—and encourage your club to support—the AKC Canine Legislative Support Fund (CLSF). This fund helps support legislative empowerment seminars at national specialties and all-breed shows, state-wide lobby days, the development of advocacy training programs, and other advocacy efforts.

AKC’s Government Relations Department is here to help you.  For more information on the services we offer or for assistance, contact AKC GR at 919-816-3720, email, or visit our Legislative Action Center at