Whitehorse Daily Star

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Mary VanderKop

Changes may be coming to animal welfare laws

The Yukon government will work with a panel of local farmers to update animal management legislation in the territory.

By Gabrielle Plonka on November 25, 2019

The Yukon government will work with a panel of local farmers to update animal management legislation in the territory.

The proposed change is spurred by a recommendation from the Yukon coroner following a fatal dog attack in Ross River four years ago.

The new legislation, which focuses on animal welfare, will necessarily affect livestock laws.

This includes setting standards for livestock slaughter, adequate shelter for animals and stray livestock control.

An information session held last Wednesday evening in Whitehorse hosted about 30 farmers anxious to hear how the changes might affect their business practices.

This week, a subcommittee of approximately six Yukon farmers will meet with government officials and work toward solutions to industry concerns.

Christina Reeves of Brat Pak Kennel and Farm told the Star she is generally in support of the increased legislation, as long as it’s written with a northern focus and specific guidelines that work for local farmers.

“We have very specific challenges up here in the Yukon,” Reeves said.

She noted both feral and domestic horses as well as elk roam the highways near her farm and pose a Yukon-specific problem.

There was a suggestion during the information session that local authority groups could be granted more authority, as is done in other parts of the country.

Reeves said this idea “brings up concerns” about who might be enforcing the rules and the perspective they might be working from.

“It can depend on how a person construes (the legislation): what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person,” she said.

“The biggest thing is that our challenges can be different than in other parts of the country,” Reeves said.

She is considering joining the subcommittee, but the loss of daylight hours in the winter and the hour-long commute from her farm to downtown pose challenges to participation.

Kevin Bowers, who raises pork and poultry at Castle Mountain Farm, said proper consultation is pivotal to writing successful legislation.

“There’s a level of concern as to where this legislation might go,” he said. “It’s not like the agriculture community would have the last word.”

Bowers said, however, that clear guidelines for farmers could be a good thing assuming consultation is conducted properly.

“With the right stakeholders, it’ll better reflect what the needs and desires of the agriculture community are,” he said.

He added that there is some confusion about how much legislation currently exists in the territory, as the Yukon is experiencing a fairly recent agricultural boom.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said of increasing the number of rules. “There’s always some misunderstanding that there’s legislation in place when, in fact, there isn’t.

“Do we need more? Maybe we do.”

Mary VanderKop is the chief veterinary officer in the Department of Environment.

She ran last Wednesday’s meeting, and said she expects the subcommittee consultation to last a couple of sessions.

VanderKop said that rather than write all-new legislation, the government has the option of referencing the national codes of practice which most Yukon farmers already follow.

The evaluation of the national code as a suitable guideline for the Yukon will be discussed at the first subcommittee meeting.

Members will review concerns about proposed rules for “slaughter without stunning” and stray livestock control. They will also be asked to bring any additional concerns or ideas to the table.

Comments (7)

Up 2 Down 0

Moose on Nov 30, 2019 at 5:42 pm

Hey JC, what is a non-traditional religion?

Up 7 Down 1

Juniper Jackson on Nov 29, 2019 at 11:28 am

I would be very suspicious of this governments motives. The Liberal government has never been very transparent and there is likely more behind this movement than they are going to print with. Whatever they want to do, it can't be good for farmers, and by extension, the population. Our farming is JUST getting off the ground these last few years. Let them develop before you start telling them how to farm, when to farm, what to farm, and tax their butts off for farming, yelling.. animal farts are destroying the world, close your farm down, take up your guns and eliminate cows, buffalo, moose, caribou, fox, oh..don't forget the goats... yeah.. don't open the door to this government on anything. Nothing.

Up 15 Down 1

jc on Nov 26, 2019 at 5:41 pm

hmmm: Don't count on that. You know what we're dealing with here - a non traditional religion.

Up 14 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Nov 26, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Here the government goes again, charging off madly in all directions to do what? For starters I'd like to see a clear list of supposed problems they are hoping to find solutions to. Yes, I am suspicious of their motives, especially when there are no clear goals and objectives stated to justify them consulting towards changing laws and regulations.
From the many tourists I speak with many of them would like to experience eating wild game- many of our international visitors have never tried it and would like to, perhaps focus some attention on topics like these and other issues that have dominated the local media over the past few years, like people with too many dogs and the disruption they cause in communities. Free roaming horses, troublesome elk eating farmer's grain crops, I'm sure others have concerns as well that could be considered in this consultation exercise.
Open and accountable they say - PROVE IT!

Up 25 Down 2

hmmm.... on Nov 26, 2019 at 11:41 am

"Members will review concerns about proposed rules for “slaughter without stunning”....
Ahem, slaughter without stunning is a fancy name for halal, this crap does not belong here. Ever. But too late it's already here and protected under the guise of "ritual slaughter for religious purpose".

I hope our Yukon farmers wholeheartedly vote against this barbaric practice.

Up 36 Down 1

Madasheck on Nov 26, 2019 at 11:28 am

Let's get all the facts before we start changing laws and shifting blame to people who follow the rules. First off there are two breeding female wolves in Ross River that have bred with dogs and are now all over the Yukon especially Watson Lake and Ross River. These dogs are big and beautiful but they are also part wolf. And a half wolf, half dog is a lot more dangerous to people than a wolf is because they don't fear humans. This is not any ones fault but the people that irresponsibly bred these animals then gave them to irresponsible people who can barely feed themselves never mind a animal of that size so they walk around the villages starving. This is not the animals fault it's the fault of the breeders and the people taking these beautiful animals and not looking after them. Cheryl here in Watson Lake from YARN has worked first hand with these crossbred wolf dogs and yes they can be VICIOUS but they can also be loving and loyal to those who feed them. I believe it is a dangerous thing to do. Crossbreeding wildlife with domestic animals is not natural and only bad can come from it. So how about holding the people responsible for such a crime and not the rest of the Yukon. Accountability is not learned when one holds everyone responsible for a few peoples behavior. This is not grade school and not all of us bad pet owners.

Up 47 Down 5

Thomas Brewer on Nov 25, 2019 at 4:43 pm

How a fatal dog pack attack in Ross River leads the government to interfere with farmers is beyond me. Were I a farmer I would be very, very worried given the cock up the gov't has made in the past on this subject...

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