Proposed legislation around dog ownership on P.E.I. looks to hold owners accountable for the actions of their pets, according to a PC MLA who is working on the policy.
In his job as a paramedic, Robin Croucher, the MLA for Souris-Elmira, says he's responded to dog attacks and has seen the aftermath.
"There's been some serious injuries," said Croucher. "Some life-changing injuries occur — both physically and emotionally."
The P.E.I. Dog Act was written in 1974. As it stands, law enforcement doesn't have the jurisdiction to take a dog that's been deemed vicious or has attacked someone, said Croucher.
"I'd like to see, if a dog has attacked another person, or another animal, there has to be accountability for that dog owner," Croucher said of the new Dog Owners Act.
That could be a fine, or restitution for victims, said Croucher.
The new act would generally apply to unincorporated areas. Charlottetown, Summerside, Stratford and Cornwall have their own bylaws enforced by municipalities.
According to the P.E.I. Humane Society, data from Animal Protection suggests there has been a slight increase in the number of dog bites since 2019. So far this year, though, numbers are slightly lower than last year.
Government began its review of the Dog Act in early 2022.
The proposed Dog Owners Act, currently in the public consultation phase, includes a definition of an enforcement officer, introduces leashing requirements and defines what it means to be a dangerous dog, as one "that has been declared a dangerous dog by a judge of the provincial court."
One of the issues with the current act is inconsistent definitions of who can enforce it, said Andrea Triolo, the policy director with P.E.I.'s Department of Agriculture.
While the humane society can enforce one part, a peace officer would have to do the other, she said.
"We've now made it clear that the enforcement officer means throughout the whole act," said Triolo.
Enforcement officers under the proposed act would include employees of the Department of Agriculture, conservation officers and police officers.
Dogs being put down would be determined on a case-by-case basis, said Triolo. It could happen following a court order or where a dog has been seized and two veterinarians has passed the dog is in distress and couldn't recover, she said.
The Department of Agriculture is open to feedback from the public until Sept. 14.