As soon as the words were out of the minister’s mouth, I thought, uh-oh.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Keith Colwell, our newly appointed agriculture minister, if the regulations currently being crafted to beef up the Animal Protection Act would include specific provisions to address the needs of cats.

As I had noted in earlier columns, nowhere do the proposed changes even use the word cat. The focus has been on the increased protection of dogs, including stronger rules about protecting their health, especially when sold, and ease of distress.

All things that cats need protection from as well.

So when I asked the Liberal minister if that would change with his government, he basically said no.

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“That’s something I will consider, but at this point we’re going to concentrate on the job at hand,” he said, (i.e. dogs).

“We’re going to look at all the animals, of course, (but) the cat issue is a whole different issue, although we will not tolerate anyone who isn’t humanely looking after cats. They’ll be treated the same as any other animal would be. The municipalities have some responsibilities on that.”

Not surprisingly, that got cat rescuers up on their hind legs.

The folks who created the Tuxedo Party to promote increased protection of cats, first through their mayoral efforts with Tuxedo Stan and then Earl Grey during the provincial election, reminded us that each candidate was asked to sign the Earl Grey Pledge during the recent campaign.

And indeed, Colwell, then a candidate, along with our new premier, did just that:

Oct. 4, 2013

To whom it may concern:

I, Keith Colwell, MLA Preston Dartmouth, wish to sign Earl Grey’s Pledge of Compassion and Action.

I am an avid animal lover and thank you for the opportunity to support this cause.

Yours truly,

Keith Colwell, MLA

Preston Dartmouth

While the pledge might have seemed a stunt to some, and perhaps it did even to the candidates when they signed it, cat lovers took it to heart.

From the Earl Grey website maintained by veterinarian Hugh Chisholm (Stan and Earl Grey’s dad): “The proposed changes address a number of issues regarding dogs (examination by a veterinarian prior to sale, anti-tethering regulations, etc.) but nothing specific to cats. Earl supports the proposed changes that will help his canine friends but he asks why they seem reluctant to make similar changes to benefit cats?


“Are Minister Colwell and the new Liberal government having a change of heart? Earl Grey is hoping this was just a slip of the tongue from a rookie minister who is still trying to settle in to his new portfolio.

“Let’s remind Minister Colwell and the other members of the government who signed Earl Grey’s pledge that we expect them to honour their pledge to help cats.”

To make matters worse, news of the lack of interest in cat-specific regulations has come at a time when we’re learning about the horrific euthanasia rate of cats by the Municipality of Kings County.

As reported by blogger Joan Sinden, based on numbers obtained by a freedom of information request, Kings County has chosen to kill 347 cats and kittens since July 2011. According to animal control records, they adopted out 54 during that time. (Yes, some were sick or injured, and in those cases it’s a humane act. But a high percentage weren’t).

The county allowed its animal control department to kill healthy cats instead of working with rescue organizations to find them loving homes.

By comparison, neighbouring Annapolis Royal, which does have a relationship with a rescue group, euthanized 78 cats over the same period.

So there’s one place to start. Killing otherwise healthy animals should be illegal. Windsor mandates that animals must first be offered to rescue organizations before they get the death needle. That should become the provincial standard.

Another would be to come up with a creative, provincewide initiatives to reward those who spay or neuter their cat, and ensure low-cost measures are available as well. This is a small province. It could be done.

And finally, most simple of all, is just insert the word cat alongside dog wherever the act addresses standards of care, sale or cruelty.

I know the minister has been reaching out to dog rescuers for their input. I respectfully suggest he put a few cat rescuers on speed dial as well.