12/04/2014 01:59 EST | Updated 02/03/2015 05:59 EST

New animal welfare standards take effect in Nova Scotia to protect pets

HALIFAX - New animal welfare regulations are in effect in Nova Scotia that will help ensure pets such as cats and dogs are properly protected, says the province's agriculture minister.

Keith Colwell said Thursday the new rules prohibit tethering for more than 12 consecutive hours and require a veterinarian's certificate of health for the sale of cats and dogs, a measure largely aimed at curbing the activities of so-called puppy mills.

Colwell said enforcement officials are now also able to write summary offence tickets for violations of the regulations and the Animal Protection Act, with fines ranging from about $200 to $700.

The new standards came into effect Tuesday, along with amendments to the act that were announced in October.

"We have created, we believe, a good basis in which to start really looking after animals in this province when it comes to animal cruelty," said Colwell.

He said the regulations are the result of input from more than 300 members of the public.

Under the changes, Colwell said he is now able to enlist the services of municipalities that are interested to help the SPCA and police enforce the act. He said that would likely come through the use of bylaw officers.

"We are actually going to have a broader range of enforcement options as far as individuals really working at it," he said.

Elizabeth Murphy, CEO of the Nova Scotia SPCA, said she was pleased with changes that will assist her organization's enforcement efforts.

"Prior to this, the summary offence tickets didn't exist for us to really connect fines to activities," said Murphy.

She said the new rules would now also increase the ability of SPCA enforcement officers to act in certain situations.

As an example, Murphy said officers will now be able to break the windows of hot cars to free animals who are clearly in distress, where before they would have had to call in police to do it.

Murphy said the SPCA has 13 enforcement officers and it's hoped that number can be expanded to at least 20 across the province in the near future.

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