Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > Canada
"Canada has broad, well-crafted animal cruelty laws"? [that is clear nonsense!]
Opinion: Laws protect those who can't speak
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun
Canada has broad, well-crafted animal cruelty laws and laying charges over
the massacre of the Whistler sled dogs will not be difficult.
It is not a question of whether they were so-called "work" animals or family pets -- no animal should be put down in such a manner.
We do not allow even those slated to be butchered to be dispatched like this savage cull of at least 70 animals. Inflicting "unnecessary pain, suffering or injury" -- and there was plenty of it here -- is simply illegal.
"It was almost in disbelief that I heard the first reports," confided Agriculture Minister Ben Stewart, who is responsible for the animal-protection laws.
"I'm appalled that it could have happened ... as a pet owner myself, these reports are really appalling ... it's despicable."
From the moment we became a country, Canadians have believed it wrong to willfully or intentionally harm animals.
We are a compassionate lot and have long agreed with the father of animal rights, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham: "The question is not can they reason? Nor can they talk? But can they suffer?"
Since B.C.'s first Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1895, the non-profit SPCA has been empowered to enforce the law and recommend charges to Crown counsel.
It spends about $2 million a year investigating nearly 6,000 accusations of cruelty via a cadre of some two dozen special provincial constables authorized under the Police Act.
That's not the best arrangement and the province doesn't contribute nearly enough to ensure the necessary investigations are conducted.
Still, the RCMP and other police departments can lay animal cruelty charges under the Criminal Code. And some municipalities also have got into the act with animal welfare bylaws.
There is no question the legal safety net for beasts who cannot speak for themselves at least appears pretty good.
Two Duncan men, for instance, are headed to court after recently being charged with allowing a miniature pinscher to suffer for weeks last summer after accidentally being dragged behind a truck.
A vet and his wife in Langley are facing trial for failing to provide the necessities of life to a horse and allowing it to be in distress.
Nevertheless, judges can't hand out stiff sentences -- animal cruelty is a summary offence liable to at most six months jail time: The punishment in heinous cases like this is apt to cause as much of a howl as the crime. Consider:
- In 2004, a 56-year-old woman who executed a neighbour's dog got a suspended sentence with probation and a restitution order.
- In 2003, a man who skinned alive a cat received 90 days in jail, an 18-month conditional sentence and three years' probation.
- In 1998, a man beat his pet dog to death with a shovel during an argument with his wife. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years' probation.
- In 1989, a man kicked and beat his dog to death with a hockey stick. The court fined him $1,000.
The legal conundrum is animals are considered "property," not sentient beings with rights.
That might change -- especially given the growing body of animal-rights law.
Animal advocates argue other species deserve higher legal standing and take solace in history: Slavery was abolished and blacks went from being considered "property" to being citizens.
Gary Francione, the leading theorist at the Rutledge School of Law in New Jersey, maintains: "All sentient beings, humans or non-human, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others."
In the aftermath of events such as this bloodbath, it's easy to understand why he wins converts.