Sunday, February 6, 2011

Canadian Animal Cruelty Laws Are Strong, Canadian Enforcement Of Said Laws Is Beyond Weak

In the wake of recent news that one hundred sled dogs had been inhumanely "euthanized" (though murdered seems a more apt term) last April at the hands of an employee of a dog sledding company in Whistler, BC, thousands have taken to the media and social network forums to protest the lack of stringent animal cruelty laws in this country. The consensus seems to be that harsher animal cruelty punishments in Canada would serve as a deterrent against such horrific acts. What these individuals are failing to realize however, is that Canada currently has some of the harshest criminal punishments for animal abusers, and the problem lies not in the current legislation, but in the hands of the court system, which for some reason or another neglects to issue said punishments.

Let us first look at the animal cruelty laws in this country (with respect to domesticated animals, as the debate on legislation regulating livestock is a whole other matter) :

Cruelty to Animals


Causing unnecessary suffering
445.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who
(a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird;
(b) in any manner encourages, aids or assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds;
(c) wilfully, without reasonable excuse, administers a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to a domestic animal or bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is kept in captivity or, being the owner of such an animal or a bird, wilfully permits a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to be administered to it;
(d) promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for or takes part in any meeting, competition, exhibition, pastime, practice, display or event at or in the course of which captive birds are liberated by hand, trap, contrivance or any other means for the purpose of being shot when they are liberated; or
(e) being the owner, occupier or person in charge of any premises, permits the premises or any part thereof to be used for a purpose mentioned in paragraph (d).
Punishment
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than eighteen months or to both.
Failure to exercise reasonable care as evidence
(3) For the purposes of proceedings under paragraph (1)(a), evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or a bird thereby causing it pain, suffering or injury is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the pain, suffering or injury was caused or was permitted to be caused wilfully, as the case may be.
Presence at baiting as evidence
(4) For the purpose of proceedings under paragraph (1)(b), evidence that an accused was present at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that he or she encouraged, aided or assisted at the fighting or baiting.
2008, c. 12, s. 1.
Causing damage or injury
446. (1) Every one commits an offence who
(a) by wilful neglect causes damage or injury to animals or birds while they are being driven or conveyed; or
(b) being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it.
Punishment
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months or to both.
Failure to exercise reasonable care as evidence
(3) For the purposes of proceedings under paragraph (1)(a), evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or a bird thereby causing it damage or injury is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the damage or injury was caused by wilful neglect.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 446; 2008, c. 12, s. 1.


What we see above is a clear set of laws and punishments (which of course will always be subject to debate in the courts). Personally I feel that yes, in MANY cases five years in prison is adequate for acts of aggression toward animals. Of course I'd like too see the time increased for extreme cases or repeat offenders.  You may well disagree with me, but the fact remains that in many cases, sexual predators and rapists are subject to less time. Again, the problem lies in the fact that hardly ever is such a punishment administered. Take for example these recent examples :

-Anjalo Abeywickrema, the Windsor, Ontario man who used rubber tubing to fasten a condom to his dog's genitals, received a four month sentence. His dog had to be euthanized as a result of a severe infection.

-Brent Malcolm Connors of Victoria, BC  pleaded guilty last week to beating his puppy to death, and was sentenced to six months.

-Christopher Michael Munroe of Toronto was sentenced to 12 months in jail. In 2010, Munroe was charged and convicted of abusing his girlfriends two Boston Terriers. According to the necropsy, performed at the University of Guelph by a pathologist, "Abbey" had approximately 14 broken ribs, a fractured skull, two detached retinas, severe ulcerations to the feet, and chemical or electrical burns to her anus and vagina. '"Zoe" also suffered significant beatings, particularly to the ribs and abdomen manifesting in swellings hanging from her chest.

Some people will say that the respective punishments above are more than sufficient. Others will say that no matter the punishment, one who is prone to abusing animals will do so regardless.  I tend to believe that if there were more headlines across the country informing us of individuals being placed in custody for half a decade as a result of their actions, we could all breath at least a little easier when pondering the safety of our pets.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below.