The legal protection of animals is not strong enough in Canada • Troy Media

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When it comes to laws protecting pets and livestock, Canada gets a failing grade.

Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere

In 2020, an international organization called World Animal Protection gave the country a D, placing it among a group that includes Tanzania, Peru, and the United States.

According to Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, a doctoral candidate in law who is currently finishing his thesis on the subject after receiving an Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fellowship last year, the reason for the dismal ranking comes down to the “shared competence” of Canadian federalism. .

Animal welfare is mostly relegated to the provinces and their “hodgepodge” of law enforcement agencies, with few “abysmal” federal regulations guaranteeing a consistent standard of protection, says Rodriguez Ferrere.

“There are virtually no regulations at the federal level – a few Criminal Code animal cruelty provisions, and that’s about it.”

At the provincial level, there are regulations closer to “voluntary codes” for the agriculture industry that rely on self-reporting rather than legal protections, and a weakly enforced Animal Welfare Act for animals. servants.

Pets, like dogs and cats, are treated differently than livestock, he says. Humane societies have little jurisdiction over the application of animal welfare in agricultural practices, and agricultural regulations do not cover companion animals.

“We should definitely get rid of those distinctions, but it would be a major shift in thinking.”

Alberta is doing a bit better than most provinces, he says. But even there, human societies are overstretched and underfunded. Much of Alberta’s law enforcement is the responsibility of the Humane Societies in Edmonton and Calgary, but their peace officers are funded primarily by donations, with very little coming from the province.

“That means there’s an area of ​​criminal law that we’ve essentially devoted to charity, and that’s deeply problematic.”

As a result, the Edmonton Humane Society announced that it would stop enforcing Alberta’s Animal Welfare Act in 2019. The decision prompted the city’s police to create an Animal Cruelty Unit headed by two officers who are dedicated to reducing abusive behavior towards pets and domestic animals.

“But it’s a very reactive response,” says Rodriguez Ferrere. “If it were any other area of ​​criminal law – traffic enforcement or domestic violence, for example – there would be massive outcry.”

But the gap in enforcement of animal protection laws goes well beyond concern for animals, he says, representing an indicator for law enforcement in general.

“Even if you don’t have the best interests of animals in mind, it starts to erode the trust we have in the legal system and the Constitution,” he says. There is also a clearly established link between animal cruelty and abusive behavior towards humans.

Rodriguez Ferrere draws a parallel between Canada and his home country of New Zealand, which relies almost exclusively on its SPCA to enforce animal welfare laws, with just 70 inspectors for a country of five million. people and hundreds of millions of animals.

The solution, says Rodriguez Ferrere, includes more funding from the federal and provincial governments and greater public awareness of the problem.

“We need more resources for this, as well as a paradigm shift in thinking. Animals hold a special and vulnerable position in society, and we really need to think about how we protect them. »

| By Geoff McMaster

Geoff is a reporter for the online magazine Folio at the University of Alberta. The University of Alberta is an editorial content provider partner of Troy Media.


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