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Commonly asked questions about the amendments

  1. I am an avid hunter and also enjoy fishing. Will this legislation make hunting and fishing an animal cruelty offence?
  2. Will boiling a live lobster be considered an animal cruelty offence?
  3. Will removing animals from the property section give animals rights and elevate them to human status?
  4. Is it true that it is not currently an offence to kill a stray animal?
  5. Why are animal welfare groups so concerned with the wording of “wilful neglect” in the current legislation?*
  6. Shouldn’t industry groups such as farmers and slaughterhouses be exempt from animal cruelty laws?
  7. When was the current legislation enacted? Why is there a need for new legislation anyway?
  8. I have heard that amendments to the current animal cruelty legislation contained in Bill C-229 will result in animal rights activists carrying out private prosecutions against hunters, anglers, farmers, and other animal users.
  9. What animals are currently protected under animal cruelty legislation?

It should be noted that moving animal cruelty offences out of the property section does NOT impact on the ownership of animals in society. Animals will continue to be purchased and sold and, therefore, owned. In fact, Bill C-229 continues to refer to owners of animals.

Finally, removing cruelty to animals from the property section does not remove any of the common law defenses available and applicable to animal users. Section 8(3) of the Criminal Code states that the common law defenses of “legal justification”, “lawful excuse” and others apply to the entire Criminal Code.

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Bill C-227 introduces the term ‘negligent’ instead and defines it as “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use.” Removing the requirement of intent would enable judges to more readily prosecute those accused of seriously neglecting their animals and inflicting unnecessary suffering.

“Lawful excuse” permits the pursuit of lawful activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and farming. The current legislation has not been used to prosecute standard industry practices and there is nothing in the proposed legislation that would change that.

It is important to note that the concept of “unnecessary suffering” inherently permits causing substantial pain to animals as a defense if it was necessary to do so to achieve a lawful purpose, as confirmed by the Supreme Court case of R. v. Menard.

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There are some serious deficiencies with the archaic language of the current legislation that prevent abusive acts towards animals from being prosecuted. The current law considers animals as property; offers less protection for stray or wild animals; applies differently to different types of animals; makes it very difficult to prosecute cases of animal neglect; and does not make it an offence to kill animals brutally or viciously. Because animal cruelty crimes are currently property offences no different than vandalism to your car, the courts don’t treat them seriously enough.

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