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Federal legislation

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Canada is widely considered to be a progressive, civilized country with plenty of laws on the books to protect its citizens from various forms of violence, disorderly conduct, theft etc. But it has a dismal record when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect.

Take action!

Visit our Stop Animal Abuse campaign website to send a message to the Justice Minister today demanding changes to Canada’s inadequate cruelty law.

While countries all over the world have updated or enacted effective animal cruelty legislation, Canada remains in the Victorian era with a federal animal cruelty law that was introduced in 1892. The current animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada offer greater protection for cattle and other working animals; less protection for wild or stray animals than for animals that are “kept for a lawful purpose”; and make it extremely difficult to prosecute cases of neglect and dog fighting.

The wording “willful neglect” requires proof that an accused intended to harm or kill his or her animal(s). Even in cases where dozens of animals have been starved to death — which requires a lengthy period of severe neglect — judges will usually conclude that the accused didn’t actually intend for the animal(s) to suffer or die and will find them not guilty.

It is an offence to engage in animal fighting but not to train animals to fight nor to accept money from animal fighting. The requirement to catch perpetrators in the act makes it very difficult to prosecute cases of dog fighting. It is highly unlikely that former NFL star Michael Vick would have been prosecuted for dog fighting if he lived in Canada.

In contrast, Great Britain’s Animal Welfare Act makes it an offence to cause, take money for, publicize, promote or be present at an animal fight, as well as to train animals to fight, to keep premises for animal fighting or even to possess a video of animal fighting. The New Zealand Animal Welfare Act requires that animal owners take all reasonable steps to ensure that the physical health and behavioural needs of animals are met. The law in Croatia prohibits neglecting an animal “in terms of its health, housing, nutrition and care”.

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