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Animal Protection Groups Ask to Intervene in Vancouver Aquarium Lawsuit

Animal Justice August 16, 2017

VANCOUVER – Animal Justice and Zoocheck are seeking leave at the British Columbia Supreme Court to intervene in the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. The Aquarium is suing in an attempt to overturn the bylaw banning the Aquarium from confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in its facility in Stanley Park.

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. The two organizations filed a joint intervention application this week.

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are deeply troubled by the Aquarium’s legal arguments, in particular the claim that its practice of confining cetaceans in captivity is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If confining animals in captivity is found to be a constitutionally-protected form of expression, there could be drastic consequences for animals. It would become difficult, if not impossible, to pass laws protecting animals from being confined as those laws would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

If granted leave to intervene, Animal Justice and Zoocheck will submit to the court that the capture, captivity, and confinement of cetaceans should not be considered ‘expression’. The organizations rely on well-established case law stating that expression that is violent or is connected with violence is not protected by section 2(b) of the Charter. Capturing and confining whales and dolphins are forms of violence, in that they involve the coercion and involuntary captivity of living beings who have complex thought, the ability to suffer, and the capacity for self-determination. Confining cetaceans has been shown to cause significant physical and psychological harm to them.

“The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim in this troubling lawsuit could permanently undermine animal protection laws right across Canada,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice.  “We hope to have an opportunity to explain this to the court.”

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Farris Vaugh Wils & Murphy LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.


The Animal Justice and Zoocheck application to intervene can be downloaded here.

The Aquarium’s petition can be downloaded here.

The Parks Board’s response to the petition can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice

Julie Woodyer
Campaigns Director

Animal Justice

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Law Professor and Students File Lawsuit to Stop Montreal Rodeo

Animal Justice May 24, 2017

Law professor Alain Roy and a group of law students from the Université de Montreal filed a lawsuit today, asking the Superior Court of Quebec to impose an injunction to stop the Nomadfest Urban Rodeo from taking place this summer.

Montreal has come under fire from animal lawyers, advocates, and veterinary experts for its plans to hold rodeo events this August as part of the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations. Rodeo events are incredibly cruel to animals, causing intense fear, suffering, pain, and risk of injury—all for the sake of cheap entertainment. Animals don’t perform willingly in rodeos; they are coerced into running, bucking, and other behaviours through fear, pain, and brutal training methods. The Montreal rodeo is expected to include bull riding, and bareback and saddle bronco riding.

The lawsuit argues that the event violates provisions of the Quebec Civil Code as well as the Animal Welfare and Safety Act. Amendments to Quebec’s Civil Code introduced in 2015 were groundbreaking, recognizing that animals aren’t just “things” but are “sentient beings”. Quebec law protects animals from pain, suffering, and extreme anxiety, and allows for large fines and even jail time for those convicted of harming animals under the legislation.

The rodeo is set to take place in the Old Port from August 24-27. Montreal has no historical or cultural connection to rodeo, and a petition by the Montreal SPCA agains the rodeo has already gathered over 22,000 signatures. Over 600 veterinarians and vet techs have also signalled their opposition to the Montreal rodeo.

Animal Justice applauds Professor Roy and his students for their work to use the law to shut down animal cruelty. Rodeo events have no place in a compassionate society!

Animal Justice

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Charges Dropped Against Police Officer Who Rescued Kitten from Meth User

Animal Justice May 11, 2017

Compassion won the day in Oshawa, Ontario this week after police prosecutors finally withdrew a disciplinary charge against an officer who helped a kitten in distress. Shockingly, police officer Beth Richardson was being prosecuted by the police for a simple act of kindness—rescuing a kitten named Tia, whom she found cowering under a chair at the home of a meth user.

According to the notice of hearing, officer Richardson had been dispatched to a home where a woman had been using crystal meth for several days. She saw Tia hiding underneath a chair, believed the kitten was at risk and not being properly cared for, took Tia to a veterinarian, but was forced to return her to the home later when the meth user’s boyfriend called to complain.

When news of the prosecution hit the media, the public was shocked that a police officer could get in trouble for protecting an animal. That’s when Animal Justice stepped up to help officer Richardson fight the charge. Lawyers for Animal Justice filed a motion to intervene in the case at a hearing last December to explain why the legal system should be used to help animals, not punish compassionate people who try to protect them. As a cat, we argued that Tia must not be treated like a piece of property but as a living being with needs of her own.

Animals won a huge victory at that hearing when Animal Justice successfully convinced police prosecutors that rescuing an animal is an honourable action—not discreditable conduct. The police also acknowledged that their duty to preserve life includes animal life as well as human beings. Yet they refused to halt the prosecution, claiming officer Richardson did not properly document her actions in rescuing Tia.

On Tuesday, May 9 the police finally withdrew the charge against officer Richardson. According to a joint statement, the police now acknowledge that the officer was “genuinely concerned about the welfare of an animal in distress”, and she has agreed to continue to “promote animal welfare in the community.”

The best part? Tia has since been adopted into another home, and her new family brought her over for a joyful reunion with officer Richardson after the charge was dropped.

Animal Justice thanks officer Richardson for the love and compassion she showed to Tia, a vulnerable animal in need. Her actions are a model for all law enforcement officers. Compassion wins!

Photos courtesy of Mary-Chris Staples.

Animal Justice

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