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Animal Justice Seeks to Intervene in Legal Challenge to Ontario Animal Protection Laws

Animal Justice April 19, 2018

Media Advisory

PERTH, Ontario—National animal law non-profit Animal Justice will ask an Ontario court tomorrow for permission to intervene in a lawsuit that attempts to strike down key aspects of provincial animal welfare laws.

Where: Superior Court of Justice, 43 Drummond Street East, Perth, Ontario
When: Friday, April 20th, 10 am
Who: Animal Justice, represented by executive director Camille Labchuk

The case, Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario, is a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s provincial animal welfare legislation and its enforcement. Specifically, the applicant is asking the court to rule that:

  • granting police powers to the Ontario SPCA, a private charity, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Ontario SPCA is not subject to transparency, oversight, and accountability measures that apply to other law enforcement agencies;
  • search and seizure powers used to protect animals and investigate animal welfare offences are too broad, violate the Charter, and should be struck down; and
  • animal protection offences in provincial law are criminal in nature and fall outside provincial powers, thus unlawfully intruding on federal jurisdiction.

Animal Justice is seeking to intervene because the case has wide-ranging implications for the millions of animals in Ontario confined in farms, fur farms, zoos, and aquariums. The case could also have national ramifications, potentially affecting the validity of animal protection laws and enforcement in other provinces.

If granted leave to intervene, Animal Justice will argue that animals must be protected to the maximum extent possible under the law. To that end, Animal Justice shares many of the applicant’s concerns oger the transparency, oversight, and accountability of animal law enforcement. However, Animal Justice believes that broad search and seizure powers are necessary in the unique context of protecting animals, who are often kept behind closed doors and cannot report illegal abuse themselves.

Animal Justice is represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP. Animal Justice’s executive director Camille Labchuk will appear in court tomorrow on behalf of the organization.

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More information about Bogaerts v Attorney General of Ontario is available on a website maintained by the applicant, found here.

Animal Justice’s application to intervene is available upon request.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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Chatham Dogfighting Charges Thrown Out for Delay

Animal Justice, Dogs February 22, 2018

Two men accused of vicious animal cruelty, dogfighting, and firearm charges in Chatham, Ontario have escaped criminal conviction. A judge in the high-profile case threw out 67 charges against John Robert and Michel Gagnon after ruling that the case had taken too long to reach a trial. Ultimately, the judge stated that delay by the Crown prosecutor meant the case would have taken 30 months and 28 days, instead of the 30 months considered acceptable for a trial of this nature.

The high-profile Chatham dogfighting case captured national news headlines when the dogfighting ring was first busted in 2015. Soon after, the Ontario SPCA asked the court to execute 21 of the rescued dogfighting victims on grounds that they were dangerous pit bulls. After public outcry and support from hockey legend Don Cherry, Animal Justice filed a court application to intervene in the case to save the dogs. Animal Justice fought to ensure the dogs’ interests were represented, as the agency normally tasked with protecting animals was seeking their execution, and the dog owners were accused of committing vicious cruelty offences against them.

Although the court refused to let Animal Justice participate in the case, an agreement was eventually reached to save most of the dogs from execution. Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary covered the cost of sending 18 of the dogs to Dogs Playing for Life sanctuary in Florida, where they would receive training and behavioural assistance.

This case is the latest example of a disturbing trend. Animal cruelty cases infrequently prosecuted, yet even when charges do get laid, they are often withdrawn or stayed prior to trial.

In staying the charges, the judge was critical of the Crown for being too slow to provide evidence to the accused dogfighters. Tragically, the two men are not banned from owning or interacting with dogs in the future. They are now free to obtain additional dogs and other animals, which puts vulnerable creatures at risk of further cruelty. Another individual accused in the case, Robert Tomlin, did plead guilty to one count of animal cruelty last year and was hit with a lifetime ban on animal ownership.

 

 

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Vancouver Chicken Slaughterhouse in Trouble for Endangering Animal Advocates

Animal Justice January 25, 2018

At Animal Justice, we use the law to help animals. Sometimes that means using animal protection laws, but often it means using other laws, unrelated to animals, to hold industry accountable and shine a spotlight on the abuse animals endure. If you can’t get the mafia for murder, get them for tax evasion, right?

In addition to being a nightmare for animals, slaughterhouse work is notoriously dangerous and abusive for workers. Occupational health and safety regulations are frequently engaged by workers suffering from injuries on the job.

The family of a worker from Hallmark Poultry slaughterhouse in Vancouver even sued the company for wrongful death after Bao Min Cheng died of a heart attack following a 13 hour shift. In court documents, the family stated that Hallmark hires non-English-speaking Chinese migrants and has them working up to 70 hours per week.

In recent years, Vancouver residents have increasingly attended vigils at Hallmark to observe and document the crates of animals in their last moments before slaughter. Witnesses are able to stand in a public alley between Hallmark buildings to get an up-close view of the killing operations, and interactions with slaughterhouse officials have been tense, with animal advocates repeatedly assaulted.

Last summer, Hallmark employees were seen driving forklifts carrying crates full of live chickens held high in the air. They even drove the forklifts straight over bystanders’ heads, which is illegal because of the obvious danger it creates. Workplace safety regulations require forklift operators to keep even non-live loads close to the ground out of safety concerns.

With the assistance of Animal Justice, courageous witnesses reported the violations to Work Safe BC, the agency responsible for workplace safety. According to inspection reports obtained under freedom of information legislation, the slaughterhouse has now been reprimanded for its dangerous conduct and ordered to retrain its employees on safe forklift handling requirements.

From the inspection report, Hallmark has now directed “operators that, should they be confronted by persons attempting to block or disrupt their travel, they will refrain from attempting to go forward and will move to a safe location, maintain distance from those person(s), and ensure the lift truck load is grounded.”

This is a small victory for animals and those who speak up for them. If you need assistance reporting violations of any legislation that governs animal-use facilities, please contact us.

 

 

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