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Animal Justice Troubled by Animal Cruelty Charges Against City of Edmonton

Animal Justice October 26, 2018

EDMONTON – National animal law non-profit Animal Justice is deeply troubled by animal cruelty charges laid earlier this month against the City of Edmonton after the deaths of three cats.

According to news reports, the City of Edmonton, the director of the city’s Animal Care and Control Centre, and three other staff are all facing charges under the provincial Animal Welfare Act of allowing an animal to be in distress. The charges carry a maximum fine of $20,000 and a lifetime ban on having custody of an animal.

The charges allegedly stem from an incident that took place on May 18, 2018. According to news reports, three cats were transported in a rubbermaid container and subsequently died. Several months later, in July, the Alberta SPCA received a complaint over the incident. The Alberta SPCA apparently laid charges on October 5, and the accused will appear in court on December 12.

“It’s incredibly disturbing that a government agency entrusted with helping vulnerable animals is now facing very serious charges for harming three cats,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “We are troubled that while the City held a press conference on Thursday afternoon, it refused to elaborate on the circumstances that led to the cats’ dying.”

“It is relatively rare for such a large group of individuals to face charges, including the City and management,” said professor Peter Sankoff, law professor at the University of Alberta and a director with Animal Justice. “There are many unanswered questions, and the public urgently deserves more information about the details of this incident. Was this a systemic issue? What happened between May, when the incident occurred, and July, when the Alberta SPCA received an independent complaint? What type of internal investigation was conducted and who was notified? Why did the public not learn of this incident sooner?”

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For more information, contact:

Peter Sankoff
Board of Directors, Animal Justice
Professor of Law, University of Alberta
psankoff@ualberta.ca

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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Senate Passes Bills to Ban Whale & Dolphin Captivity and Shark Finning

Animal Justice October 24, 2018

OTTAWA – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding the Senate for passing Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. If passed, Bill S-203 would outlaw keeping whales and dolphins in tiny concrete tanks for display.

After years of delay and obstruction, the legislation passed late on Tuesday evening in a surprise vote, and will now move to the House of Commons where it will be sponsored by Green leader Elizabeth May. Bill S-203 was originally introduced by Senator Wilfred Moore in December 2015, then sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair after Senator Moore retired.

Conservative Senate Whip Don Plett repeatedly used procedural delay tactics to slow down the legislation. Fed up with his efforts to block Bill S-203 from reaching a final vote, MPs from all parties joined Animal Justice and Humane Society International at a press conference in June to call for an end to the stalling tactics.

“Canadians understand that whales and dolphins are complex, intelligent beings who deserve far more than a life of boredom and misery in captivity,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “That’s why Bill S-203 has attracted such tremendous support from the public as well as politicians from all parties. Animal Justice is calling on the House of Commons to swiftly pass this groundbreaking measure to protect whales and dolphins. Canada has some of the worst animal protection laws in the western world, but banning whale and dolphin captivity would demonstrate international leadership on animals.”

After passing Bill S-203, the Senate also voted in favour of Bill S-238, the Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act, sponsored by Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald. Bill S-238 also has strong support across party lines.

Fast facts about Bill S-203:

  • Bill S-203 would make it an offence to keep captive, breed, import, or export a whale, dolphin or porpoise. There are exemptions for cetaceans currently in captivity, as well as for rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
  • Bill S-203 was studied for nearly a year by the Fisheries Committee, which heard evidence from countless experts over 17 committee meetings.
  • Only two Canadian facilities still keep whales and dolphins in captivity—Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium. There is only one surviving dolphin at the Vancouver Aquarium after a spate of deaths, and the facility has publicly committed not to acquire any further cetaceans.
  • Over a dozen other jurisdictions around the world have already banned keeping some or all cetaceans in tanks, including Mexico, France, South Carolina, and California. Ontario banned keeping orca whales in 2015, and the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban cetacean display and captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017. (The ban is being challenged in court.)
  • The Whale Sanctuary Project plans to build a seaside sanctuary for retired whales and dolphins in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or Washington.

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals 

Animal Justice

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Bestiality Bill Fails to Deliver on Promise to Fix Outdated Animal Cruelty Laws

Animal Justice October 18, 2018

OTTAWA – The federal government today introduced Bill C-84, legislation to close legal loopholes related to bestiality and animal fighting. Animal Justice supports the spirit of the amendments, but is deeply concerned that the legislation still fails to deliver on government promises to reform Canada’s outdated animal cruelty laws.

Most forms of bestiality in Canada have been considered legal since June 2016, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. D.L.W. that only penetrative sexual acts with animals count as bestiality. The ruling left animals disturbingly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Animal Justice intervened in R. v. D.L.W., and after the decision called on the government to immediately introduce amendments to outlaw all bestiality.

Meanwhile, Canada’s criminal animal cruelty provisions are a century out of date, regularly resulting in animal abusers escaping criminal prosecution for sadistic cruelty. Two years ago, the government voted down legislation that would have modernized animal cruelty laws and brought them into line with modern values, including closing the bestiality loophole. (The legislation, Bill C-246, was introduced as a private member’s bill by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, but was first drafted by the Liberal government in the late 1990s).

In December 2017, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel introduced a private member’s bill to close the bestiality loophole.

“The Liberal government set Canada back by decades when they voted down animal cruelty legislation. At the time, they promised to embark on broad consultations and comprehensive reform of our outdated animal cruelty laws,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “Disappointingly, the new legislation only contains very minor measures related to bestiality and animal fighting. These provisions are welcome, but they should have been introduced as part of a larger package of desperately-needed animal cruelty reforms.

“Animal Justice will seek amendments to Bill C-84, as it does not currently give judges the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future—something that is standard for other animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code.”

“Closing bestiality and animal fighting loopholes is literally the least this government could have done, and still leaves millions of animals in Canada out in the cold. The new law is remarkable for its narrow scope, and for the unacceptable length of time it took to be introduced. Canadians overwhelmingly support stronger animal cruelty laws, and it is shocking that the government has done so little to modernize our severely outdated laws. Why has it taken over two years and two private member’s bills to convince the government to act on bestiality? Where are the broader animal cruelty updates promised by the Liberal government?”

Canada’s animal cruelty laws have not been substantively updated since the 1950s and are considered among the worst in the western world. The new government legislation does nothing to change this.

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Bill C-84 can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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