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Parliamentary Committee Supports Animal Justice’s Changes to Bestiality & Animal Fighting Laws

Animal Justice February 22, 2019

The House of Commons Justice Committee approved changes proposed by Animal Justice to Bill C-84, an animal cruelty bill that would improve laws related to bestiality and animal fighting.

Bill C-84 would make all sexual abuse of animals illegal. Currently, non-penetrative sexual contact with animals is not a criminal offence, in the wake of a shocking Supreme Court decision in 2016. But originally, the bill didn’t give judges the ability to ban a person convicted of bestiality from owning or residing with animals in the future. Animal Justice proposed this amendment earlier this month while testifying before the Justice Committee, and and Members of Parliament unanimously adopted this critical change at a meeting this week.

Animal Justice also encouraged the Justice Committee to repeal a provision of Canada’s animal fighting laws that imposed an automatic death sentence for birds rescued from a cockfighting ring. Animal Justice told the Committee that birds forced to fight deserve our compassion, and should be assessed as individuals to see if they can receive veterinary attention and be sent to live in the care of an animal sanctuary. The Justice Committee approved this change as well, potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of innocent birds from unfair execution.

Now, Bill C-84 will move back to the House of Commons for a final vote, and will then be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk and board member Peter Sankoff testified before the Justice Committee in support of Bill C-84, and we are grateful to committee members from all political parties who worked together to strengthen this legislation by accepting our amendments. However, Canada’s animal cruelty laws still fall very far behind the rest of the western world, and Animal Justice will keep fighting for stronger laws that better reflect Canadian values of compassion and respect for animals.

 

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Photo: Sandy Sharkey Photography

Animal Justice

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Government (Finally) Moves to Close Bestiality Loophole

Animal Justice October 18, 2018

After a courtroom showdown and years of advocacy by Animal Justice, the federal government finally introduced legislation today to close Canada’s bestiality loophole. The new law also strengthens animal fighting offences. Animal Justice welcomes this news, but believes it is still not enough. The legislation still fails to deliver more comprehensive reform to Canada’s outdated animal cruelty laws.

Over two years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that most forms of bestiality are not illegal under existing animal cruelty laws. Animal Justice intervened in the case to fight bestiality, and urged the federal government to take immediate action to update the laws once the shocking decision was released.

Yet it took years to see action. In 2016, the Liberal government killed a bill introduced by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith that would have updated Canada’s archaic animal cruelty laws and addressed bestiality. The public was outraged, and in response government officials promised to launch broad consultations and improve the animal cruelty laws.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel introduced a private member’s bill to address bestiality in 2017, and sponsored a parliamentary petition started by Animal Justice that gathered thousands of signatures. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Canadians have contacted the government, seeking stronger laws.

Although the government has finally taken action, Animal Justice believes that animals deserve far more than what they got. Canada still has some of the worst animal cruelty laws in the western world, and this legislation does nothing to change that. Surprisingly, the new laws don’t even give courts the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future, leaving vulnerable animals at risk of ongoing sexual abuse.

In the news release announcing the law, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould emphasized that the bill wouldn’t interfere with “farming, hunting, and trapping practices,” suggesting the government continues to listen to animal-use industries that profit from animal cruelty, rather than listening to the overwhelming majority of Canadians that support strengthening animal cruelty laws.

Animal Justice will push for changes to the new legislation to ensure those convicted of bestiality cannot own animals in the future, and will continue to fight for an overhaul of Canada’s last-century animal cruelty laws.

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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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