Preventing cruelty to animals

Preventing cruelty to animals

April, with the promise of better days ahead, is a good time to highlight cruelty to animals, celebrate recent “wins” and focus on what more we can do.

April 1, 2020

Cruelty to animals is a reality that stains every month of the year but there’s some reason for cautious optimism. Humane Canada has been compiling statistics on animal shelters for 25 years. In their most recent report, this organization which brings together a large community of animal welfare associations across the country noted a continued (albeit slight) downward trend in intake compared to previous years. But the numbers are still high: 81,000 cats and 30,000 dogs were admitted to Canadian shelters in 2018 and 3.4% of dogs and 1.7% of cats were taken in for abuse.

Legislative victories in Canada
Canada used to be one of the largest importers of shark fins outside of Asia. The “anti-shark fin” law made the trade of shark fins and shark fin products illegal, and was passed in June 2019. While another law, also enacted in 2019, made all forms of sexual abuse of animals illegal and tightened laws pertaining to animal fighting. You can find out more about recent advances against cruelty to animals from Humane Canada.

What constitutes animal abuse?
According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association animal abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and the staging of animal fights. These troubling categories are part of wider social issues which pollute the lives of animals, people and entire communities. Increasingly, we are growing to understand the underlying link between the abuse of animals, children and domestic violence. At the end of 2017, the Canadian Violence Link Conference brought over 200 animal and human health care professionals together to help build “a deeper understanding of how the co-investigation of animal and human abuse can allow for early intervention and improved outcomes for both human beings and animals.”

How is animal abuse legislated in Canada?
At the Federal level, the Criminal Code provides oversight for causing intentional and unnecessary pain and suffering to animals. This legislation was created in 1892 and has undergone only minor changes since then. Organizations across the country agree that the Criminal Code must be updated to better protect animals. Animal protection is also legislated by the provinces. Those with stronger Animal Protection acts, such as Alberta, rely on provincial legislation as a framework to prosecute and prevent cruelty more than the Criminal Code.

What can we do?
If you have witnessed cruelty to an animal, contact your local SPCA or your RCMP (if you live in Ontario). If the prevention of cruelty is a priority for you, ask your federal, provincial and municipal representatives to support the modernization of anti-cruelty laws. You can also donate to your local SPCA, volunteer time and harness social media to advance the cause. Together we can make a difference!

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