Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the committee.
I'm a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, which I will call the CVMA, and I'm currently adjunct professor in the department of health management at the Atlantic Veterinary College, where I teach about animal welfare. I'm a past chair of the CVMA Animal Welfare Committee. I was honoured last year to receive an international animal welfare award from the World Veterinary Association in recognition of my work toward the humane treatment of animals.
Besides animal welfare in general, my particular areas of interest are animal abuse and effective veterinary response, pain management, welfare-friendly veterinary practice and enactment of effective animal welfare legislation. Besides teaching, I've given numerous presentations and written articles on these topics. I was one of two lead authors during the creation of the CVMA website on addressing animal abuse.
The CVMA provides a national and international forum for over 7,200 veterinarians working in all of Canada's provinces and territories as private practitioners, researchers, educators and public servants. In addition, the association counts 7,300 veterinary technicians and technologists as affiliate members. Veterinary practitioners provide services to owners of pets, livestock and other animals. Animal welfare is a priority for the CVMA and its members.
Veterinarians provide unique expertise on the health and welfare of all types of animals, in addition to specific expertise in animal health and disease, and knowledge and understanding of the biology of domesticated and wild animals. Veterinary practitioners provide services and understand the care and management of animals and have practical experience in recognizing signs of suffering in animals.
With respect to animal cruelty and neglect, veterinary practitioners are commonly the first professionals to examine a vulnerable and abused animal, including in cases of sexual abuse and animal fighting. An affected animal may be brought into the veterinary practice by the owner or a family member, or a veterinarian may be asked to assist animal protection officers with an inspection, or a veterinarian may work directly with animal welfare organizations to provide medical care and document evidence after animals have been seized.
The CVMA is a participant in the Violence Link Coalition, which the minister referred to in the committee hearing last week, and is keenly aware of the very well-documented link between abuse of animals and other family members, including child, spousal and elder abuse. To protect the animal victim, and because violence may be a sentinel for other violence that is occurring, it's crucial that veterinarians deal effectively with instances of suspected animal maltreatment.
Through the website that I referred to, the CVMA provides numerous resources to veterinarians on the subject of animal abuse, including sexual abuse and animal fighting. We also have presentations at our annual conference and lots of resources like that. If you wanted to look at that website, it's easy to find: It's just CVMA animal abuse, and it will take you to that.
The CVMA has actively lobbied for a number of years for amendments to the Criminal Code aimed at strengthening the law with respect to animal cruelty. In this regard, CVMA is very pleased to support Bill , which provides an unambiguous definition for bestiality and a much more comprehensive treatment of animal fighting.
The CVMA, along with other interested stakeholders from the agricultural and animal welfare communities, noted in a letter to the in late 2017 that gaps currently exist in the law with respect to bestiality and animal fighting. I know you have seen that letter.
With respect to bestiality, the CVMA believes that Bill will close a gap that currently exists that effectively legalizes sexual abuse of animals that falls short of penetration. As proposed in Bill C-84, bestiality means any contact for a sexual purpose with an animal. Bestiality, also called animal sexual abuse, can involve a distressingly wide range of animals and result in a wide range of suffering and injury, including death.
It may or may not include other physical violence, and there may or may not be visible injuries. Signs that may be seen in animals that have been sexually assaulted include traumatic injury to the anus, rectum, vulva or vaginal area; recurring vaginal or urinary tract infections; foreign objects within the genital/urinary tract; and internal injuries. It's certainly worth knowing that these are the very same types of injuries that are seen in children who are subject to sexual abuse.
Bill recognizes that harmful sexual behaviour is an affront to animal welfare in Canada. In CVMA's view, the bill will help support what is referred to as one welfare, that is, benefiting animals as well as addressing the sexual exploitation of other vulnerable members of society, including children.
With regard to animal fighting, CVMA recognizes that the current legislation does not include as an offence maintaining a facility for animals other than cocks, nor does it recognize as an offence the training of animals to fight. The CVMA is pleased that Bill updates the Criminal Code provisions to deal with these gaps, so as to include all species of animals, and to add the offences of training animals for fighting and profiting from such activities.
For the purpose of this presentation, I will focus on the realities of cockfighting and dogfighting, as these are the species most commonly affected in Canada.
I'm going to talk about sentience for a minute. Animal welfare science has contributed greatly to our understanding of the pain and suffering, both emotional and physical, that animals experience during acts of cruelty. There's abundant scientific support for the existence of emotions in animals, also called sentience, accompanied by the identification and understanding of the brain processes that underlie such emotional experiences. This evidence-based understanding is now being applied in cases of animal cruelty. I'd be more than happy to provide references on this or to answer questions about this.
I'm going to focus now on the suffering involved in dogfighting and cockfighting, where aggressive animals are pitted against each other or against bait animals in a confined space. The fight ends when one animal dies or is cowed or is seriously injured. In dogs, the behaviour of the aggressor includes chasing, biting, wrestling and lunging until one dog is incapable of continuing or is withdrawn. Behaviours of the animal victim, which might be the losing dog or a bait animal, include distress calls, attempts to retreat or escape, defensive behaviour, appeasement gestures, cowering and trembling.
Typical injuries in dog fighting include multiple bites on the face and legs, bite injuries to the belly and groin, or so-called ringing or degloving injuries on the leg when a dog firmly seizes the leg of an opponent who is trying to pull away.
Also typical in fighting dogs are multiple injuries in different stages of healing. These types of injuries are not typical of fighting that may occur between normal dogs. I'd be glad to elaborate on that, if the committee wishes.
I want to speak about the emotional experience of the animals involved, both the aggressor and the victim. They will likely experience anger, fear, panic, helplessness, extreme pain from serious bite and ripping injuries, and lasting pain and discomfort from disabilities, such as nerve, muscle, tendon or bone damage.
You may wonder what a bait dog is, as I've referred to. These are smaller dogs that are used in training dogs for fighting. Cats, rabbits and kittens are also used as bait animals. Clearly, such bait animals suffer extreme injury and fear and panic from which they are unable to escape. Survivors may experience anxiety and fear in circumstances similar to those in which the cruel act took place, such as in the presence of other dogs.
In conclusion, the CVMA is pleased to see notable progress in improving the welfare of animals in the form of amendments to the Criminal Code through Bill . CVMA is actively involved in organizations such as the National Farm Animal Care Council and the National Companion Animal Coalition, as well as with partners such as Humane Canada, allowing us to collaborate with other stakeholders, including industry, to work to ensure that Canada has high standards with respect to the humane treatment of animals.
We are ready to assist the Government of Canada in any way to further enhance legislation to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, and in this way help to build a more humane and compassionate Canada.
Good morning. Thank you.
I am an animal protection lawyer and the executive director of Animal Justice. We work to ensure that animals have a voice in Canada's legal and political systems. We work with legislators and citizens to improve laws protecting animals and we push for the vigorous enforcement of laws that are already on the books.
We also go to court to fight for animals when necessary and it was in this context that we first started working on the issue of bestiality. Animal Justice intervened in the Supreme Court case of D.L.W., which has brought us all here today. We were the only intervenor. We tried to convince the court to interpret the bestiality offence to include all sexual contact with animals. Unfortunately, we weren't successful.
After the D.L.W. decision came out, we heard from countless Canadians, as I'm sure this committee has as well. Most were shocked and had a really difficult time understanding how it could be that something so appalling as the sexual abuse of animals could be considered legal in Canada.
My own response was that, unfortunately, it was no surprise at all, because federal animal cruelty laws in this country haven't been updated since the 1950s. The D.L.W. case was perhaps the most headline-grabbing manifestation of how problematic our cruelty laws are, but there are countless other ways and other examples I could point to that show how our outdated and poorly crafted laws let down animals.
We've fallen very far behind other western nations and very far behind our own values as Canadians as well. People in this country do care deeply about animal protection, and I think that sentiment only grows as we learn more and more about the cognitive and social capacities of animals and more and more about how they suffer at human hands.
I was pleased to hear the say at the last committee meeting that Bill is only a first step towards overhauling our cruelty laws, because clearly, more must be done. When Mr. Erskine-Smith's Bill was defeated, the government committed to a comprehensive review of the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. That was more than two years ago, and we're still waiting for news on that review. The public, and I believe most importantly the animals that are victims of cruelty, are deserving of a timeline and clarity on next steps.
To move on to the bill, Animal Justice supports what Bill does. I won't spend too much time explaining why we do, but I will propose two very straightforward amendments to make Bill C-84 even more effective at protecting individual animals. Rather than just penalizing offenders, we want to ensure that this bill provides tools for law enforcement and judges to protect animals from further harm.
To start with the bestiality provisions, there's no disagreement in this room that bestiality is abhorrent and heartbreaking. We've advocated against it since the D.L.W. case. We assisted Mr. Erskine-Smith with his Bill , which would have closed the bestiality loophole, and with in her Bill , which would have done the same thing.
Bill does close the loophole by ensuring that the term “bestiality” encompasses all sexual contact with animals. That's a very good thing, but it misses one other glaring loophole. That's the fact that right now there's no sentencing tool for judges to ban a person convicted of bestiality from owning, having custody of, or residing in the same location as animals in the future. Judges can already impose this type of ban, which is known as a prohibition order, in the case of somebody who's been convicted of an animal cruelty offence. We think it's very important that judges have this option as a sentencing tool for bestiality offenders as well.
I assume that the reason it wasn't already proposed by the government is simply due to the historical location of the bestiality offence in the Criminal Code. The general animal cruelty offences, apart from bestiality, are in sections 445 through 447, but bestiality is in section 160 of the code, housed with other sexual offences. This is because bestiality historically has been more about punishing deviant sexual behaviour than about punishing or enjoining conduct that's harmful to animals. Prohibition orders—bans on keeping animals—just were never contemplated for sexual offences, so it makes sense that the bestiality offence hasn't had an accompanying tool such as this.
Clearly, however, we're here today because the bestiality offence has evolved and is evolving. Today our rationale for criminalizing it is not just to protect humans but also to ensure the protection of vulnerable animals who cannot consent to sexual conduct. This vulnerability justifies protecting animals from those convicted of bestiality offences as well.
I'm proposing that this can be done by adding the bestiality offence to the sentencing provisions in subsection 447.1(1) of the existing Criminal Code. This would let a judge impose a prohibition order for all of the animal cruelty offences and also the bestiality offence. I will provide the committee with my proposed amendments after this meeting so you can take a look at them.
Many prosecutors will tell you that one of their top priorities in sentencing is not just how much jail time they get for an offender or how much of a fine they can get, but actually getting that prohibition order, so they can keep animals away from individuals convicted of abusing them. I don't think I need to elaborate on why it's a monumentally bad idea to give people convicted of bestiality free and legal access to more animals.
Many other jurisdictions have already empowered judges to use prohibition orders this way in cases of bestiality. This includes our neighbours south of the border: the states of Alaska, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.
I will now move to the animal-fighting provisions. Forcing animals to fight, injure and kill one another for the trifling sake of human entertainment also, obviously, deserves our consideration. I was pleased to review the government's charter statement on this piece of legislation. It recognizes that in the proposed animal-fighting section, section 2(b) of the charter, freedom of expression, may be implicated, to the extent that the bill restrains communication between individuals about issues. The government points out that violent expression, such as promoting animal fighting, does not promote the values underlying section 2(b) of the charter, and so wouldn't be implicated here. We see this as a very important recognition that our laws do value animals and preventing violence against them.
I take no issue with the provisions in the bill, but I do propose considering a further amendment to repeal subsection 447(3) of the Criminal Code. That's the mandatory provision that imposes an automatic death sentence on any birds seized from cockfighting rings. This issue was raised at the committee's last meeting.
There is a clear intent in the Criminal Code to outlaw all types of animal fighting. Paragraph 445.1(1)(b) is the main existing animal-fighting offence, and it prohibits all fighting of animals or birds. The code doesn't distinguish between different types. It doesn't matter what species of animal is used.
The amendment in this bill to subsection 447(1) transforms the offence of keeping a cockpit to one of keeping an arena used for any type of animal fighting, so there is a clear intention to bring all animals in equally. Yet subsection 447(3) requires only the killing of birds seized from animal-fighting rings, not for dogs or other species. In our view, this is completely needless, and it ties the hands of authorities when there may be a better option for the birds.
We think the fate of any bird seized should be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is already done for dogs and other animals rescued from fighting rings. There is no principled reason that roosters or birds forced to fight should be automatically killed. It may be appropriate to rehabilitate them. It may be appropriate to send them to a sanctuary, where they can receive lifelong care and still enjoy a high quality of life.
Repealing the provision wouldn't interfere with the ability of authorities to humanely euthanize birds when that situation is deemed to be appropriate. This is already done with dogs, if the need should arise. Provincial legislation generally empowers enforcement agents to do this, with the assistance of a veterinarian who can make the assessment about the bird's well-being.
I'm concerned that there's a real danger the public might lose confidence in the administration of justice, should they see a situation where an automatic death sentence is imposed on the animals for a seemingly senseless reason.
One recent high-profile dogfighting case in Ontario proves this point. I know Mr. MacKenzie will be familiar with it, as it occurred close to his riding.
There was a bust of a dogfighting ring in Chatham, Ontario, in 2015. I will skip through some of the details, but the Crown and the OSPCA sought an automatic death sentence for most of the dogs implicated in the case. The public was outraged by this. I attended those court proceedings. We had some involvement in the case. There were protests outside the courtroom every time there was an appearance. People were shocked that the dogs could be automatically killed without an individualized and appropriate assessment.
In the end, there was a reasonable solution reached. There were new assessments done on these dogs and most of them were sent to a rehabilitation facility in Florida, where most of them are doing pretty well.
The laws in this case are different, but I use this to illustrate the point that there's no public appetite for the mandatory killing of animals, without considering that they are each individuals and that they have individual circumstances and individual needs.
We already treat offenders as individuals in sentencing. That's a well-established principle in criminal law, so I would say it's only fair to treat animals who are victims as individuals too and treat them with compassion, because their lives do matter.
Here's a quick note on how many birds may have been killed under subsection 447(3). There are no national statistics on animal cruelty prosecutions, so it's difficult to know for sure, but here are a few numbers. A 2008 bust in Surrey, B.C., resulted in 1,270 birds being seized and killed, a 2009 bust in York Region resulted in 74 birds being seized and killed, and a 2016 bust near Cornwall resulted in 38 roosters being seized and killed. We're talking about a significant number of lives.
That's it for my submission. I'll be happy to respond in the question period.
Good morning, everyone. I am appearing before you today to express support for Bill on behalf of humane societies and SPCAs across the country and their millions of public supporters.
Although our name is now Humane Canada, you may know us better as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. We were founded in 1957, in part, out of this very institution. One of our three founders was a senator, Senator Frederic A. McGrand from New Brunswick. He was a visionary whose keen interest in animal protection and child protection led him to identify early on the direct links between animal violence and human violence and to take action to protect animals and to create a safer society.
In April 2018, we changed our name to Humane Canada. We are the only national organization that represents humane societies and SPCAs, the very humane societies and SPCAs in all of your ridings, upon which Canadians depend not only to care for the abused and abandoned animals in our communities but also to enforce the law, to advocate for greater care and protection of animals, and to provide resources, research and humane education. These local and provincial organizations have served the Canadian public for 150 years, making them one of the oldest and most trusted social institutions in our country today.
We represent 56 diverse members from all 10 provinces and two of the territories, from the largest urban centres to the smallest coastal communities. We are proud to represent the largest SPCA on the continent, which is BC SPCA, who you will hear from on Thursday, and some of the smallest, like Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA and the NWT SPCA.
More than 40% of humane societies have a role in the enforcement of our law, so they are community safety officers. They investigate more than 100,000 complaints a year, so Humane Canada has worked for many years to update the Criminal Code of Canada.
As well, it is often your local humane society or SPCA that takes in the victims of these crimes, the animals, to rehabilitate them and find them new homes where they can rest assured of not being victimized any further. Enacting Bill is a key step in reducing the victimization of animals and vulnerable people in Canada. Strengthening bestiality and animal fighting sections of the Criminal Code deals with two egregious crimes that are also closely linked to human violence and that compromise our community safety.
That said, Bill is also modest in that it is only addressing issues in the existing offences that have fallen out of step with current society. I will not focus on the suffering that occurs in violent crimes against animals, because it is already well recognized in Parliament that these two offences are crimes and have been part of the Criminal Code for more than 100 years. Rather, I will focus on how these offences have fallen out of step with society's current understanding of the scope of the crime.
I will start with the crime of bestiality. As you have already heard, due to the recent Supreme Court decision in R. v. D.L.W., a legislative gap has opened up, effectively legalizing sexual abuse of animals that falls short of penetration.
Historically, sexual acts with animals was referred to in the Criminal Code as buggery with an animal. In 1955, Canada's criminal laws were amended to introduce the word "bestiality" into the English version of the code, specifying that sex with animals was a vice that was to be criminally sanctioned. The term, though, was not explicitly defined anywhere in the text.
Further revisions were made to the Criminal Code in 1988, outlawing the forcing of children to commit or watch bestiality, as measures of child protection. What did not change, though, with those amendments was the continuing absence of an explicit definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code.
Meanwhile, our social norms as to the acceptance and morality of animal abuse and sexual exploitation have changed over time, to the point where any touching of an animal for a sexual purpose is clearly recognized as deviant behaviour.
I don't know if you've talked to any of your constituents, but no one wants to even talk about this issue at all. It's that much of a taboo in our society. For example, the Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe project, also known as COPINE, has a tool that they use to identify the severity of child pornography on the child. It categorizes bestiality along with sadism as the most severe offence in the rating system of the severity of images of child abuse and the impact on the victim.
Bestiality on this scale is defined as “pictures where an animal is involved in some form of sexual behaviour with a child”. It does not limit the act to penetration nor does it limit the impact of the act based on a lack of penetration. Sexual acts with animals shares this highest category of severity with sadism, which in this system is defined as “pictures showing a child being tied, bound, beaten, whipped or otherwise subject to something that implies pain”.
It is also clear now that animals are victims of domestic and interpersonal violence, often used as tools to coerce and control children and intimate partners in abusive relationships.
In December 2018, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection released a report on the direct links between animal sexual assault and child sexual assault. In the 38 cases with reported decisions involving animal sexual assault and child sexual assault, the courts did not adhere to the strict legal definition of bestiality as the term was sometimes applied both to penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts. In fact, oral sexual acts and manual stimulation of the animal were more common forms of abuse than penetrative acts.
At the same time, society's understanding of animal behaviour, emotion and psychology have evolved. We now know there are physical and psychological aspects of neglect and abuse, particularly sexual abuse. We understand the scope and implications of consent with regard to sexual acts more today than ever before. Simply put, there can be no consent given on behalf of the animal, and the victim cannot report the crime or testify on its behalf.
With these developments, Canadian society is no longer served by using the historic common-law definition of bestiality as buggery with an animal. The definition of bestiality must be broadened to include any act for a sexual purpose.
Sadly, while it may not be evident to everyone, cases of sexual assault of animals are far too frequent, and humane societies and SPCAs struggle with the limited scope of the current definition. Fixing this loophole has been delayed for too long. As Justice R. Abella observed in her dissent in R. v. D.L.W., “since penetration is physically impossible with most animals and for half the population, requiring it as an element of the offence eliminates from censure most sexually exploitative conduct with animals.” However, since the majority of the court found that this was Parliament's historic intent, an act of Parliament moving beyond the common-law definition of bestiality to include all sexually exploitive conduct with an animal is required to fix this gap. We support the simple amendment before you to fix this egregious problem.
The status quo risks normalizing deviant sexual behaviour, decreasing animal welfare in Canada and ultimately increasing the sexual exploitation of vulnerable members of our society, not only animals, but children as well.
Bill also addresses the historic flaws in the Criminal Code's animal-fighting provisions, which are woefully out of step with current society and inconsistent with the crime of animal fighting as it happens today. Historically, bear-baiting and bull-baiting were both popular blood sports in Canada that were made illegal through the Criminal Code. As these fell out of favour, we saw the rise of cockfighting and dogfighting. Dogfighting is now the predominant form of animal fighting in Canada. However, our laws have not been updated to reflect the evolution of this crime. The limitations and inconsistencies in the current animal fighting provisions are as follows:
First, encouraging, aiding and assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals is already an offence under the Criminal Code. However, the use of the term “at the fighting or baiting of animals” risks our only being able to prosecute those actually caught in the act or at an animal fight. It narrows the offence to just one brief moment in the whole crime. It neglects the training, transporting and breeding of animals, which often are even more cruel than the actual fight itself.
Second, as with other crimes, animal fighting is moving online, and our current laws are not equipped to deal with it. For example, it is no longer necessary to be at an animal fight to be part of the wagering that happens around it. The entire fight may be broadcast online. Worse still is a new form of fighting called trunking. Animals are placed in the trunk of a car to fight to the death while somebody drives them around the streets and stops every once in a while to check in on the animals and report out to all the people betting on the fight. Bill expands the scope by stating “(b) in any manner encourages, aids...arranges, assists at, receives money for or takes part in” an animal fight.
Finally, maintaining a facility for cockfighting is an offence, but maintaining a facility for all other animals is not an offence. It is an inconsistent approach to an activity that has more than one target species.
Dogfighting is also linked to a range of other crimes. The links to gangs and illegal gambling stand out in this regard. According to a report by the ASPCA in the United States, virtually all dogfight raids involve the seizure of illegal drugs and about two-thirds result in the seizure of illegal weapons. Such raids often result in the arrest of offenders who already have outstanding warrants. The same associations with gangs and criminal organizations exist in Canada, but are often underestimated and under-reported.
The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association recently reported that after the 2014 creation of a major case unit, the Ontario SPCA reported three investigations in less than a year which resulted in 11 search warrants executed in different regions of the province and the seizure of 64 fighting dogs, documents, photos, veterinary supplies, electronic equipment and hundreds of items related to training animals to fight.
Since these activities are linked to criminal undertakings and often linked to organized crime as well, it would be logical public policy to eliminate all animal fighting, and the breeding and the training that support it.
In conclusion, we appreciate the minister's commitment before this committee to ensure all protections are extended to the most vulnerable in Canada. Bill is an important step forward in the pursuit of this commitment. It provides greater protection to the most vulnerable in our society: animals and children.
On behalf of the community organizations, the humane societies and SPCAs that enforce these laws in many of your ridings, I urge you to support the swift passage of Bill .
Thank you to all of our witnesses for being here.
I'd like to start with you, Ms. Cartwright and Humane Canada, and acknowledge with thanks your organization's 40 years of advocacy and all of your member humane societies. You do amazing work for which we all should be grateful.
For Canadians watching at home and others, you correctly said that Bill is a modest bill. Dr. Crook has talked about it being a first step and Ms. Labchuk has called for a complete overhaul. Canadians might ask why we are here with these two clauses, essentially. The answer, of course, is that the Liberal majority chose to defeat Mr. Erskine-Smith's Bill , which would have been more comprehensive, which would have done the comprehensive reform that the minister has once again committed to, but we are two years later and no closer to that review. I really appreciate and support Mr. Erskine-Smith's suggestion that there be an all-party, non-partisan commitment to this, some kind of committee, and I would be pleased to be a part of it.
The first question relates to what Ms. Cartwright said about the prevalence, the connection between sadism and bestiality being most impactful upon children. Professor Crook, you also, in a letter supporting Bill , wrote as follows for veterinarians: “There is overwhelming evidence of a direct link between abuse of animals and violence towards people, especially other members of the family—children, spouse, elders.” What is that evidence? Both of you have referred to it. I'd like you to speak a little more, each of you, about where that comes from, perhaps starting with you, Ms. Cartwright.
First, I want to thank our dedicated MP for Parkdale—High Park, Arif Virani, for allowing me this opportunity to speak to all of you today.
Presently, many animal rights laws fall under individual provinces. Unfortunately, this often leaves animals unprotected or protected more in one province than another. In some cases, the animals may be transported between provinces, falling under different legislation in each province. Animal cruelty is wrong, no matter which province it occurs in, and standards for animal rights and protections should be universal across our country. I have some proposals for policy changes on the federal level.
First, animals must be recognized as beings that can feel pain, and animal cruelty crimes should be moved from the property section of the Criminal Code. It is important to note that recognizing animals as sentient beings is not reinventing the wheel. Quebec already recognizes animals in this fashion, and the U.K. has a plan to enact this type of legislation.
To include this language in federal animal rights protection legislation, to me, would be reasonable. Animal cruelty laws currently fall under the property section of the Criminal Code. As animals are sentient beings, this offence should be moved to a new section titled “Offences against animals” in the Criminal Code. Animals are not inanimate property like a car or a watch. The change would recognize animals as thinking, feeling beings and would recognize that it would be wrong to harm them, as opposed to recognizing that it is wrong to damage someone's property. These animals are our families, our fur children, our best friends. They have emotions, feelings and unique personalities. We have the bare minimum guidelines for food, water and shelter. A dog tied down outside on a piece of plywood is acceptable by law at this time.
Second, the language of animal cruelty law must be strengthened to close loopholes that allow abusers to escape penalties. In the current Criminal Code, there are loopholes that allow certain kinds of animal abusers to escape punishment. Many of these loopholes could be closed with amendments to the legislation, as we are doing with this bill by closing loopholes against animal fighting and by providing a definition of bestiality and brutal and vicious killing. We could change the language in current legislation from “wilful neglect” to “gross negligence”, therefore making the act of neglect punishable regardless of whether it was premeditated.
Bill has been tabled and, hopefully, the bill will pass soon.
It is important to add a clause to ban animal ownership if one is convicted of animal cruelty more than once. Any person who has harmed an animal more than once has done so through gross negligence or wilful malice and should never be allowed to own an animal again. Imagine if your dog were stolen, stabbed with a screwdriver and dragged by a tow-chain, and the accused got probation. At the moment, statistics show that jail time is rarely served. Most of the time, the accused just gets probation.
Third, federal animal transportation regulations should be amended. Stiffer laws are required to ensure the safe transportation of animals, free from dehydration due to heat stress and from overcrowding and/or burdening animals in undersized transport trailers.
Fourth, there should be a ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops and third party commercial dealers. Puppies must be available only from rescue centres or reputable dealers where the puppies are always seen with their real mothers. Reputable breeders should be held to high breeding standards and should be licensed, monitored and registered. Restricting the sale of puppies encourages more people to rescue older dogs.
Last August, the U.K. passed Lucy's law. I believe such a law is attainable here. The U.K. has set an example and hopefully Canada will follow.
Fifth, a registered animal offenders list should be created. This list would not need to be publicly searchable. It has been proven that people who commit animal abuse often go on to commit domestic violence and other violent assaults. There is a link between animal, domestic and child abuse. Creating a registry of animal abusers ensures that law enforcement can identify a pattern of abuse earlier. Many states in the U.S. have already enacted such a list, which lessens the burden in Canada to reinvent the wheel. A registry can act as a deterrent. If potential animal abusers know that there may be a permanent searchable record, that may deter them from this abuse.
A registry of animal offenders would also ensure greater protection of animals. Those adopting an animal, those providing care to animals and those providing animal services would be asked to sign affidavits to swear they are not on the list. False statements could be punishable by law.
We know that the Liberal government stands against animal abuse and against abuse of women. I hope that it will be the party of history, with everybody working together in a non-partisan way to continue to make these changes in our law.
Tail docking, ear cropping, declawing of animals and mutilations that are not medically beneficial should be illegal and punishable under the federal law. Obviously, spaying and neutering would be beneficial.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has long opposed these procedures as they are unnecessary and put animals at increased risk of damage, infection, pain and distress. There is no reason why any of these cosmetic procedures should be allowed anywhere in Canada. Some provinces have already enacted bans on these sorts of procedures, in particular, B.C. and Quebec. A ban on unethical and unnecessary mutilation should be country-wide.
Our animal anti-cruelty l laws are outdated. It has been 127 years since these laws have been properly updated. Obviously, views were different then from what they are right now. “To date, politicians have utterly failed to update our laws”. That's a quote from the February 15, 2018 edition of The Globe and Mail.
I personally rescued a dog named Charlie, but that day, he rescued me, and I vowed then to keep going and advocate for updated laws to protect our animals. It is a very personal and passionate thing that I believe. We need to be the animals' voices.
I hope that all the parties can come together, and that some changes can be made. This new law, I believe, will take baby steps towards where we need to go. We still have a lot of work to do.
I'll just leave you with a quote that I love, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Thank you all for listening.
I'm very honoured to be here speaking to this bill. I appeared before the Supreme Court in the D.L.W. case that prompted this particular piece of legislation, and I've given a lot of thought to this particular issue as a result.
First of all, I want to congratulate members of Parliament for taking this on. I understood that the Minister of Justice, on introduction of the bill, said it was done in order to protect animals from harm. I think that's a wonderful change from what we heard of the bill's original origin when it was spoken about in the Supreme Court.
I did want to say, echoing the last speaker, that while this bill is an important piece of the puzzle, it's really not enough. I have done extensive study of animal cruelty laws around the world, and I usually say without much reservation that our federal animal cruelty laws are amongst the very worst in the western world. We are one of the few countries in the western world, and especially in the Commonwealth, that have not made substantial reform of our animal cruelty laws within the last decade.
The U.K., Australia, New Zealand and other countries have made radical studies and attempts to clarify problems. I can tell you that as someone on the ground working with these issues, our animal cruelty laws cause real problems for prosecutors, investigators and the courts. That is a direct result of Parliament's failure to reform them, and to make sense of some of the provisions that simply do not work. I would ask this committee to look at doing those things in future.
I want to talk briefly about why I believe this bill fits very nicely with the way in which the criminal law is evolving, and then perhaps comment on one or two of its shortcomings.
It is good that this is a shift, that we are changing bestiality from what used to be called a morality offence. The reason is that there are very few pure morality offences left in the Criminal Code and those that are left are very difficult to adjudicate for the courts. Finding the range of conduct that is said to fall within this particular wrongful morality is very complex and the courts don't like it.
The Supreme Court of Canada has indicated a clear preference [Technical difficulty—Editor] morality. That's what this change to bestiality is doing, in that it's assessing the harm against animals that takes place when you involve them in a sexual offence. They are vulnerable beings that do not have the ability to consent. It does so by recognizing that harm does not have to mean actual harm. That's an important point to look at when we look at what this bill does. Certain defenders of the status quo have recognized, and I think they have recognized correctly, that not every sexual act involving an animal causes actual harm. I think that is undoubtedly true. I mean harm to the animal when you're talking about the harms in question.
I wish to point out to the committee that the fact that certain sexual acts involving animals may or may not cause harm to the animal doesn't matter. I want to emphasize that our modern view of criminal law recognizes that there are times when we are allowed to criminalize the risk of harm. That's what I think this bill actually does. Where the risk is high enough, and the benefit of the act of question is low enough, it is acceptable to criminalize even if actual harm does not occur.
A good example that matches with what this bill is going to do involves polygamy. It's recognized in the court case that looked at whether or not polygamy was constitutional, that in an ideal world, it is possible to have polygamous marriages that in and of themselves don't cause harm. However, the court in the reference recognized that the risks of the act of polygamy across the board are high enough, and the people involved are vulnerable enough, that the criminal law is entitled to step in and say, “This act itself needs to be banned in all instances, even if it doesn't cause harm in every single situation.”
This is the exact same thing with bestiality. Not every sexual act involving an animal is going to cause harm to the animal, but given the special vulnerability of animals, the private nature of this abuse, and most importantly, the fact that animals will never be able to testify or relate the actual harm or conduct that they suffered, the risks are simply too high, given that the activity provides so little benefit to Canadian citizens.
Finally, evidence of psychological harm, which I believe has been shown through studies looking at bestiality, are very difficult to substantiate, given the burden of proof and the difficulty of obtaining sufficient evidence.
The idea that you could leave bestiality as a harm-based offence and only prosecute in instances of harm I believe is a flawed way of looking at this, given the nature of the conduct in question and the difficulties involved with prosecuting offences involving animals. Animals are the most vulnerable beings in our care and in our society. Given the lack of benefit and the message that is sent if we allow continued sexual conduct involving those that can never consent and cannot resist, given the power imbalances between humans and animals, a complete ban not only accords with our developing view of criminal law theory, but it also makes good sense.
I'm happy to take any criminal law related questions involving this bill, but let me just mention one concern that I have. It involves the way bestiality is separated from the other animal protection-based offences of the code. It's very clear that bestiality simpliciter—and I define that specifically as being separated from bestiality involving the presence of children—has never been viewed as a sexual offence even though it's contained in the sexual offences section of the code.
I say that because if you look at section 161 of the Criminal Code, which involves prohibition orders and special orders against sex offenders, you see that you cannot even order a ban involving sex offenders on someone who has committed bestiality simpliciter. The reason for this is that the person is not a sex offender in the ordinary way that we think of sex offenders, so you don't need to keep him away, necessarily, from children and other beings, or at least that is what Parliament has said in the past when it enacted section 161. I think that Parliament today is correct in recognizing that bestiality simpliciter is mostly about animals and about protecting them, and in order for that to make sense, it needs to be linked to the punishment sections that involve repeat offenders involving animals.
I think it is a large mistake not to link this particular offence to the prohibition order section of the code in section 447.1, which allows the court to impose prohibition orders on those who commit bestiality against animals. It seems to me that those who abuse the trust of animals through sexual exploitation simply should not have access to them any further, and whether that is done through a prohibition order, it's really the most effective way to complete that type of sentence upon an offender.
I wish to thank you very much for having me come before the committee today. I'm happy to take any questions that I can assist with.
I think it does. I think the whole signal of this bill, and certainly the statements that have been made surrounding its enactment, go to the idea that....
It's twofold. I have focused on harm. It's interesting to note that in Switzerland and other jurisdictions that have dealt with bestiality, they've done it on the basis of animal dignity, essentially moving forward to suggest that animals are beings and we need to respect their physical and psychological integrity. As I referred to in my opening statements, we are sending the message that animals are vulnerable and that animals should not be exploited for sexual gratification. That was the message I sent to the Supreme Court when I spoke on D.L.W. Again, I should point out that I'm focusing more on the harm. I'll get back to that in just a second.
I would say that section 160, as the proposed amendment makes it, is also consistent with Parliament's treatment of sexual offences. That is an important statement to make as well. Parliament's treatment of sexual offences has been very clear: Those who cannot consent cannot be touched sexually. That is essentially what is stated in the Criminal Code with respect to, obviously, human beings. This just harmonizes that now. It's essentially saying that animals, which can never consent—they don't have the capacity to do so—are therefore being treated in the same way. I think it reflects our bigger statement about how we view sexuality, that sexuality must be between two people who are capable of consenting together.
I'll go back to the harm issue and what I was getting at with the analogy to polygamy, and there are other offences that do this as well. I've been engaged in debates with various people. There are people out there—I don't know if they're speaking in front of the committee—who are interested in bestiality. They seem to suggest that some animals are not harmed by this, and that so long as it is done in a way that's respectful of the animal and doesn't involve physical harm, we should not be concerned. That is the argument I've heard, that we should let people do what they wish; this is a libertarian society, and therefore, so long as the animal's not being harmed, we shouldn't be concerned.
My point back to that is twofold. First of all, it's very difficult to know whether they're correct. There are a lot of studies showing that the sexual touching and involvement of animals can cause psychological harm to the animal. We have studies that show that in the first place. The second point I wish to make, which was where I started with my opening remarks, is that it doesn't really matter whether it causes harm in an individual case. That's the point I was really getting at. Whether you can do this safely or in a way that isn't going to hurt the animals is completely beside the point.
We are entitled to do this because the risks of harm, when you are talking about animals as a group, as a class, are simply too large, especially when you're dealing with a category of being who cannot speak. You'll never be able to voice the alarm. It's the same thing when you're talking about very young children; still, at some point, those children will be able to voice the alarm and express what happened to them. Animals will never have that ability. As a result, the risks and the difficulties of actually investigating these things are simply too high. As a result, it makes sense to have a complete ban.
That's where I was going on this.
It's an interesting question. I've never thought of it in quite that way. I'll just say this.
First of all, the way it's done under provincial law really is because there are so many orders issued under provincial law simply because most prosecutions involving animal cruelty—it's not technically animal cruelty, animal distress or whatever—are undertaken under the provincial provisions.
I would just start by saying one of the reasons for that is how ineffective the federal cruelty provisions are. Let's just leave that aside. Of course, the power to order a prohibition already exists in section 447.1. What we're talking about here is extending it mostly from that section to apply as well in situations of bestiality.
The interesting question is whether or not section 447.1 as it currently stands is constitutional. I'm not aware of any challenge that's ever been brought to this particular provision. My feeling is that it does reflect the general idea in our animal cruelty provisions right now that ownership of animals involves some degree of obligation. There is a duty to keep animals, even under the federal law, in a way that is safe from harm.
I think section 447.1 reflects that animals are not strictly property. That statement has been expressed numerous times in the jurisprudence by judges who recognize that there's a little bit more to it than that. There is certainly an obligation to animals in a way that doesn't exist for any other property.
Again, it's difficult to speculate on what would happen if a constitutional challenge were brought, but I do think that the obligation aspect of what exists in our federal cruelty provisions would be enough of a linchpin for the courts to say that it's more than just property. The prohibition goes to the idea that there are real vulnerabilities in existence here, which have a public dimension to them, going beyond the property aspect.
I guess the long and short of it would be, if this was only about property, then the federal government couldn't legislate on cruelty at all. I think that the public dimension of that is what allows the courts to do that. I think that public dimension would extend into the sentencing process involving prohibition orders. That would be my guess. Again, it's difficult to speculate, but that would be my guess.