Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone.
Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, we thank you for giving us this opportunity to provide a presentation on Bill .
My name is Lianna McDonald. I am the Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Again, joining me is Monique St. Germain. She's our General Counsel.
We are here this morning to express our agency's strong support for the bill and to speak specifically about the offence of bestiality.
We have had the opportunity to listen to many of the proceedings so far. We will provide some different information for the committee to consider, coming from the unique lens that our organization has, tied to crimes against children. We will provide examples of what we have seen in real images and in case law.
Our organization is a national charitable organization dedicated to the personal safety of all children. We have been doing this important work for over 30 years.
Our agency operates cybertip.ca, which is Canada's national tip line to report the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The tip line is a central part of the Government of Canada's national strategy for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
Cybertip launched 16 years ago. Its primary role is to receive and analyze reports on potentially illegal material or activities regarding online crimes against children. It is through this work that our agency witnesses first-hand the ways in which children are being sexually victimized. Since its inception, the tip line has processed over 400,000 reports, and the number of reports has increased steadily over the years. The tip line is now processing, on average, 10,000 reports a month.
To combat the growing online proliferation of child sexual abuse material, our organization developed a new tool called Project Arachnid. This automated crawler and platform helps reduce the online availability of child sexual abuse material, breaking the cycle of abuse. Through Project Arachnid, over 1.6 million notices have been sent to social media and content providers hosting this egregious material around the world.
The vast majority of the images seen through the tip line depict very young prepubescent children, many of whom are preverbal and cannot tell anyone about the abuse. We also know that most children who appear in the sexual abuse material have never been identified by law enforcement.
In 2016, we conducted an analysis of over 40,000 unique images and videos classified by the tip line as child pornography, and 50% of the images involved explicit sexual activity and extreme sexual assaults against children. Among the extreme acts were those involving bestiality. Over a five-year period, Cybertip assessed 192 different sex acts involving an animal and a child, and 80% of those acts did not involve penetration. Oral sex acts were the most commonly seen, in 55% of the bestiality images.
You have already heard from a prior witness that bestiality content along with sadistic material is considered the most harmful form of child sexual abuse material. The following two examples provide a lens into the stark reality of what bestiality looks like when children are involved. While these examples may be difficult to hear, they are harder to see and worse to endure.
In the first example a young girl around eight years old is sitting on a blanket beneath an animal. The image is focused on her and she's completely naked. The girl has one hand around the animal's penis and her mouth around the other end of the penis. In the second example yet another young girl is laying on a bed with her arms behind her head, her legs are spread open and a dog is appearing to lick her genital area.
To better understand the unique challenges faced by survivors of child sexual abuse material, our agency conducted an international online survey. The results were released in 2017 and were based on responses from 150 survivors from around the world. While we did not ask specifically about bestiality, a number of survivors told us their abuser threatened to harm pets or other animals in their life as part of the abuse. To quote from one survivor, “They killed my pets, which they gave to me as a present beforehand in order to make me compliant.” Another survivor said, “I was deeply ashamed. And I had also abused other children/animals myself and was afraid I'd go to prison if it were discovered.”
What was clear from the survey was that all survivors of child sexual abuse imagery face lifelong impacts from having their abuse recorded.
The sexual abuse is horrible in and of itself, but when the abuse includes forcing a child to participate in a sexual act with an animal, the trauma to the child is compounded.
Cybertip also receives reports on online luring. For example, last year the tip line received a report about a young teenager who had been communicating online with an individual. This individual not only asked the child for nude images but also directed the child to engage in digital penetration of the family pet. This is just one of the many examples of the ways in which technology is being used and misused to manipulate and coerce children.
People who seek to victimize children and animals do not limit themselves to acts of penetration, as defined in R. v. D.L.W. With the rate at which we are finding new child sexual abuse material, we know that this is a problem, one that is likely growing. Until the law is changed, children and animals are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.
My colleague Monique has a few comments to make.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, for the opportunity to speak today.
Immediately following the D.L.W. decision, our agency undertook legal research to learn more about the cases involving bestiality that have been through the Canadian court system. We limited our research to reported criminal case law, given that D.L.W. was a criminal case.
The key takeaway from the research is that non-penetrative activity was more common in the cases that we reviewed, especially when a child was involved. We were struck by the severity of the cases that we found and by the role technology is increasingly playing in facilitating this type of offending.
One thing to highlight is the difficulty we experienced in obtaining details of the offence. Many of us will shy away from discussing this topic. From the cases we reviewed, this includes judges when they're writing their decisions.
To give you an example, in 2016, a dangerous offender hearing was held in Ontario pertaining to Shayne Lund. Lund's offending spanned almost a decade. By the time he was caught, there were several human and animal victims. Despite that, and even though the case was prosecuted after the D.L.W. decision, very little detail about his animal abuse offending was included. The court referred only to sexual offences against animals and instructing young girls to have sexual activity with animals. This is not enough information to understand the true scope of what went on. It is imperative that we learn more about the way in which this type of offending occurs and how it ties in with other offending.
Another case example that arose after D.L.W. is an offender I will refer to as J.D. In October 2018, he pleaded guilty to multiple child pornography-related offences. J.D. had three other co-offenders. A reported decision has been issued for one of those co-offenders; this was his wife. The judgment describes a homemade bestiality video the two of them made with their dog, as follows.
The dog licks Ms. D.M.'s vagina while she masturbates, and Mr. J.D. tells her various acts that he would like to do with the children, including raping their daughter. Ms. D.M. continues to masturbate throughout.
Ms. D.M. was sentenced for four sexual offences, including a “making child pornography charge” that pertained to four videos that show her sexually abusing their 18-month-old son.
Before closing, I will list four reasons that broadening the definition will improve the situation for both children and animals.
First, the bestiality offence, as framed in D.L.W., does not reflect how bestiality is actually happening. Penetration is not the most common activity, nor is it even possible in some instances.
Second, sexual assault laws have been reformed over the years such that penetration has been removed as a requirement from virtually every sexual offence in the Criminal Code except bestiality and incest. It is well accepted that one's sexual integrity can be violated by any non-consensual sexual contact and that penetration is not a requirement.
Third, the definition of bestiality impacts the application of many other provisions in the Criminal Code. All is set out in our paper.
Fourth, the criminal record of a convicted person should reflect the fact that the contact involved a victimized animal. The best way to do this is to have such contact prosecuted under a provision designed for the crime.
In closing, we see the evidence of bestiality through imagery. We know that most of the children we have seen have not been through the criminal justice system and that the scope of this problem is likely much bigger than any of us realizes. We strongly believe that when any form of bestiality is part of a child's abusive experience, it compounds the trauma and is a separate and distinct harm deserving of its own sanction.
My name is Teena Stoddart. I have been a police officer for 28 years. I was a paralegal before that. Currently I'm a sergeant with the Ottawa Police Service and a member of the Canadian Violence Link Coalition. In 2010 I was seconded to the OPP behavioural science section, where I received specialized training in serial predator crime. I received training from the RCMP and the FBI. I have been volunteering with Humane Canada since 2009 and the Ottawa Humane Society for over 15 years.
I will start by advising the committee that police officers get no training on investigations involving animals unless they are or have been attached to a behavioural science section. In some cases, a sexual assault investigator will attend a conference or training, but it is not required or the norm. In Ontario in 2017, there were 25,981 police officers. OPP behavioural science has approximately 25 specialized police officers. The RCMP would have approximately 10. In my estimate, then, less than 1% of police officers in Ontario would have any type of specialized training in animal abuse or the violence link, yet animal abuse is one of the top signs of a serial sexual predator. In November 2018 I facilitated the first violence link training to police officers. It's a start, but we need resources to see this endeavour come to fruition. We need governments to mandate violence link training.
Speaking to the bestiality section of Bill , this legislation needs to include touching an animal for any sexual purpose in order to make our communities safer for all living beings. The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry conducted a research study. They took a random sampling of over 943 incarcerated men. Half of sexual offenders and a third of child molesters committed animal abuse during adolescence. This same study confirmed that childhood sexual assault abusers use animals to lure and/or groom their victims. An example of grooming would be, “I touched the doggy there, so it's okay for you too.” Then they progress to, “You can touch me where you touched the doggy.” It's a desensitizing process used to normalize sexual touch to children.
Sexual predators educate themselves on grooming methods. That's how they get away with the crimes. They have chat groups and do research just like everyone else. Grooming is a means to get the child normalized to the inappropriate feeling of touch on their private parts. That way, when the predator tries to touch the child, it's not foreign for the child to have their private part touched for reasons other than medical or cleaning. The use of peanut butter took place after an attempt to have a dog penetrate failed. The offender searched online for other ways to involve the dog. This was from a Supreme Court of Canada case.
Predators know that in a lot of these cases, there is little law enforcement can do. I'll give you the example of being called to a residence and the mother saying, about her eight-year-old, for instance, “My child tells me that for the last three years Uncle Johnny has tried to get her to fondle the dog.” All we can do at that point is say, “You'd better not have Uncle Johnny come over anymore.” We have no legal recourse. I have consulted Crowns and various people on this issue. It's the same thing if we get called to a park and a mother says an offender was using a dog to lure or groom a child. There's nothing we can do.
Bestiality is not only found in relation to children. Police services also investigate when one partner forces another into posing or committing sexual acts with an animal and takes pictures or videos it. The abusive partner then blackmails the other into staying with them and putting up with the abuse. The vulnerable spouse will not report to police for fear of retaliation. Many research studies have identified that animals are used to control their victims. We just heard Monique St. Germain and Lianna McDonald state that in their research.
Now I'll talk about the animal abuse side of this. Dr. Rebecca Ledger is Canada's leading expert and court-approved expert on animal behaviour. I have worked with her to deliver police training. She's conducted decades of scientific studies of all kinds of animals. I have an email from her stating that “penetration does not need to occur in order for the dog to suffer”. We had an Ottawa case recently where this came up and she gave expert testimony.
Having the Criminal Code bestiality crime as being committed only if there is penetration puts vulnerable citizens at risk from predators. Broadening the bestiality law strengthens community safety for all living beings. I would submit that it have the same sentencing provisions as section 447.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada does for the lifetime prohibition of animals and restitution. Also, it needs to include their being put on a sex offender registry. Right now bestiality does not fall under that provision.
I'll move to the animal fighting part of Bill . Once again, putting in place proper legislation aimed at stopping the heinous crime of dogfighting will give law enforcement a tool to increase community safety by taking away a funding source for gangs and shutting down their venues to move their guns and drugs. It also removes the means for gangs to recruit young people.
Decades of evidence-based research produce findings such as the fact that illegal gambling gains from dogfighting are substantial. One purse can go for more than $200,000. One dogfighting event can host several animal fights. If you have five animal fights in an event, you're looking at $1 million. This study was produced by Michigan State University.
Gangs also use animal fighting events like we use conventions: for networking, recruiting, and to sell and trade guns and drugs. This is also in the Michigan State University study.
The early introduction to animal cruelty through exposure to dogfighting, especially repeated acts, impacts development and has strong links to later interpersonal violence. This was reported in a 2011 study.
To desensitize young people to gang violence, they invite them to dogfights to acclimatize them to violence. Animal fighting is bloody. Because animal cries and pain are recognized as similar to humans, the thick skin starts to materialize so that violence on a human is not so far-fetched. Many of the youth interviewed in the Maher and Pierpoint 2011 study spoke about using the dogs as weapons against both humans and other dogs for rival gangs.
The Chicago Crime Commission conducted a study and found that 82% of those arrested for animal abuse had prior convictions for assault, weapons or drugs, again demonstrating the violence link. In Chicago, 35% of search warrants executed for animal abuse or dogfighting investigations resulted in seizures of illegal drugs and/or weapons. The commission produced an action alert in August 2004 entitled “Reduce animal violence, reduce all violence: A program to amplify human and animal violence prevention and reduction by targeting dogfighting and animal cruelty”.
Last but not least is the irreparable damage done to bait dogs and the animals that are used for fight dogs. Training techniques are used such as electrocution, kicking, punching, stabbing and beating dogs, in addition to withholding vet treatment for injured dogs and forced fighting. Even if these animals are saved, they often have to be euthanized due to aggressive behaviours or medical issues.
The violence link is extremely prevalent in both bestiality and animal fighting. The research is clear. Where you see evidence of animal abuse there's a great probability that humans are or have been abused by the same predator. We strengthen community safety for all living beings by giving law enforcement the tools to deal with these crimes.
All living beings deserve to be free of violence, and if that violence happens to them, they deserve to be protected by laws, police and the judicial system.
My name is Frank Annau. I'm speaking on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, or CFA, as this organization's environment and science policy adviser.
CFA was formed in 1935 to give a united voice to Canadian farmers. It has since grown to be Canada's largest general farm organization, representing approximately 200,000 farmers and farm families nationwide.
Our president Ron Bonnett sends his regrets for not being able to attend this morning, but we both extend our thanks for this opportunity to participate in providing comments on Bill .
Canadian agriculture has a long history of responsible stewardship and devotion to improving animal care standards and performance. Producers care deeply about their farm animals and wish to ensure respectful and equitable treatment for all animals.
This conviction is strongly shared by those of us working within Canada's agriculture community, so much so that in 2016, CFA participated in a working group with the National Farm Animal Care Council, or NFACC, to identify areas within the Criminal Code where greater protection for animals was needed. The research of the working group was thorough and examined distinctions between federal and provincial laws to help inform avenues for updating the code. These proposed updates were addressed in a joint letter to in December 2017. It was signed by a wide array of stakeholders including the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Chicken Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Pork Council, just to name a few.
The letter formed a united opinion on changes needed to help protect the safety of Canadians and improve the welfare of all animal species. Recommendations included that bestiality mean any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and animal, that provisions dealing with animal fighting explicitly include all species of animals, and that profiting from animal fighting be included under the Criminal Code as an additional offence.
As such, we are pleased to see these recommendations addressed in clauses 1, 2 and 3 of Bill . The extended definition of “bestiality” and provisions related to animal fighting, training, promotion and arena hosting greatly strengthen the security of animal welfare here in Canada. Most importantly, these amendments address the loopholes in the Criminal Code by adding further legal protection for children and vulnerable members of society against sexually exploitation.
As such, the CFA extends its support for the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code under Bill . The inclusion of all animals under provisions specific to bestiality and animal fighting instills the values of agricultural producers by helping to ensure the respectful treatment of all animals.
Thank you for this opportunity to participate.
Sergeant Stoddart and Mr. Annau, there was some testimony over the provision of subsection 447(3) of the Criminal Code, which pertains to confiscation of animals that were subject to animal fighting, and in particular, that subsection is limited to cocks. There was some discussion about whether that should be broadened consistent with the amendment that is to be made to subsection 447(1) by way of this legislation or whether to eliminate that section all together, or whether to amend that section so that it removes the provision that the cocks shall be destroyed upon confiscation.
Sergeant Stoddart, you referenced dogs and the fact that, more often than not, they're in very bad condition when they are reprieved and often have to be put down.
From both witnesses, I'd be interested in your thoughts on what, if anything, should be done with respect to subsection 447(3).
The issue is the word “object”, in both section 151 and section 153, because you need to interpret the dog as an object, which isn't really consistent with the way the law is evolving. Then, there are issues with some of the other provisions, such as corrupting children, in section 172. You need the offence to have occurred in the child's home, and you need the Attorney General's consent, both of which might not apply in a particular circumstance. For the offence of indecent acts, the indecent act has to occur in a public place, and has to be with the intent to insult or offend. For indecent exposure, the person's genitals have to be exposed, in addition to whatever is happening with the animal.
The other one, which the Supreme Court of Canada had not raised, but that we raised in our paper, was the use of section 272, which would be sexual assault with a weapon. In that instance, the animal would have to be qualified as a weapon.
As I said before, criminals get smarter. As we charge them, prosecute them and bring them to court, they learn. They used to have places where they trained and they used to go to abandoned warehouses and rent them to have these dogfighting events, but they no longer do that. They tend to move the dogs around. They have the dogs split up for training and bait dogs and how to fight. They use these electrocution and shock methods and other things, so that they don't have a large stock of animals in one area. When they have the dogfights, they move them around so they don't have them in one location anymore.
In Ontario, we know that there are probably seven to 12 people who are involved in training the dogs and running these dogfights. I think you are in possession of the OSPCA 2015 report, where they did extensive studies. I've met with our guns and gangs unit. Right now, we have a couple of individuals in Ottawa running these gangs and dogfights. We go to conventions. They're used to recruit. They're used to trade and sell their guns and drugs and the illegal gambling is quite substantial. In the States, it's more substantial than in Canada. In Canada, there's less, but in the States, they put up houses, boats, cars, you name it. One purse can go for over $200,000 and that's the norm. It's not unusual to have four or five dogfights at one event.
I was in the aftermath of one of the dogfights and the young people there witnessed things that we would never, ever want to witness. The dogs look like hamburger coming out of there. They take young children to these fights and it's to acclimatize them to the violence. Just like police officers, we see so much in our lives. When we talk to some of our family members and they're shocked, we realize, “Oh my, you're shocked about that. Oh yeah, you don't normally see this.” It's the same thing. That's how they bring children into this. They're recruiting. It's a bloody, heinous crime.
When I was up in behavioural science, we had a video turned in from Durham Regional Police and a gang member was initiated by biting the head off of a live bunny rabbit and spitting it into a pail. The offender was about 14 or 15 years old. It's things like that. These dogfights are used for all kinds of purposes.
As a police officer, it is a tool for us to get warrants. Through confidential informants and other means of investigation, we can apply for a warrant. If we find out where these dogs are being held and when a dogfight is happening and go in at the time of it, we can seize drugs, guns and illegal gambling. We can get a large cache of gang members at these places because they're very well-attended. It's a tool for us to manage these things. If we find out that a certain person, say in Greely, Ontario, is training dogs, then every patrol officer is going to stop every car coming in and out of there because they have grounds. At a time when everybody is looking to find a way to limit gang violence, it's a tool for us to do so, if we have proper legislation in our favour.
I'm so glad you asked me that. You all have a handout before you of research on the violence link.
Violence towards animals has a link to every violent crime that any police organization investigates, and on this handout, you'll see partner abuse, gangs and youth. General investigations are what we call “district investigations”. They can be assaults or minor offences, major crime, forensic identification and sexual assaults. SACA here stands for sexual assaults and child assaults. In each one of those, you will see research quoted.
This is just a sample of research. I have a research review. I interchange these ovals here depending on who I speak to, because there is so much research out there on the violence link. There are decades of it.
If you want me to, I can go over any individual thing. You can see that for partner abuse it's 89%. We have new Canadian research that talks about how 93% of partner assault cases involve animal abuse. As Monique St. Germain and Lianna McDonald said, animals are used to control the victims. We see that in every crime. We see it in gangs with younger members. We see it in partner abuse and child abuse cases. They're used to control victims. Even if the dogs are not being assaulted or used to penetrate children or whatever, they're used to control the victims.
In terms of major crime and school shootings, it shows up in 43% of school shootings. On the Parkdale shooting, two weeks before that he was found in his backyard taking pellet practice at wild animals. I think it was gophers or groundhogs or whatever. A neighbour reported it. Nobody went to investigate it. Had they gone to investigate and held him for a psych assessment or whatever, 17 children would still be alive today.
I can speak to any of the individual cases, but I do have a literature review of all the research we've looked at. I'd be happy to leave it with you.
To our witnesses, I really do want to thank you for your very compelling testimony today.
To the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, you spoke very descriptively about some of the situations you deal with, especially when it comes to pornography. My question—I think I would like everybody to comment on this—is, what is the role of reporting on this?
I remember sitting in Montreal while we were doing a study on human trafficking, where we had the opportunity to speak to Montreal law enforcement. They had just done a sting operation where they had posted a picture of a minor. I think it was a 12-year-old. Over 900 people viewed that posting, but nobody bothered to report it to the police.
In terms of animal protection and that violence link between animals and children, how important is reporting?
We'll start with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, please.
Essentially, the types of reports we would see would involve not only animals but also the abuse of children. We very much rely on the public to come forward. Through the tip line, we do receive those.
The second very important thing, though, is that we see a whole bunch of very egregious material tied to sexual assaults and involving animals, and we don't have those victims identified. We have a very significant problem—an epidemic, essentially—when we look at the number of unidentified victims and children that we see day in and day out within the imagery.
We have public education that's absolutely key to our colleagues in the room, who spoke about investigations and enhancing police training. I think that's absolutely imperative as well. Then, I think, we really have to mobilize the public to do more: to come forward when they start to see these types of activities and report them.
Good morning, Chair and honoured members of the parliamentary committee. I will be reading from a prepared statement, so forgive me if I'm looking down a bit.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the amendments this morning.
My name is Shawn Eccles. I'm the senior manager of cruelty investigations. I'm currently in my 40th year with the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the B.C. SPCA, a proud and active member of Humane Canada.
I oversee a team of 41 full- and part-time animal cruelty investigators or animal protection officers. All animal protection officers with the B.C. SPCA are sworn in as special provincial constables under the Police Act and, as such, are empowered to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the cruelty to animal provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada and any other laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
In addition to my work at the B.C. SPCA, I've also represented Humane Canada, formerly the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, as a council member and now as a board member with the Canadian Council on Animal Care. I have received the B.C. SPCA Stu Rammage award as lead investigator on a cockfighting investigation in 2008 and again in 2012 for the Whistler sled dog investigation. I was awarded the B.C. SPCA lifetime achievement award in 2012.
I have been asked to speak and give my perspective as a member of a small group of law enforcement professionals that garner little recognition or respect but are held to the same standard and are required to comply with the same rules of evidence as our colleagues in other areas of law enforcement. As animal protection, welfare and control officers, we bear witness to atrocious incidents of cruelty and neglect on a daily basis, yet nothing prepares you for the disturbing evidence awaiting you in investigating offences against animals solely for the purposes of exploitation and enjoyment or the sexual satisfaction of a select few individuals.
I support the amendments as proposed for the following reasons.
The current interpretation of bestiality— Regina v. D.L.W., June 9, 2016—does little to support officers investigating and reviewing hours of videos depicting sexual acts on all manner of animals by humans, which if perpetrated on non-consenting human partners would be considered sexual assault. Added to this is that often the acts are performed by the vulnerable sector, primarily women and children, at the coercion of their abusive spouses or so-called caregivers. One such file was investigated in November 2017, in which the evidence gathered by investigators was pictures and videos of a woman allowing an animal to perform sex acts on her. No charges were submitted to the Crown as there was no evidence of penetration.
While the number of investigations may pale when compared to other complaints received, we've received 30 bestiality complaints since June 10, 2016. The impact on resource-depleted agencies should not be ignored. These are offences that require specialized skills. Animal vaginal and anal swabs are taken and sent for forensic testing at labs both in Canada and in the United States. The B.C. SPCA has developed a relationship with a U.S.-based forensic veterinarian so that veterinarians contracted with the B.C. SPCA to assist in these investigations may regularly communicate with their international counterparts in order to learn about forensic veterinarian medicine and the collection of evidence.
Our officers collaborate with board-certified animal behaviourists when animals are believed to have been abused sexually by their caregivers. The emotional and psychological toll not only on the victims—both human and animal—but on the investigators is significant. One of our officers who viewed hours of videos in order to identify a perpetrator by his genitalia so that a conviction could be obtained is haunted by those images to this day.
As the lead investigator on two large cockfighting files, I can speak personally to the inadequacies of the legislation and the lack of knowledge in traditional policing agencies with respect to these types of investigations. In January 1998, police attending a random call literally stumbled across a cockfight in progress. Thirty-nine individuals were detained, searched and released. The B.C. SPCA was called because animals were involved. B.C. SPCA special constables attended, armed with a search warrant, and conducted a search of the premises, uncovering caches of cocaine and steroids used in the murky world of cockfighting.
Police officers were asked if during their search they found any evidence of betting, or confiscated any monies. We were told that they were not aware that they should be looking for money. Seventy-two fighting cocks and substantial fighting paraphernalia were seized. Thirty-nine individuals were charged. One individual was convicted and received a fine of $750.
ln February 2008, following a year-long joint investigation with the integrated gaming enforcement team, the B.C. SPCA, assisted by police and municipal bylaw enforcement, executed search warrants on three properties in Surrey, British Columbia. B.C. SPCA officers were on the largest property for 24 hours, searching and documenting the site. Birds were tethered to barrels. Several were found to have injuries consistent with fighting—gashes, infected wounds and missing eyes. Significant cockfighting paraphernalia, including metal spurs, trophies, scorecards and weigh scales were found. As well, 1,270 cocks were seized and euthanized using physical manipulation methods. Cockfighting pits were found in multiple locations on two of the sites. Charges were presented to the Crown against three individuals, one of whom was convicted.
B.C. SPCA special provincial constables have executed multiple warrants on a number of properties where cocks continue to be kept, bred and are believed to be used for cockfighting purposes. However, their hands are tied, because the bad guys know that as long as cockfighting pits are not on their property, there is little we can do. Warrants were executed on properties, both rural and urban, where large numbers of dogs historically used in fighting were housed. Paraphernalia regularly used in both lawful and unlawful events were found, resulting in a lack of substantial evidence to pursue to legal proceedings.
The current language in paragraph 445.1(1)(b) severely limits the ability for law enforcement to pursue charges, as access to an animal fight is difficult at best. Broadening the language to include “the training, transporting or breeding of animals or birds” gives those animals at risk greater protection. My colleagues in other jurisdictions can speak to their experiences in conducting dogfighting investigations involving organized crime and the difficulties in pursuing justice. The B.C. SPCA operates 36 branches where animals are brought into care through various means. It is not unheard of to receive dogs that have highly suspicious injuries believed to have occurred as a result of underground dogfighting.
ln summary, I ask you to give serious consideration to the amendments as proposed in order that I, my colleagues, and all law enforcement professionals are given the ability to effectively investigate and enforce animal offence provisions and help to make lives a bit better for the animals we have chosen to protect.
First of all, I want to thank the committee for this whole process.
In particular, I want to thank , the member for Victoria and my MP—he is absent today but he has been here—for all his good work in the community and his support for various issues I've brought forward related to animals. He's been very helpful with that.
I also want to thank Mr. Erskine-Smith, the member for Beaches—East York—he's not here now either—for his work on bringing animal issues forward into government. I think he's made a tremendous impact here.
My name is Jordan Reichert. I'm the West Coast Campaign Officer for the Animal Protection Party of Canada. The Animal Protection Party of Canada is North America's first political party for animals to represent their interests and those of the environment. It was established in 2005—before, one could say, bringing animals into politics was cool, perhaps. We hold all political parties accountable for their policy in regard to protecting animals and the impact of their policy on the environment and society as well.
To start, I want to address the question of animal sentience, which underlies the purpose of why we are gathered here to consider the treatment of animals under the law. While animals may still be defined as property under the 1892 statute in the Criminal Code, they are without question sentient. According to the declaration on consciousness that was made in July 2012, scientists, in the presence of the late Stephen Hawking, wrote the following:
Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors.
In recognition of the above, it is necessary to approach Bill from the perspective that we are enhancing protections for vulnerable individuals who may not be treated as equals under the law but are nonetheless affected equally by its inadequacies to protect their safety. Bill C-84 addresses specific instances of cruel acts against animals—namely, bestiality and animal fighting—without addressing the broader implications of animals' continued definition as property. I want to acknowledge this shortcoming while not dwelling on it, and move on to the specific acts addressed in the bill.
The amendments to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill address long-standing holes in the law that have allowed for the sexual abuse, exploitation and suffering of animals across Canada. While these issues in particular may not be as prolific or garner as much attention as other animal cruelty issues, they are no less important to the animals who suffer them.
As is often referenced as the catalyst for Bill in regard to bestiality, the Supreme Court case of the Queen v. D.L.W. narrowly defined bestiality as “penetration between a human and an animal”, drawn from the original term “buggery”. This allowed an act of unquestionable sexual harm to an animal and a young person to be excused. In the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision, this has had further chilling effects on prosecutors' already limited abilities to address animal cruelty cases. With there being a strong correlation between the abuse of animals and the abuse of vulnerable people when they are present, this amendment will benefit individuals, animal and human alike.
My concern about the wording of Bill is that it does not go far enough to address the contemporary systematic aspects of bestiality rings. Bestiality is not only a private act but also a social one, with online forums and an existing trade in images, video and the arranging of meetings to sexually abuse animals. For example, unlike child pornography, no provisions are made in the wording of the law against bestiality, old or amended, that address the creation of materials and the promotion or dissemination of sexualized content of animals.
In Washington state, laws around bestiality acknowledge this broader narrative behind the act. There, causing or aiding another person to engage in sexual activity is also prohibited, as is permitting it in your premises, observing it, promoting it and advertising it. In Canada, under the current law and proposed amendments, the proliferation of bestiality would still have avenues to spread unaddressed, online and otherwise.
Animal fighting is another illegal activity that does not get significant media attention due to its underground nature and ties to organized crime. The act of breeding, training and fighting animals causes considerable psychological and physiological damage to animals, or may lead to violent premature death.
There is also the theft and deaths of the animals associated with the training of dogs who fight in the arena, including dogs and cats who are used as bait during the training process.
Current wording in the Criminal Code fails to address substantial motivations and processes involved for people engaged in animal fighting. Animal fighting often involves financial investment in the animals being fought and profited off of, and that investment must be recognized as a key motivator for the people behind this brutal blood sport. Operations that breed and abuse animals for fighting may be run in an organized and semi-professional manner, and this needs to be addressed in the law. Furthermore, the current wording only addresses cockfighting pits, and not the more common contemporary design of “arenas” used for dogs. You've heard much about this.
Changes proposed in Bill will substantially address many of the shortcomings of the current reading of the law. Adding the wording “promotes, arranges” and “receives money for or takes part in” increases acknowledgement of the breadth of processes behind the organizing of animal fighting rings. Including “the training, transporting or breeding of animals or birds” is also an important acknowledgement that the arena is the end game and not the sum of animal fighting. While cockfighting still exists, the new wording that describes the less specific “arena” is essential to bring the law into the contemporary context of animal fighting.
However, Bill 's current amendments neglect to include the theft of animals for the purpose of training or fighting other animals. This would be an important inclusion, considering the prevalence of this activity related to animal fighting.
The Animal Protection Party of Canada is unequivocally opposed to the use of animals for sexual gratification and fighting. Animals have been recognized by the scientific community as sentient beings who are feeling and intelligent, who have their own interests and who are expressive of their needs and desires.
The act of bestiality is exploitative of the position of power a human has over a vulnerable animal and is not something the animal can be understood to consent to freely. Animal fighting may be more brutal, merciless and violent, but again it stems from the same power imbalance that places a vulnerable animal at the mercy of someone who has admonished themselves of their duty to provide safety and security for the welfare of animals.
Due to the clandestine nature of bestiality and animal fighting, it is unclear how prolific each may be in Canada. However, there is evidence that such acts are not completely uncommon.
What I regret to tell you is that the case law does not reflect even a faction of the number of cases that are submitted to animal welfare agencies by the public who witness them, let alone the number that are never reported. Amendments to Bill will hopefully help to prosecute these crimes and empower the public to report them but also help improve the status of animals within the law.
With over 50% of Canadian households having pets as our friends and family, animals deserve better than to be relegated to the property section of the Criminal Code. Bill will not address this broader issue of animals as property, but it will address some of the most egregious abuses of our relationships with them.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today.
Certainly, because as it's written now, we're only dealing with cockfighting. In my personal experience, it has been cockfighting, so it has been helpful.
However, for my colleagues in other jurisdictions that are dealing with dogfighting, the difficulty becomes one of gathering evidence that supports the fact that dogfighting is occurring. What we often hear is, “It was two dogs playing, and we were just watching what was going on.”
We know that, when we're searching for evidence, we actually have set information that we're looking for. Whether that be anything from panels that are two feet by four feet or four feet by eight feet to the utilization of a number of doors that may be in a back room that can be set up to develop a pit or a ring, that is what we're looking for. It's anything that we can use with respect to an arena. Then we can start looking for the things that would generally be found when we're looking for an arena. We would be looking for things like scratch marks on the floor, carpeting, the panels that would set up the outside walls, and whether or not there are any stands.
In the cockpit that I had investigated in 1988, we found that it was definitely an arena environment. There was a pit, and all around the outside were areas where people could stand and bet on the outcomes of the fights.
Absolutely, I would support that we need to have the arena in there.
That's a very complex and difficult question.
Certainly I think the ability to dovetail between both provincial legislation and federal legislation is an important tool for us to be able to utilize. There are difficulties throughout all of Canada with respect to standardization of enforcement. That certainly seems to be an issue more than anything else.
The issue of the accountability and the transparency of an animal welfare agency was recently raised. I can say that officers of the B.C. SPCA are sworn peace officers under the Police Act, so we are accountable. We are accountable to the Solicitor General of British Columbia, and we do have a body that oversees the B.C. SPCA.
We're fortunate in the sense that in B.C., we're able to do some of these things, and perhaps in other jurisdictions throughout Canada there may be some difficulty with respect to accessing resources in order to appropriately investigate and prosecute offences. Those situations or issues, I think, are best dealt with by those agencies and their provincial governments that have the ability to enact legislation to assist those agencies in conducting cruelty investigations.
Certainly I think policing agencies throughout Canada should be given greater access to training and learning about the various offences. Certainly I think bestiality is one that most policing agencies will be dealing with, primarily because of the fact that it is within the Criminal Code. As the issue more than anything else becomes one of dogfighting, cockfighting or any animal fighting, it becomes a little more difficult primarily because, as indicated earlier, of the clandestine nature of the offence and the fact that these can be long-standing investigations.
Certainly the one I was involved with in 2008 involved a year-long investigation in which an undercover operative was employed. Those are not the resources that are available to the B.C. SPCA or any of the other animal welfare agencies that I'm aware of in British Columbia, but we were fortunate to have the co-operation of the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team, which was made up of law enforcement agencies—the RCMP and city police forces—in British Columbia.
Certainly. With regard to cockfighting in the jurisdiction that I work in, for some of the individuals, the rate of recidivism is high. We've charged a number of individuals and have been successful in convictions for only a small handful of these individuals. They are the same people who are involved in breeding, training and transporting these birds to cockfight arenas or cockpits where these animals are fought.
Currently, the legislation only allows us to enter a premise with a search warrant when we have reason to believe that animals are being fought and, in order to proceed, we're looking at somebody either aiding or abetting who would be present at a cockfight. We have to, one, have the actual event taking place, and two, we have to have evidence of a cockpit in order for us to proceed under the Criminal Code. Both are extremely difficult.
There is a farm that is very close to the headquarters for our cruelty investigations department where these birds are raised specifically for the purpose of fighting. Birds are tied out on barrels. They're kept within close proximity of each other. They're no more than a foot apart. These birds are always in a heightened state of excitement because they're bred specifically for fighting. The hens are permitted to wander amongst the cocks, which further heightens the excitement level of these animals. These animals are constantly at a level of heightened excitement, and they're literally in the numbers of hundreds, if not thousands.
I talked about the 1,270 birds that were euthanized in 2008, and the same characters that we were dealing with in 2008 are operating not far from where we are located and are raising the birds in exactly the same conditions they were raising them in in 2008. The difference was that in 2008 we actually found cockpits, which enabled us to take those birds and go to a justice.
As it stands now, we've executed warrants on the properties and have not found any evidence of pits, which would lead us to suspect that the fights are occurring off-site, but the birds are being raised on-site.
In changing the legislation for breeding, training or transporting these birds, it would certainly help the B.C. SPCA to deal with the situation.