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Now that 2017 has come to a close, Humane Canada (also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies) is once again asking: are things getting better or worse for animals in Canada?
Below, we takes a look back through 2017 and compiles the biggest stories of the year on the advances, setbacks and jaw-dropping stories of Canadian animal welfare in 2017. As a bonus, we've included the top international animal welfare wins. The lists appear in no particular order.
- The Senate got more animal-friendly. Despite some dicey moments, Bill S-214 and Bill S-203 progressed from the committee stage to third reading this year. Bill S-238, which aims to ban the import of shark fins, was also introduced in 2017 and is currently before the Senate Standing Committee for consultation.
- Canada’s farming industry is inching closer to ending intensive confinement. This year, we saw the start of the phase-out of cruel battery cages for hens and the introduction of rigorous, world-leading standards for cage-free housing systems. We also saw the first steps toward the ban of veal calf crates in Canada.
- Reversal of Montreal’s pit bull ban. Animal advocates across the country cheered as Valerie Plante was elected as Montreal’s new mayor on November 5. She has been following through on her promise to alter the city’s recent animal control bylaw to remove or amend breed-specific provisions.
- Focusing on owner responsibility in municipal animal bylaws. Cities across Canada, including Chateaguay, Laval, Surrey and Rankin Inlet have introduced new animal control policies for their municipalities focused on responsible pet ownership rather than short-sighted policies like BSL.
- Cetacean ban for Vancouver Aquarium. In a bold move, the Vancouver Park Board has banned the captivity of cetaceans on its park lands, effective immediately. This ban includes Stanley Park, where the Vancouver Aquarium is situated.
- New provincial cruelty legislation in PEI. After introducing a new provincial animal welfare law early in 2017, Prince Edward Island has gone from near the bottom of the list to number one in a ranking of provincial animal welfare laws.
- On May 4, an Ontario Court judge found animal advocate Anita Krajnc not guilty of criminal mischief for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to slaughter, saying he's not convinced a crime ever occurred.
- The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association released a new position statement on cat declawing this year, taking the stance that the surgery is ethically unacceptable and should not be performed as an elective surgery. Just before the end of the year, Nova Scotia became the first to ban the practice provincially.
- For the first time ever, a corporation has been charged with animal cruelty. More than 20 charges were laid against Chilliwack Cattle Sales and seven of its workers, and the company has been fined close to $350,000. The Crown has launched an appeal, saying the sentences should be longer.
- In a sudden change of policy direction, the government of British Columbia has announced it's closing a much-criticized loophole in the province’s recent grizzly hunting ban. Public consultations have made it clear that killing grizzlies cannot be allowed, with the exception of First Nations people.
- In a shocking development, all charges against Marineland were dropped by the Crown in the case, who said there was no reasonable possibility of conviction.
- It was discovered that infamous hoarder April Irving, who severely neglected more than 200 dogs who were living on her Milk River, Alberta property, fled Canada for Jamaica.
- Canada is falling down on its responsibility to protect wildlife. Each and every province and territory missed the deadline for submitting a caribou protection plan to the federal government, the federal government missed a 90-day deadline for endorsing updates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and sockeye salmon counts remain much lower than expected despite years of work to implement federal protections.
- Tens of thousands of farm animals died agonizing deaths in barn fires across Canada again this year. Some of the worst happened in Abbotsford, Sarnia, Chilliwack, the Montérégie region, and Bothwell and Steinbach, Manitoba. Animal advocates are calling on the Manitoba government to reinstate the fire regulations repealed earlier this year for buildings with low human occupancy, such as barns.
- In July, following a dispute over voting rights, the Ontario SPCA suspended the Ottawa Humane Society’s affiliate status, preventing the organization from investigating animal cruelty and enforcing the law. OHS went to court to challenge the decision and ensure that Ottawa’s animals were well-protected, but the restriction remains in place.
- Abusive vet continues to practice. Dr. Mahavir Rekhi, whose license to practice veterinary medicine was temporarily suspended after the release of videos that showed him physically abusing several animals in his care, has had all charges dropped against him despite extensive video evidence.
- Hidden camera footage obtained by CTV’s W5 showed abuse and mistreatment of dogs, pigs and monkeys being used for research at ITR Laboratories Canada in the West Island region of Montreal. The claims are being investigated by the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
- More than 9,000 fish and frogs died after a power failure at a University of Alberta research lab disabled two dechlorination pumps, releasing chlorinated municipal tap water into freshwater tanks.
- The BC SPCA is recommending federal and provincial animal cruelty charges after undercover footage captured heinous abuses on a chicken farm in Chilliwack, BC.
- Twelve endangered whales die in Canadian waters. Marine mammal experts say that ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are to blame for the deaths of 12 critically endangered North Atlantic Right whales, who were all found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence throughout the summer of 2017.
- Smile, you’re on camera. England and France both implemented policies that require CCTV in slaughterhouses to help curb animal cruelty.
- Ringling Circus closes. After 146 years of operation, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed the show for good in May, in part due to years of pressure from animal advocacy groups.
- Expedia is one of a growing number of travel companies that have committed to no longer selling tickets to exploitative wildlife rides and shows. The booking service has announced that it will no longer sell tickets to “activities involving certain wildlife animal interactions.”
- Days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a decision to lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia, President Donald Trump announced plans to reverse course.
For decades, cat people and bird people have been at odds with each other. But the welfare of one does not need to be sacrificed in order to protect the other. We have a responsibility to all of this country’s animals and need to work to improve the situation for both cats and birds. Pitting them against each other fails to address the perils facing both. Solutions for our embattled birds are necessary, but we can’t lose sight of how dire the situation is for Canada’s cats.
That’s why Humane Canada is partnering with Nature Canada on the Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives program, an initiative that brings together cat people and bird people and encourages them to work together to better protect both groups of animals. By bringing together Canada’s oldest conservation charity and Canada’s largest animal welfare community, we’re increasing knowledge and education on the benefits to cats, birds and others when owned cats are prevented from roaming unsupervised outdoors. And we’re ensuring that broad-based strategies and actions initiated to help one group don’t cause harm to the other.
We know that both cats and birds are facing very difficult odds in Canada. Twice as many cats are brought to shelters as dogs and, in 2015, approximately five times more cats were euthanized than dogs. Generally, about 70 per cent of stray dogs taken in to shelters are reclaimed by their guardians, compared to 10 per cent of stray cats. In the outdoors, cats are exposed to a variety of threats, including diseases, vehicle collisions and fights with wildlife and other cats. While a cat’s independent nature might lead some people to treat them like something between a pet and wildlife, we owe cats the same level of care we give our dogs.
While cats are facing a number of different threats, so are our birds. The official list of bird species at risk increased from 47 to 86 between 2001 and 2014, and some bird populations have declined by more than 90 per cent. Predation by free-roaming cats only adds to the much more significant risks that birds face due to habitat destruction and climate change.
For the welfare of cats and birds, we need to change how we care for our feline friends. It’s counter-productive to malign cats in the hopes of protecting birds, which is why we’ve chosen to get involved in a unified campaign that aims to educate the public and transform assumptions about how to approach cat and bird protection. Let’s curb the vitriol between these two camps. Together, we can – and will – do better.
How you can keep your cat safe and save bird lives at the same time:
Consider harness training
Training your cat to walk on a harness is a fantastic way to give your cat access to the great outdoors without risking their safety or that of other local wildlife. Just remember to let your cat take the lead in the process and don’t push them to do anything they’re resisting. For tips on how to go about humane leash training, check out this blog post.
Build a safe outdoor space
Cat enclosures, catios and cat fences can be built by you or bought from a manufacturer. These enclosed spaces allow your cat to enjoy all the perks of the outdoors without risking their safety.
Enrich the indoor environment
Many cats can easily transition to the indoors when given the proper stimuli. Enrich their indoor environment by providing a window perch next to a properly screened and secured window that will allow them to view the outdoors. Cats also enjoy stable and safe play spaces to climb, like cat trees, gyms or condos. Ensure play spaces are fit with a variety of both interactive and simple toys. Spaces that include a scratching post are the most enjoyable and allow cats to exhibit natural behaviours.
Considering a dog
There are many reasons for wanting a dog, and all of them will have a huge impact on your daily life. Dogs will entertain you, keep you company, enrich your life and likely even improve your mental and physical health, but it's important to remember that, in exchange for all of the richness a dog will add to your life, he or she is going to need your dedicated time and attention.
There are many things to consider before getting a dog, like whether or not you have the time, money, energy, space, desire, patience and lifestyle to make the commitment of being a full-time dog owner.
Learn more about considering a dog.
Choosing the right dog
Dogs come in many shapes, sizes and temperaments. It is important when choosing a dog that you consider the reasons why you want a dog, what activity level you're comfortable engaging in, how often you want to groom your dog, how experienced you are with dogs, how big you want your dog to be once the animal is fully grown, what kind of personality you want your dog to have and whether or not you will need to get a hypoallergenic dog.
Thinking about your needs and having a concrete idea of what kind of qualities you are looking for in a dog will help you decide whether to get a puppy or an adult dog, and which breed or breed mix might be best for you.
Learn more about choosing the right dog.
Finding your dog
You've done your research and decided on the kind of dog you want to get. Now where do you go to find your dog? To ensure that you avoid supporting puppy mills, you can either adopt a dog from a humane society, SPCA, reputable rescue or satellite adoption centre, or you can purchase directly from a responsible, ethical breeder.
Learn more about finding your dog.
Remember, dogs are for life. Think carefully, choose wisely and love deeply!
What to do if you have lost or found a dog:
IF YOU HAVE LOST A DOG
Losing your dog can be devastating. Here are some actions you can immediately take to help you bring your Fido home.
- Immediately check your property and your neighbours' properties – check any place your dog could reasonably hide in.
- Notify your local animal shelters, including animal control and nearby humane societies, rescue groups, dog parks, groomers, doggy day cares and pet stores.
- List your lost pet on www.helpinglostpets.com. Emails and twitter alerts will be sent to all network members in the area.
- Create a poster that you can place in high-traffic areas. Include a photo of your pet and describe his or her distinguishing characteristics. (Note: posters can be printed at www.helpinglostpets.com)
- Get friends and family involved right away. The more ground you cover in the first few hours, the better chance you have of finding your dog.
- Knock on doors.
- Follow your dog’s regular walking route. Try to think of where he or she might go to feel safe.
- Go to your local humane society or SPCA and look for your pet.
- Check websites that have lost/found pet pages. Also, check in the pets for sale section in case someone is trying to sell/find a new home for your pet.
- If you receive a call about a sighting of your dog, confirm the pet’s description and size before you send anyone to search that area.
- If you get a confirmed sighting, have someone go immediately. Dogs can travel a long way in just an hour.
IF YOU HAVE FOUND A DOG
- If a lost/stray dog approaches you, be cautious. Even if he or she seems to be a friendly dog, we would advise that you move slowly, and very gently take hold of the collar or leash.
- If the dog growls or becomes panicked/aggressive, stop what you are doing and stand back.
- If you are able to leash the dog, check for tags and call whatever phone numbers you find on the dog's tags.
- If there is no contact information, notify your local humane society or SPCA or animal control.
- If you are offering food to the dog, place a small amount on the ground.
- Do not look the dog directly in the eye – this may be interpreted as aggression.
- Take the dog to a veterinarian or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip. This could tell you who the owners are and where they live.
- Microchip your pet, and update your information with the service provider EVERY TIME you change your phone number or address.
- License your pet with your municipality and keep the tag on your pet’s collar/harness at all times.
- Have another ID tag on the dog’s leash in case the collar breaks free or is lost.
- Check tags regularly for wear and tear.