Humane Canada™ has been calling on the government to amend the animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada for more than 25 years. In 1999, the government launched a consultation process to gather input on what changes were needed to the animal cruelty provisions, which were originally enacted in 1892. In December 1999, then Justice Minister Anne McLellan tabled Bill C-17 in the House of Commons.
Bill C-17 died shortly after it was introduced due to an election being called early in 2000. Over the next several years, the Liberal government repeatedly brought the bill forward, but it repeatedly died due to prorogation of Parliament. The bill was named Bill C-15, C-15B, C-10, C-10B, C-22 and C-50. In 2003, Bill C-10B came extremely close to passing and was supported by all parties in the House, but the Senate blocked its passage.
Once the Conservative Party was in power, Member of Parliament Mark Holland brought forward a private member’s bill in October 2006 that was virtually identical to Bill C-50. Mr. Holland retabled his bill repeatedly as it died with prorogation. In addition, the NDP tabled its own bill, C-558, in June 2008.
In February 2005, Liberal Senator John Bryden from New Brunswick, tabled Bill S-24. This bill took the entire penalties section from the Liberal government bill, but made no changes to the offences. Humane Canada and other animal protection groups strongly opposed this bill. So did the Canadian public – a petition with almost 112,000 signatures was tabled in the House of Commons in 2007 opposing Senator Bryden’s bill. The introduction of this bill changed things dramatically, as most industry groups supported the Senator’s bill. This bill also fell victim to parliamentary prorogation three times, but Senator Bryden retabled it as Bill S-203 and then S-213. It ultimately passed through the Senate and the House and was enacted in June 2008.
Since 2008, Members of Parliament have made several more attempts to pass Criminal Code of Canada amendments. On September 19, 2011, Liberal MP Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre) introduced Bills C-274 and C-277, which would have consolidated animal cruelty offences, created a new section in the Criminal Code for animal cruelty offences and increased the maximum penalties for animal abuse. Unfortunately, both bills died before becoming law.
On April 9, 2014, the NDP MP Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce – Lachine) took up the gauntlet again by introducing Bill C-592, which would have provided a better definition of "animal", defined intentions and acts of cruelty and set higher penalties for those found guilty. C-592 reached second reading but did not become law.
Soon after, on June 9 2014, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal) introduced Bill C-610, which would have created a new offence for the inadequate and negligent care of animals. The bill would have established it as an offence to negligently cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or bird. It would have become an offence to willfully or recklessly abandon an animal or fail to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care. It would have also punished those who negligently injure an animal or bird while it is being conveyed. It did not become law.
On February 26, 2016, Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches-East York) introduced Private Member’s Bill C-246, The Modernizing Animal Protections Act. This bill aims to close the loopholes in the current animal cruelty provisions. More often than not, it is these loopholes that allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist.
The heart of it – where Humane Canada™ saw real potential for change – was the proposed creation of a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animal’s welfare. The bill also promised to close loopholes related to animal fighting by making it illegal to train, breed or convey animals for the purpose of fighting, as well as making it illegal to profit from dog fighting.
Sadly, on October 6, 2016, the Bill was defeated by a wide margin during second reading in the House of Commons. No new Criminal Code of Canada amendments for animals have been introduced since that time.
In October 2018, using Humane Canada's recommended language, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-84, which would broaden and strengthen Canada's bestiality and animal fighting laws. The law is moving swiftly so far and is currently at second reading in the Senate.
Over the past 20 years, there have been multiple attempts at ushering in changes to the Criminal Code of Canada, but many have failed. In fact, the animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code have remained largely unchanged since 1892.
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To find out how to get help for animals whose welfare is being compromised, please read the information below.
Please note that Humane Canada™, also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, is not an animal rescue centre, nor do we provide rescue services. We are a national federation that represents humane societies and SPCAs, but we do not have jurisdiction over these societies or their operations. Please note that Humane Canada also does not conduct cruelty inspections.
Domestic animal cruelty or neglect
If you’ve witnessed an act of animal cruelty or neglect, please call your local SPCA or humane society and speak to the Animal Cruelty Investigations department. If there is no local SPCA or humane society where you live, call the provincial SPCA, the local police or the RCMP.
Farm animal cruelty or neglect
If you’ve witnessed an act of animal cruelty or neglect on a farm, please call your local SPCA or humane society. If your local shelter does not have jurisdiction over farm animals, or you live outside your local shelter’s jurisdiction, call the provincial SPCA, the local police or the RCMP.
Wild animal issues
If you’re having conflicts with wild animals on your property or in your neighbourhood, please contact a local wildlife centre or your provincial Ministry of Natural Resources.
If you see an animal in need of emergency care, please find a recommended local animal hospital or veterinary clinic that has the capacity and expertise to care for that animal.
If your emergency is after hours, call a recommended local animal hospital or veterinary clinic and listen to the recorded instructions for 24-hour emergency services.
Possible puppy or kitten mill
How to recognize a puppy or kitten mill:
- Loud and constant barking/yelping is coming from the buildings
- Animals are rarely brought outside for exercise
- Malnourished, excessively thin animals
- Females are constantly being bred for puppies or kittens
- Animals are kept in unsanitary cages – often stacked on top of each other
- Stalls or cages are caked in excrement
- Minimal veterinary treatment and, sometimes, visible health problems
- Matted fur and/or long, untrimmed nails
- Large numbers of dogs or cats in one small area
- Puppies of many different breeds
If this describes a situation in your area, please call your local humane society or SPCA and explain the situation to the Animal Cruelty Investigations department. If you live outside of your shelter’s jurisdiction, please contact the police for assistance.
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