Animal cruelty needs tougher penalties
Animal cruelty – Just recently, the horrific abuse of an animal, a dog, made the headlines again. Rescuers called him ‘Sugar Ray’, because he was fighting for his life and was also a Boxer.Animal cruelty struck again on Tuesday May 23rd, Sugar Ray was found buried alive in a shallow grave in a field in Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford, QC. The man who owns the land where he was discovered, was walking around when he heard a dog crying and whimpering. At first he could not see anything, but he followed the cries and to his horror, saw a paw sticking out of the ground – and immediately called the police.
The Monteregie SPCA, whose care he was placed in said they believe Sugar Ray had been hit with a blunt object, possibly even strangled before he was left for dead. He was otherwise a perfectly healthy dog. By the next morning he was eating and drinking on his own, but still not able to walk. Unfortunately later in the day, Sugar Ray suffered a seizure and heart attack – and he died. They believe his heart attack was brought on by the trauma he faced.
The next day, a man in his 40’s turned himself in to the police in connection with the incident. He was questioned and then released – but could be issued a summons once they receive the results from the necropsy. With the evidence, the Crown will decide what and if any charges will be laid. Until then, the identity of the suspect cannot be made public.
To date, the details are not known or if the man is responsible for the incident. But if he had been under the same suspicion of abuse and murder of a human, would he have been released simply on a promise to appear in court?
The abuse of an animal is a crime. One who abuses an animal is a criminal – and a conviction could come with a maximum of five years behind bars. There are Federal and Provincial legislations in place which allow organizations to enforce the provisions of the respective Criminal Codes.
Here are a few important elements from the much longer and detailed document of Canada’s Animal Cruelty/Criminal Code Act (you can read the Act in its entirety – see link below):
Causing Unnecessary Suffering – 445.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who – (a) willfully causes or, being the owner, willfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird; (c) willfully, without reasonable excuse, administers a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to a domestic animal or bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is kept in captivity or, being the owner of such an animal or a bird, willfully permits a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to be administered to it.
Punishment – (2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of; (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.
Causing damage or injury – 446 (1) Every one commits an offence who – (a) by willful neglect causes damage or injury to animals or birds while they are being driven or conveyed; or (b) being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or willfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it.
Order of prohibition or restitution – 447.1 (1) The court may, in addition to any other sentence that it may impose under (other subsections), (a) make an order prohibiting the accused from owning, having the custody or control of or residing in the same premises as an animal or a bird during any period that the court considers appropriate but, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, for a minimum of five years.
In Quebec, Bill 54 ‘An Act to improve the legal situation of animals’ passed on June 5th 2015 (which you can also read in its entirety – see link below) begins with: ‘Animals are not things. They are sentient beings and have biological needs’.
Here in Montreal, the SPCA works hard to enforce the law. Their mandate is clear: ‘Pursuant to the laws applied by Montreal SPCA inspectors, the following acts or omissions constitute infractions’:
– Hitting, strangling, stabbing, burning, or poisoning an animal
– Training an animal to fight.
– Trapping an animal using a method that causes pain.
– Abandoning an animal without ensuring that someone else will properly care for the animal.
– Failing to provide an animal with veterinary care when injured, ill, or suffering.
– Failing to provide an animal with food or water.
– Keeping an animal in a place that is soiled, unsafe, or that does not provide sufficient space or lighting.
– Failing to provide an animal with protection from heat, cold, or weather conditions.
– Failing to provide a dog who lives mainly outdoors with a doghouse that is waterproof, raised off the ground, and in good condition.
– Using a collar that hampers an animal’s breathing, or causes the animal pain or injury.
– Failing to groom an animal and trim his or her claws on a regular basis.
Sugar Ray was beaten and left to die. Is a five year maximum sentence a strong enough penalty? The Criminal Code of Canada states that First Degree murder (of a human) ‘carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years (10 years for Second Degree). Offenders who are paroled remain on parole for the rest of their life, even after their release from prison…’
Is the murder of an animal, a ‘sentient being’ as stated in Quebec’s Bill 54, any different?
Quebec has more than its share of animal abuse incidents – from abandoned cats and dogs found on the streets, neglected and often physically abused, to our infamous puppy mills.
There is also the recent allegations of animal cruelty at a research lab in Baie D’Urfé, when an alarming video showing the mistreatment of pigs, monkeys and dogs at the facility was released. Videos taken by people in slaughterhouses show shocking abuse of farmed animals.
The Oxford online dictionary defines a ‘Human Being’ as ‘A man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance’. Sentient animals are defined as ‘beings that have a physical and psychological sensibility, which allows them, in the same way as humans, to experience pain and pleasure.
The major difference in definitions is that human beings are supposed to have ‘superior mental development’ – yet it is humans who have been slowly destroying the planet and creating divisions. One cannot help to question if the definition of ‘Human Being’ needs to be updated.
Should animal abusers get jail time equal to that of the Criminal Code for humans? Should they be put on a public registry similar to how sex offenders are registered? Please share your thoughts with the Montreal Times and our readers.
*Criminal Code of Canada – Animal Cruelty/Criminal Code’ act: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-92.html?txthl=cruelty+animals#h-121