Canada’s animal safety, welfare laws ‘lacking,’ Humane Canada says

The national organization says accountability in Canada’s legal system regarding animal welfare must be improved

Helping prepare a roadmap to ensure the Great White North is a safer place for animals, people, and the environment is the goal of a new release from Humane Canada. Photo ©

Helping prepare a roadmap to ensure the Great White North is a safer place for animals, people, and the environment is the goal of a new release from Humane Canada.

The national animal welfare organization has published a report, highlighting opportunities to improve the way the Canadian legal system addresses animal abuse.

The project cites contributions from more than 80 ‘animal welfare thinkers,’ including Crown Prosecutors, law enforcement members, veterinarians, and independent academics.

“The Legal Keystone Report measures whether animals are adequately considered in the Canadian legal system,” says project leader, Toolika Rastogi, PhD, senior manager of policy and research at Humane Canada. “It’s part of a larger project to answer the question, ‘What does a humane country look like?’”

To measure the level of accountability in Canada’s legal system regarding animal welfare, the research assessed findings across 12 different indicators. These addressed concerns such as how animal safety laws are enforced and crime statistics for animal abuse are gathered and tracked, as well as ethical concerns, like how animals are recognized in the law.

Only one of the assessed indicators was found to be ranked as ‘good,’ Humane Canada reports. The remaining 11 showed gaps where work is absent, insufficient, or there is not enough available data to make an assessment.

“Canadians expect accountability in the law when animals are harmed, and our research across the indicators shows this is often lacking,” Dr. Rastogi says. “While this report has uncovered some serious problems, it also provides opportunities to develop a practical roadmap to a more humane Canada—one that is safer for animals, for people, and the environment.”

The release is the first measurement report from the Indicators of a Humane Canada project, which will, ultimately, benchmark more than 40 indicators aimed at providing the pathway for integrating animal welfare into the country’s legal system, social policies, and individual behaviours.

“This report provides a clear and comprehensive map that illustrates the highly uneven legal and policy landscape of animal protection in Canada,” says Kendra Coulter, PhD, associate professor in labour studies at Brock University. “Crucially, these findings also help us see how to move forward by combining evidence with ethics to make a meaningful difference for animals’ lives and our shared communities.”

Several assessed indicators touched upon the Violence Link (i.e. the relationship between violence against people and animals). Research shows violence toward people (interpersonal violence) and violence toward animals (animal cruelty) are part of a larger pattern of violent crimes that co-exist.

“Humane Canada has built a solid foundation for multi-sector stakeholders to collaboratively address the important issue of how violence against women and children intersect with animal abuse,” says Donna Watson-Elliott, manager of Ottawa Police Service’s victim support unit. “This requires a multi-prong approach to prevention, intervention, and prosecution. Community and criminal justice partners need to recognize risks and make the connections, but, also, we need to ensure we work together to create systemic changes that support an integrated response to identifying, assessing, and managing this risk to women, children, and animals.”

To view the report, click here.

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