animal fighting

New Changes to Animal Cruelty Laws in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP


A new law has been passed to crack down on animal cruelty in Canada.  Bill C-84, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code Pertaining to Bestiality and Animal Fighting”, addresses many flaws that are found in the current Criminal Code with respect to animals in Canada.

WHAT IS BESTIALITY?

The new law, Bill C-84, was created partly in response to a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision (R. v. D.L.W.) that found a convicted sexual offender not guilty of bestiality related to charges arising out of sexual activity involving one of his stepdaughters and the family dog.

The majority of the justices of the highest court in Canada ruled that the Criminal Code provisions on bestiality did not effectively define which sexual acts with animals are illegal.  They essentially requested that the government revisit the definition.

Justice Thomas Cromwell, on behalf of the majority of the court, wrote:

Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality.  Parliament adopted the term without adding a definition of it, and the legislative history and evolution of the relevant provisions show no intent to depart from the well-understood legal meaning of the term.  … Any expansion of criminal liability for his offence is within Parliament’s exclusive domain.

The new law specifically provides an update of the legal definition of bestiality to broaden the definition and include any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal (previously there had to be evidence of penetration before charges could be made).

Anyone convicted of bestiality in Canada will now be added to Canada’s National Sex Offenders Registry and can be banned from owning animals. 

According to the CEO of Humane Canada, Barbara Cartwright:

Many studies have proven a clear link between animal abuse and child abuse, so adding convicted animal abusers to the National Sex Offenders Registry protects children as well as animals.

HOW WILL THE LAW CHANGE REGARDING ANIMAL FIGHTING?

The new legislation will prohibit promoting or profiting from fighting or baiting animals, as well as breeding or training animals to fight.  The law also prohibits the building or maintaining of any arena established for the purpose of animal fighting. 

Furthermore, the new law applies to anyone who “in any manner encourages, aids, promotes, arranges, assists, receives money for or takes part in the fighting or baiting of animals.”

There is currently a growing trend of animal fighting, which occurs covertly and online.  This trend is also increasingly linked to guns and gangs.

One incredibly dreadful activity is called “trunking”, whereby two dogs are sealed together in the trunk of a car.  The car is driven around as the dogs fight to the death.  Eventually the car is stopped, and the results of the dog fight is revealed to an online audience.

There are several other important elements found in Bill C-84 to protect animals in Canada that include:

  • Granting a judge the discretion to make an order banning an offender from owning or living with an animal for a period of time up to a lifetime ban;
  • Granting a judge the ability to order the offender to make financial restitution to a person or organization that cared for an animal which was harmed by an offence;
  • Repealing a section of the Criminal Code that required a peace officer to seize and destroy any animals found fighting in a cockpit.

“FREE WILLY” BILL ALSO PASSES IN CANADA

The government has also passed Bill S-203, “The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act”, often referred to as the “Free Willy Act”.  This law phases out the captivity of cetaceans (i.e. whales, dolphins and porpoises) in Canada, except for rescues, rehabilitation, licensed scientific research or in the cetaceans’ best interests.  

The new law also prohibits the trade, possession, capture and breeding of cetaceans.  Those acting in contravention of the new law may be fined up to $200,000.

The law does provide an exception for those that are taking care of an injured or distressed animal in need of assistance.  Also, researchers must obtain a license from the government in order to hold a cetacean for research purposes.

The Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland in Niagara Falls are the only two facilities in Canada that are allowed to house cetaceans and keep the animals that they have as long as they do not breed them.  The Vancouver Aquarium has a Pacific white-sided dolphin and Marineland has an orca and more than 50 beluga whales.

Lori Marino of the Whale Sanctuary Project wrote in her statement about the new law:

This is a major victory for cetaceans.  They are among the most cognitively complex of all animals.  Confining them to life in a concrete tank is truly unbearable for them.

If you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.