The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies advocates for the review, updating and strengthening of the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada.
There have been multiple attempts at making changes to the Criminal Code of Canada over the past 20 years, but many have failed. In fact, these sections of the Criminal Code have remained largely unchanged since 1892.
In 2016, CFHS consulted on the language of Bill C-246, The Modernizing Animal Protections Act, a Private Member’s Bill introduced in the House of Commons on February 26, 2016, by Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches-East York). This Bill aimed to close a number of loopholes in the current federal 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 rather than an appropriate punishment.
At the heart of this bill 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 the loopholes related to animal fighting by making it illegal to train, breed or convey animals for the purpose of fighting or profit from dog fighting. Unfortunately, Bill C-246 was voted down in the House of Commons on Wednesday, October 5, 2016.
Recently, attempts have been made to hold the Canadian government accountable for closing these legal loopholes through initiatives like e-petition e-718.
Below, you will find information on previous attempts to update Canada's federal animal cruelty provisions.
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.
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 the higher penalties for those found guilty. C-592 reached second reading but did not become law.
Bill C-274 and C-277
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.
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. CFHS 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.
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.