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Now that 2017 has come to a close, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is once again asking: are things getting better or worse for animals in Canada?
Below, CFHS takes a look back through 2017 and compiles the biggest stories of the year on the advances, setbacks and jaw-dropping stories of Canadian animal welfare in 2017. As a bonus, we've included the top international animal welfare wins. The lists appear in no particular order.
- The Senate got more animal-friendly. Despite some dicey moments, Bill S-214 and Bill S-203 progressed from the committee stage to third reading this year. Bill S-238, which aims to ban the import of shark fins, was also introduced in 2017 and is currently before the Senate Standing Committee for consultation.
- Canada’s farming industry is inching closer to ending intensive confinement. This year, we saw the start of the phase-out of cruel battery cages for hens and the introduction of rigorous, world-leading standards for cage-free housing systems. We also saw the first steps toward the ban of veal calf crates in Canada.
- Reversal of Montreal’s pit bull ban. Animal advocates across the country cheered as Valerie Plante was elected as Montreal’s new mayor on November 5. She has been following through on her promise to alter the city’s recent animal control bylaw to remove or amend breed-specific provisions.
- Focusing on owner responsibility in municipal animal bylaws. Cities across Canada, including Chateaguay, Laval, Surrey and Rankin Inlet have introduced new animal control policies for their municipalities focused on responsible pet ownership rather than short-sighted policies like BSL.
- Cetacean ban for Vancouver Aquarium. In a bold move, the Vancouver Park Board has banned the captivity of cetaceans on its park lands, effective immediately. This ban includes Stanley Park, where the Vancouver Aquarium is situated.
- New provincial cruelty legislation in PEI. After introducing a new provincial animal welfare law early in 2017, Prince Edward Island has gone from near the bottom of the list to number one in a ranking of provincial animal welfare laws.
- On May 4, an Ontario Court judge found animal advocate Anita Krajnc not guilty of criminal mischief for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to slaughter, saying he's not convinced a crime ever occurred.
- The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association released a new position statement on cat declawing this year, taking the stance that the surgery is ethically unacceptable and should not be performed as an elective surgery. Just before the end of the year, Nova Scotia became the first to ban the practice provincially.
- For the first time ever, a corporation has been charged with animal cruelty. More than 20 charges were laid against Chilliwack Cattle Sales and seven of its workers, and the company has been fined close to $350,000. The Crown has launched an appeal, saying the sentences should be longer.
- BC government adopts full grizzly hunt ban. In a sudden change of policy direction, the government of British Columbia has announced it's closing a much-criticized loophole in the province’s recent grizzly hunting ban. Public consultations have made it clear that killing grizzlies cannot be allowed, with the exception of First Nations people.
- In a shocking development, all charges against Marineland were dropped by the Crown in the case, who said there was no reasonable possibility of conviction.
- It was discovered that infamous hoarder April Irving, who severely neglected more than 200 dogs who were living on her Milk River, Alberta property, fled Canada for Jamaica.
- Canada is falling down on its responsibility to protect wildlife. Each and every province and territory missed the deadline for submitting a caribou protection plan to the federal government, the federal government missed a 90-day deadline for endorsing updates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and sockeye salmon counts remain much lower than expected despite years of work to implement federal protections.
- Tens of thousands of farm animals died agonizing deaths in barn fires across Canada again this year. Some of the worst happened in Abbotsford, Sarnia, Chilliwack, the Montérégie region, and Bothwell and Steinbach, Manitoba. Animal advocates are calling on the Manitoba government to reinstate the fire regulations repealed earlier this year for buildings with low human occupancy, such as barns.
- In July, following a dispute over voting rights, the Ontario SPCA suspended the Ottawa Humane Society’s affiliate status, preventing the organization from investigating animal cruelty and enforcing the law. OHS went to court to challenge the decision and ensure that Ottawa’s animals were well-protected, but the restriction remains in place.
- Abusive vet continues to practice. Dr. Mahavir Rekhi, whose license to practice veterinary medicine was temporarily suspended after the release of videos that showed him physically abusing several animals in his care, has had all charges dropped against him despite extensive video evidence.
- Hidden camera footage obtained by CTV’s W5 showed abuse and mistreatment of dogs, pigs and monkeys being used for research at ITR Laboratories Canada in the West Island region of Montreal. The claims are being investigated by the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
- More than 9,000 fish and frogs died after a power failure at a University of Alberta research lab disabled two dechlorination pumps, releasing chlorinated municipal tap water into freshwater tanks.
- The BC SPCA is recommending federal and provincial animal cruelty charges after undercover footage captured heinous abuses on a chicken farm in Chilliwack, BC.
- Twelve endangered whales die in Canadian waters. Marine mammal experts say that ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are to blame for the deaths of 12 critically endangered North Atlantic Right whales, who were all found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence throughout the summer of 2017.
- Smile, you’re on camera. England and France both implemented policies that require CCTV in slaughterhouses to help curb animal cruelty.
- Ringling Circus closes. After 146 years of operation, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed the show for good in May, in part due to years of pressure from animal advocacy groups.
- Expedia is one of a growing number of travel companies that have committed to no longer selling tickets to exploitative wildlife rides and shows. The booking service has announced that it will no longer sell tickets to “activities involving certain wildlife animal interactions.”
- Days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a decision to lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia, President Donald Trump announced plans to reverse course.
Canada's Cat Overpopulation Crisis
Canadians love cats. They are still this country’s most popular pet.
While cats are actually found in more Canadian households than dogs, sadly, they do not receive the same care and consideration as their canine counterparts. Education about dog behaviour is prevalent, dog-owner responsibilities are well established in municipal bylaws and canine companions are highly valued by Canadians. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for cats.
In most of the country, there is no dog overpopulation and, in some areas, there is even a shortage of dogs for adoption, while cat overpopulation continues to challenge communities across Canada. The impacts of this overpopulation are serious and include cats languishing in shelters long term, or worse, succumbing to stress-related illnesses. For cats who remain outdoors, risk of disease transmission, as well as illness, injury and death are daily realities.
What are the root causes of this overpopulation? If cats are not spayed or neutered and allowed to roam outdoors, the result is a lot of kittens on the streets and in animal shelters. And without permanent ID, a cat who gets lost might stay that way.
But the tide may be turning. After months of ground-breaking and intense industry research, CFHS’ National Cat Overpopulation Task Force has released a brand-new study about how the issue of cat overpopulation has evolved in the last five years. In our newly released report, we’re seeing evidence that cats are starting to be treated with the level of care they deserve. Attitudes are shifting, spay/neuter rates are going up and we’re seeing more cats with permanent ID, like tattoos and microchips – which help them to find their way home if they ever get lost or separated from their owner. Overall, we seem to be shifting to a more proactive approach to cat ownership in Canada, which is encouraging.
The good news is that we’ve taken some giant leaps forward in cat welfare since 2012. The bad news is that it’s not happening quickly enough to overcome Canada’s cat overpopulation crisis. We still have a long way to go. Shelters in your area are likely still overwhelmed with the number of cats in crisis – just like almost every other SPCA and humane society across the country. And, they need the help of CFHS today, more than ever.
As our members deal with these issues in their local communities, CFHS is working at the national level to develop new and innovative programs to help them address overpopulation and its impacts. CFHS also tracks how these innovative approaches are working.
While the situation may be improving, the pace of change is still too slow. That’s why CFHS is working to engage even more stakeholders in this next phase of work to overcome the crisis.
Download your copy of the report by clicking the image below:
About the CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award
The award is named after a founding director and past president of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the late Senator Frederic A. McGrand. Throughout his life, the Senator recognized and advocated respect for all life. He left an important and ongoing philosophical legacy to the animal welfare movement and also established a charitable trust that continues to benefit humane societies and SPCAs in Atlantic Canada.
The 2017 CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award winner is Dr. David Suzuki!
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award and UNEP’s Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 29 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
He is familiar to television audiences as host of the CBC science and natural history television series The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. In 1990, he co-founded The David Suzuki Foundation with Dr. Tara Cullis to collaborate with Canadians from all walks of life, including government and business, to conserve our environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through science-based research, education and policy work.
His written work includes more than 55 books, 19 of them for children. Dr. Suzuki lives with his wife and family in Vancouver, BC.
Nominate an Animal Welfare Hero
Created in 1985, the prestigious CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award recognizes individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to animal welfare in Canada. Past winners include wildlife rehabilitation pioneers Kay and Larry McKeever, animal welfare advocate and veterinarian Dr. Carol Morgan, farm animal welfare champions Tom and Sharon van Milligen, amongst many others.
CFHS will open nominations for the 2018 CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award soon.
How to nominate:
A nominee for the CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award must have made a significant contribution as a founder or builder of Canada's animal welfare movement or otherwise have made a substantial contribution to animal welfare in Canada.
The nomination must include the following information:
- A title page with full contact details about the nominee and nominator including:
Phone and Cell Numbers
- A detailed description of the contributions to animal welfare and protection in Canada that were made by the nominee. This may include, but is not limited to, a narrative description by the nominee, newspaper articles, blog entries, media transcripts, articles or other supporting materials.
- Two letters of reference to support the nomination.
- A signature and date by the nominator.
All entries will be reviewed by the Executive Committee of the CFHS Board of Directors, and the award will be presented at their discretion.
Please send nominations to CFHS by mail, email or fax:
Mail: 30 Concourse Gate, Suite 102, Ottawa, Ontario K2E 7V7
Past winners of CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award
The McGrand Lifetime Achievement Award has been given out on a semi-annual basis since 1985. Below are the past winners.
Dr. David Suzuki
Dr. David Fraser
Dr. Carol Morgan
Exploits Valley NL
Dr. Alice Crook
Mary L. Driscoll
St. John’s NL
St. John’s NL
Tom and Sharon van Milligen
Dr. Denna Benn
Quebec City QC
Philip Baines (posthumously)
Kay and Larry McKeever
North Bay ON
Senator F.A. McGrand
Fredericton and Ottawa
Have you heard that CFHS is presenting Canada’s first national conference on the violence link in December?
If you aren’t familiar with the violence link, it’s the proven link between violence against animals and violence against people. This can manifest in many ways, including a pet being harmed or killed after a woman leaves an abusive relationship or a serial killer practicing his or her abuse on animals before moving on to human beings. Over the last decade, this pattern has come to be known as the violence link.
We now know that, not only does animal abuse co-occur with human abuse, but it can predict future violence against human beings. In fact, animal abuse is more clearly correlated to family violence than mental illness, drinking or drug abuse*.
Our conference is the first big step that Canada is taking to find ways to coordinate and improve our response to the abuse of both people and animals – and better address the ways those forms of abuse intersect.
Our lineup of expert speakers includes…
- Dr. Margaret Doyle, DVM: a forensic expert on animal abuse and neglect who has worked on hundreds of animal cruelty cases, from crime scene analysis and necropsies to providing expert witness testimony at trial. She will be speaking on The Veterinarian's Role in Preventing Violence.
- Dr. Rebecca Ledger: an animal behaviour and welfare scientist who has been doing ground-breaking work as an expert witness in the prosecution of psychological and emotional suffering in cases involving cruelty and neglect. She is presenting on Determining Psychological Suffering in Cases of Animal Cruelty.
- Dr. Peter Collins: a forensic psychiatrist who works with the OPP, the FBI, the RCMP, the Toronto Police Service and the Calgary Police Service, among other organizations, who will be speaking about Animal Abuse in the Criminal Mind.
- Tracy Porteous: the Executive Director of the Ending Violence Association of BC and a three-time Governor General of Canada medal recipient for her work to prevent and end violence. She is presenting on Understanding Lethal Risks Associated with Domestic Violence Toward Keeping Women, Families and Pets Safer.
- Marcie Moriarty: Chief Prevention and Enforcement Officer of the BC SPCA, thought leader on animal cruelty enforcement and prosecution, and a key advisor for Canada’s National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty. She is co-presenting on Investigation and Prosecution of Animal Abuse and Neglect.
- Alex Janse: Animal Cruelty Resource Counsel for British Columbia with the BC Ministry of Justice, thought leader on animal cruelty prosecution, and a key advisor for Canada’s National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty. She is co-presenting on Investigation and Prosecution of Animal Abuse and Neglect.
- Dr. Frank Ascione: an internationally-renowned researcher and author on the development of antisocial and prosocial behavior in children and Scholar-in Residence at the Graduate School of Social Work of the University of Denver. He is presenting on The Roots of Animal Abuse and Neglect and the Connections to Interpersonal and Societal Violence.
Who is this conference for? Police officers, Crown prosecutors, judges, animal cruelty enforcement personnel, veterinarians, social workers, first responders, animal welfare advocates and policy experts. All of these key stakeholders in the fight against violence and abuse will gather for cross-training on these issues so we can begin to take real action on preventing the cycles of abuse that harm both animals and people.
*Source: Dealing with Animal Abuse to Alleviate Family Violence. Zorza, Joan. Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly. Spring 2010. Vol. 2 Issue 4, page 345.