Ottawa’s proposed new legislation that would strengthen laws around animal cruelty are disappointing to many animal advocates, including those involved with the case of Duncan’s Teddy the dog.
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the intention is for Bill C-84, tabled in October, to address gaps in the criminal law regarding bestiality and strengthen laws around animal fighting.
The bill is a response, in part, to a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled a convicted sexual offender was not guilty of bestiality following charges stemming from sexual activity involving one of his stepdaughters and the family dog.
“Bill C-84 represents a common ground approach to ensuring the protection of children and animals from cruelty and abuse,” said Wilson-Raybould in a press release.
But the limited scope of the legislation is a concern for the MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, Alistair MacGregor, who has advocated for tougher laws to deal with animal abuse.
McGregor said that while Bill C-84 includes important changes cracking down on bestiality and animal fighting for sport, it failed to include basic standards of care and housing, as well as restrictions on tethering for domestic animals.
“In February, Teddy the dog died in Duncan after being kept in horrendous conditions in one of the BCSPCA’s most profoundly shocking and disturbing animal abuse cases,” he said.
“At that time, I asked the minister to take immediate action to put greater protections in place for our domestic pets, but what we got was just a drop in the bucket after a long wait. We owe it to our animal friends to strengthen our laws, so that cases like this never happen again.”
The BCSPCA seized the emaciated and chained Teddy, a mixed-species dog, in critical distress on a property in Duncan on Feb. 16, 2018.
The dog was found on a tether that was only a few inches long, standing in a large pile of mud and feces.
Not only was Teddy severely emaciated, but his collar was deeply embedded into his neck, causing massive infection so severe that the dog’s head was swollen to two to three times its normal size.
Despite extensive emergency treatment and around-the-clock care, the dog succumbed to his critical condition two days later.
The case sparked a wave of protests by animal rights groups, and numerous rallies calling for changes to animal rights laws have been held in the Cowichan Valley since the death of Teddy.
Anderson Joe and Melissa Tooshley are facing charges of animal cruelty in the case, and a pretrial conference is scheduled at the Duncan Courthouse on Nov. 15.
MacGregor said the New Democrats have been pushing for common-sense measures, including the creation of a new gross negligence offence for failing to provide adequate care, and allowing courts to impose a lifelong ban on animal ownership for repeat offenders.
“Animal cruelty goes far beyond bestiality and animal fighting, and we need to work together to truly overhaul protections for animals,” said MacGregor.
“It’s time for the federal government to step up and make sure no pets go through what Teddy did.”
Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, also said the new law took too long to bring in, and it is too narrow in scope.
“Disappointingly, the new legislation only contains very minor measures related to bestiality and animal fighting,” she said.
“These provisions are welcome, but they should have been introduced as part of a larger package of desperately needed animal cruelty reforms.”