Pet owners rally for improvements to Canada’s animal cruelty laws

When news spread that 100 sled dogs used by Outdoor Adventure Whistler were culled in British Columbia after a dip in tourism following the closing of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Elizabeth Chestney got involved with the issue of animal rights laws in Canada; these events soon led her to hold the Mar. 18 rally in Uptown Waterloo.

Along with about 40 rallies across the country, between 130 and 150 animal lovers and 60 of their canine companions gathered in Waterloo Park and walked to the Uptown Square where Member of Parliament for Ajax-Pickering Mark Holland made a speech to the crowd regarding his efforts to improve Bill C-229 which would update Canada’s animal cruelty laws.

“Right now only about one quarter of one per cent of animal abuse complaints result in a conviction,” explained Holland. “Our laws are so out of date that they simply can’t be used by police to go after people who commit horrific things against animals.”

Holland touched on the importance of updating Canada’s animal cruelty laws, as violence against animals is so often a precursor to violence against human beings.

“We see so often when [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] SPCA officers go into homes and there’s violence against an animal, later on we see family violence, violence against a child, violence against a spouse, and it’s so important to catch that early,” said Holland.

The rally’s overall theme surrounded the change to the legislation and its increasing importance, as echoed by Chestney in her reasoning for why she organized the event. “I just wanted to do my part,” she said. “It really is time now for Canadians to speak out and say let’s update our laws that haven’t really been effectively updated in the century.”

Chestney also cited a World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) survey that discovered that 95 per cent of Canadians oppose animal cruelty and suffering as an indication that Canada’s legislation needs to be improved.
“Case and point our laws don’t reflect Canadian sentiments,” said Chestney.
“They’re out of step with the way we feel about our animals whether they’re working animals or pets, wildlife, strays, everything.”

Organizing both the event, a petition as well as a “paw-tition” for pets to sign with their paw prints, Chestney said that after a successful event she was prepared to send approximately 500 signatures for Holland to bring before parliament. With a federal election looming, Chestney said she hopes animal cruelty might become a ballot issue.

“These are sentient beings that deserve protection, it’s not the same as your kitchen table and right now our laws protect animals only the same way that they protect something like a kitchen table and that’s wrong,” concluded Holland.

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