Canada’s first major update to animal cruelty laws in nearly a century is being billed as a roadblock to change by rights activists.
“I wouldn’t even call it an update. I’ve heard some people say it’s just the old legislation adjusted for inflation,” Tove Reece, executive director of Edmonton-based Voice for Animals, said yesterday.
Earlier this week, a private member’s bill that stiffens penalties for animal abuse was passed by the House of Commons and is awaiting royal assent to become law.
While the law increases maximum jail terms for animal abusers from six months to five years, animal rights activists say it’s meaningless when legal loopholes still allow the vast majority of suspected abusers to walk free.
“When you can only get convictions in less than one per cent of the cases, it doesn’t really matter how high you make the fines and the penalties,” she said.
Instead, she’s supporting a competing bill that will be debated in the fall. Introduced by Liberal MP Mark Holland, the bill removes animal cruelty from property crimes — which legal experts say could make convictions easier.
But she’s concerned that the Harper government will say they’ve already revisited animal cruelty laws, since a similar bill has just been passed, she said.
“I’m personally cynical enough to feel that nothing is going to happen,” she said.
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