Newfoundland ninth in animal abuse study

Annual report ranks Quebec as ’best province to be an animal abuser'

Published on May 18, 2011

Newfoundland and Labrador has finished in the middle of the pack when it comes rankings of the best provinces to be an animal abuser, according to a new study.

Newfoundland was ninth in the rankings of 13 provinces and territories — the bottom of the “middle tier.”

Quebec has been placed squarely in the doghouse as a new report decries its track record on animal protection.

The publication released Tuesday by the U.S.-based Animal Legal Defense Fund named Quebec as “the best province to be an animal abuser” with only Nunavut trumping its unenviable record.

The fund analysed animal protection laws in jurisdictions across the country and also placed Alberta and the Northwest Territories in the bottom tier of its report.

Among the areas of lengthy list of improvements suggested for Newfoundland and Labrador are mandatory and larger fines; mandatory reporting of suspected animal cruelty by veterinarians and other agencies; mandatory seizure of mistreated animals; mandatory terms of conviction for certain offenders and a higher range of penalties, including increased penalties for repeat offenders.

Ontario emerged as the safest province for animals due to its wide range of protection laws, followed by Manitoba and New Brunswick.

Saskatchewan showed the most significant improvement, moving from seventh place last year to fifth. ALDF noted the province enacted stiffer penalties for offences with animal abusers now facing imprisonment for up to two years and a $25,000 fine.

“Animals do not vote, but those who love and care about them do. It is our hope that these ongoing reviews continue to garner support for both the strengthening and enforcement of animal protection laws throughout Canada,” said report author Stephan Otto, who is also the fund’s director of legislative affairs.

The report — published for the fourth consecutive year— said legislative weaknesses including minimal fines and weak basic care standards resulted in some jurisdictions ranking worse than others.

Quebec’s rock-bottom ranking came just weeks after reports of animal suffering at Montreal’s privately-held Berger Blanc pound shocked many across the country.

Videos of cats and dogs suffering, as well as images of questionable euthanasia practices documented in a Radio-Canada report prompted criticism from the city and the province.

Actress Brigitte Bardot was among those who lashed out against the pound and also called the province a “barbaric, primordial country” when it came to the treatment of animals.

Montreal’s mayor has said measures have been taken against the pound which has animal-control contracts in several Montreal boroughs and surrounding towns. One of those include making sure a city employee is present when an animal is euthanized.

Meanwhile, British Columbia ranked seventh, among the report’s middle tier, as the province continues to deal with the fallout from the slaughter of about 100 sled dogs last year near Whistler, B.C.

A team from the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is investigating the mass cull and has exhumed some 52 sled dogs so far. The probe was launched after allegations surfaced that a sled dog operator slaughtered the animals in April last year and as a result sought worker’s compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder.

While specifics from the investigation haven’t been released, new information has since come to light and was to be forwarded to the Crown with the aim of pressing animal cruelty charges.

The ALDF report, which documented existing strengths and identified potential improvements for each jurisdiction, suggested a broader range of protections and better definitions of basic care standards for the province.

When it comes to countrywide animal protection, the fund said change could take place at the provincial and territorial levels and urged animal advocates to push their elected officials to watch out for their furry friends.

The organization also remained hopeful that Ottawa would improve federal animal protection laws. But it could have a tough time making headway with the new Conservative majority government.

While on the campaign trail last month Canada’s federal political leaders were surveyed for their positions on animal rights by the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

NDP leader Jack Layton, who now fronts the official opposition, had decried “the abuse of any vulnerable creature, human or otherwise,” and promised to work to protect animals.

The Conservatives however, neglected to respond.