Globe and Mail

Ottawa plans crackdown on cruelty to animals

Abusers would face five-year jail terms

Parliamentary Bureau; With a report from Canadian Press.
The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Ottawa -- Ottawa will unveil a new set of laws aimed at cracking down on various criminal offenders, including animal abusers and drunk drivers involved in fatal collisions.

Justice Minister Anne McLellan is expected to bring in two new bills today, one of which changes the 107-year-old law on cruelty to animals. The legislation will increase sentences to five years in prison and allow unlimited fines.

The current maximum is six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Under other changes, judges will be able to order anyone convicted of cruelty to animals to pay restitution to the animal welfare authority that cared for the animal. The abuser can also be barred from owning animals for as long as a judge deems appropriate.

Ms. McLellan is introducing the initiatives after releasing a discussion paper on crimes against animals last year looking for public input. The document said existing laws have changed little since 1892, and appear to do little to stop abusers. It also says the code treats animals as property.
Ottawa came under fire in recent years from animal-welfare groups who wanted stiffer punishments for those who intentionally hurt defenceless animals after some high-profile cases of abuse sparked complaints.

Studies have consistently shown that animal abuse can lead to other crimes of violence, from wife beating to child abuse to murder. Those studies suggest that a society that takes animal cruelty seriously is, in effect, protecting itself.

Mark Lepine, who killed 14 women 10 years ago in Montreal, used to slaughter pigeons in his spare time.

"It's a very serious red flag," Randall Lockwood, a psychologist with the U.S. Humane Society and a leading expert on the subject, said earlier this year. "I've never seen repeated, serious, intentional animal abuse in a vacuum. You don't have a normal, model-citizen father who just happens to like to rip the heads off kittens."

Most of the research -- and examples -- comes from the U.S., where police and district attorneys are starting to pay attention to the statistics. About 22 states have already moved to make animal abuse a felony, and the FBI has long listed it as one of the three signs of criminal potential. The other two are bed-wetting and fire-setting.

Ms. McLellan is also expected to present proposed legislation that would increase the prison sentence for impaired driving causing death. The current 14 years is expected to be raised to life in prison.

The proposed change was left out of drunk-driving legislation passed last spring after the House of Commons failed to agree on its passage.

The parties struck a deal to leave the clause out so that other measures could be fast-tracked into law.

On another front, Ms. McLellan is expected to create a new criminal offence for those who disarm a police officer. The offence has been widely supported by police groups across the country.

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