As the largest province in Canada, Quebec offers a society that is rich in many ways: low education fees, openness and bilingualism, and of course the beautiful scenery. A further association to Quebec is that it is the puppy mill capital of North America. The consistent association of such a title is a regrettable mark on Quebec’s record, and although there is the intention for improving the regulations regarding animal abuse, Quebec is far from detaching themselves from this negative connotation.
Each province has their own laws regarding animal protection, thus the application and make-up of these laws differs depending on jurisdiction. Unfortunately overall, the Criminal Code of Canada has generally weak protection of animal rights. It seems to be forgotten that animals are living creatures and should not be treated so harshly as if they were inanimate objects without feeling or emotion. Those who are guilty of animal abuse also rarely serve jail time. In the Criminal Code, there are different consequences for unnecessary suffering, damage/injury and wilful neglect. For unnecessary suffering caused upon the animals, prison time presently does not exceed 5 years with a fine no more than $10,000. In regards to any damage or injuries to the animals, consequences are even less severe with prison time of a maximum of 2 years and a fine not exceeding $5,000. From these numbers alone, it can be concluded that the intentional suffering of animals is merely seen as an inconvenience to judicial proceedings rather than a serious matter. It is only with wilful neglect that people can be prosecuted more seriously, yet still they cannot be prosecuted effectively. One cannot help but ask, for man’s best friend, is there really no importance placed on their health, safety and well-being? Whether a dog, a cat, or any other animal, there should be a level of respect to these living creatures we integrate into our lives.
According to the International Fund of Animal Welfare, approximately 99% of animal abuse acts go unpunished in Canada. Moreover, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is not allowed to directly enforce animal welfare. These organizations are created to benefit the well-being of animals, yet their main goals are prevented from ever being actualized because of several paralysing restrictions. The misery and deprivation that animals are often forced to endure is something citizens should be ashamed of, and it should be in the government’s best interest to expand policies that deal with the protection of animals.
Due to the poor legislation and lack of enforcement towards puppy mill operations, Quebec remains the capital of mistreatment. The Humane Society International (HSI) has been carrying out investigations and fighting mills, especially in Quebec, yet it’s concerning that there are so many cases to investigate. Puppy mills offer a sub-standard health-environment for the animals comprised of minimal treatment and care, unregulated breeding practices and falsified registrations. A recent case that was discovered in a raid was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Between Granby and Sherbrooke in Bonsecours, there was a puppy mill that was raided and shut down. The barn was stuffed with over 200 dogs and dozens of cats. There was fur missing from the animals, they were covered in infections and many were pregnant with no proper care. The executive director of HSI, Rebecca Aldworth, claimed it to be one of the worst conditions she has ever seen a puppy mill in. This raid is only a single example of the many in Quebec that have yet to be seized.
In Canada, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food protects animal health. According to Pierre Paradis, there has been movement to increase the protection in which the government offers to animals. Justice Minister, Stephanie Vallee, has been involved with the agreement redefining animals in the civil code. This said agreement would potentially help clean up the province’s bad reputation with animals. Animals already have microchips for their identification and traceability, and it is about time that they are identified as living creatures rather than personal property.
Animals are capable of feeling pain and unfortunately, Quebec is currently the best place to be an animal abuser. In addition to the new agricultural minister promising to change the legislation in regards to animal protection, there are other movements under-way. A police team strictly for animals is in talks for Quebec to enable further security as well as a 24/7 tip line to report abuse. Little by little, the negative association Quebec is fading, but until this legislation is in place there is still more that must be done.
Image license: Some rights reserved by Rich Evans