Alberta Court of Appeal rules animals are sentient beings under law just in time for International Animal Rights Day on December 10th.
The ruling done by the Alberta Court of Appeal in a recent animal abuse case states that animals are sentient beings who experience pain and suffering. Crimes against animals are violent acts that can not be held to the same standard as that of property.
“The Justice in that case had a very good orientation during her sentencing where she spoke to animals as being a part of the family and we need to protect them, as well as, the people in the home. There is a lot of awareness at that level now,” said Cst. Dennis Smithson with the Calgary Police Service (CPS).
As more cases get attention from the media, more action is being taken by authorities. The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) are the first in Canada to create an animal cruelty investigation unit (ACIU) that is implemented by a law enforcement agency.
“Most of these files or complaints fell onto animal care and control here in Edmonton and a lot of these were criminal files so there was a gap in services. We work daily with them and we’ve closed that gap,” said Cst. Teddy with the Edmonton Police Service.
The Calgary Police Service is not far behind. CPS and EPS both recognize animal cruelty is interconnected to violence against humans and it should never be overlooked.
“I think it's the awareness of The Violence Link. It’s always been there, it’s just recognizing how much that link between animal abuse and other interpersonal crime overlap and then seeing this as a means where we can intervene in that interpersonal violence and use this knowledge to help our human and animal victims,” said Smithson.
CPS and EPS work closely together with many animal cruelty files and share resources between the units. Cst. Smithson suspects that as more police services see the success in the creation of the ACIU in Edmonton, others will fall in line.
“Calgary Police currently has the Canadian record for sentencing on an animal abuse related file where an individual received two years of federal time,” said Smithson.
CPS is receiving a good response from its team; once officers learn about it, they are eager to seek more information and education on the matter. In the last two years, the knowledge and training going out has increased Calgary Police services’ criminal charges by 75 per cent for animal abuse files.
“What we are seeing in our sentencing from our judges now is there is a recognition of The Violence Link and animals are now being seen as vulnerable victims; they can’t protect themselves,” said Smithson.
Edmonton Police Service stresses the importance of the community’s help when prosecuting these cases. If a citizen witnesses animal abuse or neglect or suspects it going on, EPS recommends calling 311 or visiting their website: www.edmontonpolice.ca/CrimePrevention/PersonalFamilySafety/AnimalCrueltyInvestigationUnit/ReportAnimalCruelty
“A cat or dog can’t pick up a phone and let us know what is going on so we rely heavily on the public to call these matters in,” said Teddy.
Multiple animal welfare stories have made headlines recently including the devastation of the agricultural farms in B.C. during the floods. Over 600,000 animals were killed on factory farms from being trapped due to a lack of rescue resources was one vital reason. This brings to light the importance of revisiting protocols and safety standards for farmed animals.
Organizations like Animal Justice, Calgary Animal Save, Humane Canada and We Animals Media bring attention to animal welfare issues on a federal level. Without the effort of these organizations animal rights would not be progressing as they are today.
“There is more awareness coming out through the media and the community that there is more to animal crime than what you see; it is linked to so much more. We are so much better suited to serve our communities and help the victims,” said Smithson.
By Chelsea Blyth
Cst. Teddy, Edmonton Police Service
Cst. Ilka Cunningham, Animal Cruelty Investigation Unit, Edmonton Police Service
Cst. Dennis Smithson, Calgary Police Service