Gwen Young, a pet owner and volunteer at the Oromocto, New Brunswick SPCA, is outraged that a man from Minto, New Brunswick was acquitted Tuesday of killing five small dogs, even though he admitted to hitting them on the head with a hammer.
"It's an absolute shock to think this would be OK in today's society," Young said Wednesday.
"Right across Canada for years, animal rights activists and SPCA people have been talking and arguing and fighting with political powers that be to change the system. They have been dragging their feet for years."
Keith Barton, 73, was found not guilty on five counts under Section 446 of the Criminal Code of Canada of killing a dog when he appeared in Burton provincial court Tuesday.
The charges were laid in connection with a visit to his kennel by SPCA officers March 6, 2008. The SPCA was preparing to seize the animals.
Instead of letting that happen, Barton opted to use a hammer to kill the Pomeranians. Only one survived.
Barton was found guilty of one count of injuring a dog under the Criminal Code and of three counts of failing to provide adequate water for the animals under the provincial SPCA Act.
Judge Patricia Cumming said as the law stands in Canada, animals are the property of the owner and that person may dispose of that property providing it doesn't cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal.
Proponents of changes were close to having their wishes granted in 2005 when Bill C-50, an Act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of Cruelty to Animals, was introduced by the then-Liberal government of Paul Martin. But it died on the order paper when an election was called. It hasn't been reintroduced.
Darren Eke, press secretary for federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, declined to speculate on whether another version of C-50 could be introduced by the Conservative government.
"As of right now, the focus is on the economy," Eke said. "The minister of justice continues to work on various justice issues."
In April, a private member's bill stiffening penalties for animal abuse was introduced and approved by the House of Commons. But it was opposed by major animal welfare groups that said it stiffened fines and jail terms without closing loopholes that allow most animal abusers to escape conviction.
A competing private member's bill introduced by Liberal MP Mark Holland would have moved animal cruelty provisions out of the property crimes section of the Criminal Code, but those efforts died when the last federal election was called.
Holland, the MP for Ajax-Pickering in Ontario, has reintroduced the private members bill, identical to C-50. He said he's determined to get it to the floor of the House of Commons.
"I am sick of talking to SPCA officers who go into homes where terrible abuse is happening to animals and nothing is done," he told The Daily Gleaner.
Holland said Canada's laws are behind countries such as Indonesia and need to be modernized.
Paul Melanson, chief animal protection officer for the New Brunswick SPCA, said his organization rarely pursues charges under Section 446 of the Criminal Code because they are too hard to prove.
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