It's the end of the year, and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is once again asking: are things getting better or worse for animals in Canada?
CFHS took a look back through 2016 and pulled together the biggest stories of this year's Canadian animal welfare advances (The Good), setbacks (The Bad) and things that made our jaws drop (The Ugly). We've also included info on the top five international animal welfare wins from 2016. They appear in no particular order.
The Good: Top 10 Wins For Canada's Animals In 2016
1. Animal advocates across the country cheered in unison when we heard that the infamous Bowmanville Zoo had closed its doors for good. The zoo saw a steep decline in attendance after animal cruelty charges were laid against the facility's co-owner, Michael Hackenberger.
2. Spay/neuter projects took Canada by storm this year! We saw new mobile clinics established by Nova Scotia SPCA, Ottawa Humane Society and Toronto Animal Services. There were also increases to spay/neuter funding in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and The Yukon.
3. We saw several new protections for Canada's wildlife this year, with a ban on drone hunting in BC, a commitment from the government of Alberta to ban spear hunting, a withdrawal of Ontario's proposal to relax hunting regulations for wolves and coyotes and a landmark ruling in BC that hopefully heralds a new era of accountable decision-making by BC wildlife officials.
4. The emotional suffering of animals was successfully prosecuted in several Canadian court cases this year, thanks to the important work of animal behaviour scientist Dr. Rebecca Ledger.
5. The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) gave hen welfare a major boost when they announced that their entire membership will source 100 per cent of their eggs from cage-free egg farms by 2025. RCC stores include Sobeys, Loblaws, Metro and Walmart Canada.
6. Legal outcomes are improving! This year, we saw federal time given to an extreme animal abuser, the first charges laid under Quanto's Law in August and October, and the first-ever farm animal cruelty charges against a corporation.
7. 2016 saw important changes to painful farming procedures come into effect! CFHS secured a requirement that pain medication must be used as of July 1, 2016 for all tail-docking and castration of pigs. This practice puts Canada ahead of the EU in terms of pain management requirements for pigs.
8. More Canadian vets and animal welfare groups banned cosmetic surgery practices in 2016, like ear-cropping and tail docking. These procedures have been banned in seven of 10 provinces, including British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador - and now Quebec.
9. The province of BC announced it will adopt the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association's code of practice for cat and dog breeding and boarding operations, which includes standards of care for cleaning, sanitizing, vet care, housing, ventilation, food and water.
10. Things are getting better for homeless companion animals! Thanks to innovative new practices and more collaboration, adoption is up and euthanasia is down at Canada's humane societies and SPCAs - and fewer animals are entering shelters in the first place.
The Bad: Setbacks for Animal Welfare
1. There has been a sharp increase in the number of animals being used in Canadian science. The 2014 Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) annual report showed a 24 per cent increase in animal use from the previous year.
2. There were 12 high-profile zoo deaths this year, including a lion at Papanack Zoo, a porpoise and two beluga whales at Vancouver Aquarium, along with seven penguins and a river otter at Calgary Zoo.
3. In 2016, there were outbreaks of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario. The virus cropped up after CFIA ended its preventative truck-washing protocol at the U.S./Canadian border.
5. After ten years of consultations, CFIA finally released a new draft version of our federal transport regulations for farm animals on December 3. While we need these updates as a bare minimum, the new regulations are woefully inadequate.
The Ugly: What Were They Thinking?
1. In a devastating 6-1 ruling in June, the Supreme Court of Canada restricted the definition of bestiality to only penetration. This legal loophole will remain open, making animals vulnerable to various forms of sexual abuse, unless Parliament reforms the law.
3. A horrific spate of barn fires claimed the lives of tens of thousands of farm animals in 2016. Most of the fires were in Ontario, but we also saw major incidents in Quebec, PEI, Saskatchewan and BC.
4. In a much-contested move, the City of Montreal passed a ban on pit bulls as part of sweeping changes to local animal control policies. Montreal SPCA secured a temporary reversal of the ban, but it was overturned on December 1.
5. It was announced in August that the George River caribou herd in Labrador has declined by 99% since 1990. The herd was once numbered at 800,000 but now has fewer than 9,000 remaining.
Top International Animal Welfare Wins In 2016
1. The FBI has added animal cruelty to list of Class A felonies and has started tracking animal abusers.
2. Armani went fur-free this year.
3. Sea World announced an end to its orca breeding program.
4. Ringling and Barnham and Bailey fast-tracked the retirement of their elephants.
5. UEP egg farmers have vowed to end chick culling by 2020.
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