It's the end of the year and, once again, we at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies are asking: are things getting better or worse for animals in Canada?
I'm happy to say that this was a very good year for animals in Canada. We've had some significant forward movement -- a number of important new laws and policies were introduced this year that will make a huge difference in the years to come.
Below is a summary of the advances for Canadian animal welfare this year (The Good), the setbacks (The Bad) and the issues that made us shake our heads in sorrow (The Ugly). This year, we've also included a bonus section with the top five international animal welfare wins from 2015.
The Good: Top 10 wins for Canada's animals in 2015
- In an historic move, the province of Quebec, long known as the puppy mill capital of Canada due to its weak animal cruelty provisions, adopted a new law that declares animals sentient beings.
- For the first time, the Parliament of Canada has recognized the special role of service animals with the introduction of Quanto's Law, which gives special protection to animals working with the military, the police or people with disabilities.
- UsedEverywhere.com decided to put the safety of animals first and ban the private sale of pets in their online classifieds sites across the country, helping to limit the profits of disreputable breeders who often peddle poorly-treated animals from puppy and kitten mills online.
- This was the year that many corporations chose to put the chicken before the egg, making commitments to using cage-free eggs across their supply chain. Restaurants like McDonald's, Taco Bell, Panera, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks all got on the cage-free train in 2015.
- Vets in B.C. will no longer be allowed to crop dogs' ears thanks to a ban of this painful cosmetic practice by the College of Veterinarians of BC in October.
- In March, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced a phase-out of all elephant performances by 2018, telling The Associated Press that growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision.
- This year, Ontario became the first Canadian province or territory to ban the purchase, sale or breeding of orca whales. This is part of an ongoing government plan to improve marine mammal welfare in Ontario.
- In November, the Supreme Court of Canada granted intervener status to an animal welfare group for the first time to argue on behalf of animals. The group presented arguments against a legal loophole that currently permits certain forms of bestiality.
- The Canadian federal government launched a long-awaited e-petition site for people to submit petitions to the House of Commons electronically. Animal welfare advocates were first to use the site with a petition to ban shock collars.
- Prince Edward Island took a giant leap forward in the area of animal protection with new province-wide legislation that comes into effect in 2016.
The Bad: Setbacks for animal welfare
- Officials from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry announced that they will be expanding the province's spring bear hunt pilot program in 2016, which could lead to the orphaning of bear cubs.
- The BC SPCA had a record year for the number of animal abuse cases being investigated in the province, having surpassed their 2014 totals by October 2015.
- Kijiji says it has no plans to stop breeders from selling animals on its site despite a two-year-long campaign against it. Representatives from the company said they don't see any point in shutting down that category and making people go elsewhere.
- Animal welfare advocates were underwhelmed by a pledge that Seaworld made late this year to phase out the orca show at its San Diego location in 2016 and replace it with a "more natural" orca show.
- Toronto animal rights activist Anita Kranjc was charged with criminal mischief for giving water to a thirsty pig on its way to slaughter during a protest in June. She could be facing up to 10 years in prison.
- This was an especially horrendous year for the Calgary Stampede in which a number of brutal collisions during chuckwagon races led to the deaths of four horses.
The Ugly: What were they thinking?
- The Canadian public was horrified to learn that a Vancouver-area dog walker named Emma Paulsen lied about accidentally killing and then burying six dogs in her care after leaving them in her hot vehicle while shopping.
- There was a tidal wave of outrage from Canadians in August after it came to light that RCMP officers had shot and killed a family dog during an arrest northeast of Regina in July 2014.
- The owner of a 21-year-old blind and deaf dog says she is disgusted by the actions of an OPP officer who ran over and then fatally shot her dog in Collingwood, Ontario in October.
- Alberta SPCA officers discovered 201 dogs in distress on a southern Alberta property belonging to April Dawn Irving. The discovery resulted in the largest removal of dogs in the agency's history.
- The entire world erupted in a chorus of anger after a protected lion named Cecil was lured out of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and fatally shot by an American dentist.
Top five International Animal Welfare Wins In 2015
- U.S. and China ban ivory
- Tennessee establishes the first North American animal abuse registry
- France bans the import of African lion-hunting trophies
- Peru adopts a progressive new federal animal cruelty law
- Mexico signs a declaratory on animal welfare
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