If you have been charged with any crime, the best way to protect yourself is to hire a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible to assist you, and to ensure that your rights are protected.
Federally, Canada has several provisions contained in the Criminal Code that deal with animal cruelty. However, compared with much of the developed world, Canada’s criminal prohibitions on animal cruelty are fairly lax. In fact, because of the difficulty faced when enforcing our criminal laws in all but the most blatant of cases, most provincial governments have also enacted local animal cruelty/protection legislation that is dealt with as a “provincial offence” (similar to a traffic tickets).
There are a number of provisions dealing with “animal cruelty” in the Criminal Code and then some niche provisions related to specific animals/activities (a ban on animal fighting as sport, a ban on injuring farm animals that you do not own, a ban on bestiality, etc.). The main animal cruelty provisions are:
- 445 killing and harming animals (must be owned animals, does not apply to wild creatures),
- 445.01 killing or injuring service animals (such as police dogs),
- 445.1 causing unnecessary suffering (this provision includes wild animals, and does not cover the vast majority of standard agricultural practices),
- 446 causing damage or injury, via neglect/substandard care.
All of the offences are “hybrid” offences, which means that depending on the severity of the conduct, the Crown prosecutor can elect to have the trial tried summarily or by way of indictment. The Crown’s election would change both certain procedural features of the proceeding as well as determine the maximum penalty, following a conviction.
A key feature that is often criticized by activists, of Canada’s animal cruelty regime is that causing unnecessary pain and/or suffering is only criminal if it was “unnecessary in the circumstances”. The justice system has been averse to applying any of the animal cruelty criminal provisions against persons involved in the agricultural or animal entertainment sectors. As such, governments both federally (through agricultural standards legislation) and provincially have instead taken to regulating those industries with specific guidelines. Typically said regulatory legislation can usually only be punished with fines and will not impart any criminal record.
If you have been charged with any crime, you will likely be overwhelmed by your options, with everyone offering their opinion on how best to proceed. In order to properly protect your rights, nothing beats sound advice from a caring professional. Mehdi Au LLP has lawyers on staff who would be happy to meet and discuss your case. For low income individuals we accept Legal Aid certificate retainers.
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