June 01, 2007

Ontario residents: Bill 232 - not bad, needs some work

Bob (Robert) Runciman, the House Leader for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, has introduced Bill 232 in the Ontario legislature. It contains amendments to the Ontario SPCA Act regarding cruelty to dogs and cats to allow the courts to impose jail terms up to two years less a day, fines up to $60,000 and up to a lifetime ban on pet ownership.

UPDATE: The text of the Bill is now available here. After reading it, I have some concerns that I would like to see addressed, namely the following:

  1. The term "adequate" used in "adequate food and water", "adequate medical attention", and "adequate protection from the elements", seems to me to be vague. Does this mean adequate for survival only or adequate for comfort and growth? I think this could be a problem in prosecutions.

  2. Item 5 is a concern, considering that an enclosure is not supposed to be a place of exercise, so if a dog is properly exercised outside the enclosure and then placed in the enclosure (such as a pen), could that be considered abuse? Crating a dog could also fall under this clause.

  3. Item 6 disallows fear or excessive violence as training tools. It does not define either of these.

    Violence, although shunned by much of the dog training community, is still an accepted method of training. Any type of training collar, be it a slip collar, martingale, pinch, or e-collar, could be construed as violent, even if mild. What is the definition of excessive violence? Could grabbing a puppy by its scruff be considered violent? How about beating a dog senseless?

    Fear is another accepted method of training, although again, a large number of trainers dismiss it in favour of more positive methods. But, if my dog starts digging in the yard and I run at him, yelling, I am using fear as a training method. The terminology used in this Bill does not prohibit "excessive or abusive fear", it prohibits "fear", period.

    My concern regarding this section is that good, solid dog trainers who are doing a good job, especially if working with extreme problem dogs, could end up on the wrong side of the law. Even the police canine units use corrections and "violence" in their training.
I think, to truly support this bill, I'm going to have to get some answers to these questions.

Here is the remainder of my original post, but I am now officially ON THE FENCE.

At the time of writing this post, the text of the Bill is unavailable, so I'm depending on the press release from the PC Party to determine the intention and content of the amendments. Here is the text of that release:


Pet abusers should face stiff penalties and ownership bans - Runciman

TORONTO, ON - Ontarians who abuse their pet cat or dog could face much tougher penalties and a ban on pet ownership if legislation tabled yesterday becomes law.

Progressive Conservative MPP Bob Runciman (Leeds-Grenville) introduced a Private Member's bill that will allow the courts to impose jail terms up to two years less a day, fines up to $60,000 and up to a lifetime ban on pet ownership.

Runciman's legislation comes in the wake of a series of publicized incidents of pet abuse including the removal of a dog's ears in order to make the animal look "scarier".

"People who do serious physical harm to a pet should lose their right to have pets and should face penalties that are proportionate to the extent of the injuries the pet suffered," asserted Runciman.

Runciman is hopeful that the Liberal government will consider speedy passage of his bill prior to the legislature adjourning for the summer.
At first glance, I support this Bill and I encourage others to write or call their Member of Provincial Parliament to ask them to vote for this Bill, particularly if their representative is from the Liberal Party of Ontario. This party has shown an extreme unwillingness to do anything substantial if the suggestion comes from another party. They need to be told to wake up and vote properly on this one, especially since they so clearly voted party line on the Dog Owners' Liability Act.

If this Bill contains everything described, I would hate to see it die because of misplaced party pride or an "us versus them" attitude from the Liberals.

While writing your letter to your Member of Provincial Parliament, you may want to consider contacting your federal MP to discuss Bills S-213 and C-373 related to federal animal cruelty laws. You may first want to read the detailed discussion of these Bills from an earlier article.

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Dianne said...

Really good points, I'm glad you brought those up.

I'm somewhat concerned myself and wrote Mr. Runciman to ask first of all whether there might be any conflict with the (grossly inadequate) anti-cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code? My thought is that if Bill 232 is passed and a person is charged, that the accused might argue that the charges should have been laid under the less onerous anti-cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. If this were to happen, if an accused were to make this argument, would it hold up and/or would the taxpayers be subjected to paying for legal arguments about which legislation prevails?

As for section 2, "Provide the animal with adequate medical attention when the animal is sick or injured or in pain or suffering.", would this allow me to lodge a complaint against a municipal animal control department that does not provide adequate veterinary care for animals in its keeping?

I think this Bill is well-intended but insufficient time has gone into its drafting. Some very important terms, such as "adequate", are not defined.

I'd like to see this Bill refined before it goes any further.

Selma said...

Here we go again. The AR agenda rears its ugly head, this time on the PC side of the House.

I'll have to read it myself, but your comments indicate that this Bill is flawed so I'll likely agree.

At least Bob Runciman is approachable, logical and honest, so hopefully he'll take suggestions, unlike you-know-who.

Fortunately, the House breaks for the summer on June 7.

Then, after an overly long summer holiday, it's election time!!!

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