Monday, February 16, 2009

It's been a tough week to be a dog in Atlantic Canada

It's been a tough week to be a dog in Atlantic Canada in the last couple weeks - but things are starting to look up - at least in New Brunswick.

Last week 5 puppies were found in the woods in Baddeck Nova Scotia - 2 of them had already died, but 3 of them were still alive - 1 of them had a broken leg that had already healed, 1 of them had a head wound - but all 3 of them are going to be okay and as of today are already in their forever homes - 100's of people came forward wanting to adopt them.

In Waycobah Cape Breton, a woman's german shepherd was barking at some men who were ice fishing - so they called 911 and the local dog catcher came who shot him 10 times - killing him.

And then here just outside of Halifax in Ketch Harbour - a dog was shot dead when it was on a walk-about - and the owners are devastated - I guess the dog regularly ran around at large, and one of the problems with our provincial laws is that it's perfectly legal to shoot a dog if you say you saw it chasing wildlife and it's owner was not around and under his voice control. So in this sad story the only human breaking the law was the grieving dog owner.

But some good news did happen - because of the recent non-satisfying conviction of Keith Burton up in New Brunswick a new organization has been formed - "The BARK Campaign" - and they have a facebook group - they are an advocacy organization and they've formed because they're -

"Fighting for the animal cruelty laws to be changed to reflect domestic animals as pets, not property". Today’s laws allow the killing of pets to be a non-criminal act as long as you’re killing your own “property” and the animal dies relatively quickly.
Outraged? Join and find out what you can do to help stop this..... You can contact your elected officials by any means and as often as you like until the laws change and make our BARKING stop!!!"

They've watched Keith Burton in New Brunswick be allowed to kill his pomeranians by bludgeoning them to death with a hammer - and now these puppies be left to die in the woods - and it seems they're tired of the way that animals are treated in their province and across the country. Their group has quickly grown to over 1,200 members and they're taking their message to Ottawa to change the animal cruelty laws.

Personally - I want to keep my animals as property - but animal cruelty laws do need to include end of life issues - so that how animals are killed and the methods that are used is covered.

I talked about that "kennel" in Pennsylvania that killed their 70 dogs on this blog when I talked about Chapman kennels in New Brunswick who killed ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE of their dogs in one shot - and no news organization picked up on the story a few months ago. It was a national disgrace and no one cared. Hopefully laws will change so that something like that is never is allowed to happen again. We can only hope, can't we?

There is a super article on MSNBC that someone sent me today about the subject that covers the subject -

Animal cruelty laws among fastest-growing - Concept that pets and livestock have rights, as humans do, gaining ground

PORTLAND, Ore. - Some things shouldn't happen even to a dog. But they do.

In Pennsylvania last year, a warden ordered two kennel operators to examine some of their charges for fleas. Instead, Elmer Zimmerman of Kutztown shot 70 dogs; his brother Ammon, who had a kennel next door, shot 10.

Horrible, yes, said Jessie Smith, the state's special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement, when the killings were reported. "But it's legal."

No more. Partly because of outrage over the shootings, dogs in Pennsylvania kennels now can be euthanized only by a veterinarian, and the state keeps a tighter leash on the "puppy mills."

Changes in animal law have come, and not just to Pennsylvania. Other incidents of abuse and a shifting national consciousness have made this one of the fastest-growing fields in the legal profession. In 1993, just seven states had felony animal cruelty laws; today, all but four do.

"Animal law is where environmental law was 20 years ago. It's in its infancy but growing," said Pamela Frasch, who heads the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, where she has been an adjunct professor for 10 years.

Lewis & Clark opened the first Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter in 1992. Today it has branches at more than 115 law schools in the United States and Canada.

In 2000, nine law schools had animal law studies. Today about 100 do.

"The reason it is getting taught is student demand," said professor David Favre, who teaches animal law at Michigan State University College of Law and is a top authority in the field. "It's not because tenured professors wanted to teach it, it's that students want to take it."

Favre said most animal law cases in private practice deal with issues such as dangerous dogs, divorce settlements, purchases or other property-related activities.

But it is the animal rights cases that draw attention. And while there have been advances in recent years, some issues remain unsettled. Should pets have more rights than livestock or wild animals? Are some species more deserving of protection?

In George Orwell's words, are some animals more equal than others?

State laws vary widely.

For example: At a Montana campsite, Gunner, a chocolate lab, was killed by a camper who cut off the dog's head with a chain saw and threw it at the owners.

Russell Howald, 30, was sentenced to the maximum — two years.

But in Iowa, undercover video shot by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows farm workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods into sows' hindquarters.

"I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!" the employee yells as he hits a sow with a metal rod. "Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! ... Take out your frustrations on 'em."

Scott Heiser of Portland, a former district attorney who now is criminal justice program director for the Animal Legal Defense Find, said Iowa's general animal cruelty law exempts livestock from protection. If charges were brought against the workers, they most likely would be misdemeanors, at most.

Animal law, Frasch said, is a mix of incongruities.

"In the past if someone did something bad to your animal there wasn't much you could do," Frasch said. "But if your animal was stolen and well-treated, it could be a felony. It was out of balance.

"A mouse as a pet has protection. A mouse as a pest can be killed at will. Research mice have no protection. It is the same animal but it is a matter of context."

Portland attorney Geordie Duckler practices animal law exclusively, but as property. Animals, he said, gain instead of lose value over time as owners build affection and investment.

"Someone who runs over a dog may ask why he should pay the owner thousands of dollars instead of just buying a new dog. That might work with a piano," said Duckler.

The concept that animals have rights, as humans do, appeals to many. But not Duckler, who noted in a legal column in "Bark" magazine that an owner can have a dog euthanized or end an animal's pregnancy.

Duckler, who also holds advanced degrees in biology and zoology, said writings and advocacy by animal rights activists tend to be limited to mammals alone.

He asks why earthworms — simple and senseless, but animals, nevertheless — "are left out in the legal cold," while others soak in "soapy tubfulls of nonscientific nonsense that we are not all that far removed from our animal ancestry."

Yet there is a middle ground.

Princeton professor Peter Singer, a pro-animal rights scholar, is quoted in a recent New Yorker article as saying he doesn't think his cats should vote or call on him in the hospital, although he wouldn't object to the visit.

"The right category for pets is closer to children, who can't vote, can't own property but you can't inflict pain on them, either. The law is catching up with societal beliefs."

Well, some of them are, and not just for pets.

In November, California voters banned cramped metal cages for chickens being raised for food and gestation crates for sows and crates for lambs that leave the animals barely able to move. Other states have passed more limited measures, and similar proposals are floating around Congress.

"People are starting to ask questions about things they don't see, and animal abuse mostly happens in places we don't see it," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of litigation for the Humane Society of the United States and adjunct professor of animal law at Georgetown University.

"Most legal protections were drafted in the 1800s. They've upgraded a few of them but the overall framework is not a modern one," Lovvorn said. "Hamilton and John Adams would not be surprised by our cruelty codes today. They would be very familiar to them."

Lawyers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund are busy helping overworked prosecutors try abuse cases, ranging from aggressive cruelty to cases of horses abandoned to starve because owners cannot afford to feed them.

Heiser says he concentrates on helping prosecutors who increasingly cannot ignore animal cruelty cases. "Some may need five hours of research and don't have time for it. We will help them."

Political pressure to require aggressive investigations and prosecutions began building about 15 years ago, he said. Before that, some prosecutors were giving away cases "for a song at the plea level," he recalled.

Pockets of resistance remain, he said. Some prosecutors tell him "it's just a dog" or "I've got real crime to prosecute. I'm too busy."

But new laws in many states, he said, put animal abuse on par with drunken driving cases where prosecutors are prohibited from "dealing," or plea-bargaining, down to a lesser offense.

He said the law students he has met who are devoted to animal law "are very skilled and talented young men and women. Of course the empathy is there but most have faith in the legal system to effect change," unlike some animal rights activists who resort to violence.

Few areas of the law inspire greater emotional response — or more contradictions.

"Companion animals are especially caught up in this," Heiser said. "There are people who would risk their lives to save their dog or cat. But they still eat meat."


  1. Yes you are right Joan - a lot of cruelty events have transpired over the past couple weeks in the Maritimes..... but sometimes I wonder if they are becomming for frequent, or are they being given more media coverage.... an interesting way of looking at it forsure !

    I hope it is just a start of a trend of catching and convicting these people.


  2. Sad indeed. Hopefully these sad events lead to harsher punishments for these disgusting people.

  3. It's also a little buit iteresting to note, also, that the 2 incidents that occurred in Cape Breton are from the same area on the Island. Wacobah is a native reserve and they have no 'animal control' per se. That is where the dog was shot. It's completely acceptible and the pre-requisite is that it's a clean shot. 10 times is certainly not clean!

    Also, the puppies that were left in the woods was near Baddeck. The two 'men' wo were arrested for doing such are both from Watmacook - the neighboring Native Reserve to Wacobah.
    I think it's time for some punnishment and education.

  4. "There are people who would risk their lives to save their dog or cat. But they still eat meat."

    This is the key phrase for me.
    More than 100,000 cows are killed every day in North America, in the exact same way that Mr. Burton killed his Pomeranians. Cows, of course, are at least as sentient and sensitive as puppies, if not more so.

    I know this site is generally about dogs Joan, but I'm curious about your take on this cognitive dissonance.

  5. I've actually written quite a bit about that, Scott - I'll write some more about it tonight when I've got a minute to do it. It's a topic that interests me a lot.