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The Ontario SPCA has announced that it will withdraw from enforcing animal protection laws in the province of Ontario as of March 31, when its current funding agreement with the province expires.

While many animal lovers may be concerned by this news, and fear that it will be bad for animals, Animal Justice is applauding the Ontario SPCA for this bold move. We believe it will prompt the government to create a new, stronger, public enforcement system that will be better-equipped to protect animals from cruelty and suffering.

What’s the problem? First, animal law enforcement is woefully underfunded. The Ontario SPCA is not a government agency—it is a private charity. The Ontario SPCA is expected to enforce publicly-enacted animal protection laws in the province, and responds to nearly 16,000 animal welfare complaints each year, province-wide. But the agency receives less than $6 million from the provincial government to carry out its important work, and is forced to fundraise so it can afford to enforce public laws, run shelters, and care for animals. The funding provided to the Ontario SPCA represents a mere 0.001% of the $4.4 billion in public money that is spent on policing in Ontario every year, and the agency is ill-equipped to carry out its mandate. There are more fare inspectors working at the Toronto Transit Commission than there are animal welfare inspectors in the entire province.

Second, many people have questioned whether it is appropriate in 2019 for a private charity to enforce public laws. The Ontario SPCA is not subject to freedom of information laws, police accountability legislation, and other oversight mechanisms that apply to virtually all other law enforcement agencies. In January 2019, an Ontario judge ruled that giving police powers to a private body without transparency and accountability is unconstitutional. Animal Justice intervened in the case in support of the court’s decision, because we believe transparency and accountability are important to making sure animal cruelty offences are investigated and addressed. The case is now being appealed.

Animal Justice believes it is time for a new system, and the Ontario SPCA’s move should prompt the government to implement a well-funded, public law enforcement regime. Caring for animals is a public responsibility, and the government needs to step up and properly fund this vital area of our legal system so that vulnerable animals in our society have strong protections from from cruelty and neglect.

The Ontario SPCA decision will not leave animals unprotected in Ontario. Police officers have always had the authority to enforce federal and provincial animal cruelty laws, and have often done so despite the Ontario SPCA’s overlapping authority. The Ontario SPCA has also offered to continue to provide enforcement services for a three-month transition period, until the end of June 2019.

The private, SPCA enforcement model is a quirk of history, and occurs in virtually no other area of the law. When early animal cruelty laws were enacted in the 1800s in England, most prosecutions were done privately by aggrieved individuals. The Royal SPCA formed to ensure animal laws were enforced, as animals were unable to prosecute cases on their own, and the SPCA enforcement model spread throughout Commonwealth countries.

Other provinces have already moved away from private animal law enforcement. The Edmonton Humane Society announced in January 2019 that it would end enforcement, concluding that it is no longer appropriate for a donation-supported body to fulfill a public enforcement function. Manitoba animal protection laws are primarily enforced by the office of the Chief Veterinary Officer, a public agency. In Newfoundland, the police enforce animal protection laws.

Animal Justice is committed to working with the Ontario SPCA and the province to examine the best options for a strong new enforcement system that puts animals’ interests first. We will keep you updated on future developments, and for ways you can help.

 

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OTTAWA – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding the Ontario SPCA’s move to transition away from enforcing animal protection laws after March 31, 2019. The agency announced today that it will instead offer to partner with provincial law enforcement experts, providing veterinary services and other animal-related support.

Although the Ontario SPCA is a private charity, it is empowered by legislation to enforce animal protection laws in the province of Ontario. The Ontario SPCA receives a small amount of government funding to do so, but is forced to raise additional funds on its own to ensure animal protection law are enforced. Of the estimated $4.4 billion spent on policing in Ontario, less than $6 million is given to the Ontario SPCA, representing only 0.001%.

Unlike virtually every other law enforcement agency, the Ontario SPCA is not subject to freedom of information or police accountability legislation. In January, a Superior Court judge ruled in the case of Bogaerts v. Ontario that it is unconstitutional for the province to delegate policing powers to the Ontario SPCA without transparency and accountability mechanisms. Animal Justice intervened in the Bogaerts case and argued in support of this outcome. The case is being appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“Animal Justice supports this courageous move by the Ontario SPCA as a first step toward modernizing animal law enforcement,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “As the courts have already recognized, the private enforcement model needs an overhaul. Animal protection is the only area of the law where the government relies on private charities to enforce public laws, and forces them to raise their own funds to support this essential work.

“Law enforcement by private charities is no longer appropriate in 2019, and vulnerable animals in Ontario deserve a robust, well-resourced public system. People care deeply about preventing animal cruelty, and we are committed to working with the government and the OSPCA to usher in strong new legislation that provides maximum protection to animals and ensures laws are effectively enforced.”

The Ontario SPCA decision will not leave animals unprotected in Ontario. Police officers have always had the authority to enforce federal and provincial animal cruelty laws, and have often done so despite the Ontario SPCA’s overlapping authority.

Private enforcement of animal protection laws is largely a quirk of history. When early animal cruelty laws were enacted in the 1800s in England, most prosecutions were done privately by aggrieved individuals. The Royal SPCA formed to ensure animal laws were enforced, as animals were unable to prosecute cases on their own. The SPCA enforcement model spread throughout Commonwealth countries.

Other provinces have already moved away from private animal law enforcement. The Edmonton Humane Society announced in January that it would get out of enforcement, concluding that it is no longer appropriate for a donation-supported body to fulfill a public enforcement function. Manitoba animal protection laws are primarily enforced by the office of the Chief Veterinary Officer, a public agency. In Newfoundland, the police enforce animal protection laws.

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

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Ad Standards has confirmed that a misleading transit ad campaign from the Dairy Farmers of Canada has been removed!

The advertisement claimed “there are zero growth hormones in milk produced in Canada”, but this is entirely false. IGF-1 is a naturally occurring growth hormone that is present in all cow’s milk, which helps turn calves into thousand-pound adults.

When Animal Justice heard from concerned citizens who were appalled by the dairy industry’s deceitful ad campaign, we assisted the public in filing complaints to the national regulator.

We’re pleased that the truth prevailed, and that the dairy industry is no longer permitted to advertise through this unlawful, false messaging.

Full view of the misleading transit ad.

Many Canadians are shocked to the learn that the dairy industry has a $80 million annual advertising budget, duping people into drinking milk that is inherently cruel to animals, linked with health problems, and detrimental to the environment.

This is not the first time that the dairy industry has tried to mislead consumers through false advertising. Back in 2016, Animal Justice filed a complaint with authorities when the Dairy Farmers of Canada partnered with health agencies to run ads suggesting that daily dairy consumption was necessary for good health. In fact, dairy is not a necessary part of the human diet and can in fact have adverse health effects.

It’s clear that the dairy industry is feeling the pressure of an evolving society that is looking to more humane, healthy, and sustainable alternatives to traditional dairy products.

Plant-based milks now make up nearly 10% of all milk sales, and according to Statistics Canada, milk consumption has fallen by 21.5% per capita since 2009. Dairy was even booted from having its own food group in the new plant-focused Canada Food Guide.

This massive societal shift to plant-based milk products will only continue to grow. Here’s to a future that is dairy-free, and better for everyone!

 

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The House of Commons Justice Committee approved changes proposed by Animal Justice to Bill C-84, an animal cruelty bill that would improve laws related to bestiality and animal fighting.

Bill C-84 would make all sexual abuse of animals illegal. Currently, non-penetrative sexual contact with animals is not a criminal offence, in the wake of a shocking Supreme Court decision in 2016. But originally, the bill didn’t give judges the ability to ban a person convicted of bestiality from owning or residing with animals in the future. Animal Justice proposed this amendment earlier this month while testifying before the Justice Committee, and and Members of Parliament unanimously adopted this critical change at a meeting this week.

Animal Justice also encouraged the Justice Committee to repeal a provision of Canada’s animal fighting laws that imposed an automatic death sentence for birds rescued from a cockfighting ring. Animal Justice told the Committee that birds forced to fight deserve our compassion, and should be assessed as individuals to see if they can receive veterinary attention and be sent to live in the care of an animal sanctuary. The Justice Committee approved this change as well, potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of innocent birds from unfair execution.

Now, Bill C-84 will move back to the House of Commons for a final vote, and will then be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk and board member Peter Sankoff testified before the Justice Committee in support of Bill C-84, and we are grateful to committee members from all political parties who worked together to strengthen this legislation by accepting our amendments. However, Canada’s animal cruelty laws still fall very far behind the rest of the western world, and Animal Justice will keep fighting for stronger laws that better reflect Canadian values of compassion and respect for animals.

 

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Photo: Sandy Sharkey Photography

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OTTAWA – National animal law non-profit Animal Justice is denouncing new farmed animal transport regulations released today by the federal government as a massive betrayal, falling far below the standards Canadians expect for animals.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency ignored the tens of thousands Canadians who provided input during the revision process and demanded shorter transport times for animals, protections from severe weather, and an end to electric prods and other painful and appalling practices. Instead of creating rules that protect vulnerable animals from horrific suffering, the government appears to have let well-funded farm industry lobbyists write the rules to protect industry profits.

“Canada’s animal transport regulations have been a matter of national shame for decades, but the new rules do almost nothing to bring our laws in line with Canadians’ expectations or even the standards in other countries,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “The fingerprints of the meat and egg industries are all over these weak, ineffective rules. The revised regulations prove that the CFIA has been captured by industries that treat extreme animal cruelty as merely the cost of doing business.

“Transport is one of the most stressful experiences an animal will ever endure. Yet under the revised rules, it is still legal to transport vulnerable animals for lengthy periods without food, water, or rest. Animals can still be shipped in open-sided trucks in all weather conditions, even though many may freeze to death in the frigid cold, or die from overheating in sweltering, humid summers. It also remains legal to shock animals with electric prods.

“At least 1.59 million animals arrive at slaughterhouses dead or dying after transport. Animal advocates regularly document animals in trucks with severe frostbite and heath exhaustion. The revised regulations will do practically nothing to prevent this. It is heartbreaking that the government is refusing to crack down on an abusive industry that treats animals as commodities instead of the sensitive individuals that they are.”

Animal transport times are only slightly shorter in the new regulations, and where there was a conflict between animal welfare science and the economic convenience of the farming industry, the government ignored the science and bowed to the industry. For instance, the CFIA’s own science indicated that spent layer hens suffer after 12 hours of transport, as their bodies are weak, depleted, and vulnerable after years of being confined in cages and laying a high volume of eggs. When a 12-hour limit was initially proposed, the egg industry lobbied behind closed doors to increase transport times for spent hens to 28 hours, consistent with existing practices, to avoid spending any money to reduce animal suffering.

Other chickens can be transported for up to 36 hours. Cows can also be transported for 36 hours, down only slightly from 48 hours under the previous rules. In the United States, the maximum cow transport time is 28 hours, and in the European Union it is only eight hours.

Pigs can now be transported for 28 hours, down only flight from the previous 36 hour limit. In the European Union and New Zealand, the maximum pig transport time is only eight hours.

As with the previous rules, there are no temperature or weather restrictions on transport, and no requirement for temperature-controlled trucks as was universally recommended by animal protection organizations.

The transport regulations have also shifted to use outcome-based measures, rather than requiring specific standards that must be met. For example, instead of stating clearly how much space each animal should be afforded during transport, the new regulations simply state that overcrowding should be avoided. In general, outcome-based rules are completely inappropriate for animal use industries as a negative outcome must occur before enforcement action can be taken.

“Farmed animal welfare is almost completely unregulated by the federal government, with the industry largely left to police itself. It is appalling that in one of the only two areas where animals do benefit from laws—transport and slaughter—the government still lets the industry write its own rules. Animals are members of our society and legislators have a responsibility to protect them from suffering, not just to look out for corporate profits.”

Polling shows that over 95% of Canadians want to see stronger transport laws. After the CFIA released its first round of proposed amendments in December 2016, over 51,000 Canadians commented, with nearly all of those responses demanding improvements. At least 800 million animals are transported per year in Canada.

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The new regulations are available here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

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OTTAWA—A coalition of animal protection organizations, experts, and Members of Parliament have issued an open letter to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, urging the government to strengthen regulations pertaining to the domestic transportation of animals. The coalition is comprised of humane societies, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and other animal advocates, all of whom wish to see these regulations—last updated in 1977—improved swiftly and significantly.

Humane Society International/Canada, along with 29 other animal protection agencies and advocates, is calling for the new regulations to be based on scientific evidence and international best practices, including standards established by the World Organisation for Animal Health. The open letter also recommends that said regulations outline clear, specific and measurable welfare requirements for the animal agriculture industry. Canada must take this opportunity to be a leader, rather than a laggard, in animal care.

WHO: HSI/Canada, Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Canada, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, Animal Justice, Mercy For Animals, Vancouver Humane Society, Edmonton Humane Society, Winnipeg Humane Society, Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals, Animal Alliance of Canada, Animal Protection Party of Canada, Canadians Against Live Export – YYC, Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, Born Free USA, Voice For Animals, Foundation of Animal Welfare Issues, The Save Movement, Toronto Pig Save, Toronto Chicken Save, Toronto Cow Save, Edmonton Animal Save, The Responsible Animal Care Society (TRACS), Elizabeth May, M.P. and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, M.P., Dr. Maureen Harper, Dr. Judith Samson-French, Dr. Moira Drosdovech, Dr. Michael Lavroff, Dr. Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun

WHAT: An open letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, requesting urgent improvements to the Health of Animals Regulations (Humane Transportation).

WHERE: The open letter is available here.

WHEN: The letter was issued February 6, 2019.

WHY: Current regulations allow animals to be transported for up to three days without food, water or rest, or adequate protection from inclement weather. The result is that approximately 14 million farm animals arrive dead, dying or injured at federally inspected slaughterhouses each year. Consumers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and the conditions in which farm animals are raised.

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Contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

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The much-awaited changes to the Canada Food Guide have been released! The newest edition encourages Canadians to move away from excess dairy and meat consumption, and consume more plant-based foods.

The last time the Canada Food Guide was updated was in 2007. For years, Health Canada has been working on the newest version, relying on science, stakeholder, and public consultation—and rejecting meat and dairy lobbyists in the process.

In the new Canada Food Guide, one of the most noteworthy changes is the complete removal of the “meat and alternatives” and “dairy and alternatives” categories seen in previous versions. Instead, the new guide focuses on guidelines for healthy eating, with an emphasis on plant-based protein and fats, and stating that water is the optimal beverage.

These changes to the food guide are a win-win-win—for the health of Canadians, for the well-being of animals, and for the planet. Canada’s Food Guide has widespread influence, guiding regular citizens, schools, hospitals, and other institutions on the best way to create nutritious meals.

When the draft of the Canada Food Guide was released in 2017, it was faced with heavy opposition from Big Meat and Big Dairy. These industries attempted to lobby in support of recommending meat and dairy consumption, but to protect the integrity of the food guide, Health Canada refused to have closed-door meetings with the food industry.

But the federal lobbying records show that the meat and dairy industries tried to get around this by instead lobbying MPs and other decision makers to influence the guide’s outcome. The House of Commons Agriculture Committee even held public hearings, and issued a report suggesting the food guide reflect industry business priorities.

We applaud Health Canada for seeking truth from science, and refusing to bow down to the influence of industries that inflict horrific suffering on animals. These changes to the Canada Food Guide will surely inspire a more sustainable, animal-friendly, and healthier future for Canadians.

 

 

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OTTAWA—After years of research analysis, stakeholder and public consultation, and message testing, Health Canada has published an updated version of Canada’s Food Guide.

In a groundbreaking move, the familiar “meat and alternatives” and “dairy and alternatives” categories are gone. Instead, the food guide is organized around guidelines, emphasizing the intake of plant-based proteins and fats, and water as the beverage of choice.

Anna Pippus, a lawyer and plant-based food policy expert with Animal Justice, said:

“The new food guide offers a glimmer of hope that truth and integrity can prevail. For too many years, Canada’s food guide has compromised our health, environment, and animals by emphasizing meat, dairy, and eggs as being foundational in our diets. The new food guide turns that outdated thinking on its head, giving nutrient-dense and fibre-rich plant foods the prominence they deserve. Plant-based foods are associated with long and healthy lives, and they’re the foods Canadians should be eating more of. It so happens that these foods are also better for the planet and for animals.

“It’s also encouraging that Health Canada is recommending that the government use policy tools to help ensure good food choices are the easy food choices for Canadians. Plant-rich diets are a triple win for health, environment and animals, and they should be easily accessible to everyone, regardless of age, income, location, or ability.”

Though groundbreaking in their organization and emphasis, the new eating guidelines are not actually a major departure from the previous guide, which said to “have beans, lentils, and tofu often” and to “satisfy your thirst with water.” However, those important evidence-based recommendations were obscured by an undue emphasis on meat and dairy following decades of intense industry lobbying.

In the past, animal industries successfully applied intense pressure, resulting in increased recommended servings of meat and dairy products in previous versions of the food guide. During the latest revision process, to protect the integrity of the food guide, Health Canada announced that the food industry would not be permitted closed-door lobbying meetings, instead inviting food companies to participate in the regular public consultation process.

The meat and dairy industries attempted to get around this rule by lobbying other departments and individual politicians. A search of the federal lobbyist registry shows that dozens of meat and dairy industry representatives heavily lobbied MPs and other decision-makers in an attempt to influence the food guide in favour of the their industries. The federal Agriculture Committee staged hearings and issued a formal recommendation that the government align the food guide with agricultural business interests.

Animal Justice applauds Health Canada for safeguarding the integrity of the process and resisting industry attempts at influence.

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For more information, contact:

Anna Pippus
apippus@animaljustice.ca

 

 

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Animal Justice is a national animal law advocacy organization, leading the legal fight for animals in Canada. Our lawyers work to pass strong new animal protection legislation at all levels of government, ensure laws already on the books are vigorously enforced, and fight for animals in courtrooms across the country.

We seek an enthusiastic lawyer to join our team. The ideal candidate will be passionate about enhancing legal protections for animals, and will be responsible for assisting in the creation and implementation of Animal Justice’s legal campaigns and strategies related to all areas of animal use. The staff lawyer will be comfortable advocating for animals inside courtrooms and legislatures, as well in the court of public opinion.

Animal Justice is a small organization but is expanding quickly, and we are looking for someone who can grow with us.

Position type: Six-month full-time contract position with the possibility of becoming a full-time, permanent position

Reports to: Executive Director

Location: Toronto strongly preferred, other locations may be possible

Salary: Depends on relevant experience

Position responsibilities: 

  • Liaise with other Animal Justice staff, external counsel, and experts to develop legal campaigns and strategies, including litigation and legislative campaigns
  • Research and develop legal theories and strategies for litigation
  • Work closely with the executive director, external counsel, and others to draft, edit, and file lawsuits and interventions in court cases on behalf of Animal Justice
  • Work with the executive director and the board to develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated legislative and political strategy
  • Review and analyze legislation
  • Meet with legislators, government officials, and other policymakers to advance animal protection legislation and policies
  • Write reports, briefing memos, and other legal analyses on animal law topics
  • Research, prepare, and file law enforcement complaints with relevant authorities, including assisting members of the public in filing complaints
  • Prepare, file, and oversee freedom of information requests
  • Prepare and deliver presentations at law schools, conferences, community events, and Animal Justice events
  • Assist with the oversight and management of Animal Justice student clubs at Canadian law schools
  • Supervise volunteers, including lawyers and law students
  • Consult with communication staff in the creation of written content for Animal Justice’s website, social media platforms, and email communications to supporters
  • Assist other team members with special projects as required, including fundraisers, community events, and conferences
  • Maintain strong relationships with Animal Justice supporters and colleagues at other organizations
  • Travel as required to attend meetings, conferences, and other events
  • Other duties as assigned by supervisor

Position requirements:

  • A law degree, and called to the bar in a Canadian province or territory
  • Minimum two years experience practicing law
  • Thorough knowledge of animal rights issues, Animal Justice campaigns, social change strategies, and legal approaches to animal advocacy
  • An understanding of Canadian politics
  • Excellent written and oral advocacy and communication skills
  • Strong organizational and project management skills, self-motivation, and the ability to multitask, work independently, and meet quick deadlines
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to communicate effectively with colleagues and supporters
  • Ability to communicate in French is an asset
  • Proficiency with computer software, including Microsoft Office, Google products, and Dropbox
  • Personal commitment to Animal Justice’s philosophy and mission
  • Ability to travel regularly

Hiring process: 

Animal Justice offers a friendly and positive work environment, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Applications should include a resume and cover letter in PDF format explaining why the position interests you and how your experience and skills make you an ideal candidate, as well as a legal writing sample. Applicants in their first five years of legal practice should include law school transcripts.

Email your application to info@animaljustice.ca by February 8, 2019 with “Job 102 – Staff Lawyer” as the subject line.

Only candidates selected for consideration will be contacted. Interviews will be conducted in Toronto during the week of February 19, 2019.

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LETHBRIDGE – National animal law non-profit Animal Justice is calling for a criminal animal cruelty investigation into a disturbing video depicting a Lethbridge police officer repeatedly running over an injured deer with a police truck.

The video was taken by a concerned member of the public who was shocked to witness the officer’s actions. The witness reported that the officer ran over the deer at least five or six times before the deer died. The deer can be heard shrieking loudly in the video, and the witness described being upset and disturbed at hearing the deer’s cries.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating—a provincial police watchdog agency. In addition to investigating police misconduct offences, ASIRT is empowered to lay criminal animal cruelty charges against police officers. Animal Justice believes a full investigation is required to determine whether the officer should face criminal charges for the brutal and prolonged deer torture and killing.

“Animal cruelty is a very serious criminal offence, and there is little doubt that this poor deer suffered immensely while the officer repeatedly ran her over with a heavy truck. It is heartbreaking to watch the video and hear her crying out in pain as she was struck by the vehicle over and over again,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “ASIRT must investigate this disturbing incident with a view to determining whether criminal animal cruelty charges should be laid. Police officers are not above the law. On the contrary, they are sworn to uphold the law. For that reason, animal abuse of this nature by a police officer is particularly disturbing and must be taken very seriously.”

Alberta’s provincial Animal Protection Act requires that an officer who finds a distressed animal must take steps to relieve the animal’s distress, including by seeking help from a humane society or caretaker. The animal can be euthanized on the advice of a veterinarian, but a police officer cannot make the decision to euthanize an animal on their own unless a veterinarian is unavailable.

There is no public information indicating that the officer sought assistance, advice, or an examination from a veterinarian or wildlife official. Moreover, running an animal over with a vehicle is never an acceptable way to euthanize an injured animal.

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

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