An­i­mal rights ‘lack­ing’

Group says P.E.I. missed the mark with an­i­mal wel­fare leg­is­la­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MACDONALD

Prov­ince has missed the mark on pro­tect­ing the rights of some of P.E.I.’s most vul­ner­a­ble an­i­mals, says a lawyer.

The provin­cial gov­ern­ment has missed the mark on pro­tect­ing the rights of some of P.E.I.’s most vul­ner­a­ble an­i­mals, says a lawyer who deals specif­i­cally with an­i­mal wel­fare.

Camille Labchuk, for­mer P.E.I. res­i­dent who has lived in Toronto and Cam­bridge, Mass., for the past sev­eral years, said the agri­cul­tur­ally heavy prov­ince has a long way to go in pro­tect­ing the rights of com­mer­cial an­i­mals and wildlife.

Labchuk crit­i­cized the state of an­i­mal rights in the prov­ince af­ter be­ing ques­tioned about the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act passed by P.E.I. leg­is­la­tors last July.

“It’s re­plete with am­bigu­ous terms like ad­e­quate care, rea­son­able pro­tec­tion, and sig­nif­i­cant im­pair­ment over time. It’d be dif­fi­cult for any mem­ber of the pub­lic to know what this means.” Camille Labchuk

“It missed an op­por­tu­nity and it did a couple of things that were not as good as they could have been,” said Labchuk, who is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the not-for­profit group An­i­mal Jus­tice.

The Cana­dian reg­is­tered char­ity ad­vo­cates for the hu­mane treat­ment of an­i­mals, usu­ally fo­cus­ing on the le­gal front and through ad­vanc­ing pub­lic knowl­edge of an­i­mal prac­tices and pre­vent­ing abuse through en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing laws.

Labchuk said there are flaws in the leg­is­la­tion, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing a per­ceived “bar­rier of en­force­ment” and con­cern of com­mer­cial an­i­mals such as horses, cows and mink re­ceiv­ing less pro­tec­tion than house pets.

She said the act also drops pre­vi­ous re­quire­ments for farm­ers to com­ply with a na­tional code, leaves out men­tion of ran­dom­ized in­spec­tions and ex­cludes pro­tec­tion for wild an­i­mals and fish.

“So es­sen­tially, some­one could abuse those an­i­mals, there’s a huge over­sight and huge gap in ra­tio­nal­iza­tion,” said Labchuk, who was also crit­i­cal of the leg­is­la­tion’s term of ‘ex­treme anx­i­ety’.

“In­stead of just say­ing ‘anx­i­ety’ or ‘dis­tress.’ We feel there’s no need for the stan­dard to be so high be­cause it’s very dif­fi­cult to prove.”

Craft­ing of the leg­is­la­tion be­gan af­ter the con­vic­tion of puppy mill owner Bud Wheat­ley five years ago af­ter ap­prox­i­mately 80 cats and dogs were seized in a raid.

Wheat­ley was sen­tenced to jail time af­ter be­ing found guilty of caus­ing un­nec­es­sary pain, suf­fer­ing or in­jury to an­i­mals.

While the in­ten­tions of the leg­is­la­tion may have been wellmean­ing, ad­vo­cates have de­scribed it in the me­dia as “tak­ing a wrong ap­proach.”

P.E.I. res­i­dent El­iz­a­beth Scho­a­les, who is also the At­lantic Canada rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the char­ity, was also crit­i­cal of the act and de­scribed it as “in­suf­fi­cient” in a guest opin­ion pub­lished by The Guardian.

She said the big­gest prob­lem is the act’s struc­ture on re­ly­ing on com­plaints from the pub­lic.

That process it­self is full of loop­holes and fails to prop­erly iden­tify how an an­i­mal must be treated, she said.

“It’s re­plete with am­bigu­ous terms like ad­e­quate care, rea­son­able pro­tec­tion, and sig­nif­i­cant im­pair­ment over time,” she said.

“It’d be dif­fi­cult for any mem­ber of the pub­lic to know what this means.”

Back in Ot­tawa, await­ing the out­come on a ground­break­ing Supreme Court case, Labchuk muses that an­i­mal rights is her pas­sion.

“The only rea­son I went to law school was so that I could use my law de­gree to help an­i­mals,” she said.

“For too long in­dus­tries who’ve abused an­i­mals in Canada have got­ten a free pass.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO BY AN­I­MAL JUS­TICE

An­i­mal rights lawyer and for­mer P.E.I. res­i­dent, Camille Labchuk, and Univer­sity of Alberta law pro­fes­sor, Peter Sankoff, be­fore ap­pear­ing in the Supreme Court of Canada re­cently to in­ter­vene on a land­mark case re­gard­ing bes­tial­ity laws. The two ap­peared on be­half of Cana­dian char­ity An­i­mal Jus­tice.

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