In Brief

Re­beka Breder is one of first lawyers in Canada to make an­i­mal law her spe­cialty—and as founder of the Cana­dian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion’s B.C. an­i­mal law sec­tion and a teacher of UBC’S first-ever course in an­i­mal law, Breder is uniquely pre­pared to fight for our

Vancouver Magazine - - June - BY Kerry Banks

Meet B.C.’S first an­i­mal-rights lawyer.

Q: What ex­actly is cov­ered by an­i­mal law?

A: It’s a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary ap­proach to the law that in­cludes pet cus­tody cases, vet­eri­nary mal­prac­tice suits, strata dis­putes, breeder dis­putes, so-called dan­ger­ous dog cases, wrong­ful death or in­jury and dis­agree­ments be­tween res­cue op­er­a­tions and cur­rent or pre­vi­ous dog own­ers. I only take on those cases where I feel I will ad­vance the in­ter­ests and rights of an­i­mals.

Q: Is this a grow­ing eld?

A: I’ve been prac­tis­ing this type of law for over a decade, but an­i­mal law is still in its in­fancy in Canada. I equate it to where en­vi­ron­men­tal law was about 20 to 30 years ago. It’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore more and more peo­ple be­gin to prac­tice it.

Q: Have you no­ticed any re­cent changes in the way an­i­mals are re­garded by the law?

A: Un­der Cana­dian law, an­i­mals have al­ways been classied as prop­erty and had no rights. For ex­am­ple, many peo­ple aren’t aware that it’s per­fectly le­gal to kill one’s pet as long as it is done in a humane man­ner. But the law is start­ing to evolve and courts are start­ing to rec­og­nize that an­i­mals are sen­tient be­ings with feel­ings, emo­tion and in­tel­li­gence. It can take a long time for the law to catch up with shift­ing so­ci­etal val­ues.

Q: In what sort of cases would you like to see greater ex­i­bil­ity in the law?

A: I de­fend a lot of so-called “dan­ger­ous dogs.” The laws in these cases are not very pre­cise and dog own­ers of­ten face a steep up­hill bat­tle when try­ing to de­fend their “dan­ger­ous dog.” These cases can get quite emo­tional, with the city ght­ing tooth and nail to put a dog down and the own­ers ght­ing to save it. I think that An­i­mal Con­trol has too much dis­cre­tion in de­cid­ing when and how to seize a dog and what to do with the dog once it is seized. I’m proud to say that as a re­sult of one of my cases that was heard at the Supreme Court, pro­vin­cial court judges are now able to re­lease a “dan­ger­ous dog” back to its own­ers or the com­mu­nity on con­di­tions. How­ever, I still see lawyers try­ing to ar­gue that judges do not have the ju­ris­dic­tion to make such de­ci­sions.

Q: What is most re­ward­ing as­pect of your work?

A: Know­ing that I’m help­ing in­di­vid­ual an­i­mals and help­ing an­i­mals in the big­ger pic­ture by con­tribut­ing to the evo­lu­tion of an­i­mal law.

Many peo­ple aren’t aware that it’s per­fectly le­gal to kill one’s pet.

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