We think about animals very differently now than in the past. Although many people have long felt it was important to treat creatures fairly, there have also been many who thought humans had the right to do whatever they wanted to animals. For more than 150 years, there have been organizations in Canada working to protect pets, farm animals and any other animals under people’s care.
Should animals have rights?
Animal welfare is usually thought of as the wellbeing of an animal — whether it is taken care of properly. Animal rights is the idea that an animal has worth on its own, regardless of its relationship to humans. Someone concerned about animal welfare might say that farm animals should have big, comfortable pens. Someone focused on animal rights might argue that animals shouldn’t be in cages or pens at all.
To be humane means to show care and kindness. That explains why many of the groups that work to protect animals are called humane societies. The first in Canada was the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, formed in Montreal in 1869. Soon many more SPCA organizations sprang up across the country. In 1957, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies formed.
From cats to cows, from goldfish to goats, we own many different kinds of animals. They might be pets, they might be farm animals Or they might live in a zoo. According to Canadian law. animals we own are property, like furniture, books or a bike. What do you think our responsibilities are to the animals we own?
Who’s in Charge?
In Canada, the government of your city, town or area is responsible for things like keeping stray animals off the streets and making rules about how many pets one person or family can own. The provinces and territories can also make laws about how animals should be treated, but only the government of Canada can decide what is considered a crime. There is a whole section of Canadian laws that sets out what is considered cruelty to animals and how it should be punished.
Many humane societies in Canada run shelters where they look after unwanted animals, especially cats and dogs. They are great places to go if you’re looking for a pet.