Sask. ranks last among provinces in animal protection laws

Saskatchewan is 11th in Canada on a list ranking each province and territory's animal protection laws, making it last among the provinces.

Factors include protections afforded to animals, exemptions and standards in legislation, and penalties

Kali was one of 14 dogs who died at a Saskatoon kennel last week. (Submitted by family)

Saskatchewan is 11th in Canada on a list ranking each province and territory's animal protection laws, making it last among the provinces.

Sophie Gaillard, a spokesperson for the Animal Legal Defence Fund, told CBC Radio's Blue Sky a number of factors are considered when the rankings are made. They include types of protections afforded to animals, exemptions and standards in a province or territory's legislation and penalties for violators. 

The group says Saskatchewan ranks low because most provinces have prohibitions on animal fighting in their legislation while Sask. does not.

The province also lacks legislation that requires veterinarians who suspect animal cruelty may be taking place to report their suspicions to the proper authorities.

She said improvements could also be made in the area of psychological welfare of the animals and increased penalties to repeat offenders.

The Canadian animal protection laws ranking from best to worst:

  1. Manitoba. 
  2. Nova Scotia. 
  3. British Columbia. 
  4. Ontario. 
  5. Newfoundland. 
  6. Quebec. 
  7. New Brunswick. 
  8. Yukon. 
  9. Alberta. 
  10. Prince Edward Island. 
  11. Saskatchewan. 
  12. Northwest Territories. 
  13. Nunavut. 
The Canadian animal protection laws rankings. (Animal Legal Defense Fund)

Room for improvement

Dog fighting is covered under the Criminal Code of Canada. However, the provisions in the Criminal Code have not been updated in more than 60 years, Gaillard said.

"They are ridden with loopholes," she said. "The animal fighting provisions in the criminal code are extremely difficult to apply."

Most provinces have enacted their own provisions related to animal fighting in their own legislation to compensate. 

Manitoba's legislation, by comparison, requires veterinarians to report suspected abuse. The province also has provisions recognizing psychological harm and very detailed standards of care for animals.

Sask. does have legislation which refers to standards of care for kennels and catteries but none of them are obligatory, Gaillard said. 

Regulations and laws needed

Gaillard said mandatory standards of care are needed in this province.

The Saskatoon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has called for stricter regulations in the province following the deaths of 14 dogs at Saskatoon's Playful Paws Pet Centre. 

The dogs died last week after the building's heating system malfunctioned and pushed hot air into the upstairs windowless room for hours.

Owners and staff at the kennel have apologized for the dog deaths. 

More than ten dogs were found dead following an incident at a Playful Paws Pet Centre in Saskatoon. (Google street view )

Other species of animals

Agricultural activities such as castration performed on pigs without anaesthetic is legal because it is considered an industry standard, Gaillard said. 

Castration of a dog without an anaesthetic would be illegal in most other provinces by comparison. 

"This is why certain species, mainly farm animals, are much less protected under provincial law than certain other species like companion animals," she said. 

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky, Francois Biber and Jennifer Quesnel

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