Advocacy groups back proposal to modernize animal-welfare laws

A parliamentarian from Toronto is making a push to update and strengthen Canada's animal-welfare laws, which is being backed by a group of well-known animal-protection groups.

Toronto MP's private member's bill aims to make changes to Criminal Code and several acts

A parliamentarian from Toronto is making a push to strengthen Canada's animal-welfare laws, which is being backed by a group of well-known animal-protection groups.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the MP for the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York, recently introduced a private member's bill that seeks to make a series of changes to the Criminal Code, as well as a handful of other pieces of existing legislation.

The proposed bill, known as the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, has several aims, including closing existing loopholes for offences related to animal fighting. It would also allow for people to be charged when they have caused harm to an animal through negligence.

The bill, if passed, would also ban the importation of shark fins, and it would aim to ban the selling of cat and dog fur.

Public support

Erskine-Smith believes the public is supportive of seeing tougher laws enacted when it comes to animal welfare.

"Canadians are compassionate people who care about animals, and our laws should reflect our values," Erskine-Smith said Wednesday, in a statement contained in a news release.

"I am pleased to be working with the strongest animal protection organizations in the country to bring real change to our animal welfare laws," he added.

Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, said the bill would help ensure that laws governing the treatment of animals are consistent across the country.

Like Erskine-Smith, she sees the bill as having broad support among Canadians, which is part of what leaves groups like hers optimistic that it will become law. 

"We have a great deal of hope that this bill will pass," Cartwright told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "It's well crafted, well written [and] it focuses on important issues."

Cartwright acknowledged, however, that similar bills have failed to become law in the past.

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