Animal protection must become a priority

The strange case of Jim Foesier deserves some attention. He’s the guy who collected dogs, kept them chained in deplorable conditions and then,…

The strange case of Jim Foesier deserves some attention.

He’s the guy who collected dogs, kept them chained in deplorable conditions and then, when animal-welfare advocates moved in to confiscate them, he shot them.

All 74 of them.

Officials found him sitting atop the considerable pile of carcasses.

If he couldn’t have them, then nobody could, he reasoned.

The sad, strange and disturbing case has prompted many to train their sights on better animal-protection laws.

This has been a priority of many Yukon citizens for more than 10 years.

It has not been a priority of politicians.

In 1990, then-minister Art Webster, of Tony Penikett’s NDP government, was going to bring in tougher legislation after several horses starved in the Yukon.

As in the most recent case, federal legislation proved useless, the Yukon laws were worse, and not a single charge was brought against the animals’ owner.

That was the closest the territory ever came to new legislation.

But, in the end, it wasn’t very close at all. The initiative died in an election year, and was never resurrected.

Now, 16 years later, it’s an issue again.

Animal champions want stiffer fines (as high as $20,000), laws against hoarding animals, a better definition of “distress” and trained professionals to enforce a tougher law.

Asked about the issue, Lake Laberge MLA and cabinet minister Brad Cathers has said that the suggested changes would spill over into 17 other pieces of legislation.

It sounds like an excuse for inaction.

A better definition of animal distress, heavier fines and laws against the hoarding of animals, be they cats, dogs, horses or other animals, shouldn’t be that difficult to put in place.

Trained professional to enforce the laws would be expensive. But it might prove unnecessary with better fines and easier prosecution — police might be more willing to intervene if their actions curbed repugnant behaviour instead of watching their efforts be tossed out of court because of poor legislation.

Still, tougher laws aren’t the only answer.

In the most recent case, what would have happened to the 74 dogs had they been confiscated?

The Dawson shelter couldn’t accommodate them.

Could homes be found for them all? Not likely.

And so, in the end, they

probably would have been euthanized.

Same outcome, different

context.

Which just highlights how

difficult the problem is.

Nevertheless, a society is judged by how it protects the weak.

In ours, animals are little more than an afterthought, if they’re given any thought at all.

Yet they are our wards — fully dependent on us for food, shelter and safety.

And society is not doing a good job protecting them.

That must change. (RM)

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