Breach of trust

According to federal laws, you can do whatever you want to your personal property. And that may seem OK, until you consider that, under those same…

According to federal laws, you can do whatever you want to your personal property.

And that may seem OK, until you consider that, under those same federal laws, your pet dog, cat, horse or just about any other animal you can name is personal property.

And that leads us to Trooper, a two-year-old husky cross that was recently bumperhauled for three kilometres down a suburban street at speeds of up to 70 kilometres an hour.

Miraculously, the animal survived, though he sustained the ugliest road rash you could imagine.

The wet, open wounds will take months to heal.

Fortunately, the veterinarians expect him to recover, though the poor animal will, no doubt, bear hideous scars.

Despite all this, the dog remains friendly and affectionate to all who visit. He still bestows complete trust and affection to complete strangers.

What do we give him in return?

Interesting question.

Several drivers who witnessed the awful spectacle intervened and may have saved the dog’s life.

The owner has been charged under a city bylaw and faces up to six months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

But don’t be tricked into thinking animal-cruelty laws are up to snuff.

The aforementioned federal law is useless because it considers an animal personal property.

Those familiar with animal-cruelty cases believe it must be rewritten.

In fact, several years ago, a bill tabled in Parliament suggested that people be considered animal caretakers, making them responsible for their wards.

The legislation died because the agriculture industry objected, noting that livestock farmers routinely kill healthy animals.

A simple fix might have been an amendment to separate livestock from pets, but nobody suggested it.

The Yukon’s fuzzy legislation is almost as bad.

The law is hobbled by semantics.

Under the legislation, it’s not clear what cruelty is.

Those charged under the territory’s law can wriggle out by claiming the animal was neglected through ignorance, not intentional harm.

And it’s hard for those enforcing the law to prove where simple neglect morphs into cruelty.

As well, a Yukon pet owner gets a courtesy call before the law comes knocking.

That is, the abuser gets a chance to clean things up before they get a visit from enforcement officers.

They get another warning before action is taken.

And, if charged, the penalty is often minimal.

If they’re found guilty, that is.

That rarely happens.

The clumsy law is so porous that charges are often dropped well before a case can get to court.

In rare cases where animals are confiscated, the Yukon Humane Society has to step in to care for them.

There is nothing in place to reimburse the society for its work, which can often be very expensive. (The Mae Bachur Animal Shelter is currently fundraising to pay Trooper’s significant vet bills).

Under the law, enforcement officials have to find the owner and get them to co-operate in providing relief to the animals in distress.

Distress is not defined in the act.

And on it goes.

Police complain the act is subjective and open to interpretation. That makes it extremely difficult to take action.

And there’s nothing in the act about hoarding animals.

Last year, the Yukon saw a couple of examples of this problem.

A guy in Dawson collected 74 dogs.

The animals were up to their stomachs in feces and survived winter on minimal food and no straw.

The owner didn’t want anyone else to have the animals. So when the humane society threatened action, he shot the dogs.

And in Beaver Creek, a woman abandoned dozens of cats to the cold.

There is a relatively simple fix to this problem: amend the legislation.

Those closest to the animal-abuse issue have been calling for a new law for years.

And successive governments have failed to act.

Officials are ambivalent.

And so, several times a year, we have cases like Trooper.

Individually, people express horror.

Around the water cooler, we wonder aloud how someone could do something like that to a dog. Poor thing!

And then, collectively, as society, we shrug and do nothing.

Laws need to be enforced.

Enforcement costs money.

And in the end, they are only animals.(RM)