Caring for animals is a collective responsibility

Caring for animals is a collective responsibility As with many Yukoners, the Board of the Humane Society Yukon was shocked and appalled to learn of the fate of "Jane," the Labrador recently found beaten and shot in a container on a Whitehorse street. A

As with many Yukoners, the Board of the Humane Society Yukon was shocked and appalled to learn of the fate of “Jane,” the Labrador recently found beaten and shot in a container on a Whitehorse street.

As president of the Humane Society of Yukon, I am writing in solidarity with all animal-lovers in the Yukon, to express our deeply-felt revulsion at such an act of cruelty. The humane society is offering a reward of $500 (in addition to any other rewards being offered by other persons or organizations) for information leading to the apprehension of the person responsible.

Dogs of all breeds, sizes, and pedigree, are one of the central strands of Yukon’s identity. Dogs provide service and support in many ways to human communities across the globe, from search and rescue to fighting crime. Most of all, like other animals such as cats and domestic birds, they provide companionship and joy to millions of people.

Here in Yukon, it seems as if every other home has a dog (or two). When we speak of “the family pet,” we are catching a sense of what pet ownership means to most people: the dog, cat, or other animal, is considered to be, and is treated like, a member of the family.

Everyone knows that owning a pet comes with responsibilities. The vast majority of people do not need laws to tell them to take care of their pets properly. However, the criminal code does include laws (sections 444 to 447) about the treatment of animals.

For example, it is a criminal offence to kill, wound, poison or injure dogs, birds or other animals without lawful excuse. It is also a criminal offence to wilfully neglect or fail to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for an animal that we own or is in our custody.

The criminal code sets out the baseline or “minimum” standard for acceptable (non-criminal) behaviour in the community. It is therefore entirely appropriate that our behaviour towards animals is a part of that “minimum standard” – because it is a key part of who we are (especially, surely, in the Yukon).

I invite Yukoners to reflect on this incident, to consider it a “wake-up” call for all of us, and to ask: how can we do better to protect our animals from abuse?

One way, I suggest, is to see that we have a collective responsibility to protect animals. It cannot be left as simply a private matter for a particular animal’s owners.

I think it is likely that someone may have information about the case of “Jane.” I appeal to that person (or persons) to do the right thing, report the matter to the RCMP, and help Yukon to deal with this behaviour as it should and send out a clear message: we care about our animals.

Crispin Guppy

President, Yukon Humane Society

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