Mr. Speaker, we have all heard about a number of high profile cases of animal abuse. One case was Daisy Duke, the pet dog that was dragged behind a car in Didsbury, Alberta; Princess, a house cat in Alberta that was microwaved; Queen Waldorf in Niagara Falls who was found abandoned on a beach with dumbbells attached to her neck; and the list goes on.
The reality of animal abuse is that every day, in every part of our country, animal abuse is occurring. The people who are watching their pets or wild animals being victimized are asking why we have no laws to go after these individuals and why the laws that we have are so weak. People on the front lines are dealing with animal abuse day in and day out and seeing tragedy after tragedy but they are not able to do anything about it.
I talk with SPCA officers who, on a daily basis, receive these calls but they cannot do anything because their hands are tied. I understand their frustration, as people who love animals, when they witness this abuse, but they are more than people who love animals. I have witnessed how angry they get when they visit those same homes where individuals who torture dogs is the precursor to violence against human beings, such as domestic abuse against a spouse or against the children. They and Canadians are left to wonder why this type of crime is something Parliament simply has not done anything about.
In fact, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, the laws that we have in place today have essentially been unamended since 1892. That is not to say that in the last number of years Parliament has not tried because it has. If we look at the bills that have been put before this House over the last number of years, there is Bill C-17, Bill C-15, Bill C-15B, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B and, as recently as the last Parliament, Bill C-50. In this Parliament, we have my private member's bill, Bill C-373 and Bill S-203, which we are debating today.
I had a great deal of opportunity to work on Bill C-50 in the previous Parliament and to bring all stakeholders together to find common ground, to ask that all sides make compromise and work on something that would work, not only for those who were proponents of protecting animals, but for those who legitimately use animals for their businesses or for their livelihood.
In doing so we found mere unanimity. We found that almost all groups reached a point of compromise on Bill C-50. In fact, this bill or a similar bill was able to pass through the House of Commons twice. It was the will of this House that strong, effective animal cruelty legislation be adopted and moved forward. It was the will of this elected body that we have animal cruelty legislation that reflected the desire of Canadians. However, both times it was the Senate that stood in our way, the Senate that disagreed and wanted amendments.
We almost got there in the last Parliament but, unfortunately, an election got in our way. One would have thought that after all the work and compromise, upon our return to Parliament we would have immediately embraced that compromise and introduced legislation that addressed animal cruelty.
The reality is that did not happen. It was left to private members' bills to address this gaping hole in our Criminal Code, one introduced by myself and one introduced by Senator Bryden in the form of the bill that is before us today that is seeking to be amended, Bill S-203.
One could ask why we simply do not adopt Bill S-203 as a first step and then we will get to the rest. We could do all those things that Parliament had already agreed on at some later date.
I will give a few reasons why Bill S-203 should not be adopted. I will start with the fact that only one-quarter of 1% of animal abuse complaints result in a conviction. Essentially what this bill would do is go after sentencing. One can imagine that if we are only addressing sentencing, when there are convictions on only one-quarter of 1% of the problem, we are only dealing with one-quarter of 1% of the problem, which effectively would do almost nothing to address the issue.
I just want to list a number of things that Bill S-203 does not do that I think people will be surprised to learn. It does not make it easier to convict the perpetrators of crimes toward animals. It does not make it easier to punish people for crimes of neglect toward animals that they are responsible for. It does not offer greater protection to wild or stray animals which often have no protection at all. It does not clarify the confusing language in existing legislation that deals with types of animals differently. It also fails to make it a crime to train animals to fight each other.
These terrible crimes we see where they are pitting animals against animals and ripping each other apart, it would do nothing to deal with that.
The second point is this. When does the House, as an elected body, accept from the Senate a lower standard? For this House to pass legislation twice and then to be told by the Senate that it is too much, too effective, too far and too fast and then to turn it down, one wonders why.
When the Conservatives introduced a bill to get tough on crime, in their words, and then sent it to the Senate, they said that they would not accept any amendments by the Senate. They gave the Senate a limited amount of time to address the bill and said that if the Senate did not pass the bill that they would have an election. Why? It was because crime was important and they needed to address it.
They told the Senate that it needed to listen to the elected will of the House and yet when it comes to animal cruelty there is a double standard. They were willing to say that the House had spoken and that it worked for years to compromise and create effective legislation but, on this bill, crime is not important, it is not a priority, even though, as I mentioned before, it does not just impact animals, it is often a precursor to violence against human beings.
Senator Bryden addressed the issue when he talked about those who wanted effective animal cruelty legislation losing the lever they would have if this bill gets passed. Unfortunately, he is quite right. It is one of the things that those of us who are concerned about our ineffective animal cruelty laws worry most about.
The bill is essentially a placebo. It does nothing to address the real issue of animal cruelty in our country. It will be held out as action when none has been taken. It will be held out as a faint offer of having done something so we can tell our constituents that we acted on animal cruelty when we did nothing more than pass an empty, vacuous bill. We will lose that lever to finally change and amend our laws.
We have already waited 116 years. We embraced years of compromise. As a House, we adopted effective legislation. We will now let the Senate tell us to throw all of that away and to entrench essentially Victorian laws with antiquated notions about what animals are about.
I have a last point on why Bill S-203 should be opposed. Can anyone imagine trying to pass a bill that purports to do something about animal cruelty when every animal welfare group in the country is opposed to it? I am not talking about animal activists. I am talking about those who are on the front lines of dealing with abuse and torture of animals. I am talking about SPCA officers, the humane society and veterinarians who see tortured animals come into their offices and see nothing being done about it. These are the people crying for action and they are not alone.
In fact, Canadians overwhelmingly support effective animal cruelty law. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 85% of respondents supported legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators who commit crimes against animals, including wild and stray animals. I have a petition of over 130,000 Canadians, which has been presented before the House, in opposition to the Senate bill and calling on support for my bill, Bill C-373.
I do not care if the bill gets passed as my bill or as a government bill. I will gladly give up my bill to anyone in the House who can get it passed and get it passed immediately. I will make the offer to the government today that I will withdraw my bill and offer it to the government as its own so that we can move forward with effective legislation.
I want to talk about what effective legislation can do, which is Bill C-373. It would allow for the prosecution of negligent animal owners. It would protect the rights of those who work and must kill animals for their livelihood. We would protect those in agriculture and animal use industries. It would offer equal protection to pets and farm animals, as well as wild and stray animals. It would make it illegal to train animals to fight one another. It would make it a crime to kill an animal with brutal or vicious intent.
We need effective animal cruelty legislation. The option exists for us to take action today. Let us reject this watered down, vacuous placebo bill and finally do something about animal cruelty.