Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mark Holland and animal cruelty law

(h/t to redstarcafe for this)

Is Mark Holland the only MP speaking up for animal cruelty laws with teeth? He's the MP for Ajax-Pickering and for five years now, he's been trying to get our animal cruelty laws updated.

From The Mark Holland Update: Provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with animal cruelty have changed very little since 1892 and they are extremely antiquated. This has often made it difficult to obtain convictions against animal abusers, and when convictions are obtained, the penalties are often too light.

My Bill C-373 is a comprehensive bill that not only increases penalties, but also closes off the many loopholes that allow animal abusers to walk away scot-free. There's little sense increasing penalties if you can't convict people. In fact, currently
only one quarter of 1% of animal cruelty complaints actually result in conviction!

You may recall that last spring, there were two competing animal cruelty bills being discussed in the media. I know. Two is way too complicated for mass consumption and already the fleeting public attention span was wavering over to Paris' next up skirt underwear photo. And of course that was the strategy behind the introduction of the weaker than water S-213 bill by Senator John Bryden to counter Mark Holland's C-373.

It was a strategy well played because S-213 (name changed to S-203. Why? Why not?) was quickly passed while C-373 sat in a Parliamentary wannabe law line-up never to see the light of day.

Just to give you idea of which bill had the strength to protect animals against cruelty and which bill was a wet noodle: the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supported Mark Holland's C-373. Hunters supported S-213.

According to Holland, however, not even hunters should have been worried about C-373.

In particular, they object to part of C-373 that would make it an offence to kill an animal, or allow it to be killed, “brutally or viciously.” Nothing in my bill would interfere with responsible hunters who use guns or bows in a lawful manner, so it’s a mystery to me why these groups feel the need to kill animals “brutally or viciously.”

So now we're stuck with S-213 which is basically the same as the old animal cruelty bill except with stiffer penalties, but as Holland said, what's the use of stiffer penalties if you can't get convictions?

Some examples of the utter failure of the current law are here but for a hit-yer-head-against-a-wall look at how it plays out in court, there's this case, summarized from Pet-Abuse.Com (and remember, this is a "successful" example of the one quarter of 1% that resulted in convictions):

October 8, 2006
Didsbury, Alberta

A 19-year-old girl found a female collie-Lab cross, still alive but lying in a pool of blood in the street. Her four legs were bound together with duct tape, a bag was covering her head and there was a tow rope around her neck. It appeared she had been dragged behind a vehicle.

The veterinarian called to the scene said the rope around her neck was so tight it caused one of her eyes to pop out. Her neck, back and pelvis were also broken.

The vet euthanized the dog immediately.

A 100-metre-long blood trail, where she had been dragged behind a vehicle, led to a home where arrests were later made.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, and a 17-year-old youth, on October 8, have been charged under the Criminal Code with injuring or endangering an animal and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, as well as obstructing police.

Adults convicted of the cruelty charge could face a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

November 6, 2006 - Brandon Sun
A young man accused of beating his family dog and then dragging it behind a car was confronted by at least 50 people and their pets Monday as he made his first court appearance.

The crowd threw threats and profanities at Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, as he tried to leave the courthouse in the central Alberta community of Didsbury. Haskett and a 17-year-old youth, who can't be named due to his age, are charged with injuring or endangering an animal and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

"We've received hundreds, maybe thousands, of messages from people who are just outraged at the reports," said Tim Battle with the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The case is in the early stages and none of the charges has been proven.

When an animal is found mistreated, it inevitably raises questions about the people who do such things.

Battle and Randy Lockwood, a senior vice-president with the American SPCA, told resource officers at a safe schools conference Monday in Edmonton that cruelty to animals by young students can be an important warning sign of future violent behaviour against people.

People who intentionally hurt animals are four to five times more likely to commit violent crimes than the general population, Lockwood said.

He also said most offenders start abusing animals when they are still children around the ages of seven or eight.

"It gives the individual an opportunity to experience gaining a sense of power and control through the suffering of others. And if it has no consequences, it's certainly likely to be repeated."

November 23, 2006 - CBC
A young Didsbury man accused of animal cruelty in the dragging death of a dog stayed away from the local courthouse Wednesday on the advice of his lawyer.

"I was concerned for his safety to be honest with you," lawyer Mark Takada said of Daniel Haskett,19, who was surrounded by jeering protesters at his first court appearance.

The two accused aren't the "sadistic brutes" they've been made out to be, Takada said.

The dog was initially accidentally hit by a vehicle, he said. Takada says his client is not responsible for dragging the dog behind a car.

December 11, 2006 - AZ Central
A central Alberta man has pleaded not guilty to a charge of animal cruelty in a case that has shocked much of the province.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, was accused of dragging his family's pet to its death behind a car.

Haskett's trial is scheduled for May 23.

April 18, 2007 - CNews
A 17-year-old Alberta youth has pleaded guilty in a horrific case of animal abuse. The youth is also charged with causing death or injury to an animal, a charge that will be dealt with May 10.

An animal lover from Didsbury collected nearly 100,000 signatures on a petition calling on the federal government to strengthen federal animal cruelty laws.

May 23, 2007 - CBC
A 19-year-old in Didsbury, Alta., entered a surprise guilty plea Wednesday on a charge of willfully causing injury to an animal, after a dog was dragged behind a car last fall and found barely alive.

Daniel Haskett had been scheduled to begin trial in Didsbury on Wednesday after entering a plea of not guilty in December 2006.

Police said the dog was Haskett's family pet.

Haskett has been ordered to undergo a psychological assessment before a sentencing hearing on Aug. 1.

The 17-year-old has already been sentenced to house arrest and probation.

May 23, 2007 - Globe and Mail
According to an agreed statement of facts, the chain of events that led to Daisy Duke's death began last October when the teen accidentally drove over the dog after visiting with Mr. Haskett.

Fearing that he would lose his driver's licence and get in trouble from Mr. Haskett's mother, the teen and Mr. Haskett devised a plan to kill the dog and pretend that she had run away.

After various attempts to kill Daisy failed, the two decided to drag the dog out of town to dispose of the body.

Both confessed to not seeking help or checking to see if the dog was still alive.

The teen's attempt to drag Daisy out of town failed when he ran over the dog a second time and snapped the tow rope.

May 10, 2007 - CBC News
A central Alberta man who pleaded guilty in a horrific case of animal abuse involving a pet dog has been sentenced to three months of house arrest followed by two years of probation. The young man will also have to abide by a curfew for nine months after his house arrest is up and do 240 hours of community service.

The young man from Didsbury, Alta., was less than three weeks away from his 18th birthday when he became involved in what his defence lawyer told court was a "poorly thought-out euthanasia attempt."

August 1, 2007 - CNews
A 10-week delay in the sentencing of a central Alberta man who admitted to fatally torturing his mother's dog left animal rights activists disappointed but determined to see the case through to its conclusion.

Incomplete psychological and pre-sentencing reports means the case, which sent shock waves across Canada, will not be closed until Oct. 17 - a little more than a year after Daisy was found barely alive in an intersection of this quiet farming town.

In May, Haskett pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty and one count of obstruction of justice for initially lying to police over his involvement in the crime.

In an agreed statement of facts, Haskett admitted to dragging the dog and putting a bag over its head after his 17-year-old friend inadvertently ran over the animal and then hit it with a shovel.

October 18, 2007 - Edmonton Sun
Sentencing for an Alberta man who admitted to torturing his mother's dog has been delayed again after his lawyer quit abruptly yesterday over ethical and professional concerns.

Daniel Haskett, 20, of Didsbury pleaded guilty last spring to one count of animal cruelty and one count of obstruction of justice for initially lying to police about his role in the death of Daisy Duke, a Lab-border-collie cross.

Haskett has until Nov. 5 to find a new lawyer.

March 14, 2008 -
Sentencing of a man charged in a high-profile animal abuse case in Didsbury has been delayed yet again.

Haskett was originally set to be sentenced on Oct. 17, 2007, but his lawyer withdrew on the day of sentencing. The case was then adjourned to April 21 for sentencing.

That date has now been pushed back to June 27 due to a scheduling conflict with Judge Ian Kirkpatrick, officials said Thursday.

June 27, 2008 - The Canadian Press
Daniel Haskett had been scheduled to be sentenced to one count of animal cruelty in the torturous death of Daisy Duke, a Lab-border-collie cross, who was bound and dragged behind a car. But his lawyer surprised provincial court in Didsbury by announcing his client wished to change his plea to not guilty.

As Haskett and his family were escorted away by the RCMP, he turned and lunged at a protester who was yelling obscenities at him and his mother.

Haskett, 20, told court he had lied when he agreed to the facts of the case because he wanted the matter to be over with and people to quit harassing him.

December 20, 2008 - The Barrie Examiner
An Alberta man who tried to kill his family's injured pet dog by binding her with duct tape and dragging her behind a car was sentenced yesterday to
30 days in jail.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 21, will serve his sentence on weekends.

So, house arrest for the unidentified youth and jail on weekends for Daniel Haskett and they only got those sentences because they both pleaded guilty. I have to wonder what would have happened if they had both pleaded not guilty. Would they both have simply joined the 99.75% of accused animal abusers in Canada that are never convicted?

On the other hand, imagine the terror the dog went through when these two lads broke its back, then hit it with a shovel, then tried to suffocate it, then taped up its legs and chained it and dragged it through the streets. Imagine its horror knowing that this was being done by someone it trusted, by someone in its own family. Imagine if this was your dog. How does this extreme suffering equate with three months house arrest for one and weekend jail for the other?

Thank you, Senator John Bryden, for that.

Now, let's look at something that will actually do the job properly.

Again, from The Mark Holland Update:

Animal Cruelty: Bill S-213 versus Bill C-373

Both bills increase penalties to a jail term up to five years and unlimited fines for indictable offenses, and up to 18 months jail and/or a fine up to $10,000 for summary convictions. Both also allow the court to make an order prohibiting an offender from keeping an animal and may require payment of restitution. This is the only common ground between the two bills.

• Bill S-213 leaves in place the dysfunctional term "willful neglect" requiring the court to prove motive for neglecting animals. For example, a farmer who starved his sheep despite repeated warnings was found not guilty because the court couldn't prove he intended to starve them. Bill C-373 instead uses the term "negligent" which is defined as "departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use."

• Bill S-213 leaves in place wording that allows stray and wild animals to be killed for any reason, or even for no reason. Bill C-373 makes it an offence to kill an animal "without a lawful excuse." Under common law and statute law, lawful excuses include hunting, fishing, farming, euthanasia, research, pest control, and protection of life and property.

• Bill S-213 leaves in place wording that allows people to kill animals brutally and viciously if the animal dies immediately. For example, someone who ties an animal to a train track can get off by arguing that the animal died quickly and didn't suffer. Bill C-373 makes it an offence to kill an animal with brutal and or vicious intent, whether or not the animal dies immediately.

• Bill S-213 leaves in place different protections for various animals in an illogical way. For example, cattle are in a class of their own, and wild animals and strays are unprotected for some offences. Bill C-373 protects all vertebrates, owned or unowned. It also adds special protection for law enforcement animals, "Brigadier's Law," something that S-213 also fails to do.

• Bill S-213 fails to define "animal." Bill C-373 defines an animal as a "vertebrate other than a human being."

• Bill S-213 leaves animal cruelty in the section of the criminal code dealing with protection of property. C-373 puts animals in a new section, reflecting the modern view that animals should be protected because they are feeling, sentient beings. This change, however, continues to recognize that many animals, both livestock and pets, are property.

• Bill S-213 does nothing to address training animals to fight other animals or betting on such fights. C-373 prohibits these practices.

The most effective thing you can do to help pass effective animal cruelty legislation is to inform yourself about the issue and the different bills and then share your views with your Member of Parliament. Tell him or her you care about animal cruelty and want to see an effective bill passed. Remember that MPs receive hundreds and hundreds of e-mails a day on many issues. A personal phone call to your MP or a carefully written letter with your address to indicate you are a constituent is more effective than a mass e-mail or a petition, but everything helps.

For more information on how you can help pass effective animal cruelty laws, visit these two sites:

Mark Holland - Animal Issues
Stop Animal Cruelty in Canada with effective legislation

Really. Check 'em out. Please.


Anonymous said...

Fred, you really did your homework on this one!

I couldn't read through all of the recounting of the Daisy Duke stories. Somewhere along the line, I noticed that the kid got 30 days to be served on weekends.

Yes, thank you, Senator Bryden, for that useless time-waster.

Now let's get Mark Holland's bill going.

Paula James said...

Excellent article! Thanx for that great resource and helping to spread awareness! For more ways to help w letters, petition, rally's, etc please go to.. Stop Animal Cruelty in Canada with effective legislation and keep up the great work!!

Michelle said...

*sigh* Oh how the Animal Welfare laws let people get off easy *sigh*

If you're interested I started a 'Dinglehopper' blog:

Fred said...

Paula James, thanks for the link. I'll put it up in the main post.

Michelle, good on you for starting a blog about Dinglehopper. I look forward to reading about his adventures.

dogmelissa said...

Thank you for this. I was one of only 2 people who followed the Haskett case in full detail (as in, myself and only one other person were in attendance at every court date from start to finish). The media missed (or omitted) many details which I won't get into, but let's just say that not only did the two brutally murder a dog, but they showed zero remorse for it and were actually even proud of themselves for it. On the day of Haskett's sentencing, his family was in attendance (mother, her boyfriend, his little brother, his grandparents) and they were laughing while waiting for the judge to decide what to do. If the judge had seen what we saw in that court room, I can't imagine that he would have only sentenced him to 30 days on weekends. The whole thing made me sick and still does, especially since Haskett broke his curfew weekly since it was handed to him and is now done his jail time and back to his 'normal' life.
Thank you for your thorough explanation of the 2 laws - I only wish that animal cruelty would get some importance in the parliament and not get pushed back for things like gay marriage and whether or not the MPs should give themselves raises.
- Melissa

Joanne said...

This is a letter I wrote to the Crown regarding Daisy years ago. I bashed it off in a fit of rage and anger. Nothing came of it..what else is new?

Dear Sir or Madam:

Didsbury Case of Cruelty

I am writing you with respect to the above case to express my hope that when prosecuting the two individuals charged in this matter, you will seek the maximum penalty available under the current laws. By this I mean the maximum period of incarceration plus the maximum fine.

This is a case that screams for punishment by incarceration. As I am sure you are well aware, there are many case studies linking animal abuse with later physical and sexual abuse directed towards humans. What you have here is the possibility of two psychopaths and/or sociopaths in the making. I am sure that this is just the first step in what will probably turn out to be a less than stellar life for both of them.

How soon before this little foray into sadistic torture loses its excitement and they go on to "bigger and better" things. And then, will we sit there and feign surprise that they turned out this way when indicators of such future behaviour were manifested in this case. Once again are we going to fail to protect the segments of society that are least able to defend themselves? What they did to Daisy Duke was cowardly and out of the realm of any kind of empathetic or compassionate behaviour. They are such cowards that they tied Daisy Duke up so she could not possibly defend herself. These two are despicable creatures who preyed on the weak and the trusting. When we take animals into our homes as pets, we are responsible for their safety and well-being. Their repugnant betrayal of that trust deserves the maximum punishment.

For far too long, we have overlooked cruelty to animals as we see them inferior to humans. Their suffering is just as genuine and painful as ours. We have excused the behaviours of the ilk of Haskett and his unnamed friend and then appear surprised when they escalate their violent behaviours until they do great harm or deal death to a child or some other defenceless human.

As for the 17-year old protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the law should be changed to reveal his identity so he is forced to stand up and take accountability for his actions. I hope that the "Justice" in the act refers to justice for Daisy Duke.

As I understand Haskett is also charged with obstructing police.. I trust that as the representative of the people, you will also seek the maximum penalty under that charge.

It is also my hope that this trial is conducted before a jury so that the opinion of the community of Didsbury may be expressed.

We need to know that our speaking out on behalf of Daisy Duke will result in some justice for her. We are constantly being urged to be proactive citizens. If our entreaties yet again go unheeded is it any wonder we all soon reach the point of apathy. If these two are allowed to hide behind some lame excuse, is it any wonder that we lose our faith in the judicial process.

Yours truly,

Anonymous said...

The story of Daisy Duke ripped me up when I first heard about it. It was a landmark case and Mark Holland referred to it in his arguments for C-373. Reading the entries, one after another, yesterday gave me nightmares (holy brickbats, Batman, you know how to Make A Point!), but what is even more chilling is the attitude of these kids and their families. Thank you, dogmelissa, for the insight into the court case. I'm saddened but not surprised at all at the family's behaviour. There's something wrong with all of them, from the perspective of those of us who read this blog, and many in Didsbury have to have felt the same way.

I'm guessing that post was not easy for you to write, Fred, and the court case must have made you ill, dogmelissa.

I'd like to know (and yet I scroll really fast past all of Fred's press citations) why that useless punk got 30 days to be served on weekends. Even under our gutless Bill C-203, the penalty could have been higher. Then what did they convict him of? The kid made a stupid mistake because he was scared, is that it?

Seems to me that he was as stupid as Stephanie Rengel's killers, if any of you follow that morbid little story of hormones gone bad.

Anyway, in addition to Facebook, I believe that the following blog site is also Paula's and well worth a visit: