I learned, on their website, that in the past 10 years in the U.S. the number of arrests has increased dramatically. And that enforcement agencies across the country are now beginning to report these arrests right alongside rapes, murders and other crimes.
In Canada, Animal Justice, a Federally incorporated not-for-profit dedicated to advocating for the humane treatment of animals, recently participated in a ground breaking legal case that will decide if some forms of sexual abuse of animals are acceptable under Canadian law.
As if that isn’t remarkable enough, for the first time in Canadian history animal advocates were granted intervenor status and were allowed to make oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
Let’s talk about the actual case: The accused was convicted of 13 out of 14 acts of sexual abuse – the 14th being the only one that also involved a dog. He was acquitted because Canada’s criminal code has a very narrow definition of bestiality: Anal intercourse with an animal. And horrific as this particular crime still was, anal intercourse did not take place.
It wasn’t over yet, though.The Crown had an automatic right of appeal but, by a two to one majority, the BC Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the traditional definition “because that’s what Parliament intended.” The case was appealed again and, as I mentioned earlier, was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last November.
Essentially what they are appealing is the definition of bestiality and whether or not it can be broadened to include any sexual contact.
This is the first time the interest of an animal has been considered in a criminal code provision. It’s the first time the animal’s perspective has been heard. And that’s what makes this such a monumental case and so historically significant.
Obviously I was interested in the outcome, who wouldn’t be. So I contacted Peter Sankoff, the University of Alberta, Faculty of Law Professor who appeared as lead counsel for Animal Justice. He told me “the Supreme Court have not yet ruled, it was impossible to say when they would” but added that he believes “before June is a reasonable guess.”
When I asked him what we, the animal loving public can do, he quite rightly said it would depend on the court decision, “because if they reject our view of bestiality Animal Justice will be front and center pushing for an amendment to the Criminal Code.”
He went on to suggest that we can look for updates on the Animal Justice website or by following him on Twitter @PeterSankoff.
To that I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions of my own:
Let’s keep this conversation going on behalf of all the four-legged victims who cannot speak for themselves — that’s one way of making sure attention remains focused on this issue.
Another is to consider contributing to the organizations referenced in this article, including the ASPCA and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS). If not for them I would not have found any of this information.
The commitment, compassion, talent and selflessness all these experts and volunteers bring to their jobs each and every day is truly inspiring. They need, and deserve, our deepest gratitude, encouragement and support.
And now I really need to go hug my two cats.