In 2019, following a criminal investigation, Montreal SPCA Animal Protection Officers seized over 200 animals from the Saint-Édouard Zoo in Quebec. The Zoo’s owner was arrested and charged with animal cruelty and neglect – a first in Canadian history. After an onslaught of preliminary motions challenging the seizure, a grueling preliminary inquiry, countless postponements, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner finally pleaded guilty to four regulatory offences related to the conditions in which the animals were kept, including inadequate and unsanitary facilities, as well as lack of veterinary care for injured or ill animals. The first half of this session will provide an overview of the investigation and prosecution of the case, as well as discuss how it highlights problems with the current structure of animal protection legislation enforcement in Canada.
The pandemic also resulted in a rising number of companion animal-related cases reaching the court system. In particular, there has been an increase in pet custody cases involving separated couples and rescue organizations. Unlike in family law matters, where there is legislation and rules of court governing the custody of children, there are no laws governing animals upon separation. We know that animals are property under the law. What many may not realize is that courts in British Columbia have taken a different approach to pet “custody” issues than elsewhere in Canada. In this session, we will compare cases across Canada with those in B.C. Presenters will share cases litigated in court and lessons learned to highlight some of the recent developments for animals and the law.