Abandoning your dog is explicitly defined as a crime in the Criminal Code of CanadaSection 446(1)(b).
S.446(1)(b) states that, “anyone commits an offence who being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it.”
The Punishment associated with this offence is as follows:
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months or to both.
Provincial legislation also potentially criminalizes abandoning your dog, in the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, (SPCA Act).
While it is not explicitly stated, it can be inferred from the SPCA Act that abandoning your dog, by certain means, may constitute a criminal offence.
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2. (1) Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate food and water. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (1).
(2) Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate medical attention. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (2).
(3) Every animal must be provided with the care necessary for its general welfare. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (3).
(4) Every animal must be transported in a manner that ensures its physical safety and general welfare. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (4).
(5) Every animal must be provided with an adequate and appropriate resting and sleeping area. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (5).
(6) Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate, (a) space to enable the animal to move naturally and to exercise; (b) sanitary conditions; (c) ventilation;
(d) light, and;
(e) protection from the elements, including harmful temperatures. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (6).
For conviction of an offence under Ontario’s SPCA Act, a person could receive up to a $ 60,000 fine, imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both and could have a lifetime ban from owning an animal.
Under this legislation it could be argued that abandoning your dog, especially by unnecessarily cruel means, constituted a failing to provide the basic standard of care for your dog.
However the language used in the SPCA Act is more ambiguous and leaves room for potential defences against allegations of failure to provide a basic standard of care for animals.
Is Animal Cruelty a Serious Criminal Offence?
Facing allegations of an Animal Cruelty offence under either the Criminal Code of Canada or The SPCA Act carries serious consequences.
Consulting a defence lawyer, such as Toronto Criminal Defence Lawyers, may help you to understand the allegations against you and the potential defences available to you.
There are ways to relinquish ownership of a pet without potentially facing a criminal offence. Animal Shelters, such as the Toronto Humane Society, will accept and provide care for animals when their owners are unable to continue to adequately care for them.
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