Central Alberta animal rescue societies are encouraged that the Senate has passed a law targeting people involved in dog fighting.
Bill C-84, the Bestiality and Animal Fighting Bill, makes it illegal to breed or train animals to fight, to own or provide a fighting area, or to profit from animal fighting.
“If you’re affiliated in any way, shape or form, whether you supplied the property, equipment, the dogs. Whether you bred the dog, transported the dog, you’re 100 per cent guilty as much as the man with his hand on the leash,” said Kim Taylor, owner and operator at Remote K-9 Search and Rescue in the Sundre area.
The bill also clarifies that any contact for a sexual purpose between a person or animal is an offence, and anyone convicted of bestiality will be placed on Canada’s National Sex Offenders Registry.
Taylor said dog fighting is problem world wide, including Alberta.
“Absolutely, it’s happening. Just because you don’t see the dead bodies in the ditch, people can’t become complacent and think it doesn’t exist.
“These guys, over time, have been able to keep this well hidden, bury the bodies, bury the equipment and nobody’s the wiser, so it’s very hard to catch up to them and find out where they’re at,” Taylor said.
The Alberta SPCA says it does not get many complaints about dog fighting.
“We do get the odd complaint, but we’re unable in all situations to verify an actual fighting ring was in existence. Typically, the evidence doesn’t support what’s been reported to us,” said SPCA spokesperson Dan Kobe.
But people are still encouraged to report any concerns, he said.
“It may be there, but as far as verifying that it’s actually happening in Alberta, we haven’t been able to do that,” Kobe said.
Dog fighting is a Criminal Code offence investigated by police, and police have also been unable find evidence, according to previous reports, he said.
Erin Deems, executive director of Saving Grace Animal Society in Alix, said the new law is definitely a step in the right direction.
“We don’t believe (dog fighting) is a massive problem, but given the circumstances we’ve seen some dogs come in, I think it would be really naive of us to think that this is impossible in our province,” Deems said.
She said more work still needs to be done, but change is now happening to better protect animals.
The Central Alberta Humane Society is also extremely happy to see government move on bills supporting animal welfare.
“A lot of the laws are really archaic, really outdated, so this is just a really positive time for animal welfare,” said Tara Hellewell, society executive director and a Humane Canada board member.
Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada, said dog fighting is criminal by nature, so it’s all underground, but the more police focus on it, the more they find. That’s been the experience in Ontario.
“Police report back it’s directly linked to guns and gangs, and as we see an increase in guns and gangs in Canada, we’ll see an increase in dog fighting, but also other forms of animal fighting as well,” Cartwright said.
She said while Bill C-84 addresses animal fighting and the sexual assault of animals very well, it doesn’t deal with how out of date the Criminal Code is regarding animal cruelty.
“Our Parliament has been updating it piecemeal for too long now. What we really need in moving forward, is to have a comprehensive approach to the legal framework that governs animals in Canada.”