Protect our animal friends

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Nothing outrages people quite like an animal being mistreated, especially if the creature happens to be of the lovable sort — like a cat or dog.

So it’s hardly surprising that Central Albertans are appalled that a teenager allegedly cooked a Camrose cat to death in a microwave oven during a break-in.

The reaction this incident has generated is reminiscent of the outcry in Didsbury, where a dog was viciously beaten and dragged from the rear of a vehicle until it was near death in 2006.

After that, 112,000 people signed a petition calling for harsher penalties for people who mistreat animals.

A teen who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in the Didsbury case received a conditional sentence.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, has also admitted to taking part in the dog’s torture and will be sentenced in April.

Last February, Wild Rose MP Myron Thompson asked Ottawa for tougher laws for animal abuse cases. The Didsbury incident happened in his riding.

Current animal welfare laws allow for a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS), Canada’s animal cruelty law is 115 years old and “contains loopholes that allow those who neglect their animals — even to the point of starving them to death — to go unpunished.”

Two bills have been introduced in Parliament to amend the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act, one in the House of Commons and one in the Senate.

The CFHS is calling on Canadians to speak out to stop the passage of the bill introduced in the Senate concerning animal cruelty (Bill S-203).

The organization says that the private member’s bill is inadequate because it simply increases penalties, instead of expanding the list of animal abuses that can be prosecuted.

The CFHS is supporting the bill introduced in the House of Commons (Bill C-373).

In August, the Ontario provincial government announced it intends to toughen its animal cruelty legislation and implement new measures to improve enforcement and better support the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The announcement came on the heels of a series of animal cruelty cases, including a Windsor, Ont., puppy having its ears sliced off, a pregnant cat beaten to death near Ottawa and countless dogs left in hot vehicles.

The well-publicized United States dog-fighting case involving football player Michael Vick had Canadians and Americans calling for stricter legislation against such activities.

The disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback was sentenced in December to 23 months in jail and three years probation, but he will likely see his time behind bars reduced because he has entered a drug treatment program.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have joined a Facebook campaign calling for the accused teens in the microwave-death case to be tried as adults.

One Facebook poster has even called for people to cover the lawns of the four accused with microwave ovens.

The First Annual Camrose, Alberta, Microwave Dropoff has tentatively been scheduled for Dec. 30, 2008 (the one-year anniversary of the microwave-death incident).

Camrose police are said to have been overwhelmed by people identifying the teens and threatening them online.

Their identities cannot be published under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In any case, it’s time for the federal government to see that Bill C-373 is passed and that Bill S-203 is scrapped.

The government appears to be taking its sweet time in addressing Canada’s anachronistic animal-abuse legislation — possibly because both of the previously mentioned bills were introduced by Liberals.

This issue is too important to let petty politics get in the way.

Our animal friends deserve to be protected as soon as possible.

They can’t speak for themselves, so people must speak up in their defence.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.