March 1, 2024


Make Business Yours

Corbella: O’Toole’s pet policy will help save human and animal lives

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A lot of jokes were being made online about Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole’s announcement Monday regarding animal welfare.


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With dogs and trainers frolicking in a grassy field behind him at a King City, Ont., dog rescue farm, O’Toole himself launched his press conference on Monday cracking a joke.

I’d like to start today by announcing a very controversial position. I am a dog person. I like cats, too. But in our family, dogs rule — sometimes literally.”

With his yellow lab Wexford in tow, O’Toole vowed to ban puppy mills, ban the importation of animals from foreign puppy mills, end cosmetic testing on animals and add animal cruelty as an aggravating factor in domestic violence prosecutions. This election platform announcement may have looked frivolous on the surface, but this is serious policy that should have been passed decades ago.


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“It’s a historic moment for animals,” says Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada — the membership-based federation of SPCAs and humane societies that represents 52 members in every province and two territories. 

“We’re very excited. In our living memory this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a major party has included a section in their platform on animal welfare,” said Cartwright during a telephone interview from Ottawa Tuesday.

“It’s not just a line on animal welfare, but a whole section — about five pages — and then he (O’Toole) brought it out front (Monday) very boldly, which I think is an indication that politicians are really waking up to the fact that Canadian voters care about animal protection and animal welfare,” added Cartwright.


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In 2020, 63 per cent of Canadian households had a dog or cat (O’Toole’s family has both) and nationally there are more than 7.7 million dogs and 8.1 million cats. 

Cartwright says Humane Canada has worked for decades to ban cosmetic testing on animals and they were encouraged when Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, introduced S-214, in 2014, called An Act to Amend the Food and Drugs Act (cruelty-free cosmetics). It eventually made it into the House of Commons, but didn’t get passed before the 2019 election. O’Toole vows to ban that cruel practice.

O’Toole pointed out that in 2019, Humane Canada, the federation of SPCAs and humane societies, took in more than 78,000 cats and just less than 28,000 dogs through their shelters “while the surge in pet ownership during the pandemic helped many of these animals to find their forever homes.”


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Indeed, about 900,000 Canadian adults got a pandemic puppy or COVID cat, since the beginning of the first wave in March 2020 — bringing much joy to so many.

That’s the bright side of the pandemic.

“We also know it brought to light other issues. Due to demand, we saw a growth in puppy mills and illegal imports — criminal groups taking advantage of Canadians’ love for their pets. Tragically, we’ve also seen an increase in animal abuse and violence closely tied to the increase in domestic violence,” said O’Toole, of the effect of the lockdowns.

“It’s time to protect the welfare of our pets and the people who love them,” he said.

“When it comes to animal abuse, we know criminals who hurt animals don’t stop with animals. There’s an established link between cruelty to animals and violence towards humans.”


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Animal cruelty will be added as an aggravating factor in domestic violence prosecutions and supports will be given to shelters to ensure that there are better options for women to leave abusive homes without having to abandon their pets.

Cartwright says many people know that serial killers almost always start off harming animals. But the link between animal abuse and domestic violence is less well known.

Cartwright points to University of Windsor studies that show that 56 per cent of women who are trying to leave a relationship delay leaving because they can’t bring their pet to a shelter and they know if they leave the family pet behind, it’s going to continue to be abused.

“I think one of the most heartbreaking statistics for me in that is that of those who do leave and leave their pet behind, a third report going back to either take up living with their abuser again or to check on their animal, and of course we know that the most dangerous time for a woman fleeing a violent situation — the time she’s most likely to be murdered — is when she’s fleeing,” says Cartwright.


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According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, every six days a Canadian woman is killed by her intimate partner, so making it easier for women to leave their abuser and take their beloved pets — rather than staying in a dangerous situation or returning to protect their pet — will save human lives and save much suffering of innocent animals.

O’Toole added that if the Conservatives form government, it will spend $10 million a year to train judges and prosecutors on the links between violence against animals and violence against people.

“I was disappointed in some of the media’s representation of what Erin O’Toole announced (Monday),” said Cartwright. “It was a bit pejorative around, ‘Oh, puppies and politicians, we all know how well that plays,’ as opposed to the seriousness of the issues,” complained Cartwright.

On Wednesday — 16 days after the Conservatives released their election platform — the federal Liberals released their platform and it pretty much copied many of the points made in the Conservative plan with regard to animal welfare.

That is very good news for our furry friends — no joke!

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.

[email protected]

Twitter: @LiciaCorbella



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