R v Haskell 2010 BCPC

Mr. Haskell was charged under s. 24(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in permitting his dog to be or continue to be in distress. Mr. Haskell’s dog had an injury to his leg. Mr. Haskell was told by a SPCA officer to seek veterinary care for the injury, but Mr. Haskell failed to do so for several days. Instead, Mr. Haskell tried to tend to the wound himself. After another conversation with the SPCA, Mr. Haskell turned his dog into the SPCA so that the SPCA would provide the dog with medical care.

As s. 24(1) is a strict liability offence, meaning that the Crown has simply to prove the actus reus of the offence (the dog being in distress) with the burden then falling on the accused to prove due diligence, the Court considered the meaning of ‘distress’ within the act. Distress is defined in s. 1(2) of the Act as an animal being: (a) deprived of adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation, space, care or veterinary treatment, (b) injured, sick, in pain or suffering, or (c) abused or neglected. The Court found that the word ‘distress’ could not apply to every situation where an animal is injured or sick as that would lead to an absurd result. The Court noted that the wound, though not ‘small’, was clean, that Mr. Haskell was tending to it and submitted that he would seek veterinary care if the wound got infected, that the dog did not seem in discomfort and that Mr. Haskell had treated a similar injury in the past in the same manner. The Court thus found that it had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the dog was in distress within the meaning of s. 24.

Source: Case Law

Jurisdiction: British Columbia

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