You may have heard that Canada’s Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, earlier this year introduced Bill C-35, the Justice for Animals in Service Act (JASA) (also known as Quanto’s Law).
Quanto was an Edmonton police dog that was killed while aiding in the capture of a suspect in October, 2013.
Guide dog users may be wondering how Quanto’s Law affects them. Here is a brief explanation of the proposed law. It’s important to remember that we are only discussing a Bill at this point; Bill C-35 has not yet been passed into law.
The proposed law applies to military, law enforcement, and service animals – including guide dogs. Under this law, it would be a distinct crime to kill, maim, wound, poison, or injure these animals. It is already a crime to harm animals – including guide dogs – without lawful excuse (that is, without a legal justification). What Quanto’s Law would do is increase the punishment for killing or injuring certain animals – namely military, law enforcement, and service animals.
For example, with Quanto’s Law in effect, killing a law enforcement animal while it is assisting an officer to carry out his or her duties would result in a mandatory minimum punishment of six months imprisonment. The current law does not require a mandatory minimum sentence for this crime.
The maximum punishments under Quanto’s Law for killing or injuring a guide dog are the same as they are for killing or injuring a pet dog under existing law. However, Quanto’s Law would require that the courts give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence when handing out sentences against those who hurt guide dogs and other service animals. What this means in plain language is that Quanto’s Law would direct the courts to give out stiffer penalties when the animal that’s killed or injured is a service animal. This is similar to the way that an assault against a peace officer is treated as a more serious offense than the same assault against a civilian. In other words, there are no new legal protections being proposed for guide dogs, but if Bill C-35 becomes law, the courts will be instructed to take harm done to service dogs more seriously than if the animal were simply a pet.
Many CNIB clients rely on guide dogs to enhance their mobility and independence. Harm done to guide dogs is socially, emotionally, and economically very costly. It’s appropriate that the penalties for killing or injuring a service animal reflect the increased harm caused by those who commit such crimes. Quanto’s Law is a step in the right direction. Quanto’s Law, however, will apply only to harm caused by humans. The issue of attacks by other animals will have to be addressed at the provincial level, as has been done in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
You can find more information on Bill C-35 – including an RSS feed to stay up to date on the Bill’s progress – by visiting this page on Open Parliament.
Photo: Marc Workman, National Manager of Advocacy at CNIB, and his guide dog Nairobi post with two Members of the RCMP