A plea for more thoughtful sentencing

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How can you say no to those eyes?

How can you say no to those eyes?

Animals are not property

Article: Liam Fitz-Gerald – Contributor

Regina resident Lloyd Wilkinson has a long and sad twenty-five-year history of animal neglect. Some of his more egregious actions include providing deplorable living conditions for animals, failure to provide ample concern and nutrition for his pets and violating provisions that banned him from keeping any animals at the Wilkinson motel. According to the Leader Post, an individual in 2000 and in 2002, who just so happens to be named Lloyd Wilkinson, was tried for cruelty to animals and in the latter case, was barred from owning any animals for half a decade. On Jan. 30, 2014, Wilkinson’s latest episode resulted in a more serious ban but also a questionable fine. He was banned for life for owning animals after failing to follow up with care for his Terrier-mix, Max, who had broken his leg. While this decision of the judge should be praised, arguably, they did not go far enough. Under the Animal Protection Act, Wilkinson could have faced a sentence of two years imprisonment and a fine of $25,000. Instead, the judge gave him no prison time and a fine of $1. In response, the Humane Society rightfully commented that it is disappointing that a quarter-of-a-century passed before a meaningful sentence was given out.

The cases of animal abuse are rife and examples are plentiful. Last November, a puppy wandered into a Saskatchewan work camp and shocked individuals there when it was discovered that he had severe facial burns, likely caused from a flammable substance like gasoline. Actions like the ones described above certainly merit the exploration of increasing penalties. Indeed, the Legislature in 2010 increased the penalty for animal cruelty, increasing prison time from six months to two years and a fine of $5,000 to $25,000.

Yet, the big issue about this case is why the judge did not take harsher action. It could be argued that the lifetime ban on animals is a harsh sentence in-and-of-itself (though it’s no entirely clear how such a ban will be enforced) but, arguably, it did not go far enough. While a domestic animal may belong to someone as property, their status as a living, breathing creature should give them much more consideration and respect than inanimate objects when related legal matters are being considered. When one signs up to have pets, they sign an unwritten social contract stating they will take care of their pet to the best of their ability.

Distinguishing our animals from the other junk we call “property” would be the first meaningful step toward curbing domestic animal abuse. After we change our attitudes overall, then we can start looking at toughening sentences.

Image: Haley Klassen

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