Keeping Up Is Hard to Do:
A Trial Judge’s Reading Blog


R. v. Chen, 2021 ABCA 382, November 25, 2021, at paragraphs 38 to 40:

Denunciation encompasses society’s demonstration of its disapproval of the act in question. Theoretically, it reflects a set of commonly held values. As has already been discussed, society’s understanding of animal protection as an important value has increased; I repeat the observation of this court in Alcorn, that “cruelty to animals is incompatible with civilized society”: para 42. Denunciation is clearly an applicable principle when sentencing for such conduct.

The purpose of deterrence is to discourage the offender and others in the community from committing the offence. Animals feel pain and suffer; they are not merely property and deserve protection under the criminal law. All animals not living in the wild, including companion animals, livestock, and animals in industrialized production settings, are under the complete dominion of human caretakers and are highly vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation at the hands of those caretakers. They are at the mercy of those who are expected to care for them and, unlike some other victims of crime, are incapable of communicating their suffering. Sentences for animal cruelty must reflect these realities, and the primary focus must be on deterrence and denunciation. 

While deterrence and denunciation are the primary sentencing principles, other sentencing principles are also engaged. The amendments to the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code do not speak only of punishment, but also protection for the animal victim. The intervenor, Animal Justice, urges a nuanced approach to sentencing, with consideration of specific deterrence including conditions that will reduce the potential for repeat offending and ensure the offender is not in a position to harm animals, rehabilitation to help the offender understand the impact of his or her actions, and reparations to acknowledge harm and ensure care is available for the animal victim. These will all be relevant considerations in sentencing for animal cruelty offences, depending on the circumstances. For example, greater consideration should be paid to prohibition orders to ensure the offender is no longer in a position to harm animals, and reparations to ensure provision of short and long-term veterinary care for the animal. Section 447.1(1)(a) permits an order prohibiting the offender from owning or residing with an animal. In circumstances where there is a reasonable risk of future harm to the animal, or any animal, an appropriate order should be made to prevent such harm.