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Animal cruelty help topics

Animal cruelty


The BC SPCA derives its powers to investigate and take action in instances of animal cruelty from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act).

We are the only animal welfare organization in B.C. with the authority to enforce laws relating to animal cruelty and to recommend charges to Crown Counsel for the prosecution of those who inflict suffering on animals.

Sad dog outdoors looking through the hole of a fence

Criminal Code of Canada

It is a crime in Canada to intentionally harm animals. Anyone who deliberately harms animals can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Criminal Code of Canada deals specifically with cruelty to animals in sections 444 to 447.

Our Cruelty Investigations team can recommend charges for Crown Counsel for the prosecution of individuals who inflict suffering on animals under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Ginger kitten close up shot looking sad

An animal is in distress, according to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), if it is:

(a) Deprived of adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation, light, space, exercise, care or veterinary treatment,

(a.1) Kept in conditions that are unsanitary,

(a.2) Not protected from excessive heat or cold,

(b) Injured, sick, in pain or suffering, or

(c) Abused or neglected.

Get more information on animals in distress and how you can help report animal cruelty.

Sad dog lying down outdoors in the snow

Category: Animal cruelty

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) is the provincial animal welfare legislation that outlines required standards of care. The BC SPCA was created under the auspices of the PCA Act, and that’s what gives it the power to investigate and take action on animal cruelty cases. It also details the BC SPCA’s constitution and powers of inspection and enforcement.

Cruelty investigative Department staff in uniform walking dog outdoors on misty day

The BC SPCA is the only animal welfare organization in B.C. with the authority to enforce laws related to animal cruelty. In 2008, we successfully campaigned for amendments to the Act that significantly increased protection for abused and neglected animals in B.C.

We continue to propose and support amendments to strengthen the Act. For example, in July 2015, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture announced a new regulation to adopt the Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle into the PCA Act, specifically outlining what is considered a ‘generally accepted practice’. The inclusion of the Codes complemented our work with the BC Dairy Association, the BC Milk Marketing Board and the dairy industry to improve the welfare of dairy cattle.

In February 2017, the BC SPCA applauded the government of B.C’s move to target irresponsible dog and cat breeders. The proposed amendments to the PCA Act would enable the B.C. government to regulate commercial breeders through either a registration or licensing system that will help ensure commercial cat and dog breeders are treating animals with the respect and care they deserve.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act outlines generally accepted practices of animal management as a reason by which distress is legally acceptable.

Generally accepted practices of animal management are ways of handling or caring for animals that are commonly accepted by society. Sometimes these practices still cause pain, suffering and distress to animals. If the practices haven’t been written down in any official document, it is up to experts like veterinarians and leaders in the relevant industry (such as animal farming, sled dogs, animal breeding or horse racing) to give expert testimony in court when there is an animal neglect or cruelty case.

Animals are better represented when practices are written and agreed to by a committee of experts that includes animal welfare experts. We call these documents ‘Standards‘ or ‘Codes of Practice‘.

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