An Animal Welfare year in review for 2013 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It is the end of another year and once again we are posing the question, “Are things getting better or worse for animals?” Below is a summary of some of the advances (The Good) for animal welfare in 2013 as well as some of setbacks (The Bad) and the issues that made us shake our heads in sorrow (The Ugly).  This year we’ve added a new category: the Ugly Hall of Shame.

The Good – Advances and positive stories for animal welfare

Maple Lodge Farm was found guilty of violating federal animal health regulations when more than 1,500 chickens (out of 10,944 chickens that were being transported) froze to death in cages in the back of transport trucks.  There are still 58 more charges pending against Maple Lodge Farm.

Buy, Sell & Trade decided to put the safety of animals and people first and banned private sales of pets in their on-line classified advertisements.

Ryan Gosling spoke out on behalf of pigs by condemning confinement housing (gestation stalls) in an opinion piece that was published in the Globe and Mail and then picked up across the country.

In late November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld a ban on the importation of harp seal products from the commercial seal hunt (not to be confused with subsistence seal hunt for ringed seals in the north) into the European Union after it was challenged by the Government of Canada.

North Atlantic right whales are an endangered species that spend their summers feeding in Canadian waters.  This summer scientists believe that they found a new breeding ground for the gentle giants.

And on Canada’s other coast scientists spotted a critically endangered North Pacific right whale.  It is estimated that less than 50 of these majestic creatures remain.

During the summer of 2012 a dog died in a hot car at a Vaughan Mills, ON shopping centre.  The mall wasn’t about to let that happen again and took matters into their own hands by creating a “Pet Patrol”; a team of security guards who looks out for the small furry guy!

On October 20th, after a three day journey that was more than two years in the making, Toka, Thika and Iringa, the Toronto Zoo elephants, arrived at the Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary (PAWS) in San Andreas, California, to enjoy their retirement.

The government committed to provide better protection for police service animals in the Speech from the Throne by supporting Quanto’s Law. This is the first time companion animals have been referenced in a Speech from the Throne.

Last winter shoppers were shocked to discover a young Japanese macaque (now monkey) dressed in a tiny shearling coat wandering at a Toronto area IKEA.  After months of legal wrangling a judged decided that the animal would live out his years in a primate sanctuary rather than as a pet in a private home.

The Bad – Setbacks for animal welfare

In 1999 the Ontario government cancelled the Ontario spring bear hunt citing ethical concerns about the orphaning of bear cubs.  In November the Ministry of Natural Resources announced that a limited spring bear hunt would be allowed in Northern Ontario.  It will commence on May 1st, 2014.

In November the Manitoba government silently removed 30 year old restrictions in the province which only allowed placing polar bears younger than two years in captivity.  The Assiniboine Park Zoo has stocked it’s facility with two bears from Churchill since the removal of the restriction.

In July an Ontario Wal-Mart employee was fired when she confronted a customer who had left his dog in his vehicle on an extremely hot day.

Kijiji was presented with a petition with 58,000 signatures (now more than 60,000) requesting they stop advertising the sale of dogs and cats in their classifieds ads to help combat the use of the online platform by puppy mill operators.  The company stands by its business model and refuses to implement a third party monitoring system.

The province of Quebec, notoriously known as the puppy mill capital of North America, released new animal breeding laws.  Unfortunately, the laws are full of loopholes.  Although it’s not all bad as the new regulations do prohibit the use of gas chambers for euthanasia – a long standing controversial issue.

In Ontario there were massive die offs of honey bees from the use of neonicotinoid insecticides including one colony of 37 million bees. In the spirit of the precautionary principle the European Union has banned the use of these insecticides for two years starting December 1, 2013, to study their impact.

While the Toronto Zoo elephants are enjoying their retirement in California, Edmonton’s lone elephant Lucy continues to languish at the Valley Zoo.

Bowmanville, Ontario, city council made a sound decision that it would not allow an aging cancer stricken elephant to march in the annual Santa Claus parade.  The decision was widely protested in the community and eventually reversed.  Limba was euthanized due to her illness two weeks after marching in the parade.

The Ugly – What were they thinking?

Undercover footage exposing the conditions of laying hens at two farms in Alberta was aired by CTV’s investigative journalism show, W5 exposing condition of thousands of animals.  During the investigation the Egg Farmers of Canada issued a security alert to their members encouraging them to not cooperate with the media or allow journalists any access to farms.

After two young boys in New Brunswick were tragically suffocated by an African rock python the news was dominated by stories of exotic animals in private ownership, exposing a lack of good legislation banning this practice throughout most of Canada.

Just before Halloween the public was horrified to find that Wal-Mart, Sears and Amazon were carrying a “dead dog prop” which was created to look like a bloody, skinned dog being dragged by a chain.  On the positive side the stores did pull the prop and the manufacturer has discontinued it.

Toronto will always have Rob Ford, however, Huntingdon, Quebec, has Stephane Gendron.  The mayor of the small town, and part-time radio shock jock, claimed to kill stray cats by running over them with his car.  He’s quoted as saying, “When I see a cat in the street, I accelerate.”

Europeans were shocked and horrified when it was found that horse meat was being sold instead of beef in many restaurants including IKEA.  In Canada the scandal increased the demand for horse meat!

At the 2013 Calgary Stampede a steer was euthanized after its neck was injured in a wrestling event and an outrigger horse collapsed and died from a burst lung artery during the Chuckwagon races.  Since 1986 57 animals have died or been injured at events in the Calgary Stampede.

The Ugly Hall of Shame – Sadly, it was difficult to decide which single story in the last year would be given the dishonour of being in our hall of shame this year.


Stories about Marineland, located in Niagara Falls, Ontario continued to dominate the news more than a year after staff came forward with accusations of mistreatment of the animals.  In 2013 stories emerged in which Marineland accused former trainer turned whistleblower Phil Demers of trying to steal a walrus and also launched lawsuits against the OSCPA and former trainers.  The former trainers came forward with stories of dogs being shot on the property and of large burial pits for animals that had died on the property – a practice which was recently granted a permit by the Government of Ontario.

After much consultation and a commitment to bring in sweeping changes for Ontario’s captive wildlife the government did little to improve the laws in the province.  There is still no licensing system for zoos, aquariums and private menageries, no comprehensive standards and no ban on the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity.


In the spring Marineland confirmed that two of its beluga whales had died. In the autumn a Dateline Australia story stated that Marineland was looking to buy more wild caught orcas from Russia.

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Kim Elmslie, Communications and Advocacy Manager, 613-224-8072 ex 12,

Kim Elmslie

Communications and Advocacy Manager

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

102 – 30 Concourse Gate

Ottawa, ON  K2E 7V7

Tel: 613-224-8072, ext 12

Toll free in Canada: 1-888-678-CFHS (2347)

Fax: 613-723-0252

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