Proactive vs Reactive Laws

Yesterday was a horrible day for officers in the Edmonton Police Service Canine Unit. They lost a colleague in the line of duty. Quanto, a decorated Police Service Dog, was killed by a creep allegedly fleeing a stolen vehicle. Note where allegedly and creep are in that sentence.

Today’s Globe and Mail and National Post are reporting that there are calls to change the Criminal Code to allow for stiffer sentencing for killing or injuring a police service animal.

Let me preface what follows with the statement that I love my dog and even some other dogs that are not members of my immediate family. It is absolutely incredible to me that someone would react to a situation by stabbing a dog. That being said, I am uncertain that another amendment to the Criminal Code is a good idea. There were 53 amendments to the Criminal Code proposed in the 41st Parliament, 1st. Session, 65 in the 40th Parl., 3rd Sess., 56 in the 40th Parl., 2nd Sess., and 8 in the 3 week 40th Parl., 1st. Sess. Criminal Code amendments make up a large portion of the work of the Parliament – 811 bills since the 35th Parliament which began in 1994.

51 Criminal Code amendment bills have received Royal Assent since January 2001. The Criminal Code amendments assented to by legislative session looks like this:

Parliament – Session (number of bills) Time period
41-1 (13) June 2011 to September 2013
40-3 (9) March 2010 to March 2011
40-2 (3) January 2009 to December 2009
39-2 (3) October 2007 to September 2008
39-1 (7) April 2006 to September 2007
38-1 (6) October 2004 to November 2005
37-3 (4) February to May 2004
37-2 (2) September 2002 to November 2003
37-1 (4) January 2001 to September 2002

Changing the Criminal Code may seem like a reactive measure to a current situation. There have been bills introduced in Parliament to adjust the Criminal Code specifically regarding law enforcement animals:

Bill C-515 (41st Parl., 1st Sess., introduced on May 29, 2013
Bill C-361 (39th Parl., 2nd Sess., reinstated from the previous session)
Bill C-361 (39th Parl., 1st Sess., introduced on October 24, 2006)

The latest bill and its predecessors have never been debated in the House of Commons or Senate because they have never made it past first reading. What do Slawyers think about legislation of this type?


  1. I too am animal lover. But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: we don’t need new criminal laws. Particularly on the strength of this incident. First, it seems to me utterly inconceivable that anyone in the position of this alleged offender knew and deliberated upon the penalties that might be associated with killing a service animal. From a utilitarian perspective, the law would be completely pointless (and indeed, as it would offer no benefit and would cost taxpayer money, would result in a net social loss). Second, as much as I am revulsed by animal cruelty, I entertain doubt that any reasonable person attacked by a large dog could respond dispassionately and without regard to the immediate physical danger they face. Third, and related, at least if a police officer uses demonstrably excessive force, I believe a claim in self-defence can be made. The officer’s reasonableness controls retaliation. But in circumstances where the police have deployed a dangerous animal, I’m not sure that’s true. The sad truth is that the dog was deployed to keep the police out of harm’s way.