OTTAWA – The federal government is signalling it will create new legislation to protect animals that work with police.
In its speech from the throne Wednesday, the government said it will bring forward “Quanto’s Law” in honour of a police dog that was killed in Edmonton earlier this month.
Police complained after Quanto was stabbed during the takedown of a fleeing suspect that the strongest criminal charge that could be laid was cruelty to an animal.
The throne speech did not specify what Quanto’s Law would entail.
A private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code is already before the House of Commons.
Brought forward by Ontario Conservative MP Costas Menegakis, it singles out anyone “who knowingly or recklessly poisons, injures or kills a law enforcement animal,” including a horse or dog, and proposes the same five-year maximum penalty that animal cruelty carries.
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay publicly offered his support to the bill in the wake of Quanto’s death.
Menegakis said he was actually inspired to act by the death of Brigadier, a Toronto police horse that had to be put down after police said he was deliberately struck by a driver they were trying to pull over in 2006.
There was a push at that time for Brigadier’s Law, but nothing happened until Menegakis’s bill was tabled earlier this year.
While the proposed amendment carries the same penalty as animal cruelty, the change is more than symbolic, Menegakis said last week.
“This takes this particular penalty and puts it in the Criminal Code under the police and peacekeeping officers section so it kind of forces the judicial system to apply the law in every case where a service animal is maliciously attacked,” Menegakis said.
“When you look at the actual penalties you can apply, you can get carried away on emotion. I would have liked a lot bigger penalties but there is human life and there is animal life, as well. There is a difference. I wanted it to be something that made sense.”
The MP said last week he was looking for another backbencher to carry the bill forward because he was recently named a parliamentary secretary and can no longer table private member’s bills.
Alberta’s justice minister has said he supports the federal bill and that the province is considering changing the Service Dog Act to include provisions that would punish people who harm the animals.