The Alberta government is cracking down on pet owners who leave their animals in the freezing cold to get to work or play, and some are now facing criminal charges.
The province’s Environmental Protection Branch announced the charges on Wednesday in an effort to keep people from abandoning their pets to travel the province.
“If a pet owner believes they are at risk of death or serious injury, they may wish to take action to ensure their pet remains alive,” the department wrote in its notice of criminal offence.
Alberta Environment says the offences are under the Protection of Animals Act and they include wilfully abandoning a pet to travel.
There are a number of things you need to know about the law, and the consequences of not following the rules, to prevent dangerous animals from being left in the icy wastes, the department added.
It’s important to know that this is not an offence for anyone to neglect their pet, or any other animal for that matter.
While the offence is being investigated, anyone found guilty can face up to a year in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
Pet owners who are caught abandoning their animals to travel can be fined up to $25,000.
Under the Criminal Code, it’s an offence to neglect a domesticated animal, including an animal that’s been abandoned for the purpose of transportation or hunting, to the extent that the animal is in need of care or protection.
Animal cruelty charges are a relatively new addition to Alberta’s animal cruelty laws, but are used in the province more than ever.
Last month, a Canadian woman was arrested after she abandoned her Labrador retriever, Alisa, in the snow.
The dog was found in a snowbank and police said she had failed to follow all of the regulations for care and protection of animals.
The case was later dropped when the police investigation was completed.
Since then, animal cruelty charges have been issued in five other cases involving abandoned pets, including a couple who abandoned their four-year-old dog and two other people who abandoned a cat and two dogs.
But in a news release this week, the Environmental Protection Division noted that a number other animal cruelty offences, such as animal neglect, animal theft and animal neglect causing bodily harm have also been brought into the act.
In its notice, the Alberta Environment said it is aware of the Criminal Act, but said it will not be enforcing the offence on pet-owners.
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