Dog’s overheating death, Alberta rabbit hoarding puts spotlight on Canada’s animal cruelty laws

Jordana Divon
·Contributing Writer

Between the Ontario pup that died after suffering in a sweltering car and the most extreme rabbit hoarding case in recent memory, the headlines have not been good for animals this week.

Sudbury residents Matthieu Arbour, 21, and Angele Lazurko, 20 have been charged with animal cruelty after a rescue team pulled Lazurko's chocolate Labrador retriever from a locked vehicle outside Vaughan Mills mall on Sunday.

It was a sweltering 28 degrees Celcius, and though a rescue crew tried to revive the year-and-a-half-old pup, he died at the scene.

Lazurko, a pet shop employee (of all things), was promptly let go from her post and, along with Arbour, has a court date set for July 10.

Despite her alleged negligence, Lazurko's father described his daughter as an animal lover and says she's devastated by what happened. In fact, she and Arbour had been in town that weekend to attend Woofstock — an annual dog lover's festival in downtown Toronto.

Over in Edmonton, 44-year-old Shirley Zenner received an $8,500 fine and was banned for life from owning any pets after police seized a total 1,100 rabbits from her home over a four-year period.

As the Edmonton Journal reports, the decision comes two years after the Human Society rescued nearly 600 pregnant, infected and maimed rabbits from her home, all of which were euthanized.

Another 542 rabbits were removed from her home between 2008 and 2010.

Both stories have triggered public outrage, as animal lovers demand punitive measures for these — and similar — cases.

[ Related: SPCA sees more cases of animal abuse, neglect ]

But according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the severity of those punitive measures depends on where you live.

And based on the ALDF's latest annual roundup, that could mean bad news for Arbour and Lazurko.

According to the ALDF's 2011 report, Ontario boasted the top spot in the ranking for Canadian Animal Protection Laws, meaning the province enacts the stiffest penalties in the country for animal cruelty and endangerment.

That tallies up to two years of possible jail time, fines up to $60,000 and potential ownership bans.

While Sunday's locked car incident garnered heavy news coverage, it's by no means an isolated case: The OSPCA reports 17,000 allegations of animal abuse each year in Ontario alone.

Rounding out the report's top-tier provinces are Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The provinces with the lowest rankings were Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Nunavut.

Saskatchewan saw the greatest movement in animal cruelty laws, with fines increasing up to $25,000.

Still not as effective as laws in ancient Egypt, where a person could be put to death for killing a cat. But definitely a step in the right direction.