Pet owners beware — do you know the grey areas of pet ownership laws?

The standard of care is rising in Alberta, and that could cause issues for even the most responsible of pet owners.

By Calgary Citizen Staff | October 27, 2021 |10:09 pm

When it comes to our beloved pets, we can all agree there should be standards of care to follow and punishment for those who abuse those laws. 

But many people might not know that the standard of caring for your pets is rising in Alberta, and there are stringent obligations to be followed, says Jillian Williamson, Criminal Defence Lawyer at Ross Lutz Barristers

“It is important to note that when you have care or custody of an animal, you have positive obligations to care for and protect your pet or animal. If you fail to act, then you could be facing quasi-criminal sanctions or criminal penalties,” she says. 

“Laws are guideposts for the minimally acceptable behaviours in our society. However, it is important to understand that these guideposts change and evolve over time.”

Williamson says the standard of care is rising in Alberta, and that could cause issues for even the most responsible of pet owners. 

“For example, failing to get your dog’s teeth cleaned may lead to infections which can contribute or cause other medical issues or disease. So, failing to get your dog’s teeth cleaned can lead to ‘causing unnecessary pain’”, she says, adding that this is something you could be charged for. 

Another thing to be aware of is the increasing popularity of holistic veterinarian medicine, and how it could possibly lead to undue repercussions.  

“Your veterinarian may suggest acupuncture, chiropractic or other homeopathic treatments. Failing to implement treatments as suggested by your veterinarian can also lead to ‘causing unnecessary pain,’ which can bring you in front of a court of law.” 

Williamson says the grey area in the law is due to the fact that pet owners know their pets best and may not always agree with the type of care suggested.  

“You know your pet best, and sometimes not everything recommended is what you might agree with, but that can lead to trouble.” 

The Alberta Court of Appeal recently allowed Animal Justice to make submissions as an intervenor, Williamson adds. 

“Our Court of Appeal rarely hears animal cruelty matters, which is another example of courts evolving our laws to protect and punish those who contravene the minimally acceptable behaviours.” 

It’s important to find and form a trusting relationship with a veterinarian that you trust with your pets, listens to your concerns, and helps you optimize your animal’s health with your input. 

If you do find yourself in some unexpected trouble as a responsible pet owner, it’s important to know your rights. You can request a consultation from Ross Lutz Barristers, which is a full-service criminal defence law office. 

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