Service animals maimed or killed in the line of duty are about to get better protection in Canada.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled the Justice for Animals in Service Act on Monday, also known as Quanto’s Law for the Edmonton police dog stabbed to death on the job last fall. The legislations aims to ensure that those who harm law enforcement, service and Canadian Armed Forces animals “face serious consequences.” Promised in the 2013 throne speech, the act amends the Criminal Code to impose a minimum six-month jail sentence for anyone who kills a police dog. The maximum sentence would be five years.
“Quanto’s violent death is a powerful and sad reminder of the dangers that law enforcement animals often face in assisting officers to protect Canadians and communities. This legislation honours those faithful animals and emphasizes the special role that they play. Our Government is committed to ensuring that people who wilfully harm these animals face the full force of the law,” Harper said in a statement.
Harper met with Quanto’s handler, Constable Matthew Williamson, who accepted a bravery award from the Purina Animal Hall of Fame earlier this month, and the officer’s new PSD named Ozzie.
Quanto was helping to apprehend a fleeing suspect in Edmonton in October, 2013. Paul Joseph Vukmanich pleaded guilty earlier this year to animal cruelty and other offences in the case and was sentenced to 26 months in prison. He was also banned from owning a pet for 25 years. Quanto had four years of decorated service and had participated in more than 100 arrests.
There would be a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in prison in cases where a law enforcement animal is killed while assisting a law enforcement officer and the offence is prosecuted by indictment. If the officer is assaulted or the animal is hurt or killed, the sentence for that offence would be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed, Harper said.
The RCMP has 157 police service dogs in service across Canada. Canada Border Services Agency has 53 dog-and-handler teams that help to detect contraband drugs and firearms, undeclared currency, and food, plant and animal products. Correctional Services Canada also dogs about 100 dogs to help stop the drug trade. Horses are also used by some police forces, and other kinds of animals are service animals to help people with disabilities.
“This legislation also recognizes the vital role that service animals, such as guide dogs, play in helping persons with disabilities benefit from a better quality of life and lead more independent lives. This sends the message that violence against service animals is unacceptable and those who commit such callous acts will pay the consequences,” Harper added.
Photos Prime Minister’s Office, Edmonton Police Service