First jail sentence under Ontario Provincial Animal Welfare Act

 Article written with files from the Ottawa Citizen

 In October an Ottawa woman was sentenced to 10 months in prison for letting her dog starve to death.  This is the first jail sentence handed out under the Provincial Animal Welfare Act which was amended in 2009.  CFHS appeared as a witness before the Ontario Standing Committee on Justice Policy supporting the amendments to the act.  Before 2009, the Act’s protections applied only to animals being bred in puppy and kitten mills. The amendments made it an offence to permit or cause distress to any animal and required veterinarians to report suspected cruelty.  It is also now an offence in Ontario to train and fight dogs, or to harm a law enforcement animal.

 In April 2010 the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) responded to a call about a dead dog.   An OHS rescue and investigation officer found the dead and decomposing body of a severely emaciated dog.  A necropsy showed the dog was emaciated, “with ribs, vertebrae and hip bones jutting out,” said Miriam Smith of the OHS.  The necropsy also showed the dog’s digestive tract empty except for “sections of a pair of jeans – so obviously it was eating anything it could.” Smith said.

 The owner of the dog, Madeleine Girard, was charged with permitting distress to an animal and failing to provide adequate and suitable food and water, resulting in its death.  Ms. Girard was tried in absentia and sentenced to 10 months in jail and ordered to pay $500 restitution to the Ottawa Humane Society.  She also received a lifetime ban from owing or having custody or care of any animal and was ordered to allow unannounced inspections of her residence to ensure she is in compliance with the court order.

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