Wednesday April 23, 2014

Aim pressure in right places

It's hard not to feel emotional when reading stories about the starving horses rescued from numerous locations nearby.

Some are in such bad shape they’re having to be fed them every two to three hours and two were put down this week including one that had such little muscle mass that veterinary staff had to rig up a hoist to help her stand.

A veterinarian — who has seen it all in dealing with injured and sick animals — said it was even hard on her.

So it's little wonder that some people worry if they don't see justice served immediately, then maybe the offenders will get away with it.

While we can't foresee the future, we can say that every effort is being put into seeing charges do stick. One of the most important steps has already happened — the horses have been seized and are in care.

Now SPCA investigators are doing the legwork like obtaining vet reports, taking statements from owners (if they can be identified), witnesses and the like. Then, just like police gather facts when trying to have a charge approved, they build their case and forward it to Crown counsel.

But this is slow work and with 7,000 animal cruelty complaints annually and few constables to do the work, the B.C. SPCA estimates the process could take two months.

Then it's over to Crown, which can take several more months to approve charges.

Once it's before the courts, under the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, offenders may face a lifetime ban on owning animals, a fine of up to $75,000 or prison not exceeding two years. There are also provisions under the Criminal Code for charges.

So it's not that the penalties are not there or that the SPCA isn't doing its part to drive the cases to court, the problem is crimes against animals are not given the same weight as crimes about people and the sentences judges issue reflect this.

If people consider light sentences a problem, politicians are the ones with the power to pass laws with minimum sentences or fines for animal cruelty crimes.

As such, pressure should be directed toward elected officials to have judges put more bite into such sentences.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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