A new website created by Kendra Coulter, Chair of Brock University’s Department of Labour Studies, provides province-by-province information on reporting suspected cruelty, programs to support animal caretakers, investigations and legal resources in Canada.
The website, www.animalprotection.ca, compiles resources and contacts from the complex landscape of animal protection in different regions in order to address the issue of animal cruelty and its impact on both animals and humans.
Coulter, a globally recognized expert in animals and labour, launched the site this past weekend at the virtual Canadian Animal Law Conference. The site was developed as part of her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded research project on animal protection work and policy.
“Canada’s approach to animal protection is best described as a loosely stitched patchwork of patchworks, with different public and nonprofit agencies responsible depending on the place and the animals in question,” says Coulter. “It is difficult terrain for members of the public to navigate when they suspect animal abuse, so we hope the site will help provide some clarity in the immediate term.”
But, Coulter says, in a country where many painful and damaging practices are exempt from legal definitions of cruelty and animal protection work is chronically under-funded, a more co-ordinated and effective law and policy approach is needed because “animal cruelty exists on a spectrum.”
“As researchers, we take a comprehensive approach to animal protection that includes recognizing the importance of thoughtful front-line investigations to determine what is needed to best protect animals — education, corrective actions, or resources and support, in most cases,” Coulter says. “In less common but significant cases, more robust responses and legal tools are needed to protect victims and prevent future harm, along with animal care and veterinary forensic diagnostics.”
The research team, which includes two former Brock students Brittany Campbell (BA ’17, MA ’20) and Bridget Nicholls (BA ’17, MA ’20) now pursuing PhDs, takes seriously the ways in which humans are also affected by animal cruelty, from animal protection workers to family members of animal abusers.
“Violence against animals often occurs before or alongside the abuse of people, especially women and children, and knowing that domestic violence has increased during the pandemic, we can expect that the same is true of animal abuse,” says Coulter. “More effective animal cruelty investigations can uncover hidden interpersonal violence and help both vulnerable animals and people.”
Coulter says that Brock students will grapple with these kinds of issues and examine how to improve and create more positive human-animal work in the new, unique course, “Good, Green and Humane Jobs,” which is being offered by the Department of Labour Studies in the Winter Term.
For everyone else, the site with its many resources is freely available.
“There is much more to be done in order to both prevent and effectively respond to animal harm,” says Coulter. “We hope our research will contribute to meaningful changes and to a more progressive, comprehensive, and sustainable approach to human and animal wellbeing.”