Media Releases

Supreme Court Decision in Bestiality Case Means Parliament Must Act

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada today delivered its decision in Her Majesty the Queen v. D.L.W., a case in which the scope of the criminal offence of bestiality was at issue. The Court ruled that the offence only covers penetrative sexual conduct between humans and animals. In other words, all other forms of sexual abuse of animals by humans – short of penetration – are now legal.

This is the first time in Canadian history that the Supreme Court has considered legislation that directly protects animals. It is also one of the only times that an animal advocacy organization has argued before the Supreme Court.

Animal Justice – a national animal law organization – intervened in the case before the Supreme Court to argue that all forms of sexual abuse of animals must remain illegal, arguing that preventing harm to vulnerable animals is a fundamental societal value, and a key objective of the criminal law.

Animal Justice was represented in the case by University of Alberta law professor Peter Sankoff, and executive director Camille Labchuk.

Camille Labchuk said:

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a wake up call that laws protecting animals are severely out of date. As of today, Canadian law gives animal abusers license to use animals for their own sexual gratification. This is completely unacceptable, contrary to societal expectations, and cannot be allowed to continue.

“The Supreme Court threw the ball into Parliament’s court, and it is now time for legislators to act. We urge Parliament to quickly pass Private Member’s Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, introduced by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. This much-needed bill updates the animal offences in the Criminal Code, and closes this dangerous loophole to make it crystal clear that all forms of sexual activity between a person and an animal are unacceptable.

Peter Sankoff said:

“As an intervener in the case, Animal Justice drove home the importance of ensuring our laws protect animals from sexual abuse.

“This decision reflects the fact that the Supreme Court was forced to work with our outdated laws. Although Animal Justice hoped for a different decision, it is encouraging that both the majority and the dissent adopted aspects of our arguments, and recognized that protecting animals is a fundamental societal value.

“Canadians care deeply about protecting animals from this type of cruelty and sexual abuse. People who sexually abuse animals often sexually abuse children as well, as the accused did in this case. Parliament must step in immediately to fix our outdated laws and protect the vulnerable from sexual exploitation.”

The Supreme Court’s decision in the case can be found here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk, Executive Director

[email protected]