Canadian anti-cruelty laws can be enacted at every level of government in Canada: Federal, Provincial and Municipal. However, the federal government is the only level of government empowered to enact criminal laws. The current federal legislation under Canadian Criminal Code sections 444 to 447 includes both indictable (offences that are the most serious offences under the Criminal Code and summary (an offense that can be charged without an indictment and carries a lower penalty) charges for animal cruelty.
The provinces are empowered to create regulations and give municipalities the power to enact by-laws. Provinces tailor their legislation to reflect their culture and history. While the provisions are generally the same, they do differ in their penalties, especially in the Northern provinces and territories. These provinces have significantly lower penalties for violations of the legislation and on the whole deal primarily with the welfare of dogs.
Many municipalities have enacted by-laws that deal primarily with animal control and regulations for companion animals. However, more progressive municipalities have chosen to include provisions that deal with problems surrounding animal cruelty including stray and abandon pet problems that result from purchase of animals that have not been sterilized or animals that have been raised in an unhealthy way.
Canadian case law regarding animal cruelty is lacking however this could possibly stem from the difficulty that prosecutors have in dealing with these types of violations due to the language of the federal animal cruelty statutes.
American and Canadian cruelty laws are inherently different due to the nature of the their respective constitutions. In the United States, individual states legislate their own criminal laws. There are no American federal laws that deal directly with animal cruelty.
States can choose to follow the Model Penal Code, which provides suggestions for Animal Cruelty laws. States are not obligated to follow the model penal code and in most cases the state will combine their own common law with the model penal code to develop a unique criminal code in every state. At the American municipal level, governing bodies are empowered to create anti-cruelty/standard of care legislation that can mirror the state criminal legislation.