R v Menard, (1978) 43 CCC (2d) 458 QCCA

Leading case on definition and use of ‘unnecessary’, reasons written by Lamer JA before appointment to the SCC.

The accused owns a business (“Contrôle Sanitaire des Animaux Enreg.”). He takes care of euthanizing stray animals that are not reclaimed after 3 days. Unfortunately, his euthanasia system, powered by a motor, causes pain and burns to the mucous membranes and respiratory tract of the animals. The defendant could have easily, at a reasonable cost, better equipped his system so that animals were not subjected to such pain and suffering.

The accused trapped strays and killed them using forced ingestion of carbon monoxide. He was convicted at trial and the conviction was upturned on Appeal. The Crown appealed and conviction re-instated.

The amount of pain and suffering inflicted upon an animal is not an element of the offence whenever it is inflicted wilfully, unnecessarily or without legal justification or excuse or colour of right.

The magnitude of pain will, however, be measured when appreciating the necessity for its infliction. Even when a desirable and legitimate object is sought to be attained, the pain caused in so doing must not so far out-balance the importance of the end as to make it clear to any reasonable person that it is preferable that the object should be abandoned rather than disproportionate suffering be inflicted.

Man is superior to animals and, because of that, can use them for his own needs. In so doing, however, he must inflict upon them only such pain and suffering as are unavoidable taking into consideration the end sought, the means at his disposal and the circumstances of each case.

“Cruelty” is causing pain, suffering or injury to an animal when such pain, suffering or injury could have been avoided considering the end sought and the means resorted to.

In the instant case, although the killing was a legitimate and desirable object, the way it was done constituted unnecessary pain and suffering since another means of attaining that end existed, was known to the accused and the cost of it was not prohibitive.

The evidence at trial was the dogs would die relatively rapidly however, the manner of death would cause pain and suffering and simple, cheap systems were available to make the process more tolerable for the dogs. The Court of Appeal found the euthanasia of strays was justified and the activity could not be condemned by reason of the illegality of its purpose. The issue was the means employed.