DNA order, privacy issues

DNA Order For Dog Abuser Considered Privacy Breach

Michael Hill was sentenced to two years in prison after admitting to wrapping electrical tape around a dog’s head and legs and leaving it to die in a parking lot in Ontario. He was also banned, upon his release, from owning any sort of animal anywhere in the country for nearly 30 years. However, it was the order that he give his DNA to the national data banks that grabbed residents and legal experts.

Despite the terrible nature of his crime against the animal, his punishments, namely the DNA order, got negative responses from human rights activists all over the country. Advocates don’t agree with the ruling, which Micheline Rawlins of the Ontario Superior Court issued. They believe it an invasion of Hill’s rights and privacy.

“Forcing a person to give up his or her DNA on the presumption that person may commit a future crime violates civil rights,” said Denis Rancourt, of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association.

“Because it’s an unknown and future crime, there should be a presumption of innocence and therefore there are no reasonable grounds for an invasion of a person’s privacy,” he said.

Some believe that, should DNA orders become prevalent in animal abuse cases, it will indicate that the legal system has crossed a line and will begin intruding on people’s basic rights and privacy with disturbing frequency.

“This particular case seems to suggest that because the case did not involve the accused person’s DNA in any way, it would appear to me to be an abuse,” Rancourt said.

In addition to the DNA order and the list of punishments, Justice Rawlins also mandated psychological evaluation and therapy for Hill. She believes that, while it is a small addition to his sentence, it is a crucial one to keep him from harming another animal, or person, in the future.

“People who become serial killers begin with small animals,” she told the court after handing down the order for hill to give his DNA.

Peter Sankoff, law professor at the University of Alberta, agrees with the DNA order, despite resistance from civil liberty and human rights activists. This harder sentence moves animal cruelty punishments and penalties several steps forward and brings those who abuse and neglect an animal to a new level of justice. Sankoff fully supports requiring an animal abuser to give DNA to the national databank.

“I’m all for it. I think it’s a great idea,” he told CBC News. He suggested that harsh punishments and DNA order might make people take animal cruelty and neglect a bit more seriously in the future.

“It used to be regarded that animal abuse was this trivial little thing,” Sankoff said.

“It was regarded as, sort of, a second-class misdemeanor. Prohibiting people from owning pets is particularly rare,” he said.

“It’s obviously a good result if you’re interested in cracking down on animal cruelty,” he said. “It’s one of the highest sentences I’ve ever seen for an animal cruelty case.”

Attorney Laura Joy, while she supports the entirety of Rawlins’ ruling, believes the DNA order part of Hill’s sentence will send the loudest message to animal abusers.

“I think it’s right on. It certainly deals with deterrence,” she said.

“If you’re going to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on an animal, you are going to be treated very harshly in the courts as well as in the public arena.”

The two-year sentence delivered by Rawlins is less than half of the maximum sentence allowed by Ontario for animal abuse crimes. However, it is the order for the DNA submission which has had the strongest impact on the community and throughout the country.

[Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images]

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