In a surprising decision from Canada's Supreme Court, the country's top judges ruled that forcing a dog to perform oral sex is not, in fact, bestiality and therefore not necessarily illegal.
The ruling essentially invites Parliament to get to work and fix that.
The case before the court involves an unnamed man, accused of forcing the family dog to perform oral sex on his underage daughter. The man was convicted of a litany of sexual offences in relation to the abuse, and sentenced to 14 years in jail. On one charge of bestiality, however, he was acquitted on appeal.
His case was surprisingly complex. His lawyers contended that Parliament had never intended to criminalize oral sex with animals. Instead, they argued before the court, the charge, which carries no formal definition in the Criminal Code, was linked to 'buggery' — a similar charge also criminalized homosexual acts — and therefore required penetration.
The Government of Canada, as well as Animal Justice — an animal rights group — argued that the court ought to take a common sense approach to the law and naturally consider any sexual contact with animals as wrong, abusive, and illegal.
They managed to convince one judge.
"Acts with animals that have a sexual purpose are inherently exploitative whether or not penetration occurs," wrote Justice Rosalie Abella in a dissenting opinion, adding that preventing exploitation is what Canada's laws "were all about."
The majority court, however, ruled that if Parliament had wanted to criminalize oral sex with animals, it would have — and, in so doing, it wouldn't have used the word 'buggery.'
"When Parliament uses a term with a legal meaning, it generally intends the term to be given that meaning," the majority court wrote.
While the court upheld the man's acquittal, it did, however, nudge the government towards taking action to fix the legislative gap.
"Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within Parliament's exclusive domain," they wrote.
And one member of Parliament was quick to accept the invitation.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a backbench MP with the governing Liberal Party, introduced C-246, which would explicitly ban all sexual activity between man and animal.
The legislation would also add a host of other legal protections for animals.