The Northwest Territories and Nunavut have the worst animal protection laws in Canada, a California-based animal-rights group says in a new report card.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund's says the two territories are the "best places" to be if you're an animal abuser, because convictions for animal abuse there carry minimal fines, and the territories have weak laws when it comes to seizing abused animals.

Animals in Alberta and Quebec also have rotten legal protection, the group alleges in its report card.

Animals in Ontario, meanwhile, enjoy the best protection in Canada, the ALDF says, which ranked the province in the top spot. It applauded, in particular, Ontario's mandatory restrictions on future ownership of animals for those convicted of animal cruelty.

Here's the full ranking list:

Top Tier:

  • 1. Ontario
  • 2. Nova Scotia
  • 3. Manitoba
  • 4. New Brunswick

Middle Tier:

  • 5. Yukon
  • 6. British Columbia
  • 7. Saskatchewan
  • 8. Prince Edward Island
  • 9. Newfoundland and Labrador

Bottom Tier:

  • 10. Alberta
  • 11. Quebec
  • 12. Northwest Territories, Nunavut (tie)

To create the reports card, the ALDF says it conducted a detailed comparative analysis of the animal protection laws of each province and territory, ranking them on the relative strength and general comprehensiveness of their animal protection laws.

The group says New Brunswick showed the most significant improvement overall, moving from the bottom tier last year to fourth best in the country this year.

New Brunswick moved up after enacting some of Canada's stiffest penalties for cruelty offences.

Abusers there now face fines of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to 18 months. By comparison, animal abusers in Alberta – which the ALDF ranked in the bottom tier -- can be fined only up to $20,000, and abusers can't be incarcerated under provincial law.

Nova Scotia overtook Manitoba as the second best province due to a host of new laws including better standards of care for animals, stronger penalties and requiring veterinarians to report suspected offences.

Stephan Otto, ALDF director of legislative affairs and report author, said Alberta ranked sixth in 2008, ninth last year, and now 10th, because the province is simply not keeping up with other provinces in strengthening its laws.

He called for all provinces to update their animal protection laws and enforcement abilities.

"We continue to see significant disparity across the provinces and territories," Otto said in a news release.

"Animals do not vote, but those who love and care about them do. It is our hope that these ongoing reviews continue to garner support for both the strengthening and enforcement of animal protection laws throughout Canada."

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives of animals through the legal system.