The accused, Isaac Willard, pleaded guilty to weapons possession, assault of his pregnant partner and her friend and killing the family dog Mercy by stabbing her 14 times in a domestic dispute that escalated to violence while intoxicated in March 2023. The children in the home, the eldest aged 12, were awakened by the dog’s screams, which also alerted the accused’s partner who then took the children and fled the home. The accused was found passed out due to intoxication and was arrested later. He was retained in custody from April 20, 2023.
The Crown sought a 12-month incarceral sentence followed by 18 months’ probation and a 10-year animal prohibition order for the animal cruelty charge, along with 60 days concurrent for the remaining charges, a firearms prohibition and DNA ancillary order. Defence counsel sought time-served, which would have amounted to 264 days with credit, and 18 months’ probation.
The judge began by stating:
I will say at the outset that this offence is one of a combined domestic abuse against two Indigenous women, one which is a domestic partner, and the use of the knife to kill the family dog in the presence of the children and witnessed by one, although not visually witnessed, but he certainly heard it. The circumstances are extremely egregious and extremely violent (para.7).
Aggravating factors included statutory aggravating factors of violence against an intimate partner and Indigenous women, that the accused had been subject to an 810 peace bond prohibiting him from posessing or consuming alcohol at the time of these incidents, his criminal record for violence that included a history of domestic assault and the extreme violence displayed in the killing of Mercy. Some of the mitigating factors were the early guilty plea and the information about his difficult background with an abusive alcoholic father revealed in the Gladue report.
The judge accepted victim impact statements from the accused’s partner’s sister and maternal grandmother, who described the impact of hearing Mercy being brutally killed by their father. The judge referred to Chen paragraphs 33-35, and Carr as indications that sentencing in animal cruelty cases has shifted from six months imprisonment to 12 to 18 months in duration. Although the judge found the manner in which Mercy was killed to be extreme in brutality, particularly when the lasting impact it will have on the children is considered, there was no evidence that it was connected to the domestic violence component.
Nonethless, the judge accepted the Crown’s sentencing submissions regarding incarceration due to the extremely aggravating factors which necessitated denunciation and deterrence, imposing a 12-month jail sentence with credit for time in remand. They also imposed a 10-year weapons prohibition against firearms and knife possession subject to exemptions indicated in s 113, ancillary orders for DNA, and a 10-year animal prohibition order with the exception of the dog he owned with his mother who resided with her.