R v Purvis, 2023 ABPC 29

The accused entered a guilty plea for arson, killing a cat and causing unnecessary pain and suffering to four cats when he lit the basement storage room on fire in the home that he shared with his former intimate partner that he continued to live with. The home was ultimately demolished, and one cat died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The remaining four cats survived although they required oxygen and treatment for toxic smoke exposure to their eyes.

The police were dispatched initially to perform a welfare check after receiving a call that the accused had taken excessive insulin as a suicide attempt and lit the home on fire. His ex-partner had received text messages taunting her with what he had done after she had messaged to advise there would be no utilities at the home the following week; the accused had responded with “LMAO awesome the house won’t be here and the cats lmao bring it c–t… Besides I took enough insulin I won’t be coming back I lit a fire in the basement bye” (para. 3(h)).

The Crown sought a global sentence to 3.5 to 4 years, while defence counsel sought a conditional sentence.

The Court found it aggravating that if he was intending to end his life, the fire was extraneous and a demonstration of animosity towards his ex-partner. He was also fully aware the cats were in the home and that he was in a position of trust over them that he breached. The Court cited Chen throughout the decision, specifically with respect to sentencing that should reflect the nature of animal cruelty crimes:

As we know, animals are sentient beings that feel pain and suffering. As a result of the arson, and as already mentioned, one cat died, and four required treatments for smoke inhalation. These offences are serious. However, I must also be mindful that when assessing the severity of the arson offence, I took into consideration the death and suffering of the cats — it is difficult not to. Regardless, it is important that I do not double down when contemplating this factor in assessing the severity of these offences. The inability to separate these consequences when looking at both the arson and the animal cruelty cases highlights their interconnectedness. (para.23)

The Court was also aware of his mental health issues although no formal report had been made, that alcohol was a significant factor and accepted that he had been alcohol free since the offence but had not attended treatment or counselling. It was determined that an 18-month concurrent imprisonment for the arson and animal cruelty offences, minus six and half months for pretrial custody, along with two years of probation and a 15-year animal prohibition order “to provide protection for animals who are victims of such crimes” (para. 139) was a proportionate sentence.


R v Minions, 2022 BCPC 148

The accused was found guilty of violating sections 9.1(1) and 9.1(2), therefore committing an offence contrary to section 24(1) of the province’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after 29 dogs were seized from her property where they were deprived of ventilation, space, water, care, and veterinary treatment.

Eight dogs were found in a vehicle inside the garage, another two were found in a small SUV, and a further five dogs were found in the laundry room with no food or water; the home smelt very strongly of urine and feces and the temperature in the laundry room was found to be 27C. Veterinary evidence showed that numerous dogs had dental issues, overgrown nails, matted fur around paws and eyes, feces matted onto fur, and one dog had a festering ear.

The accused testified that the eight dogs in the vehicle in the garage belonged to a friend: they were picked up in the morning and she was going to groom them for free later. The defence provided no explanation regarding any of the other dogs.

The judge found that the conditions in the home, specifically with respect to the odour from the urine and feces covered newspapers being exposed to such hazards would likely cause the dogs to be in distress as they were deprived of adequate ventilation or care and being kept in unsanitary conditions. The judge also rejected the defence’s argument for leaving the 8 dogs in the vehicle in the garage, finding that it was likely that the accused used vehicles as “kennels” for dogs based on the damage to the interiors of the vehicles and if that damage was done in the course of a day, it further illustrated that the dogs left in vehicles were in distress as they were deprived of adequate space, water/food, and ventilation.

The accused was found guilty on both counts.

R v Edwards, [2022] AJ No 1289

The accused was taking care of his girlfriend’s 10-week-old kitten while she was away when he became frustrated because the kitten urinated on him. He proceeds to throw the kitten against the wall and subject him to a hot water “bath”, causing the kitten injuries consistent with either very hot water or bleach. When his girlfriend returned, the accused had attempted to cover up what he had done and manipulated his girlfriend into saying that she had left the kitten with her cousin when she took him for veterinary care.

The kitten’s other injuries resulted in the amputation of the tips of both ears, amputation of the tip of the tail, amputation of all the toes on its hind feet, and amputation mid paw. According to a veterinary expert’s report, the cat will endure chronic pain due to nerve damage, and eventually get arthritis which will shorten his life..

The judge recognized this as a serious criminal code offence, stating “I do not need to own a pet to know that this is a horrible, horrible offence. And these animals cannot fight back, they cannot take care of themselves. They are totally at the mercy of the people who are caring for them at the time” (para. 434), and also acknowledged the breach of trust not only to the kitten but also his girlfriend.

The accused’s mitigating factors included a guilty plea, having been in custody for 338 days, and his psychiatric reports indicating that he suffered from mental health issues with a cannabis use disorder that caused occasional substance-induced psychosis and antisocial, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. Aggravating factors were the gravity of the offence, the attempt to cover up the crime, and that the accused has a high risk for future violent behaviour and a moderate elevated risk for intimate partner violence (para. 346).

After balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors, the judge ordered a sentence of 18 months of imprisonment, 12 months of probation, and a lifetime ban on the ownership, care, control or residing with animals.

R v H.A.T., 2022 ONSC 1417

This is an application to sever charges on a file where the accused was charged with four offences: two counts of sexual assault, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, and one count of wilfully causing suffering to a dog. It was alleged that the accused engaged in a lengthy pattern of abusive conduct towards his wife, sexually assaulting her over 30 times between 2008 and 2020, as well as kicking and attacking his dog after the dog had an accident on the floor, thus causing the dog to die from internal injuries.

The accused brought forth an application to sever the animal cruelty charge from the others, claiming that the presence of that particular charge may cause prejudice to him.

The judge granted the application to sever the animal cruelty charge because there would likely be a strong emotional pull for a jury to engage in forbidden logic and conclude that the accused is a bad person. Additionally, the evidence regarding the dog was not linked to the sexual assault charges, the evidence pertaining to the sexual assaults was relatively complex, and there was a strong likelihood of the jury engaging in prejudicial reasoning.

Ziggy’s Rescue v Penko and Dwyer, 2022 BCPC 212

This is a civil matter regarding the interpretation of an adoption/foster contract of a dog (Maddie) and her nine puppies. The plaintiff, Ziggy’s Rescue, took the position that when Maddie was adopted, it was agreed that Maddie was pregnant and after giving birth, the puppies would belong to Ziggy’s Rescue. Additionally, Ziggy’s Rescue argued that it was agreed that the adoption is finalized when Maddie is spayed, but since she was not spayed when giving birth, both Maddie and the puppies still belonged to Ziggy’s Rescue.

The defendants argued that there was no agreement with respect to Maddie’s pregnancy and Maddie was adopted (owned) when they took possession of her and paid the $600 fee to the plaintiff.

The judge determined ownership of Maddie by looking at the terms and intention of the contract. Finding that the contract used the words “owner” and that the adopters had obligations throughout the dog’s life, the judge concluded that the contract transferred ownership, rather than mere possession. The judge also found the defendants more credible, which gave more weight to their defence that they had not known about the conditions that Ziggy’s Rescue placed into the contract. Conversely, the judge found Ziggy’s Rescue less credible because it had claimed to be a non-profit organization when it was never registered as one and it appeared that they had been making a profit from selling dogs which was the reason that Ziggy’s Rescue wanted the puppies: in order to sell them for $700 each. Regarding the puppies, two had died at birth and Ziggy’s Rescue tried to claim that as a loss, stating that it should receive $1,400 for the two lost puppies. With respect to the remaining seven puppies ($4,900), the defendants had willfully transferred the puppies to the SPCA, and the SPCA chose to transfer them back to Ziggy’s Rescue.

The judge ultimately focused the decision on Maddie’s best interest and, since she had been spayed and was in a safe and loving home with the defendants, it was decided that the defendants were the rightful owners of Maddie. Regarding the two puppies who died at birth, Ziggy’s Rescue would not receive $1,400 for the two puppies as it has nothing to do with the best interests of Maddie.

R v Carr, 2023 ONCJ 22

The accused had pleaded guilty for assault with a weapon, assault and wilfully causing unnecessary suffering to an animal under s 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. All the offences were in the context of intimate partner violence in the course of a relationship that occurred over six months in 2021 and which the accused’s children (aged seven and four at the time) were exposed to at least once.

On the final night of the relationship after the accused returned home from a night of drinking and an argument ensued with his partner, he threw her dog, Chula, over an 11-story balcony to her death.

The accused’s partner filed a lengthy Victim Impact Statement indicating that the past year was “the most traumatic and difficult period” of her life and she was forever altered when the accused killed her dog, whom she described as her “little best friend.” She feels that a huge void remains in her life, and although she has attended therapy and counselling for depression and anxiety, it has been difficult to obtain appropriate mental health resources which poses a barrier to her recovery.

The accused was employed and had a criminal record that included violence but only brief periods of custody. Some of the mitigating factors included some demonstration of remorse, though did not accept full responsibility for his actions, he was Intoxicated at time of offence, and some evidence of mental health issues.

The Court relied on Chen for the seriousness of the offence and accepted that the killing of the dog was directly associated with the intimate partner violence. Although Kennedy was relied on as a similar case, it was determined that the facts of this case were more aggravating, and a consecutive sentence would be appropriate.

Some useful quotes from the decision relating to sentience, coercive control, and animal abuse as a crime of violence are as follows:

These authorities make it clear that our animal companions are valued and respected as sentient beings who deserve our love and care. Acts of cruelty to them will be met with stern punishment. When that cruelty takes place in the context of intimate partner violence and is committed with the intent to cause emotional harm to the accused’s partner, or to exert control over her, the punishments will only increase (para. 52).

Tragically, in this case, the abuse also claimed the life of Ms. Nippard’s innocent, trusting, and loving dog, whose only mistake was to follow Mr. Carr onto the balcony of his apartment one night when he was intoxicated and angry. Chula fell to her death at the hands of someone she had previously known to care for her. This act of animal cruelty was an extension of the intimate partner violence that Mr. Carr continually inflicted upon Ms. Nippard over the course of their relationship. It was one final act of domination and malice (para. 61).

… Those who abuse animals through these senseless acts of cruelty will be governed primarily by the sentencing principles of deterrence and denunciation. This was a crime of violence, and it will be treated as one accordingly. A 12-month custodial sentence on this count will be imposed. Had it not been for the guilty plea and expression of remorse, an even higher sentence would be appropriate (para. 66).

The accused failed to appear for sentencing and was subject to a bench warrant. The sentencing hearing was held in absentia.

SENTENCE: Assault with a weapon: 30 days jail; Assault: 7 months jail, consecutive; Cruelty to animals: 12 months consecutive, followed by 3 years probation, DNA order, weapons prohibition, 25-year animal prohibition. The Court also ordered $7,500 in restitution to be paid to the accused’s former partner, who had missed nine weeks of work and had to pay for the handling of Chula’s remains as a result of these crimes.

R v Vassell, 2022 ONCJ 415

Mr. Vassell entered a guilty plea to the charge of wilfully causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, his 17-week-old puppy. Mr. Vassell picked up the puppy by his muzzle, repeatedly struck him, then slammed him against the wall in a baseball motion. He then continued to slap and punch him. The puppy suffered significant injuries, a profoundly swollen neck, a hemorrhage in his eyes, and required a total hip replacement. The probability of recovery to normal function remains unlikely.

The Crown seeks a 9-to-12-month custodial sentence, a prohibition order, and restitution in the amount of $1,817.60. The defence submits that a six-month conditional sentence is the appropriate sentence, or in the alternative, a 90-day intermittent jail sentence.

The aggravating factors are that Mr. Vassell was in a position of trust to the puppy and the severity of the injuries. It was found to be mitigating that Mr. Vassell entered a guilty plea, does not have a criminal record, and that the behaviour is completely out of character based on character letters from friends and family.

The judge referenced similarities to R v Chen in the sentencing decision:

I find that the facts of this case most closely resemble the facts of the case of R. v. Chen, C-H-E-N, of the Alberta Court of Appeal in 2021. That defendant was also a first offender who had entered a guilty plea to the offence.  The court found that a conditional sentence was not appropriate given the brutal and prolonged attack and the moral blameworthiness of the defendant.  The court stated that animals are at the mercy of those who are expected to care for them and, unlike some other victims, are incapable of communicating their suffering.  The court found that sentences for animal cruelty must reflect these realities and the primary focus must be on deterrence and denunciation.

I find myself coming to the same conclusions.  I find that a conditional sentence is inappropriate in the circumstances of this case, which involved an unexplained, prolonged, and brutal attack on a 17-week-old puppy who sustained serious injuries.

After evaluating the possible sentences with respect to section 718 of the Criminal Code, the judge determined that given Mr. Vassell’s clean record and the potential financial consequences for his family during the ongoing pandemic, serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community and would still be in line with denunciation and deterrence.

Mr. Vassell was sentenced to an intermittent sentence of 90 days, probation for 18 months, conditions when not in prison, a 10-year animal prohibition order and a restitution order of $1,817.60 to be paid to the Windsor/Essex Humane Society.

R v MacDonald, 2020 NSPC 32

Ms. MacDonald was charged under s. 22(b) and s. 21(2) of the Animal Protection Act for failing to provide her dog with adequate medical attention when ill and permitted the dog to be in distress.

The events occurred between December 6, 2017 and December 13, 2017, where it was alleged that Ms. MacDonald was aware of the deteriorating health of her dog which left her dog in a state of distress for several days before she contacted a veterinarian. The dog had ingested a 77cm long foreign fabric object which became lodged in the dog’s intestine, and even though Ms. MacDonald may have been unaware of this incident, she should have sought immediate medical attention based upon her dog’s symptoms of deteriorating health. It was the Crown’s position that Ms. MacDonald had waited “too long” to seek veterinary assistance.

The actus reus of s. 22(b) requires the Crown to establish that the defendant had knowledge of or was willfully blind as to the point in time when their dog became “ill”. The judge found that Ms. MacDonald had no knowledge of when the dog ingested the 77cm long object and since the dog was 16-years-old, it was not unusual for a senior dog to have behaviours that seemed to be “age-related” deterioration. It therefore could not be concluded that Ms. MacDonald failed to provide adequate medical attention for an unknown situation or illness, especially when Ms. MacDonald would have to make an emotional decision to euthanize her elderly dog (at which point in time was the only reasonable medical intervention given the dog’s age).

With respect to the charge contrary to s. 21(2), it was determined that the complaint originated from a veterinarian who had a short encounter with Ms. MacDonald and the dog’s living condition before euthanizing the dog. The veterinarian filed a complaint which indicated that the dog was deprived of adequate ventilation, space, and veterinary care, but defence counsel effectively challenged all complaints to show that Ms. MacDonald had actually provided adequate care. There was no evidence that MacDonald had deprived or abused her dog, and evidence established that MacDonald actually cared for her dog and attended to all of the dog’s needs throughout its life.

Ms. MacDonald was found not guilty on both charges.

R. v. Millett, 2019 NSSC 123

Nelson Millett, the appellant, was the caregiver for 31 cattle. The judge found the cattle were starving, the cattle were not provided with adequate water, the shelter in the barn was inadequate, the flooring was covered with manure, and there was no evidence of hay being put down for bedding. 30 cattle were seized, while one had already died. Out of the seized animals, three more did not survive.

Pursuant to s.446(1)(b), Mr. Millett was charged with 60 days custody to be served intermittently followed by a probation for a period of 12 months and a ban prohibiting Mr. Millett from owning, having custody or control or have residing in the same premises any bird or animal for life. For the charge pursuant to s.21(2) of the Animal Protection Act, an order of restitution for the benefit of the Department of Agriculture of $18,900.53 was made.

Mr. Millett appeals the sentence of the imposition of the 60 days custodial sentence, probation and prohibition.

The appeal was dismissed because the trial judge’s sentencing decision was not found to be disproportional or demonstrably unfit. The judge found the following aggravating factors:

(a) the number of animals affected, a total of 31 cattle;

(b) the degree of harm caused by Mr. Millett;

(c) that treatment of the cattle was a longstanding process – it did not occur over a couple of days, and

(d) Mr. Millett did not seem to realize to what extent his actions resulted in the suffering of the animals.

The only mitigating factor was that this case was not about abandonment of the animals, but rather insufficient care. Given these facts, the prohibition for life was not demonstrably unfit and the sentence of 60 days was within an acceptable range to promote a sense of responsibility.

R v L.D., 2022 ONCJ 480

In June 2020, a 14 year old girl and her father moved into a home where the accused was living with her husband. She became suspicious of odd behaviour exhibited by the couple and accessed the accused’s Facebook messenger where she discovered Facebook messages between the woman and her husband sent between 2017 and 2019 which detailed explicit sexual abuse fantasies of the girl, her younger sister and their friend aged 10 to 16.

The girl took screenshots of the exchanges and turned them over to police. The accused and her husband were arrested, and further investigation by detectives with the internet child exploitation unit recovered a 59-second video on the accused’s cellphone that showed her calling a dog to perform a sex act on her.

The accused pleaded guilty to two counts: possession of child pornography and bestiality. A psychological assessment determined that she met the criteria for Dependant Personality Disorder and Substance Abuse Disorder, the latter she was actively in treatment for. She was assessed at a low risk to reoffend if sobriety and counselling were maintained. Although separated from her husband, who took the lead in the graphic detail of sexual abuse he wished to inflict on the girls, the judge determined from the exchanges that the accused was not a passive listener: that it was her who introduced the bestiality topic (para. 12).

The accused was sentenced to three months imprisonment in total: two months for possession of child pornography and one month consecutive for bestiality. The consecutive sentence for the animal abuse is noteworthy as the judge stated in the decision: “Canadians will be upset to learn how she mistreated a pet dog. Jail is needed to condemn her conduct” (para. 21).

The court also ordered two years’ probation, a two-year animal prohibition, an s 161 10-year prohibition against seeking or obtaining any employment or volunteer work involving a position of trust or authority over children under 16 and Internet use for child pornography or related chat rooms, and a victim fine surcharge of $200 for each count or two days in jail if defaulted. She was also subject to a DNA order, and a 20-year SOIRA order: it was originally a 10-year order, but the Crown proceeded by indictment, therefore on the same day the justice signed the initial order in error, he issued a new order reflecting the mandatory life order of 20 years.

The husband had pleaded guilty to making child pornography in the form of digital messages and was placed on three years of probation after serving the equivalent of 125 days in presentence custody in an earlier proceeding.