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.

R v Paroski, 2022 ONCJ 473

This is a ruling on a Dangerous Offender application that had been brought by the Crown after the accused had been found guilty of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and two breaches of probation. The Crown took the position that Paroski has a pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour that makes him a threat to the safety, physical or mental well-being or lives of others with a high likelihood of harmful recidivism and submits that he should be incarcerated indefinitely.

Paroski exhibited a long history of uncontrollable violent behaviour that had began at the age of 13 and spanned 20 years, as outlined in the application. It includes 35 convictions for violence including aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, assault of peace officers, robbery, forcible confinement, and threatening offences. His longest term of imprisonment had been four years, eight-month sentence due to his continuing to reoffend and receiving consecutive sentences.

He also demonstrates a pattern of intimate partner violence over multiple partners which included choking one former partner until she lost consciousness while she was in hospital recovering from the birth of their child during an argument in 2005. On September 7, 2013, Paroski threw another former partner’s cat off of an 11th floor apartment balcony because he had grown jealous that her phone kept ringing and accused her of cheating on him; when he wanted to have sex one day and she refused, he became irate and began smashing things before throwing her cat from the balcony. He then blocked her from leaving when she tried to run outside after the cat. Paroski pleaded guilty and received the equivalent of 6 months of jail and 18 months’ probation after enhanced credit of 142 days for pre-trial detention.

In his assessment under the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), a checklist to get a score on a construct of psychopathy, one doctor scored him as 33 out of 40 points which falls within the range for a diagnosis of psychopathy (considered to be a score of 30 or higher on the PCL-R). In contrast, the other doctor gave Paroski a score of 26 out of 40, noting that noted that “while this score is elevated and somewhat higher than average scores in federally detained inmates (24/40), Mr. Paroski falls below the margin to make a formal diagnosis of psychopathy” (para. 108).

This same doctor gave a score of 1 under “Callousness/Lack of Empathy” section for Paroski’s throwing of his former partner’s cat from the balcony because he did not believe it was “‘gratuitous violence’ because it was not for personal pleasure” and went on to state that unless there was other evidence that Paroski he engaged in other forms of animal cruelty, he considered it a one-time incident that has never been repeated (para.118). That the killing of the cat was committed in the context of a domestic incident did not alter the doctor’s opinion.

The presiding judge was satisfied that the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Paroski’s pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour: “Slashing the victim across the face in the index offence for no apparent reason and throwing a live animal to its certain death from a balcony are only two examples, hence a pattern, of Mr. Paroski’s gross indifference to the foreseeable harm and suffering caused by him” (para. 228). While the judge also determined that he fit the criteria and will be designated a dangerous offender, it was also concluded that Paroski had showed signs of recent improvement so that that the risk of his future release in the community could “be reduced to an acceptable level with a fixed sentence of an additional 18 months of jail in addition to time served followed by a 10-year long-term supervision order (LTSO)” (para. 272).

The warrant of committal would indicate that the Court strongly recommended Paroski serve his remaining 18-month sentence at the Ontario Correctional Institute, which has more extensive reintegrative programming and would allow more time for the treatment for addictions, trauma, ADHD, and anger that he requires. The LTSO was set at the maximum length and carried strict conditions with it.

One of the LTSO conditions includes the provision that should Paroski enter into an intimate relationship, that partner should be contacted by the authorities and informed of his history and there should be close and unrestricted supervision of any such relationship. In addition, the partner should be advised to contact police immediately if there is any reason to believe that Paroski is about to act violently or has engaged in any alcohol or drug use.

R v Dauvin, 2022 SKPC

In January 2o22, Travis Mark Dauvin was charged with two animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code for injuring one then-girlfriend’s Rottweiler puppy and killing a different then-girlfriend’s Maltese named Jake in two separate events occurring months apart in the first half of 2020.

At the time of each incident, the dogs had belonged to the accused’s different girlfriends. In January 2020, Brita was beaten with a broken broom handle during a domestic argument. Jake was found to have had suffered multiple blunt force traumas, a punctured lung from one of four broken ribs and bruising around his neck in a necropsy examination. The incident that led to Jake’s death occurred in May 2020 after tension had been building between the dog and the accused, who claimed that Jake had bitten him earlier and that the dog had fallen down the stairs when his then-girlfriend questioned him about Jake’s injuries.

After several pretrial conferences, the initial single information was split into two separate informations: one for the abuse of Brita and the other for the abuse resulting in Jake’s death.

The accused was found guilty on the first information under section 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code at trial, with a date for sentencing to be set on August 22nd. The sentencing hearing was delayed until October as he sought new defence counsel.

The trial was set for August 15th for the second information regarding Jake’s death, however the accused pleaded guilty to killing the dog wilfully and without lawful excuse. In an agreed statement of facts, it was revealed that Jake was thrown into a metal clothing rack after biting the accused when he attempted to pick the dog up.

Dauvin was sentenced for killing Jake on September 23rd with a six-month community sentence with conditions that include anger management and personal counselling as directed by his supervisor, 120 hours of community service, and a curfew of 10PM to 6AM, followed by one year of probation. The judge also instituted a prohibition order against the sole possession or control of any animal for three years, with such wording chosen to allow him to live with his current partner’s support dog but not be alone with the animal. He was also ordered to pay Jake’s guardian $2680 in restitution.

On October 14th, Dauvin was fined $2,000 for beating Brita. The Crown prosecutor stated that it would be redundant to seek additional probation conditions in Brita’s case because the judge in case had already imposed conditions to address Dauvin’s anger management issues.

Although there have been no written decisions in either of these cases, the linked articles from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix made record of some excellent language used by the judges in their sentencing decisions.

Judge Donna Scott called Dauvin’s response “an excessive overreaction” during sentencing and noted that Jake, the 11-pound Maltese, did not pose a threat and non-violent responses were available. Judge Scott also stated that “the protection of animals is viewed as a barometer of a person’s treatment of people”.

When Dauvin testified that he was upset that Brita had destroyed multiple items and left feces and urine in the garage, that he lied about hitting her with the broom handle because wanted to get his then-girlfriend’s attention, and that he wasn’t getting any help and was getting frustrated, Judge Doug Agnew declared in his decision that the accused’s explanation was “ridiculous” and questioned why the broom handle was in his hand if he wasn’t using it. Judge Agnew also found that while he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the assault on Brita happened in the way it was described by Dauvin’s former girlfriend, the accused “convicts himself through his evidence”.

We are grateful for the additional information provided by Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan in these matters.

 

 

 

 

 

R v McQuitty, 2022 ABKB

This case refers to sentencing on a guilty plea of one count of causing unnecessary, pain, suffering or injury to an animal. Hinata, a 4-month-old kitten, was thrown against a wall by the accused for defecating on his bed. The accused contacted his ex-girlfriend to say that he had ‘freaked out’ and threw the kitten. Hinata was taken to an animal hospital by the ex-girlfriend’s cousin, but she had died as a result of the trauma.

The accused made a partial confession to the police and was initially charged with seven offences that included multiple animal cruelty charges and uttering threats.

A psychological assessment revealed that the accused had been badly abused as a youth and had been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. It was noted that he has had a history of violence towards both people and animals since childhood. This included an admission that he had killed a cat in his youth and abused animals by hitting and kicking them into his adulthood.

Despite the misplacement of two civilian witness statements – according to the agreed facts, Edmonton police lost recordings of the statements given by the accused’s ex-girlfriend and her cousin whom he had contacted immediately after the incident – the sentence obtained was one year imprisonment, 18 months of probation, a DNA order and a prohibition against owning any animals for 15 years.

As with so many animal abuse cases, the decision is unreported and there is no transcript available. This information was received directly from the Crown Prosecutor involved. In addition, an article published in the Edmonton Journal on October 21st contains details of the sentencing hearing.

R v Reid, 2022 ABPC 148

The accused is charged with the following regarding the failure to properly care for his dog, Seiko:

Count 1: Between February 13, 2019, and July 5, 2020, at or near Calgary, Alberta, while being the owner of an animal or bird, specifically a dog named Seiko, the accused committed an offence in violation of Section 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada by allowing the said animal or bird to suffer needless pain, suffering, or injury.

Count 2: Between February 13, 2019, and July 5, 2020, the accused, while being the owner of, or the person in charge of, a domestic animal, bird, or wild animal or bird that is kept in captivity: A dog that was willfully neglected or failed to provide it with suitable and adequate food, water, shelter, and care in violation of Section 446(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.

Count 3: Between February 13, 2019, and July 5, 2020, the accused did unlawfully cause or permit an animal of which the person is the owner or person in charge to be or remain in distress, committing an offence in violation of Section 2(1) of the provincial Animal Protection Act.

Seiko suffered from severe malnutrition and chronic skin infection as a result of her lack of proper treatment. She was apprehended by the Humane Society in July 2020, very close to death, and was euthanized in that same month.

After determining that the accused had disregarded veterinary advice, failed to take Seiko for care when he knew that he should have, and seemed more concerned with losing possession of the dog rather than ensuring proper care in a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustified risk as outlined in R v Picco, he was found guilty of all three charges.

R v Vieira 2006 BCPC 676

The accused, John Vieira, is found guilty of an offence under s. 446 of the Criminal Code. The Crown’s submission at sentencing was that a jail sentence was appropriate in this case. The Crown also seeks a separate restitution order to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as an order under section 446(5) prohibiting the accused from owning any animals for two years. 

The Defense’s position is that jail is not necessary and that some sentence other than jail would be appropriate; however, if the court is convinced that jail is necessary, a conditional sentence order is appropriate. The Defence defers to the court the issue of restitution and the order under Section 446(5).

R v Vieira, 2006 BCPC 675

In Information 75337, the accused John Vieira is charged with wilfully neglecting or failing to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter, and care for horses, dogs, pigs, and rabbits between March 23rd and March 26th, 2004, at or near Little Fort, British Columbia, in violation of Section 446(2) of the Criminal Code. The accused entered a not guilty plea and testified that he was away from his farm for about two weeks in March and left his animals in the care of a neighbour. The accused denies that he knowingly neglected or failed to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter, and care for his animals. He claims that he left enough food for the animals and expected his neighbour to feed them. 

The Crown and Defense Counsel were extremely helpful in providing Admissions of Fact to the court. The accused admits in this document, Exhibit 1, to be the beneficial owner and occupant of the farm property in Little Fort in March 2004. Mr. Vieira admits to being in charge of the farm’s animals during that time period. Mr. Vieira also admits Dr. Colin Mikkelsen’s, a doctor of veterinary medicine, and Dr. Terry McKay’s, a doctor of veterinary medicine, opinion evidence that the animals examined by the two veterinarians were in very poor physical condition. Dr. Mikkelsen and Kent Kokaska, an animal protection officer with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, testified in court. The court also heard from John Vieira and saw a videotape and several photographs depicting the farm and the animals in question.

Dr. Mikkelsen visited the farm on March 26th, 2004, accompanied by SPCA officers. He observed and then examined nine of the ten dogs on the property. The tenth dog was later apprehended while running free on the farm. He refers to a body condition score (BCS) that he assigned to each animal after an examination in his report. This rating, which ranges from one to nine, with zero indicating complete emaciation and nine indicating obesity, describes the physical condition of the animal, including fat covering and muscling. Only one of the nine dogs he examined was normal, according to him. He gave that dog a BCS of four out of a possible nine. The remaining dogs were thin to very thin. In addition, Dr. Mikkelsen examined five horses. One black mare received a BCS of four out of nine, while the rest of the horses received one out of nine or two out of nine. He described these horses as a draught horse breed weighing between 1100 and 1200 pounds with a BCS of five out of nine. When he examined the animals, he discovered that they weighed around 800 pounds and were between 300 and 400 pounds underweight.

The court is satisfied that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused wilfully neglected his animals between March 23rd and March 26th, 2004. On Count 1, they found the accused guilty.