This case deals with sexual abuse material produced that involved two minors and seven dogs over a ten year period, according to time-stamped videos kept by the accused husband and wife. The co-accused pled guilty to all charges.
The Crown and defence counsel agreed on a joint sentencing submission, which included 4 years imprisonment with the following breakdown: 2.5 years plus 1.5 years consecutive for the making of child pornography in relation to victim 1 and 2 respectively, and one year to be served concurrently for the bestiality charge per offender. There were also ancillary orders including a lifetime SOIRA in accordance with the Criminal Code, DNA and animal prohibition order and social media restrictions.
This case is significant in that it is the first time in known Canadian court history that a Community Impact Statement was accepted on behalf of an animal. The Criminal Justice System Reform Program team at Humane Canada worked with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. to craft a statement that would speak not only for the animal sexual abuse victims in this case, but for all animals who are at risk of sexual abuse. Although the defence had concerns regarding some of its contents reading more like a legal brief, they did not object to the statement due to the joint sentencing arrangement. It was submitted as an exhibit in sentencing and forms part of the official court record.
The Crown relied on the Humane Canada statement to help inform his approach in seeking a lifetime animal prohibition order under section 160(4)of the Criminal Code in sentencing submissions, who was concerned that the defence was asking for a shorter prohibition order with respect to an offence that is extremely difficult to detect: “Typically if people own animals, they own them in the privacy of their home or on a property that they owned that is far from prying eyes. Animals have no capacity whatsoever to report offending behaviour against them. They simply lack that capacity in any meaningful way.” (p.14)
He went on to state that the only reason the animal sexual abuse was detected was because the accused had made digital recordings to watch later, which on their own would not guarantee detection; it was because the accused offended against two minors who reported the incidents to the RCMP, who then conducted an investigation during which they found the recordings featuring the animal sexual abuse. If any of those steps had been missed, the Crown asserted, the sexual abuse against these animals would not have been discovered. He concluded his submission on the animal prohibition order by stating:
“And I say to the Court that where the accused had demonstrated that they’ve engaged in a prolonged pattern of behaviour, of sexual activity involving animals, which we have to be clear is criminal in nature, the only way to protect animals going forward; the only way to protect animals going forward is by prohibiting these individuals from possessing them. There’s no other mechanism the Court can impose that would keep animals safe.
And if these individuals were allowed to have animals in their care, I submit to the Court that there would always be a risk that those animals may be abused for the sexual gratification of either of the accused. So the Court is being asked, on behalf of the Crown, for a lifetime ban under Section 160(4)” (p. 14).
There was then some discussion between the judge and the Crown about species-specific language for the prohibition order, where it was established that certain animals such as dogs and some cats are at more risk for animal sexual abuse than some birds and goldfish.
The judge accepted the joint submission on sentencing for the most part, apart from two areas where there were disagreements among counsel: the lifetime animal prohibition order and the social media ban. Due to pre-sentencing reports that indicated that both offenders were at very low to below average risks to offend, as well as the mitigating factors of the guilty pleas, ages of the offenders, lack of criminal records and no further offences or any violations of release conditions, the judge determined that this was an unusual case therefore a five-year prohibition on the possession of any dogs from the time of sentencing would be appropriate. The social media ban does not restrict the use of email communication, which the judge recognized as the modern version of Canada Post but would apply to social media platforms such as Facebook or TikTok for a period of ten years.