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.

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 Paroski 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 “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 indicates 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.