R v Viitre, 2020 BCSC 1463

The Accused appeals a conviction from the Provincial Court. He was found guilty of throwing his German shepherd puppy across a room, causing it to be in distress. The Accused appealed on the grounds that the Judge could not conclude on a reasonable doubt standard that throwing the puppy across the room caused it to be in continued distress – there was no expert evidence to rely on. The Accused also argued that the Judge’s reasoning was internally inconsistent (the Accused was acquitted of the same offence against another dog) and that he erred with respect to intention.

The Court found that the trial judge was entitled to draw a common sense inference about the dog being in distress based on the evidence provided and accepted (para 27-28). The Court also found that the Trial Judge was consistent in his reasoning – the nature of the offences against the two dogs were different – the first was hit on the snout and the second was thrown (para 32). The Court also rejected the Accused’s argument that the Trial Judge should have taken greater consideration of the fact that the Accused did not intend the harm the dog / there was no malice. The Court held reiterated that where a strict liability offence is concerned, the state of mind of the Accused is only relevant for a due diligence defence, which the Court found was not made out on the facts (para 41).

The Court dismissed the appeal.

R v Lacroix, 2020 ONCJ, OJ No 545

The Accused was intoxicated (marijuana or crack cocaine – unclear) and after getting frustrated by his video game, he killed his mother’s cat by squeezing the cat’s neck. The Accused confessed his actions to both his mother and law enforcement, but did not seem to believe his acts were criminal.

The Court reviewed relevant case law on sentencing for animal cruelty and ultimately sentenced the accused to a jail sentence of 9 months plus 2 years probation. The Court ordered a prohibition against owning, residing with, or having care or control of an animal for 15 years, as well as weapons prohibition. The dominant sentencing principles for the Court were denunciation and deterrence.

Aggravating factors for the Court:
– 6 years prior to this offence, the Accused killed another cat, Accused also hurt another cat after the incident
– Killing of a family pet is a breach of trust.
– The Accused experienced pleasure in controlling the cat.
– The Accused has a prior criminal record for violence and breach of court orders.
– Accused has a moderate to high risk of re-offending.

Mitigating factors for the Court:
– The Accused took responsibility for his actions (to a limited extent) and expressed remorse.
– The Accused has a history of being bullied.
– The Accused has addiction and mental health issues that he has demonstrated he is seeking treatment for.

R v Kennedy 2015 ONCJ; 2017 ONSC 817

The accused’s neighbours, including an eight year old girl, visited the accused to show him their new kitten. The accused was intoxicated and became angry at his pet rabbit and the neighbours. He threatened to throw his pet rabbit, who the little girl often played with, off his 10th floor balcony. After holding the rabbit aloft over the side of his balcony for a few seconds, the accused let go. The rabbit died upon impact and the accused disposed of its body in his garbage chute.

The Ontario Court of Justice (“ONCJ”) convicted the accused under s. 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code on one count of causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal. The ONCJ judge weighed all aggravating factors and recognized the accused suffered from alcohol and substance abuse, but despite being presented with options to help these issues, the accused minimized the impact of his addictions and did not make use of the resources available to him. The judge considered the accused’s long criminal record, including serious crimes of violence, and that the accused showed no remorse for his behaviour.

The accused was sentenced to nine months imprisonment followed by two years of probation. The sentencing judge issued a restitution order of $610.20 to be paid to the Humane Society. A weapons prohibition order for ten years was also issued, as well as a prohibition order preventing the accused from owning, having the custody of, or control of, or residing in the same premises as an animal or bird for life.

On appeal, the accused argued his sentence was “harsh, excessive, and unwarranted.” The appellate judge ruled that the sentencing judge adequately weighed aggravating and mitigation factors in sentencing the accused, especially considering the maximum sentence the accused could have received was eighteen months. The appellate judge dismissed the accused’s appeal and upheld the original sentence.

R v Pye, 2005 BCPC 355

The accused was convicted of sexually assaulting a child contrary to s. 271 of the Criminal Code and while awaiting sentencing for that conviction, attempted to commit bestiality with a dog by anal intercourse three times contrary to s. 160(1) of the Criminal Code. The accused initially denied the offence, but later confessed to police and plead guilty to bestiality.

The Crown argued that the accused’s rehabilitation was best met by incarceration and cited the accused’s lack of empathy and victim-blaming regarding the sexual assault, that the accused committed bestiality in a public place, and that the accused had re-offended. The Defence argued that the accused would best serve his sentence in the community, but the judge was not satisfied that the safety of the community would not be endangered.

The accused was sentenced to eighteen months’ incarceration for the sexual assault since the Crown elected to proceed summarily. The accused was also sentenced to six months’ concurrent incarceration for the bestiality conviction. The sentence was concurrent because in January 2005, the Crown had represented to the court it would be seeking concurrent time.

R v Dugalic, 2018 OJ No 5590

Accused ties up his girlfriend’s service dog in a manner that exposes the dog’s genitals and then beats the dog with a piece of wood and newspaper, on her genitals and face,  while he masturbates. The incident is not discovered until girlfriend accidentally finds the videos of the incident on his phone. Girlfriend immediately flees with the dog.

When accused discovers she has fled he attends her apartment and stabs a knife into the wall between her head and the head of her roommate.

Victim did not know of the dog incident at the time, there were minor scratches to the dog’s vulva but no significant injury

Accused had no criminal record but did subsequently breach by residing with his own service dog. Accused suffered PTSD and substance abuse

“[para 48] Aggravating of course, the pain and the trauma to the dog, we have the report and it is evident in the video for anyone to see and hear. There really is no need to be an expert to understand when this dog cries out.”

“[para 60]  A clear message must be sent to denounce what he did to this dog. We, as a society, condemn gratuitous animal abuse. We do not view pets as simply property, but recognize them as living creatures. And recognize that for many people, they provide companionship and comfort. And in cases of service or therapy animals, their relationship often includes much more.”

SENTENCE: 8 ½ months total jail – almost 7 months for the animal charge, restitution and 5 year animal prohibition, 447.1 (this is despite him having his own service dog) 2 years probation

R v Ryder, 1997 OJ No 6361

Ryder was convicted under Criminal Code s.446(1)(c) for being the owner of domestic animals and failing to provide them with suitable and adequate care.
Ryder owned 14 horses, 3 were found dead and the rest were in varying degrees of starvation with visible bones on their bodies. They were also covered in worms and had ungroomed coats. The horses were kept in stalls with no bedding, the bottom of the stalls were covered in feces and urine.
Ryder claimed the horses had a virus that prevented them from eating and that he could not afford to care for them. Judge rejects these arguments as the horses began eating in great quantity one day after being taken into care, their health improving.
Judge then states that “non-affordability does not afford anybody a defense to willfully neglecting to provide suitable and adequate care” to their animals. Judge says that not being able to afford professional help is not an excuse for neglecting to ask for it, and if one can not care for their animals they are under an obligation to give them up.

R v Ritch & Mynott, 2015 ONSC 5433

This was an application to exclude evidence obtained contrary to the Charter during a warrantless search of an apartment where police found an injured dog.

Police went to defendants’ apartment after neighbours reported hearing whining, yelling, hitting and a man say “I am sick of this dog eating my food”. One defendant insisted they needed a warrant and denied that any animals were in the apartment. Police entered the anyways and found a malnourished dog with visible injuries. Defendants were charged with “animal cruelty” and obstructing police.

Crown argued exigent circumstances were present. However, in considering that a warrant could have been obtained in ~30 minutes and that the defendants had been naked in a private residence, the judge excluded the evidence (photos of the dog, the defendants’ presence and statements) on the grounds that the “public and police safety” justification for violation of privacy rights did not extend here, and police had not acted in good faith by not getting a warrant despite the defendant’s insistence.

R v Morgan, 2019 ABPC

This was a sentencing hearing for numerous offences that the accused had committed, one of which an animal cruelty offence for beating a kitten to death and burning an older cat with a blow torch.

The court considered the accused’s background, which included a history of polysubstance use disorder, antisocial personality disorder and a traumatic brain injury. However, the court noted that this did not reduce moral culpability because the accused understood what he was doing. The court also noted that animals belong to a category of the vulnerable whom the criminal law must protect and care for.

The aggravating features were: the sadistic behaviour towards the cats; the severity of the injuries sustained by the surviving cat; the length of time it went on; the breach of the trust relationship that always exists when dealing with domesticated animals; lying about what happened afterwards to the Humane Society; two animals were involved; and the accused was on terms of release. The mitigating factors were: the accused pled guilty; he expressed remorse; his age (he was 23 at the time of sentencing); and the possibility of some trauma in his childhood. The accused’s brain injury was a somewhat mitigating factor.

The court decided that in addition to the 17 months spent in custody, the accused was sentenced to two-years of imprisonment (per cat, served concurrently) followed by two years of probation was appropriate. A lifetime prohibition on pet ownership was also ordered.

R v McAnerin, 2016 BCPC 319

Accused keeps cats in trailer that she was only accessing every once in awhile and left three cats locked inside. The smell of amonia was very strong when the animals were finally accessed by SPCA, fecal matter everywhere, water bowl was empty and no food.
Accused had three dogs that she brought her to her daughter’s house. They stayed in the vehicle and she fed them rice and broth and gave them water twice per day. They were locked in the vehicle and kept in unsanitary conditions. There were health concerns with the dogs as well, one slightly malnourished, one had a growth.
Accused was charged with two offences under s 24, Accused charged with count 1 of distress to three dogs living for periods of time in Accused’s vehicle.
Count 2 to causing distress to a cat and three kittens left in the trailer when Accused wasn’t present.
Accused tried to use defence of due diligence on a BOP.
Also addressed whether SPCA acted fairly and without animus.

Successfully charged with causing or preventing animals to be, or continue to be, in distress.
[97] Based on my findings, the SPCA officers may have placed undue focus on lack of veterinary care, but these animals were in distress for the reasons I provided above. The SPCA may have also dealt with Ms. McAnerin in a more abrupt fashion due to the previous history, but their priority was the wellbeing of her animals. I cannot find animus on their part.
[98] In conclusion, Ms. McAnerin, I find you guilty of Count 1 and Count 2 under Information 79286-1; however, I would add that the Crown had not proven certain allegations with respect to inadequate food and water in particular.
[99] Those are my reasons.

R v Decoste, 2018 NSPC

This was a sentencing hearing after the accused plead guilty to a charge under s. 21(1) of Animal Protection Act.

The accused forcefully struck the dog 14 times after she caused him to spill his coffee, which was caught on the CCTV in his apartment lobby. The footage showed the dog flenching, cowering, tensing, with her tail down and ears back. While dog showed no outward signs of physical injury, an animal behaviour and welfare scientist provided an expert opinion that the dog was suffering psychological pain and anxiety.

The accused was very remorseful and the guilty plea was considered a significant mitigating factor. The court accepted the joint recommendation put forth by the Crown and defence and order a $1000 fine and a three-year prohibition order.