R v Gouin, [2021] OJ No 3157 – Sentencing

Background: The accused agreed to care for Ms. Johnson-Lumapas’ small dog after she learned she could not keep it in her new apartment. The dog had a history of being wary of men after being abused, and showed signs of stress acclimating to her new environment.

When Ms. Johnson-Lumapas returned to the accused’s apartment after going out, she saw her dog lying in the corner with blood coming out of its eyes. The dog was “barely breathing” and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. The accused claimed his cats had scratched the dog’s eyes and attempted to dissuade Ms. Johnson-Lumapas from seeking medical attention for the dog.

The accused was charged with injuring an animal contrary to s. 445 of the Criminal Code and wilfully causing, or permitted to be caused, unnecessary suffering to an animal, contrary to s. 445.1 of the Criminal Code, and was found guilty in February 2020. Details of the judgment can be found here.

Sentencing: The Crown sought a jail sentence in the 9-12 month range with two years probation, a prohibition order on owning or residing with animals plus $3,466 in restitution to account for cost of new dog. Defence counsel argued for an intermittent sentence of three months or less or, in the alternative, a conditional sentence.

The defence counsel raised the accused’s difficult childhood with a father who was verbally and emotionally abusive, and addicted to alcohol as mitigating factors; he also spent time in foster care as a teenager, had a history of depression and suffered from epilepsy. However, the judge noted that the accused showed no remorse nor empathy for the dog dying, nor was any mention made in the presentence report of his current mental health status apart from that he had made arrangements to seek counselling. No alcohol or illegal drugs were involved in incident, leaving the accused’s violent conduct toward the dog without explanation. In paragraph 43 of the decision, the judge stated that the accused’s background calls for compassion and limited criminal justice system history calls for restraint, “however, his personal issues do not limit his personal responsibility for the violent crime he committed”.

The accused was only sentenced on the first count under s 445(1)(a). The Crown at the outset of the trial had asked the court to strike out the terms “kills, maims, wounds or poisons” and leave “injures”, and the judge found that defence counsel had successfully argued that the second count under s 445.1(1)(a) was not distinguishable given the wording on the first (para. 81).

After determining that restitution was not appropriate and that neither a conditional nor intermittent sentence were suitable under the circumstances, the accused was sentenced with 90 days incarceration followed by two years of probation which will include counselling as directed by probation officer, a five year animal prohibition order and a weapons prohibition.