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.