R v Tieu, 2019 ONCJ – Judgment

UPDATE: The accused appealed. The link for the summary Reasons for Judgment on Summary Conviction Appeal can be found here.

On July 11, 2017, Mr. Tieu deposited a live puppy into a garbage bin near the entrance of Lawrence Square mall after he had placed it in several tied shopping bags. A passerby going into the mall heard whimpering, found the puppy and rushed to obtain veterinary assistance. Video footage from mall security shows Tieu disposing of the bag, which he admitted to at trial. He was charged pursuant to the Criminal Code (the CCC) for causing unnecessary suffering and abandoning an animal in distress, and with permitting distress to an animal under the former Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (OSPCA Act).

Tieu testified that his veterinarian informed him that the dog was in poor health on July 8, 2017, and a few days later he believed the dog to have been deceased when he placed it in the bags and dropped in in the garbage. Mr. Aarabi, the accused’s veterinarian, confirmed that he had examined and vaccinated the dog in question on that date, however he stated that the dog was in good health at that time. He advised Tieu that if any complications arose, he should bring the dogs back to the clinic immediately. Mr. Aarabi also testified that he believed Tieu to be a dog-breeder, that the accused has brought over 50 dogs to his clinic for care between January and July 2017 and, after being shown photographs of the conditions in which the dogs were kept, had he known he would have reported Tieu to animal control.

Tieu owned two properties where he kept dogs. Those who attended the first property, including Police Officers, an Animal Control Officer, and an OSPCA officer, reported immense heat in the shelters, a strong smell and large presence of urine and fecal matter, inadequate water supply (water bottles designed for rodents), and inappropriate cages meant more for rabbits than the 23 small breed puppies they found there. The Toronto Animal Services Officer who attended the second property reported similar observations and testified that the conditions there did not meet city by-law, OSPCA, or the Veterinary Medical Association standards for size or sanitary conditions.

The trial judge found that Tieu’s conduct was intentional, callous, and motivated by profit (he indicated he could sell each dog for around $2000). The judge also noted that the trend in sentencing in cases involving criminal and illegal treatment of animals is towards sentences of greater gravity since the CCC amendments made in 2008.

On the charges under the CCC, Tieu received a concurrent sentence of five months in jail, three years of probation, and a 20 year prohibition order on owning, having the custody or control of or residing in the same premises as an animal.

For the OSPCA Act chargesthe judge found that a fine of $30 000 to be paid within four years most adequately served the principles of specific and general deterrence.