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.