R v Gartner, 2019 BCPC 307

Gartner entered into a guilty plea for three offences: (i) wilfully causing pain, suffering and injury to an animal; (ii) possession of stolen property; and (iii) possession of heroin.

On May 3, 2019, Gartner was observed to attack and torture a rabbit in an incident which lasted approximately 12 minutes and was captured on two security cameras. He plucked its whiskers, slammed its face into the side of a building and punched it. He then shook the rabbit violently while holding it suspended from its ears, and later by its tail, kicked the rabbit, folded the rabbit, squeezed the rabbit’s chest and abdomen and flipped it back and forward on the concrete. Lastly, Gartner pinched the rabbit’s nostrils closed for intervals of 6, 12, and 18 seconds in duration.

During a search incidental to his arrest, he was found to be in possession of heroin, and had a lengthy criminal record for impaired driving, breaking and entering, theft, and mischief. He struggles with substance use disorder and shows no remorse or reasoning for the assault on the rabbit. Upon psychiatric assessment prior to sentencing, it was determined that ‘the only remaining reason for this torture was for the pleasure of inflicting pain while having power and control over the animal. … this type of wilful sadistic pleasure is unlikely to be quenched with what was seen on the video and … Mr. Gartner remains a threat … [to animals]’ and ‘when speaking about the offence … Mr. Gartner failed to show a level of emotion of remorse. His level of lamentations was for being caught’ (para. 8).

Gartner was sentenced to 8 months in jail for the assault on the rabbit to be served consecutively with the sentences of 45 days for the possession of stolen property and 14 days for the heroin possession, resulting in a global sentence of 10 months. The judge based the animal cruelty portion of the sentence on R. v. Munroe, where the accused had severely assaulted two dogs and was initially sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment but reduced to six months on appeal.

Gartner will also serve two years of probation and is subject to a 10-year animal prohibition order which will end on December 31, 2030.