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Chatham Dogfighting Charges Thrown Out for Delay

Animal Justice, Dogs February 22, 2018

Two men accused of vicious animal cruelty, dogfighting, and firearm charges in Chatham, Ontario have escaped criminal conviction. A judge in the high-profile case threw out 67 charges against John Robert and Michel Gagnon after ruling that the case had taken too long to reach a trial. Ultimately, the judge stated that delay by the Crown prosecutor meant the case would have taken 30 months and 28 days, instead of the 30 months considered acceptable for a trial of this nature.

The high-profile Chatham dogfighting case captured national news headlines when the dogfighting ring was first busted in 2015. Soon after, the Ontario SPCA asked the court to execute 21 of the rescued dogfighting victims on grounds that they were dangerous pit bulls. After public outcry and support from hockey legend Don Cherry, Animal Justice filed a court application to intervene in the case to save the dogs. Animal Justice fought to ensure the dogs’ interests were represented, as the agency normally tasked with protecting animals was seeking their execution, and the dog owners were accused of committing vicious cruelty offences against them.

Although the court refused to let Animal Justice participate in the case, an agreement was eventually reached to save most of the dogs from execution. Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary covered the cost of sending 18 of the dogs to Dogs Playing for Life sanctuary in Florida, where they would receive training and behavioural assistance.

This case is the latest example of a disturbing trend. Animal cruelty cases infrequently prosecuted, yet even when charges do get laid, they are often withdrawn or stayed prior to trial.

In staying the charges, the judge was critical of the Crown for being too slow to provide evidence to the accused dogfighters. Tragically, the two men are not banned from owning or interacting with dogs in the future. They are now free to obtain additional dogs and other animals, which puts vulnerable creatures at risk of further cruelty. Another individual accused in the case, Robert Tomlin, did plead guilty to one count of animal cruelty last year and was hit with a lifetime ban on animal ownership.

 

 

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How to Protect Dogs Left in Hot Cars This Summer

Animal Justice, Dogs May 29, 2017

After a long winter and rainy spring, the weather is finally heating up in Canada. But when the temperature rises, so too can the risk to animal safety. Animals can suffer in hot weather just like we do. Although it is becoming socially unacceptable to leave animals alone in cars, far too many animals—especially dogs—still die from overheating every year after being left unattended, locked in vehicles.

It’s illegal to cause suffering / distress to animals under federal criminal laws as well as provincial statutes, and some cities have their own bylaws protecting animals from abuse. Cars can heat up incredibly quickly even on mild days, and while some might think that rolling down the window a crack is fine, it does little to pets protects from suffering and dying in the heat.

Why are pets so vulnerable to hot weather? When people get too hot, we have the luxury of being able to sweat to cool our bodies down. But for dogs, panting is their only effective way to cool off. A dog’s body temperature rises quickly, but in a hot car panting does nothing to alleviate the heat. Consider this: A dog’s resting body temperature is 39° C; when it hits 41° C, the dog can only withstand this heat for a few minutes before suffering from permanent brain damage and eventually death.

So, what can you do to help a dog trapped in a hot car?

First, know the signs of heat distress. Some panting is normal for dogs, but if a dog is unresponsive, has their lips pulled back, is panting heavily, has bright red or purple gums, or a swollen tongue, they are experiencing heat distress and need immediate attention.

Next, call the authorities—your municipal animal protection agency, the provincial SPCA or humane society, and the police.  You should also take notes of the time you saw the animal, the location, vehicle model, colour, and license plate. It’s also worth going into nearby shops to try to find the owner and get the car opened.

What if you decide to break the car window yourself? It’s illegal to damage another person’s property in Canada, so breaking a window could result in criminal charges. Some U.S. states have already passed laws that let a bystander break a window to rescue a pet in distress, but Canadian provinces have yet to follow suit. In the meantime, you can contact your provincial representatives and ask for better hot car laws in your province.

Leaving animals unattended in cars is never worth the risk, so please help get the word out! Let your friends and family know what to do if they spot a pet in this situation. Together, we can enjoy the warmer weather the right way, with our animal friends in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Justice

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Saving Dogfighting Victims From Execution

Animal Justice, Dogs September 21, 2016

Animal Justice is seeking leave to intervene in a court case in Chatham, Ontario to help save the lives of 21 dogs rescued from an alleged dogfighting ring in October, 2015.

Three individuals are facing hundreds of criminal animal cruelty and dogfighting charges in relation to the dogs. Meanwhile, the Ontario SPCA is asking a court to order the execution of the rescued dogs under provincial dog owner responsibility laws. It claims the dogs are pit bulls and the public will not be safe as long as the dogs are alive.

Dogfighting is a heinous crime and has no place in society. It is deeply distressing that the dogs — themselves allegedly victims of a brutal crime — could be made to pay the ultimate price for the immoral and illegal actions of humans. It is also troubling that as the agency with a mandate to protect animals, the Ontario SPCA is instead seeking their death.

At Animal Justice, we believe the victims of dogfighting deserve our help and compassion — not execution. We’re asking the court to let us participate as an intervener in this important case so we can speak on behalf of the dogs, who have no voices of their own.

Dogs rescued from fighting rings have been successfully rehabilitated, most notably the dogs seized from former NFL player Michael Vick’s vicious dogfighting operation in the United States. In the Chatham case, countless dog rescue organizations with expertise in helping former fighting dogs are standing by to assist. Our legal team is asking the court to hear evidence from one of Canada’s top dog behaviour experts to understand how dogs can be rehabilitated, and that execution is not the only option.

Court cases move slowly, and we are still in the early stages of this legal battle. The next court date in the case is November 3, 2016, when the court will hear our arguments as to why Animal Justice should be granted leave to intervene in the case.

We are pleased to be working closely on this case with Bullies In Need, an Ontario dog rescue organization with a wealth of experience in caring for, fostering, and rehoming pit bull-type dogs. We appreciate Bullies In Need’s support for our application to intervene, and we admire their tireless work to save dogs.

Animal Justice’s court fight has already earned celebrity support from hockey legend Don Cherry, a true hero for animals. If you want to join the fight to save these dogs from death, please consider answering Don Cherry’s call to support our court case.

 

Animal Justice

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