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Charges Dropped Against Police Officer Who Rescued Kitten from Meth User

Animal Justice May 11, 2017

Compassion won the day in Oshawa, Ontario this week after police prosecutors finally withdrew a disciplinary charge against an officer who helped a kitten in distress. Shockingly, police officer Beth Richardson was being prosecuted by the police for a simple act of kindness—rescuing a kitten named Tia, whom she found cowering under a chair at the home of a meth user.

According to the notice of hearing, officer Richardson had been dispatched to a home where a woman had been using crystal meth for several days. She saw Tia hiding underneath a chair, believed the kitten was at risk and not being properly cared for, took Tia to a veterinarian, but was forced to return her to the home later when the meth user’s boyfriend called to complain.

When news of the prosecution hit the media, the public was shocked that a police officer could get in trouble for protecting an animal. That’s when Animal Justice stepped up to help officer Richardson fight the charge. Lawyers for Animal Justice filed a motion to intervene in the case at a hearing last December to explain why the legal system should be used to help animals, not punish compassionate people who try to protect them. As a cat, we argued that Tia must not be treated like a piece of property but as a living being with needs of her own.

Animals won a huge victory at that hearing when Animal Justice successfully convinced police prosecutors that rescuing an animal is an honourable action—not discreditable conduct. The police also acknowledged that their duty to preserve life includes animal life as well as human beings. Yet they refused to halt the prosecution, claiming officer Richardson did not properly document her actions in rescuing Tia.

On Tuesday, May 9 the police finally withdrew the charge against officer Richardson. According to a joint statement, the police now acknowledge that the officer was “genuinely concerned about the welfare of an animal in distress”, and she has agreed to continue to “promote animal welfare in the community.”

The best part? Tia has since been adopted into another home, and her new family brought her over for a joyful reunion with officer Richardson after the charge was dropped.

Animal Justice thanks officer Richardson for the love and compassion she showed to Tia, a vulnerable animal in need. Her actions are a model for all law enforcement officers. Compassion wins!

Photos courtesy of Mary-Chris Staples.

Animal Justice

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Police Officer Faces Discipline for Rescuing Kitten from Meth User

Animal Justice December 2, 2016

TORONTO – A Durham region police officer who rescued a kitten named Tia from the home of a crystal meth user is facing a police tribunal disciplinary hearing on Monday. Police Constable Beth Richardson is charged with discreditable conduct for rescuing Tia after she found the kitten cowering under a chair at the home of the drug user.

National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice will ask to intervene at the hearing to provide the Tribunal with valuable context on how the law is evolving to protect animals’ interests. Animal Justice will argue that the officer’s actions were heroic and compassionate–not wrongful.

According to the notice of hearing, P.C. Richardson was dispatched to a home where a woman had been using crystal meth for several days. She saw Tia hiding underneath a chair and believed the kitten was at risk and not being properly cared for. The officer took Tia to a veterinarian, but was forced to return her to the home later when the drug user’s boyfriend called to complain.

“P.C. Richardson deserves praise for trying to protect Tia, not punishment,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Tia should not be treated like a mere piece of property, but rather a living being with needs of her own. Our legal system should be used to help animals, not to punish those who try to protect them. It’s shocking that this officer is facing discipline for showing kindness toward a animal who appeared to be endangered and in need of protection. ”

Discreditable conduct is an offence under the Police Services Act and the officer could face punishment if the Tribunal finds her guilty.

The hearing will take place on Monday, December 5 at 9:30 am in Whitby, Ontario. Animal Justice has filed an application to intervene in the case and will ask the Tribunal to consider the application at the outset of the hearing.

Animal Justice is represented by lawyer Marc Isaacs of Isaacs and Co. law firm.

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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An Upward Trajectory: Considering the Camardi case in the context of Canadian animal cruelty sentencing decisions

Animal Justice May 13, 2015

The recent case of Nicolino Camardi is one of those poignant instances of shocking animal cruelty that truly capture the public’s attention. It is also one of the most recent judicial decisions that portrays the continuing willingness on the part of Canadian courts to take animal abuse seriously, and sentence accordingly.

The Camardi[1] case began when a dog was discovered dead in a back alley in a southeast suburb of Calgary with her mouth taped shut.[2] A short time later, a cat was discovered nearby under similar circumstances, with tape covering her mouth and nose.[3] An investigation led police to Mr. Camardi, then 19 years old.

Mr. Camardi and his girlfriend had purchased the two year-old dog and six month-old kitten in October of 2013, and kept them for approximately three months before they were found dead. Mr. Camardi pled guilty to the charges of wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal, contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada, in December of 2014. According to a Statement of Agreed Facts, read out in court, Mr. Camardi accepted responsibility for the prolonged torture and killing of the two animals in his care. He indicated that he physically abused and neglected the dog throughout the three month period before her death, and that he physically abused the kitten for a number of days, ultimately resulting in her death.[4]

After accepting his plea of guilt, the sentencing judge, Justice G.J. Gaschler, ordered Mr. Camardi to a total sentence of 22 months in jail. Having already served 16 months of pre-trial custody, Mr. Camardi would be made to serve an additional six months.[5] A probationary term of three years was imposed, to follow his release, with conditions including mandatory counselling.[6] Additionally, Mr. Camardi was handed a life-time prohibition from owning, having the custody or control of, or residing in the same premises of an animal or bird.[7]

Differences of opinion emerged with regard to whether the sentence was appropriate. Some argued that the sentence was too light; while others noted that the sentence was among the harshest of sentences imposed for an animal cruelty case in Canada. This disparity in opinion reflects the disparity in sentencing decisions that exist for animal cruelty and neglect cases across Canada.

In Camardi, Justice Gaschler reviews some of the sentencing jurisprudence that he relied upon in making his decision. He first noted that the Criminal Code was amended in 2008 to increase the range of sentences available in cases of animal cruelty – allowing for the choice between a maximum 18 months in jail upon summary conviction, or five years upon indictment.[8] Later case law described the amendment as a signal that Parliament was determined to deter and punish those who engaged in acts of cruelty to animals,[9] and judges began to observe that sentences for acts of animal cruelty were, in fact, increasing after the amendment.[10] The judge in the unreported 2013 Alberta case of R v Chailler remarked that, “offences of animal cruelty are seen in a far more serious light today than they were in previous years. This is in part due to our better understanding of how cruelty to animals presages other more chilling possible adult behaviours”.[11] The judge in R v Habermehl, 2013 ABPC 192, stated that the sentencing amendments “gave effect to widespread concerns that the Criminal Code provisions concerning cruelty to animals had fallen drastically out of step with current social values and thus restructured the sentences available”.[12]

In Camardi, Justice Gaschler went on to summarize several recent animal cruelty cases and the sentences that were handed down in those situations:

  1. R. v. Chailler, supra: Killing the family dog to demonstrate to a girl that had spurned him that he was serious and ought not be ignored. A single but calculated act – 16 months [incarceration].
  2. R. v. Habermehl, supra: In a failing relationship and exasperated with the family cat’s behaviours, the accused inflicted blunt force trauma, leading to the cat being euthanized – 90 days [incarceration] and one year probation.
  3. R. v. Anderson, ABPC 29 November 2012, unreported (110049731P1): The accused was frustrated by the family dog yipping, defecating and urinating. When the accused reached for the dog, the dog snapped at him; the accused grabbed the dog and in frustration threw it from a second floor window; outside the accused approached the dog, which was injured and yipping and kicked it to death – 10 month Conditional Sentence Order.
  4. R. v. Chalmers, ABPC 23 April 2013, unreported, (110779394P1): Frustrated by being awakened by a family cat knocking something off a counter, the accused grabbed the cat, choked it, put it under water and threw it 15-20 feet against a wall. The cat required surgery. A second family cat was hit against a wall with such force as to have broken the drywall – 9 months [incarceration] and 15 months of probation.
  5. R. v. McKinnon, ABPC 7 October 2014, unreported (140370248P1): The accused, age 19, visited a home where he had been formerly a resident and employing a ruse stole the family cat. His intention was to kill and cook the cat. The cat was stabbed, it’s neck broken and the body dismembered. The accused was discovered by smoke from a small fire, with a frying pan – 10 months [incarceration] and 3 years probation.
  6. R. v. Connors, 2011 BCPC 24: The accused was asked to care for a friend’s dog which was at the time suffering from an infection. The dog was not well trained and was defecating inside. Fueled by anger, alcohol and steroids, the accused exploded with violence to the dog that died from broken ribs, internal injuries and bleeding caused by blunt force trauma – 6 months [incarceration] and two years probation.
  7. R. v. Munroe, 2012 ONSC 4768: The accused over a period of approximately one month tortured and injured his girlfriend’s dogs, causing numerous injuries and the death of one dog – 12 months [incarceration] and probation.
  8. R. v. Tremblay, 2012 BCPC 410: The accused looking after his girlfriend’s dog while he was under the influence of heroin was seen kicking the dog and hitting it with a dish. The next day, the accused was seen hitting the dog repeatedly with a hammer to the dogs toes, head and body ignoring the dog’s cries of pain and attempts to flee. The dog survived – 6 months [incarceration] and 30 months probation.
  9. R. v. Rodgers, 2012 OJ No. 6287: Following an argument with his girlfriend, the accused threw a 12 week old puppy down stairs, then picked up the puppy and threw it to the ground. The puppy was killed as a result of a skull fracture – 8 months [incarceration] and 2 years probation.
  10. R. v. Helfer, 19 June 2014, unreported, Ontario Court of Justice: Following an argument with his mother, the accused pulled the family dog out of the home, kicked her, lifted her up by the chain around her neck, hit her with a rake, then repeatedly hit her with a shovel until the dog lay motionless and bloody. The accused threw the body in the dumpster, the dog survived – 2 years [incarceration] and 3 years probation.
  11. R. v. Alcorn, ABPC December, 2014, unreported, (130018757P1): The accused acquired a cat for the purpose of killing the cat in the context of a sexual engagement with a partner, whose participation was clouded by intoxication. The cat was hung from the rafters, stabbed multiple times and bled out. The body of the cat was displayed for viewing while the accused and his partner had intercourse – 20 months [incarceration] and 3 years probation.[13]

The average sentence for the cases outlined above was approximately 10.5 months of jail; and only one of the convicted persons received no jail time whatsoever (R v Andersen). The longest sentence was two years in jail for kicking and beating the family dog with a rake and shovel (R v Helfer). The dog survived in that case. Compare this to Mr. Camardi’s shorter 22-month sentence for torturing and killing two animals. Crown counsel argued that the aggravating factors in the Camardi case justified a harsher penalty. The extended period of time the animals were tortured and the fact that they died lends credibility to this assertion. Furthermore, while some judges have commented on the connection between animal abuse and killing and the threat that violent individuals pose to human safety, arguably many shorter sentences fail to truly reflect the seriousness of the acts – which are often the calculated torture and murder of living, sentient beings and companions.

Despite this, it is becoming apparent, and has been observed by the courts as outlined above, that overall sentences for acts of animal cruelty are becoming increasingly more harsh right across Canada since the 2008 amendments to the Criminal Code.

It appears that as society becomes more and more cognizant of animals’ ability to feel and experience pain and pleasure, happiness and stress, we become less and less willing to tolerate acts of blatant cruelty to animals, especially to companion animals. This intolerance is reflected in sentences that put great weight on an animal’s suffering and the importance of punishing those responsible for causing it. Increasingly harsh sentences for perpetrators of animal cruelty provide judges with precedent to provide stronger sentences in the future. The courts’ increasing willingness to acknowledge the seriousness of animal cruelty, and the absolute repugnance society has for such acts, provides the impetus for increased protection for animals in Canada.

The text of the R v Camardi decision can be found at the following link:

https://www.canlii.org/en/ab/abpc/doc/2015/2015abpc65/2015abpc65.html?autocompleteStr=r%20v%20camardi&autocompletePos=4

_________________________________________________

Written by Sarah Ure – BA, JD – Articling Student for Animal Justice Canada

This blog and the contents herein are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to seek legal counsel prior to acting on any matters discussed herein. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

_________________________________________________

[1] R v Camardi, 2015 ABPC 65 [Camardi].

[2] The Canadian Press, “Starved dog with mouth taped shut found dead in Calgary alley”, online: CTV News <http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/starved-dog-with-mouth-taped-shut-found-dead-in-calgary-alley-1.1642799>.

[3] “Husky, kitten found dead, muzzled in Calgary alley”, 2014 January 16, online: CBC News <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/husky-kitten-found-dead-muzzled-in-calgary-alley-1.2499280>.

[4] Camardi, supra note 1, at Appendix A.

[5] Ibid, at paras 38 – 39.

[6] Ibid, at para 30.

[7] Ibid, at para 31.

[8] Ibid, at paras 21 + 23.

[9] Camardi, supra note 1, at para 22; R v Wright, 2014 OJ No. 5659.

[10] Camardi, supra note 1, at para 22; R v Chailler, 26 Aug 2013 unreported (121450597P1).

[11] Camardi, supra note 1, at para 22.

[12] Ibid, at para 23.

[13] Camardi, supra note 1, at para 27.

Animal Justice

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