Dog abuse in Duncan prompts lifetime animal ownership ban

DUNCAN — A Duncan man whose dog died in pain after being tethered in his yard will never own or live with an animal again.

“No one in your house can have an animal. No one in your house can be in charge of an animal. You are forever forbidden of having care or control of any companion animal, pets, birds, reptiles,” provincial court Judge Mayland McKimm told Anderson Joe on Monday at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing.

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In May, Joe pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary pain, suffering and injury to the dog, named Teddy by the staff who tried to save his life at Duncan Animal Hospital. Teddy was found with plastic wire and rope embedded in his neck, tethered in a yard on Feb. 16, 2018. His head was swollen to two to three times its normal size. He died on Feb. 18.

About 60 people crowded into the packed courtroom on Monday, wearing T-shirts that said “Justice for Teddy.”

The court heard that Joe, 63, has serious cognitive deficits and limited ability to solve or perceive problems. A court-ordered psychological assessment showed at least 99 per cent of people would outperform Joe on verbal comprehension, processing speed and working memory, said prosecutor John Blackman.

Joe also has a history of trauma, including sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse during his time at the Kuper Island residential school near Chemainus.

“While the facts are horrific with respect to the suffering of this animal, the court has to assess carefully the blame-worthiness of the accused,” said McKimm.

McKimm noted that the dog was “dumped” on Joe, “a man of acutely and severely impaired mental functioning.”

The dog was found by SPCA officers standing in garbage, feces and mud, tethered to a pipe buried in the ground. The tether was six inches long, making it impossible for the dog to get to a pile of rice thrown beside it on the ground and impossible for the dog to enter a makeshift shelter nearby. His spine, hips and ribs were clearly visible.

Joe, who had had the dog for about six months, told officers who came to his property that he had been at the longhouse since December and had been back for one week. He said his family cared for the dog while he was away. The officers told him they were seizing the dog.

The psychological assessment showed Joe had limited ability to deal with the dog when he returned from the longhouse. He was also focusing on his stepdaughter, who had been in and out of hospital with her newborn.

The judge noted that Joe did not actively abuse the dog. He thought other members of the family would take care of the dog while he was away.

Given Joe’s Indigenous background, his challenges and his limited intellectual capacity, a suspended sentence and three months of probation are appropriate, McKimm said.

The judge said it was not in the public interest to grant the conditional discharge requested by Joe’s defence lawyer, Michael Ritzker. The suspended sentence means Joe will have a criminal record and can apply for a pardon in three years.

“The need for denunciation and deterrence in a general way is too powerful that right-thinking members of the public would not be satisfied that the court had taken seriously enough the need to make a strong denunciatory statement to anyone who would cause cruelty to a companion animal,” said McKimm.

The court heard that Joe has no criminal record and has a history of head injury. He was assaulted with a baseball bat, punched in the head and injured in a serious car crash. He has experienced racism and been bullied.

Sheriffs were kept busy trying to stop muttering as Ritzker made his submissions.

“This is worse than bad,” one woman yelled, as she stormed out of court.

“Walk a mile in my shoes, lady,” Ritzker yelled back.

McKimm threatened to clear the courtroom.

Melissa Tooshley, Joe’s stepdaughter and co-accused, is expected to be sentenced Thursday. She told SPCA officers she was responsible for the dog while Joe was in the longhouse.

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