Updated: Death-row dog Punky to be euthanized next week

Heartbroken owner tried to save pet’s life through multiple courts

Punky the Australian cattle dog’s fate has been sealed as the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday refused to hear an appeal.

Punky was ordered destroyed by a provincial court judge more than two years ago and has been in Vancouver’s city pound ever since. 

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However, owner Susan Santics, with help from lawyer Victoria Shroff, has fought through four levels of courts to save Punky’s life.

Now, that legal odyssey is at an end – although the City of Vancouver has agreed to Santics’ request for a delay and has put off euthanizing Punky until next week.

Shroff said she is very sad for Punky and Santics on both a personal and professional level. “Susan is now going to lose her companion,” Shroff said.

However, she noted, the case remains without precedent in Canada for a dog owner fighting this hard and taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to try to save her a pet.

“Even if three top judges reviewed the case and declined it is still a victory in animal law because cases like this have never made it this far,” she said. “The conversation about animals and the law has been raised to a whole new level based on this case.”

Punky was designated as dangerous by a provincial court judge who said he should be euthanized, a decision the province’s supreme and appeal courts upheld.

The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled once the provincial court has decided a dog is likely to kill or seriously injure someone, it should be destroyed.

In August 2019, a ruling of three judges said, “Given Punky’s past behaviour, temperament and lack of rehabilitation prospects, it was clearly open to the provincial court judge to conclude that the dog posed an unacceptable risk to the public and ought to be destroyed,” Justice Patrice Abrioux wrote in the unanimous Aug. 9 ruling of three judges.

However, the court also put that decision on hold so Santics could file a leave to appeal with the Supreme Court in Ottawa.

On Jan. 16, that leave was denied. The court gives no reasons for such decisions.

An earlier B.C. Supreme Court ruling said the wounds were serious, including deep puncture wounds to the woman’s right leg and right hand, as well as other scrapes, tears, swelling and bruising.

The Supreme Court said the victim testified Santics stood by and did nothing as she was attacked.

That ruling said Santics was fined $1,500 for violating a Vancouver bylaw which prohibits a person who keeps a dog from permitting, suffering or allowing the dog to bite, attack or injure a person or domestic animal.

That fine was not appealed and Santics did not challenge the finding that Punky is a dangerous dog, the court said.

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