Dog sentenced to death given chance to 'fight another day'
Published Saturday, August 24, 2019 6:05PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 24, 2019 6:50PM PDT
A Vancouver dog scheduled for execution has been given a chance to have his case heard in the country's highest court.
Punky – a four-year-old American cattle dog – was scheduled to be put down Friday, but an eleventh-hour decision has given his owner a rare opportunity to apply for a leave to appeal. This will give them a chance to have the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa review their case for a possible appeal.
"[Friday] was supposed to be Punky's execution day and he's been granted a reprieve by this stay. So it's really wonderful that Punky's around to fight another day," said Victoria Shroff, an animal law lawyer for Shroff and Associates.
Shroff said the decision is almost unprecedented.
"Ground-breaking cases like this one are really significant for animals and the law in Canada because it is ushering a new era of understanding of animals and the law and how we treat animals under the law," she said.
Punky's saga began in Sept. 2017, when he attacked a woman at the Spanish Banks off-leash dog area.
The City of Vancouver seized him and deemed him dangerous.
His owner, Susan Santics, has been fighting the city through the courts to appeal its decision to put him down.
"He is wonderful, so I can't let him be destroyed and get another dog. I brought him up since he was seven weeks old," Santics told CTV News.
She said she was inexperienced and nervous when she was first navigating the justice system. She represented herself without a lawyer when this first happened.
She believes if she had a lawyer, Punky would've been released already.
"He was feeling threatened," she said when describing the attack at Spanish Banks. "The woman got up from her blanket and started waving her arm at me, 'Woman control your dog.' And I believe that really scared him."
Court documents show Punky, who was two years old at the time, caused serious injuries to the woman's hands and legs.
Santics argued the depth of those injuries were never measured, saying "no evidence" was brought forward.
She took the case to the B.C. Court of Appeal and the three justices denied her appeal, in part because Punky had bitten at least two other people previously.
Santics said she has been receiving animal training in the last two years to prevent history from repeating itself.
"We've gone over bite inhabitation, desensitizing, counter-conditioning. We've been through the importance of treats, to lure them. I didn't know that before, I didn’t even know about force-free training," she said.
She believes Punky can be rehabilitated and continues to fight to keep him alive.
Shroff said they know the chances of the Supreme Court of Canada accepting the case represent "a longshot," but they remain cautiously optimistic.
"We're seeing that animals matter, and I think that's the cornerstone of this case," she said. "Whether you see them as properties or as family members, they are worth fighting for and the state has to be very, very, very sure before it puts a sentient being to death."
Punky's legal team has been given 30 days to file the application.