An ounce of prevention would save a pound of legal costs

from this morning’s Herald
Puppy abusers lose appeal
By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau
Fri. Mar 19 – 4:53 AM
Gail Benoit (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)
Convicted puppy abusers Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey are still convicted puppy abusers.
They lost an appeal to have animal cruelty and criminal convictions overturned.
In a decision released Tuesday, Justice Peter Bryson of Nova Scotia Supreme Court dismissed the appeals of the Digby County couple.
Benoit, 40, and Bailey, 47, were sentenced in April 2009 after a 2008 trial focused on some sick puppies.
They referred to themselves as puppy brokers during the Digby provincial court trial. The provincial SPCA had received complaints about ailing puppies purchased from Benoit, some of which were said to have died.
In January 2009, Benoit was convicted of animal cruelty and assaulting and obstructing a peace officer, while Bailey was convicted of animal cruelty.
They were fined $1,500 each for cruelty and Benoit was jailed 21 days for her Criminal Code convictions.
Last month, they appeared in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Digby to appeal their convictions, submitting that their rights had been abused and they had not been given an opportunity to relieve any distress suffered by animals in their care before being charged.
SPCA officers executed search warrants at the couple’s home in Roxville on Oct. 24 and 26, 2007.
Puppies were found with distended bellies, indicative of a bad case of worms, noted the appeal decision.
The original judge rejected the evidence of the accused that the bloated bellies resulted from overfeeding.
Bryson agreed that the original trial evidence supported the claim that the puppies were in distress.
“Moreover, the distressed state of the puppies was not a sudden occurrence. It developed over time,” wrote Bryson.
There was time to help the puppies but because neither Benoit nor Bailey did anything at all, “their inaction defeats a defence of due diligence,” Bryson wrote.
The original judge made no factual or legal errors, Bryson ruled.
“The verdicts here were ones that a properly instructed jury, acting judicially, could reasonably have rendered,” he wrote.

Is this a promising sign? Of course it is. During the often heated television interviews, this couple were convinced that any and all convictions would continue to collapse at the appeal stage. ( The subject of how a fifteen hundred dollar fine is a slap on the wrist instead of the type of punitive deterrent that will give animal abusers pause is a separate topic deserving of its own post on another day )
It takes a lot of work, man hours and yes, resources, for the society to get any cruelty conviction. Sadly, animal abusers are like mice and for every one that is investigated and convicted, there are dozens more that fly under the radar.
Why would I say that? At the risk of sounding like a stuck record …. as long as animal abusers can hide behind a veneer of respectability on the dreaded free online sites, they will continue to exploit the lucrative pet market.
Legislation to ban the online trade of living breathing sentient beings would be more than a proactive step that would protect animal lovers from the unscrupulous:

  • it would send a clear message to the public that pets are fur life and that passing them around like old socks is a terrible way to teach our children about committment and responsiblity.
  • it would make it more difficult for backyard breeders to promote themselves as nice guys who are providing purebreds for those who can’t afford them
  • it would put the onus on the breeders to meet CKC standards, especially with medical screening, so that they could be listed on the regional and national breed sites
  • and by doing that … it would separate those who driven by the power of love for their breed from those ruining the breed for a buck.

What time is it? Its always time to remember that legislation is the only way to effect change. BTW … because I am always suggesting that animal lovers let their MLA’s know how they feel on these issues, I finally put the link to the MLA contact information on the sidebar.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

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