Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan (PBLS) is celebrating Access to Justice Week by sharing stories from our volunteers. PBLS volunteers directly support low-income people in Saskatchewan who would otherwise not be able to access a lawyer.
Today’s Pro Bono Stories are from two of our many amazing volunteers who volunteer under Pro Bono Membership Status. The Pro Bono Membership Status allows lawyers to volunteer with approved pro bono organizations. Pro Bono members are exempt from Law Society and SLIA fees. Fees are also waived for Law Society provided CPD.
A report from a day in the trenches: It is a dog’s life and a dog “gone” shame (dogs don’t have a charter of rights)?
I accepted a panel referral to assist a lady who received a charge under a municipal bylaw alleging that she owned a dangerous dog. The complained of conduct was:
that your dog … without provocation and in a menacing manner, approached another dog in an apparent attitude of attack; [“barked”]
It seems the bylaw does not distinguish or differentiate between the above rather innocuous conduct and egregious conduct such as:
that your dog … without provocation, bitten, inflicted injury, assaulted or otherwise attacked a person or domestic animal. [“bit”]
Under the municipal bylaw a “bark” is treated like a “bite”. Therefore a finding by a Court that your pooch barked at another dog (present case) or mauled a person to death (not this case) would attract the same judicial sanction: being branded (tagged) as a dangerous dog. An adverse conclusion on either a bark or a bite would result in, among other things, the pooch being branded and stigmatized for life with that label: dangerous dog.
In this case after the incident and before charges were laid, at the owners own initiative, the pooch was confined to a leash, restricted to a fenced pen, psychoanalyzed, enrolled in canine rehabilitation and anger management courses, and yes, therapy from a professional dog whisperer!
Indeed, the pooch had an exemplary record – no previous charges or like incidents and no known propensity to bark nastily at other dogs – even when provoke! A history of only joyful and rapture full barking. Unlike the Criminal Code which tends to favour humane treatment of criminals, this bylaw has no provision for an absolute or conditional discharge, diversion programs, probation or even contemplate an application for a pardon. Shamefully, the bylaw denies history. It does not provide for credit or recognition for pooch’s canine ancestors historically being known as, in this case, a (wo)man’s best friend.
When it came to sentencing all the above was to no avail. Exemplary conduct counted for naught. No second chance, no mercy.
Once labeled as a dangerous dog under the bylaw our best friend is now hopelessly branded, aka tagged, for life. This vicious bylaw pursues pooches indiscriminately and with (I have to use this word) dogged persistence. Cruel and usual punishment? If you are a human being of course this would be the case. However, it seems we save our worse treatment for our best friends and spares the criminals? An injustice? Some may think so. There is however no legal recourse. Dogs are neither contemplated by the Charter (of Human Rights) nor do they have their own Charter (not yet anyway – see link, which at para 11 under LEGAL RIGHTS contemplates: 11 All animals have rights to engage in normal and natural behaviours). A Charter of Animals Right has yet to be enshrined. Until then, it appears there is no room for an Application for Judicial Review based on cruel and unusual punishment.
“Dog” gone shame some would say!
Just another typical frustrating day in the life of PBLS volunteer lawyer. Time to move on. File Closed.
Ron Cherkewich volunteers with the Northern Rural Clinic as well as on the General Panel, Seniors Panel and the Cory Cardinal Inmates Legal Assistance Panel. Ron Cherkewich received the 2020 Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan Volunteer of the Year Award for his ongoing display of exemplary dedication to the provision of Pro Bono services through PBLS.
Interested in volunteering or learning more? For PBLS, please visit pblsask.ca or email email@example.com.