December 09, 2015 - 3:14 PM
KELOWNA – The owner of a dog that’s spent the last year on death row says the judge made a mistake.
Owner Drew Panton spoke passionately and capably as he represented himself at a Kelowna Supreme Court appeal Wednesday, Dec. 9, trying to save the life of his dog Jake, an eight-year-old Presa canario that killed a neighbour's Lhasa apso in January.
“Is Jake a dangerous dog? Yeah,” Panton said in court. “He proved that by biting that dog… it was a bad bite… (but) one attack is not enough to sentence a dog to death.”
The incident happened on New Year’s Day 2015. According to Panton, friends of his accidentally let his two dogs, Jake and Buddy, out of his Peachland yard.
Jeff Clark was walking his Lhasa apso named Charlie when Jake and Buddy approached. It is not clear how the dog fight started, but Clark broke his hand fighting the dogs off and Charlie was so badly injured he had to be euthanized.
The regional district seized Jake and Buddy and sought a dangerous dog order. After a hearing Aug. 4, Judge Anne Wallace ordered that Jake be euthanized but Buddy be returned to Panton.
To comply with a court-ordered condition to keep Buddy, Panton moved to a more secure location where he was allowed to build a six-foot steel fence and has been working with a professional dog behaviorist. Buddy is not permitted to be off leash and must be muzzled when off the property.
On Wednesday, Panton spoke on his own behalf, imploring the court to let his dog live. He called Jake "one of the loves of (his) life."
“I hope this appeal be allowed and Jake returned to me,” he said as his voice cracked with emotion. “In the alternative I seek that Jake not be killed but sent to live with (an experienced dog handler) until such a time that she can find a home for him. I don’t want it, it’s not my favorite thing, but I don’t want a dead dog.”
Panton said he didn’t think a dog that has no history of aggression should be euthanized after one dog fight.
“No person was bitten by either of these dogs,” he said. “After being kicked and hit he did not retaliate… that should have qualified him for a conditional release.”
Two dog behavior experts testified that both Buddy and Jake were friendly to people but the Central Okanagan Regional District and Judge Wallace felt there was enough evidence that Jake represents a danger to the public.
Regional district spokesperson Bruce Smith says he stands by their decision to seek the death penalty and expects the appeal to fail. He says a dog will be deemed dangerous if it seriously injures another dog, another person or is likely to injure another dog or person in the future.
Panton says the measures he has taken and the training he has undergone over the last year should be enough to qualify Jake for a second chance.
“You would think if the dog is so dangerous… it would have turned on its attacker (Clark who was defending his own dog) but Jake didn’t,” he said. “With the appropriate precautionary measures… there’s no reason to believe Jake will be a threat.”
Clark was in court for the appeal Wednesday, as were numerous supporters of Panton and Jake and representatives of the regional district.
The decision is expected sometime in January.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015