KELOWNA – An appeal by the owner of Jake, the first-time offending dog that was sentenced to death for biting another dog late last year, was unsuccessful and it will be euthanized by the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
Jake is an eight-year-old presa canario that escaped from his enclosure in Peachland on New Year’s Day 2015. He and another dog belonging to Drew Panton bit an elderly Lhasa apso named Charley, which was later put down because of his injuries.
The regional district seized both Jake and another dog named Buddy that was also involved in the altercation and sought a dangerous dog order, despite this being the first time either dog hurt another. After a hearing Aug. 4, Judge Anne Wallace ordered that Jake be euthanized but Buddy be returned to Panton.
At a Supreme Court appeal Dec. 9 Panton spoke on behalf of Jake, saying Judge Wallace made a mistake and asked that Jake be returned to him with conditions.
Today, Jan. 19, Wallace’s decision was upheld.
“I’m devastated by it but it was a real stretch,” Panton said after receiving the decision by email. “I didn’t have a lot of chance to begin with. Jake's going to go down but he’s going to save a lot of dogs by bringing this case to court.”
The regional district submitted that Provincial Court judges have no jurisdiction to make conditional orders but Justice Ron Skolrood says in his decision that owners must have a way to appeal a decision made by the regional district.
“That would effectively remove the determination whether a dog was sufficiently dangerous to warrant its destruction from the court to the animal control officer. It would deprive the dog’s owner of any meaningful hearing into what should be the essential question – whether the dog is dangerous enough to warrant its destruction,” he says in his decision.
Panton said he didn’t think a dog that has no history of aggression should be euthanized after one dog fight but Wallace, in her original decision, declared Jake a “grave threat to other dogs.”
“No person was bitten by either of these dogs,” Panton said in court. “After being kicked and hit, he did not retaliate… that should have qualified him for a conditional release.”
Two dog behaviour experts also testified that both Buddy and Jake were friendly to people but the regional district and Judge Wallace felt there was enough evidence that Jake represents a danger to the public.
The regional district also asked the judge to force Panton to pay back the $22,000 incurred by housing Jake while he awaited his fate but that was denied because those are costs incurred while discharging its obligations towards the public. The District may seek from Panton impound costs for providing care and shelter from the date of Judge Wallace’s order on September 3 to the date of the appeal on Dec. 9.
Panton considers this a small victory.
“I may have lost the battle but I won the war against the regional district,” he says. “The Supreme Court has told them they don’t care what the bylaw says they care what the judge says. Somebody had to stop the regional district from empowering themselves.”
Panton is hopeful he will get one last chance to see the dog he calls “one of the loves of his life” before he is euthanized.
“I can’t think that they’ll stick a needle in him before I can see him,” he says.
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.
— This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Jan. 19 to include a statement from the District regarding their option to seek reimbursement for housing and care from Sept. 3 to Dec. 9.