Punky the Australian cattle dog has received a stay of execution so his owner can plead for his life before the Supreme Court of Canada, a B.C. Court of Appeal judge ruled Aug. 23.
That puts on hold an Aug. 9 decision of the same court upholding earlier court rulings sealing Punkie’s fate.
Four-year-old Punky has been impounded for two years. City lawyer Robert LeBlanc told Justice Peter Willcock Aug. 22 the pound is full and all spaces are needed.
Willcock, however, said the rights of the owner and Punky’s welfare outweigh any inconvenience to the city. He said irreparable harm would be done to the case if Punky’s destruction were allowed.
Willcock said Punky’s owner Susan Santics and lawyer Victoria Shroff have 30 days to file a leave to appeal application with the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.
“If leave is filed, the stay would be extended until leave is decided,” Willcock said.
Once it receives an application, the high court decides to hear cases it deems to be of national importance.
Willcock stressed that “the nerve of sentiment this case has touched” is not a legal issue the high court would consider.
“We can now take Punky’s case to the next level,” Shroff said. “It’s a long shot but now we have that shot.”
Willcock’s decision puts on hold an earlier decision of the same court.
“Given Punky’s past behaviour, temperament and lack of rehabilitation prospects, it was clearly open to the Provincial Court judge to conclude that the dog posed an unacceptable risk to the public and ought to be destroyed,” Justice Patrice Abrioux wrote in the unanimous Aug. 9 ruling of three judges.
Willcock’s decision left Santics in tears.
“It’s so emotional,” she said. “He is such a super intelligent dog. Dogs have a brain of a three-year-old child. I see that in him. That’s why I’m fighting so hard.”
Santics said she’s concerned about Punky’s welfare in the pound. “I wish there was a more appropriate facility for him to go to in the meantime.”
Shroff believes more should be done to help animals locked up.
“While animals are incarcerated, why aren’t we addressing rehabilitation prospects for them so we are releasing better canine citizens?” she asked.
Willcock’s ruling comes after two years of legal wrangling following Punky’s charging a woman at Vancouver’s Locarno Park and sinking his teeth into her leg in August 2017. Those facts are not in dispute.
Punky was designated as dangerous by a provincial court judge who said he should be euthanized, a decision the province’s supreme and appeal courts upheld.
The Appeal Court ruled once the provincial court has decided a dog is likely to kill or seriously injure someone, it should be destroyed.
A B.C. Supreme Court ruling said the wounds were serious, including deep puncture wounds to the woman’s right leg and right hand, as well as other scrapes, tears, swelling and bruising.
The Supreme Court said the victim testified Santics stood by and did nothing as she was attacked.
That ruling said Santics was fined $1,500 for violating a Vancouver bylaw which prohibits a person who keeps a dog from permitting, suffering or allowing the dog to bite, attack or injure a person or domestic animal.
That fine was not appealed and Santics did not challenge the finding that Punky is a dangerous dog, the court said.
Reporter Jeremy Hainsworth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org