PORT HARDY—A Port Hardy man charged with the neglect of an 18-month-old shepherd-cross dog named Molly received a three-month conditional sentence and a ten-year ban on owning animals last Thursday.
Rupert Wilson, 48, was charged with failing to provide necessaries for an animal and with causing unnecessary pain/suffering to an animal in regard to Molly, who was found emaciated and in critical condition on November 25 by RCMP following a complaint of animal cruelty.
The case raised a storm of support on social media, with Facebook pages and a petition with almost 60,000 signatures demanding justice for the dog.
Counsel for the defendant said on Thursday that Wilson was aware of the reaction on social media, and the message of the public’s denunciation has not been lost on him. The defendant felt “very saddened” by what he did, and counsel assured the court that he will carry that stigma regardless of the judge’s decision.
A pre-sentence report noted Wilson’s extremely dire financial circumstances, his longstanding drug and alcohol abuse, and his lower average range of intelligence, all of which made Wilson unsure how to proceed in Molly’s case when the dog was left behind by his previous partner.
Counsel cited a number of previous animal cruelty cases, and claimed that the same rules did not apply to Wilson’s case, as the neglect was not purposeful or vengeful.
Judge Tony Dohm, however, emphasized Wilson’s awareness of Molly’s conditions. When Wilson was first approached by RCMP, he turned them away by assuring them that the dog was okay and that it was going to be transported to another home. The judge pointed out that this was an act of purposeful deceit by Wilson, who had his own interests foremost. The second time an RCMP constable approached Wilson, he again tried to deflect attention from the dog by insisting that it was “too dark” to see properly.
But Wilson’s apparent genuine remorse for his actions, expressed by a formal letter of apology and the fact that he pleaded guilty, earned him a three-month conditional sentence, as well as a 12-month probation order. Between his sentence and his probation, Wilson must complete 100 hours of community service.
Wilson has also been prohibited from owning an animal for ten years, and has been asked to partially reimburse the RCMP officer who paid for Molly’s initial veterinary costs of $607.10. The judge was uncertain as to Wilson’s ability to pay back the more than $2,000 in veterinary bills covered by the BC SPCA, due to his low income level.
The ruling received backlash from the community, who felt that the sentencing was far too lax for the crime, which BC SPCA investigators said was one of the most horrific cruelty cases they had ever seen.
Vi-Anne Roberts, who runs the North Island Wildlife Awareness Facebook page, expressed her dissatisfaction with the judge’s ruling.
“I’m just devastated that it went the way it did,” she said.
She said that she did not feel the judge held Wilson responsible for his actions at all, especially in waving away the fines.
“If people are not held accountable, they don’t learn from their mistakes,” Roberts said. “I just wish the laws in Canada were stricter.”
Judge Dohm told the court Thursday that Molly was adopted in April, and her current owner says that the dog is recovering well.