A Carcross man will serve 15 days in jail for snapping his sister’s puppy’s neck after a dispute over money in August.
Kashies James, a 22-year-old member of Carcross/Tagish First Nation, appeared in a Whitehorse courtroom Dec. 15 and pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty in front of Judge Nancy Orr. He also pleaded guilty to failing to appear in court and failing to report to a probation officer in relation to the same incident.
According to facts read out by Crown prosecutor Amy Porteous, James showed up at his sister’s house in Carcross the evening of Aug. 15, intoxicated, and demanded that she repay him money she’d borrowed. His sister refused because James had some of her belongings and the two got into an argument.
The sister began to walk away, Porteous continued, when James grabbed her eight-week-old puppy and threatened to snap its neck if she didn’t pay him. The sister didn’t believe James’ threat, Porteous said, and continued walking.
When the sister returned 10 to 15 minutes later, she ordered James out of the house and then found her puppy outside lying on the ground. The puppy was still alive, Porteous said, but unable to move and was having trouble breathing. The sister described its neck as “being stiff and twisted with the head twisted around at an odd angle,” Porteous said, with an “unusual lump in its neck” under the skin.
The sister picked up the puppy, at which point a friend took it from her and “essentially put it out of its misery by blows to the head,” Porteous said.
James was arrested Aug. 17, but prior to that, had called 911 asking if the RCMP was looking for him and claiming he’d “accidentally stepped on a puppy,” Porteous said.
A necropsy performed on the puppy confirmed the “dog’s neck was indeed broken” and that “it would have been in respiratory distress before it died,” Porteous said. However, it was not able to determine which injuries were caused by James or by the blows that killed the puppy.
The Crown requested a sentence of four to five months of jail time for the animal cruelty charge and an order prohibiting James from keeping pets for two years.
“We’re talking here about a very small and vulnerable animal — we’re not talking about anything that was in any way a threat to Mr. James,” Porteous said. “(The puppy) was essentially helpless to him. Offences like these against animals are reprehensible for that reason…. It’s simply a violent and terrible offence and a creature that could not effectively defend itself.”
There were also “shades of extortion” to the incident, Porteous added.
“We’re talking about something that, in some respects, (is) very much an offence against a person but that used an animal as a prop, as a means of getting his way in a very disturbing manner that shows a real lack of … empathy or concern for beings other than Mr. James,” she said.
In her submissions, James’ defence lawyer Amy Steele pointed out several Gladue factors that should be factored into James’ sentence. James has experienced “severe trauma” in his life, Steele said, including the death of his mother, a residential school survivor, at an early age. A CTFN elder confirmed that James, who loves being on the land and traditional activities like hunting, has had “a really rough life,” Steele said, and was willing to work with him on rehabilitation.
James doesn’t remember what happened Aug. 15, Steele continued, as he’d injected himself with cocaine before the argument in an attempt to kill himself. He accepts responsibility for what he did, Steele said, and didn’t want a trial because he “believes he should be punished,” also opting out of waiting for a Gladue report.
“Mr. James has a great deal of remorse and shame about what he did, in his own words, to a harmless, helpless animal,” Steele said, adding that the incident also made James realize he needs help to deal with his trauma issues.
In delivering her sentence, Orr said the case raised “very concerning circumstances.”
“When you have a defenceless animal and you’re upset over something, it is not acceptable and our society will not tolerate that individuals decide they’re just going to do what they want to some poor, defenceless animal because it happens to be there and it’s either kicked, picked up, thrown down, thrown around or has its neck snapped because you’re unhappy about what’s going on or you’re intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and you don’t really give a darn about anything,” Orr said.
However, rehabilitation is also another primary consideration when handing down a sentence, Orr said, noting that James is a young man with the “best part of his future ahead of him, and it’s time that he gets his life under control so he’s able to be in a better position, be able to do the things he wants to do and be able to follow the traditional ways he enjoys.”
“I guess the one positive out of all of this,” Orr said, “is Mr. James now acknowledges that he needs to get some help, that he needs to deal with the issues that have caused him great difficulty in his life.”
The judge sentenced James to 60 days in jail for the animal cruelty charge, with 45 days’ credit for time already served, five days for the failure to appear in court, to be served concurrently, and another 10 days for the failure to report to a bail supervisor, to be served consecutively. He will also receive 12 months of probation following his release. During that time he will be prohibited from owning pets or living with animals except with the permission of a bail supervisor.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com