Yukon’s small claims court has been tasked with an unusual duty: finding a dog.
It started like any other case: the court was only asked to solve a dispute between a dog owner and a shelter she accused of stealing her dog.
But then it quickly escalated — the RCMP was called in, and the shelter owner sought a peace bond against the dog owner.
Now, the dog at the centre of the case — Buddy, a five-year-old black and brown pitbull-Rottweiler cross — is missing.
Buddy escaped while being transported to Alberta, claims shelter owner Shelley Cuthbert.
The court had been set to rule whether Buddy’s owner, Emerald Gillespie, should get her dog back or whether she surrendered him to Cuthbert, who operates Any Domesticated Animal Rescue and Boarding Kennels in Tagish.
In a claim filed Sept. 2, Gillespie said she placed Buddy with Cuthbert last July while she was finding him a new home.
The dog, who had been adopted from the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, was being aggressive and bit one of Gillespie’s friends.
Cuthbert, in her reply filed to the court, said Gillespie surrendered Buddy to her in a phone conversation. Gillespie was to help care for the dog until a new home was found, she said.
The problem started when Gillespie went to get her dog back. Cuthbert refused, claiming Gillespie had surrendered it.
Under the territory’s Dog Act, Cuthbert was liable for any damage Buddy might cause and she couldn’t release him back to Gillespie, Cuthbert said.
On Oct. 12, while waiting for the case to go to trial, territorial judge Peter Chisholm ordered Buddy be put in the care of the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter.
The next day a Mae Bachur employee accompanied by the RCMP went to the rescue shelter in Tagish. They didn’t see Buddy in the yard and Cuthbert didn’t answer the door.
Cuthbert later answered her phone saying the dog had been sent to Alberta on Sept. 24.
A day earlier, Gillespie had served Cuthbert with a notice indicating a hearing about Buddy’s interim custody was to take place, Gillespie’s lawyer Graham Lang said in court documents.
Dogs at the Tagish shelter ate the notice, Cuthbert claims.
Cuthbert sought a peace bond against Gillespie after the Sept. 23 visit, claiming Gillespie had stuck her fingers through a fence and caused the dogs to be so agitated that they injured each other.
The peace bond application failed.
Lang said Cuthbert’s claim that Buddy is gone is a tactic to avoid going to court.
In a Sept. 30 affidavit Cuthbert said she didn’t have Buddy anymore, but that affidavit wasn’t delivered to his office or to Gillespie, he said.
The court, it seems, is losing patience.
On Oct. 21, Chisholm ordered Cuthbert to attend court on Nov. 7 to explain where Buddy was.
Cuthbert didn’t attend court for a previous hearing, Gillespie said.
In the affidavit, Cuthbert said she would only be available to attend court by phone after Dec. 1 due to “recent events.”
The order compelling her to appear was sent by registered mail, but court documents indicate that as of Oct. 31 she hadn’t picked the order up.
Gillespie is convinced Buddy is still in the territory —in hiding. Cuthbert insists the dog fled during transport to Alberta.
“It happens on transport all the time,” she told the News on Tuesday.
She said the dog was to be adopted in Alberta because she couldn’t find a home for Buddy in the Yukon, claiming people in the territory only want puppies.
“My rescue has over 80 dogs,” she said. “Some of them have been here for four years waiting for a home.”
Cuthbert meanwhile says she is going to sue a number of people for libel. In court documents she referred to Facebook posts Gillespie made back in late August about the situation.
On Aug. 24 Cuthbert’s car was spray painted with the words “dog thief,” misspelled.
She accused Gillespie of the vandalism, but Gillespie denies it.
“There is no story besides the harassment I have received and the damage to the rescue,” Cuthbert said.
It seems Cuthbert wants to take the fight to the public arena. In one of her affidavits she refers to the case of Trevor the dog, who made national headlines in 2009 during Humane Society Yukon’s year-long fight to stop the City of Whitehorse from having Trevor put down.
Cuthbert wants the case to be tried in Yukon Supreme Court saying it “matches” the case of the Yukon’s most famous dog.
In a different affidavit she said she is ready to ask the Yukon Supreme Court to have Buddy declared a dangerous dog, should he “leave her property.”
It’s not the first time Cuthbert has been in the public eye. In 2013 she was sentenced to two years probation and fined $500 for failing to comply with government orders. She was at the time the president of the Humane Society Yukon and refused to follow orders issued by the registrar of societies. At the time she blamed her lawyer for flawed legal advice, but couldn’t prove she had actually received any legal advice.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com