Dog rescue owner Shelley Cuthbert says that she and her 40-something dogs will be off her property in the Tagish Estates neighbourhood by June 11.
Cuthbert made the surprise announcement during court proceedings June 7 where lawyer Graham Lang, who represented six of Cuthbert’s neighbours in their successful nuisance lawsuit against her, said that he would be applying to find Cuthbert in contempt of court June 12 for failing to comply with an order requiring her to have no more than two dogs on her property.
That order was made in October 2017, when Cuthbert’s neighbours won their lawsuit against her. It was temporarily stayed when Cuthbert took her case to the Yukon Court of Appeal, but reinstated late last month when a panel of judges found her appeal had no merit.
“The situation remains difficult for the neighbours,” Lang told Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower, who had presided over the original trial, on June 7.
Lang noted that Cuthbert had failed to comply with the order when it was first issued, and then also didn’t comply with an interim order issued while her appeal was pending that required her to surrender 10 dogs a month to the Yukon government’s animal health unit.
“At this point, we’re at a bit of a crossroads on this matter… It should not come as a surprise to her that we’re here asking for peace and order to be restored,” Lang said, adding that the day’s proceedings were to “set the table” for future actions, if needed.
Should Cuthbert continue to not comply, Lang said the “only option” was to have Cuthbert detained and to have officials go on to her property to start removing dogs. The “combined resources” of the animal health unit and the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter should allow for a number of dogs to be removed, he said, but acknowledged that it would still likely take two to three months to “unwind” the operation.
However, Cuthbert, who attended the proceedings via phone call, said that she was in the process of setting up kennels and that all the dogs on her property would be gone by June 11.
“I’m the one that’s going to remove them,” she said.
“All the dogs will be gone by Monday, and that includes me.”
Cuthbert did not tell the court where she was setting up the kennels, but repeatedly said that she and her dogs would no longer be living on the property by June 11.
Speaking to media afterwards, Lang said that Cuthbert’s declaration was unexpected but, should she really follow through, is a great result for his clients.
“It’s a real win-win for the community of Tagish. We don’t have to do anything drastic in removing the dogs, Ms. Cuthbert is taking steps on her own to comply with the order, which is all the plaintiffs have ever asked in this matter, so everybody is very pleased,” he said.
Lang said he didn’t have any information about where Cuthbert was setting up her new kennels.
“The benefit to my clients may be the detriment of somebody else, but hopefully not,” he said. “It is our hope, sincerely, that Ms. Cuthbert finds a place to safely house the animals and away from neighbours, in such a way as to not cause a nuisance.”
The court is scheduled to reconvene June 12 to check on Cuthbert’s compliance with the order.
In the meantime, Cuthbert has filed two lawsuits against her neighbours. She’s seeking an additional four months to “set up proper kennel and camp in a different location,” time to sell her property, and $1 million in damages for, among other things, “destruction of reputation, emotional distress and property damage which includes pain and suffering of the dogs.”
Lang described Cuthbert’s lawsuits as “frivolous and vexatious.”
“They are really collateral attacks on the order of the court, meaning that the things that she’s questioning and the statements that she’s questioning are things that people said in court (and) were found to be true,” he said.
“Hopefully, now that Ms. Cuthbert has found a place to go, we can put all this acrimony behind us. It is my hope that she withdraws her lawsuits and everyone goes their separate ways.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org