Shelley Cuthbert walks two of her pitbull-mix rescue dogs, Bebe, left and Brutus, in Whitehorse on April 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Tagish dog rescue owner’s application to relocate dogs dismissed

Shelley Cuthbert asked appeal court permission to move dogs to Carcross instead of surrendering them

The B.C.-Yukon Court of Appeal has dismissed an application by Tagish dog rescue owner Shelley Cuthbert requesting she be allowed to relocate dogs instead of surrendering them until her appeal against her neighbours’ lawsuit is heard.

Cuthbert argued her application before a panel of three judges — Justices Mary Newbury, David Frankel and Barbara Fischer, who appeared via video conference — in a Whitehorse courtroom April 9.

After about 20 minutes of deliberation, Newbury said that the panel was “not persuaded” that it should make any changes to the existing order requiring Cuthbert to surrender 10 dogs to the Yukon’s Animal Health Unit on the 15th of every month.

“I understand that you have a big heart and want to take care of these dogs … (but) the law does need to be observed as well,” Newbury said, adding that the panel was concerned that the case appeared to be “dragging on.”

Six of Cuthbert’s neighbours in Tagish Estates won a nuisance lawsuit against her last year that resulted in an order for her to reduce the dogs on her property from 60 to two. Cuthbert filed an appeal and, in January, B.C.-Yukon Court of Appeal Justice John J.L. Hunter granted a partial stay of that order, requiring Cuthbert instead to surrender 10 dogs a month to the Animal Health Unit until her appeal is heard.

Cuthbert’s unsuccessful application had requested for the partial stay to be amended so that she could relocate 10 dogs a month instead to the property of a Carcross citizen who has offered up his land for her use. Cuthbert told the panel she could start moving dogs to that property starting April 15 if the ground was thawed.

Cuthbert said she didn’t want to surrender any more dogs to the Animal Health Unit because not many of them would meet the unit’s criteria for adoption and would be euthanized. Moving them to a temporary location instead, she argued, would be in the best interests of the dogs and justice.

“I don’t want to euthanize any more dogs…. Euthanizing healthy dogs has not been very well-received by the public,” Cuthbert said, referring to the 10 dogs that were euthanized in February. Four of those dogs had been surrendered by Cuthbert to the Animal Health Unit and put down on her request. The other six were returned to their previous owners, who also had them put down.

Cuthbert said she currently has 43 dogs at her property. On top of the 10 that were put down, she said she’s also adopted three out. It’s unclear what happened to the other four.

Lawyer Graham Lang, who’s representing Cuthbert’s neighbours, argued that the application should be dismissed. The proposed relocation relies too heavily on the variable of the ground thawing, he said, and even if the dogs are relocated, it would result in a “catastrophic situation” if Cuthbert loses her appeal and suddenly has to deal with 40 dogs.

“We need to start dealing with this,” he said. “We’ve got the same issue we’ve had for the last two years.”

Cuthbert’s appeal is scheduled to be heard May 10.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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