Whitehorse’s bylaw officers have charged a local woman after she allegedly ran over her cat with her truck.
The woman, whose identity is not being disclosed by city officials, has been charged with three offenses under the territory’s Animal Protection Act for an incident that occurred on July 10.
Last week the cat owner was charged with abandoning a domestic animal, failing to provide medical treatment to the cat and not licensing the pet. The city’s bylaw office is also asking the territory to prohibit her from owning a pet for three years and slap her with a $500 fine, said Kevin Hildebrand, a senior constable with bylaw services.
The case has been passed on to a local law firm to see if criminal charges could be laid against the owner, he said.
A city parks official, Gerry Mussgnug, said he saw the woman in question run over the animal on Fish Lake Road at around 4 p.m. on July 10.
“I just saw somebody throw something out of the truck and speed off. And as she sped off, as I got closer, I noticed something on the ground. And I thought she threw out some tar paper or something. There’s something black flopping around and, you know, I thought it was the wind. And it turns out as I pull up, I see a cat that she had just run over. So that was what she just threw out,” Mussgnug told the News one day after the alleged incident.
Infuriated, Mussgnug followed the woman. He blocked her at Raven Recycling, where she pulled over, and he called the RCMP.
He went up to her and demanded an explanation. “I asked her, ‘Why did you do that to your cat? What did this cat deserve for you to throw it out and run it over?’ And she just looked at me blank and wouldn’t answer me,” he said of her initial reaction.
An RCMP officer eventually came to the scene. “What she told the RCMP was ‘I’m returning it back to nature. It’s old, it’s incontinent, I don’t want it anymore,’” Mussgnug said.
The cat only survived for a night.
Mussgnug said its hind legs looked injured. “It managed to use its front paws to crawl across the road. It broke its pelvis or back or something, I’m not sure,” he said.
Bylaw officers took the cat to the Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre, said Hildebrand.
The cat was not bleeding and did not have any visible injuries, Hildebrand said. The vet gave painkillers to make it comfortable overnight while it stayed in the city’s animal shelter, he said.
Bylaw planned to make a decision the next day as to whether the animal should be euthanized, but it died before then.
The vet did not recommend bylaw to do an autopsy, as it would not “yield additional information,” Hildebrand said.
Are the charges sufficient? “No, it could have been a higher fine,” said Amanda Farrell, the manager of the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter.
“Animal cruelty, as lax as are laws are in the Yukon or in Whitehorse, at least they should have some sort of footing. They should be able to (be) tougher, I’m sure that will come with time. I hope, anyway,” Farrell said.
The shelter often receives cases of animal abuse – but it might be related simply to a higher population of animals in the territory, said Farrell. Often, when abuse is suspected no charges are pursued for lack of proof, she said.
In this case, a lack of proof prevented bylaw from pressing a tougher charge on the cat owner, said Hildebrand, as they couldn’t prove she intended to kill the animal. “The cat was run over but the actual act of running over it – we don’t believe there was an actual purpose. That said, had the owner not abandoned it, it would not have gotten run over,” he said.
Also, “it doesn’t diminish the fact that the animal needed health care,” Hildebrand added.
If a pet owner requires financial help to pay for euthanasia fees, Yukoners can contact Kona’s Animal Assistance Coalition, a non-profit set up in March that provides money to people who cannot afford veterinary costs, said Farrell.
The cost for euthanasia ranges from $50 to $200 at the three veterinary clinics in Whitehorse, depending on the need for consultation or cremation.
Hildebrand said people should take the option seriously.
“You have to be humane and do the right thing. If it comes down to getting the animal euthanized, it’s always better than letting it go in the woods. It’s a chargeable matter,” he said.
Files for the case have been given to Lackowicz Shier and Hoffman, to look into pressing criminal charges against the owner, Hildebrand said.
If the owner is charged with animal cruelty under the criminal code, the penalty could be a lot stiffer.
Anyone who causes unnecessary suffering to an animal could face up to five years of imprisonment for an indictable offense, according to the Criminal Code of Canada. If someone is found guilty of a summary conviction, which is a less serious offense, the penalty is up to a $10,000 fine and up to 18 months in prison.
A lawyer with Lackowicz, Shier and Hoffman did not return calls before press time.
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