An application from two animal rights groups to intervene in a hearing surrounding the fate of 21 dogs who were seized from an alleged dogfighting ring near Chatham-Kent last fall has been denied.
The application from Animal Justice and Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, both based in the GTA, was denied on Monday by Justice of the Peace Thomas Stinson.
The two groups had argued that the dogs, seized from an alleged dogfighting operation at a residence on Morris Line in Tilbury East Twp. in October 2015, deserved a proper defence, and on Nov. 3, applied for intervenor status in an upcoming hearing to address an application from the Ontario SPCA to euthanize the animals.
Court approval is needed for the OSPCA to euthanize animals for behavioural reasons. The organization has said two specialists from the United States they described as “world experts” have assessed the 21 dogs and concluded the animals are dangerous and cannot not be rehabilitated.
The case is scheduled to proceed with a judicial pretrial later this month in Chatham-Kent and hearings for the euthanization application will likely take place next year.
The 21 alleged fighting dogs were among 31 in total who were seized from the Tilbury residence in late 2015, all “prohibited pit bulls under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act,” according to the OSPCA. Three of the dogs were euthanized in December 2015 with a vet, while seven were being rehabilitated for adoption outside Ontario, according to a May 2016 report in the Chatham Daily News.
Four people are facing hundreds of animal cruelty and weapons-related charges in connection to the October 2015 seizure. Three of the accused, John Robert, Kim Robert, and Michel Gagnon, were charged in October 2015, while a fourth, John Robert Jr., son of John and Kim, was charged in November 2015 with several weapons-related offences and a drug offence. Police say all four lived at the address where the seizure took place.
A fifth person charged in connection to the alleged Chatham-area dogfighting ring, Robert Tomlin, was arrested and charged in March 2016 after search warrants at two Kent Bridge-area addresses led to the seizure of seven pitbull-type dogs.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. The criminal case is separate from the euthanization application and remains in the early stages, with a trial not expected until 2018.
John Robert, Kim Robert, and Michel Gagnon, have said they supported the animal rights groups’ attempts to intervene in the hearing, and have agreed in principle to transfer ownership to Dog Tales.
In court filings, the defendants’ lawyer, Ken Marley, argued intervention would provide a full defence for his clients.
In his decision, the justice of the peace wrote “The defendants are specifically urging me to appoint interveners in order to aid in obtaining a further independent assessment of the behaviour of the dogs […] It is not the court’s job to assist the defendants in mounting their defence by means of appointing interveners, if the court otherwise does not find it necessary for those interveners to be included in the proceedings.”
In a post on the group’s Facebook page, Dog Tales said it was disappointed by the outcome, but stated it would not give up on the dogs and added it would explore all possible alternative options.
A Dog Tales spokeswoman said the group was committed to providing expert analysis at no cost should the defence ask for it, and stated that they were considering an appeal, but have been advised it would likely be unsuccessful.
With files from Christina Stevens – Global News