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Court denies animal rights groups intervention in dogfighting euthanasia case

Last Updated Dec 7, 2016 at 7:40 am MST

Two animal rights groups trying to stop Ontario’s animal welfare organization from destroying 21 dogs seized during a raid on an alleged dogfighting ring won’t be allowed to intervene in the case.

Justice of the Peace Thomas Stinson has denied an application to join the case by Animal Justice and Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, who argued the dogs themselves deserve a proper defence.

In January, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed an application in a court in Chatham, Ont., to euthanize 31 dogs seized during the raids in October 2015.

The OSPCA, which requires court approval to destroy animals for behavioural reasons, has said an evaluation of the animals concluded that 21 of them are a menace to society and cannot be rehabilitated.

The case is scheduled to proceed with a judicial pretrial later this month and hearings for the euthanization application will likely take place next year.

Animal Justice and Dog Tales both say they haven’t given up and are evaluating their options. The groups argued in court they could provide a unique expertise to the case.

The justice of the peace disagreed, saying “the legal issues I will eventually face … are not particularly complex.”

The dogs’ owners — John Robert, Kim Thu Thi Robert and Michel Conrad Gagnon — supported the groups’ attempts to intervene and have agreed in principle to transfer ownership of the animals to Dog Tales.

Those three, plus two others, face more than 300 animal cruelty and weapons-related charges. The criminal case has been severed from the euthanization application and remains in the early stages with a trial a long way off.

The defendants’ lawyer, Ken Marley, argued in court filings that intervention would provide a full defence for his clients.

The justice of the peace again disagreed.

“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,” Stinson wrote in his decision.

“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.”

“I’m disappointed,” Marley said Tuesday after learning the court decision. “I really believe that the interveners had the ability to assist the court in this case, which is unique in my opinion, and not just assist my clients.”

Clare Forndran, a spokeswoman with Dog Tales, located in King City, Ont., north of Toronto, said they are devastated.

“Our entire team is just completely shocked,” Forndran said. “We really did think it would go the other way.”

Dog Tales has committed to providing expert analysis at no cost, Forndran said, should the defence ask for it.

She added they are considering an appeal, but have been advised that appeals in similar cases are often unsuccessful.

Animal Justice’s Camille Labchuk said she was disappointed with the ruling.

“It is concerning to us that this proceeding is set to go forward without anybody there to represent the interests of the dogs,” she said.

“The OSPCA usually represents the interests of animals in court, but in this case they are trying to kill the animals and the accused people who are responding to the OSPCA attempt to kill them are already charged with allegedly abusing them pretty egregiously.”