A B.C. Supreme Court judge has handed a B.C. hunter a conditional discharge for fatally shooting a family's two dogs in the community of Heffley Creek, north of Kamloops.
Forty-eight year old Richard Benton shot an animal he believed was a wolf in December 2013 near Knouff Lake Road, according to the agreed statement of facts presented at the sentencing hearing.
Wolves are known to prey on livestock and wildlife in the area, according to the statement.
But the animal was not a wolf — it was a three-year-old English mastiff-cross named Phylo owned by Mike and Brenda Griffith who lived near by.
Benton's shot struck the animal, passing through it.
The bullet then hit another one of Griffith's dogs —an eight-month-old mastiff-cross named Ryker — which was standing behind Phylo.
Benton left the scene without taking any steps to determine if the animals were suffering.
"He immediately realized what he had done after making the mistake and he just panicked," said Benton's lawyer Micah Rankin.
"It was the wrong decision to make, but it was one that he made really on the spur of the moment."
Mike Griffith found the body of Phylo the following day.
He found Ryker still alive but paralyzed by the bullet that had shattered the dog's spine.
Griffith took the animal to the veterinarian, where it was humanely euthanized.
Benton was later charged with unlawfully killing an animal and causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal.
He was set to stand trial before a jury, but pleaded guilty to the former charge days before the trial was to start.
The Crown dropped the latter charge.
At the court hearing, the Crown argued Benton should be handed a conditional sentence with six months of house arrest.
But the judge agreed with Benton's lawyer a conditional discharge was appropriate.
The ruling means Benton will not have a criminal record if he keeps the peace during his probation period of one year.
Benton was ordered to pay $825 in restitution for veterinary expenses, and he is not allowed to possess firearms during the period of probation.
Mike Griffith, who was in court for the sentencing, is outraged.
"I think it's horrible," he said. "I think it's a travesty of justice."
Griffith said losing his pets was extremely distressing.
He and his wife moved from the Knouff Lake area because it was too upsetting to live so close to where his dogs were killed.
"It was horrible. You get attached to your animals," he said. "And he ended up getting nothing."
Micah Rankin said his client is remorseful.
"It''s just a really unfortunate incident," he said. "He had no intention of killing these two dogs."