Mental illness led man to beat dog with bat, says lawyer

The man who admitted to beating a German shepherd with a bat and leaving it to die in a Kitsilano dumpster was suffering from mental illness and does not deserve to go to jail, his lawyer told Vancouver court today.

Brian Whitlock, 26, admits to beating dog to death, but denies cruelty

Lawyer says mental illness led a man to beat his dog with a bat 2:19

The man who admitted he beat a German shepherd with a bat and left it to die in a Kitsilano dumpster was suffering from mental illness and does not deserve to go to jail, his lawyer has told a Vancouver court.

The sentencing hearing for Brian Whitlock, 26, began this morning with shocking testimony from Crown prosecutors detailing how Whitlock beat the dog named Captain with a baseball bat after he became afraid of it.

Whitlock pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in April after two-year-old Captain was found in a dumpster wrapped in a bloody blanket, emaciated, stabbed, cut and brutally beaten in July 2012. The dog died a short time later despite the SPCA's attempts to save its life.

A search of Whitlock's apartment a month after Captain's death turned up a bloody bat with the dog's DNA on it, plus a heavy chain and walking stick.

Captain's death sparked outrage in the community from protesters who demanded tougher animal protection laws.

Prosecutors detail attack with bat

On Tuesday morning the court heard how, when Whitlock bought Captain just a few months before the incident, he was in the middle of a tense separation from his wife and fighting over visitation rights to their toddler.

Whitlock was released from custody, leaving the B.C. Provincial Court in the Downtown Eastside by a side door, last July. (CBC)

The Crown also said Whitlock told the RCMP he became scared of the dog and locked it in a room before hitting it three times with the bat in an attempt to break its neck.

Whitlock told police he believed a neighbor had poisoned the dog and he thought he killed it as humanely as possible before leaving it in the dumpster.

The account of the death drew gasps and tears in the courtroom from the protesters who have been attending the trial.

Crown prosecutors spent 15 minutes describing the injuries sustained by the dog, noting it was also emaciated and starving when it was found.

Whitlock said he feared the public would lash out at him after he was publicly identified as the dog's owner. He said he should have taken the dog to the SPCA, but felt it was his responsibility to take care of the problem.

The Crown is seeking a four- to six-month jail sentence, three years probation and a lifetime ban on owning animals for Whitlock.

Defence blames mental illness

On Tuesday afternoon at the hearing, Whitlock's lawyer spoke in his defence, saying his client deserves no jail time because it was his mental illness that led to the killing of the dog.

The court heard how Whitlock, who once competed nationally as a rower, saw his life go downhill when his father announced in 2009 he had been cheating for 15 years, leading his parents to divorce.

The night after he tried to kill his dog, Whitlock slept on his grandmother's porch in Richmond before spending the rest of the week sleeping in the forest.

He then admitted himself to a Vancouver psychiatric ward on July 31, and again later in the summer when he became suicidal. By September, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

During the defence lawyer's sentencing arguments, the judge interjected to say the community reaction to Whitlock has been "disgusting, abhorrent and unfortunate," and that people wanting to take the law into their own hands should know better.

The hearing wrapped up Tuesday afternoon. Sentencing is set for June 12.