Shelley Cuthbert says she's won't give up her fight to keep dozens of dogs at her rural property in Tagish, Yukon, despite a recent court ruling against her kennel.
An injunction, granted this month by a Yukon Supreme Court judge, allows Cuthbert to keep no more than two dogs on her property, as pets. The other dogs at her kennel — there were about 80 last year — must go.
She's been given four months to find them new homes.
"I need to appeal, and that's the bottom line," Cuthbert said. "I'm going to continue to fight for these dogs' lives.
"This is about dogs — this is not about me."
The case was initiated by a group of Cuthbert's neighbours, saying they were fed up with the noise of barking dogs and the smell of feces coming from Cuthbert's property. Some neighbours are also nervous about the dogs — some of them with behavioural problems — breaking free and putting them at risk.
Graham Lang, the Whitehorse lawyer who represented the neighbours, said he's pleased the court agreed.
"The only reasonable answer to the problem was a severe restriction of the dogs," he said.
Lang says the neighbours, who have been complaining for years, are also satisfied but "nobody's doing cartwheels" over the decision. He said his clients didn't want to sue, but "Ms. Cuthbert forced them."
"The problem with this type of case is nobody feels good after. It's neighbours who have been living in a bad spot for a long time," he said.
Lang also insists the court's decision should not worry other Yukoners who keep dogs, even mushers with large dog teams. He says the court's message is simple: be neighbourly.
"I'm not going to give up on these dogs. I'm just not" - Shelley Cuthbert
"If you're going to be neighbours with people, be reasonable," Lang said.
"Everybody wants to put this behind them ... The strife and the nuisance by these dogs was really ripping this neighbourhood apart."
'Why is this happening?'
Cuthbert, however, does not want to put it behind her. She's acknowledged that her dogs bark, but she's having a hard time making sense of the court decision. She says the "bullies" have won.
"These dogs are well cared for, and I proved that in court. So why is this happening? Why is the judge determined that I lose my whole business?" Cuthbert asked.
She's afraid that if she's forced to send her dogs to other facilities, some of them may ultimately be euthanized.
"I am not going to have that happen. If a dog needs to be euthanized, it will be euthanized in my arms — nobody else's," she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
"Do we not give humans a second chance, all the time? So why can't dogs have a second chance? I don't understand that. I guess I'm just naive and stupid. I don't know. I don't understand it."
She's determined now to find a lawyer to launch an appeal. She represented herself in court last month and feels the judge "missed a lot."
The N.W.T. SPCA has already stepped forward to help, with a Facebook post on Monday appealing to "any lawyer friends of ours" willing to help Cuthbert.
"We have sent several dogs there and there are currently seven still in her care from us," the post reads.
Cuthbert says she has few options.
"I can't move, because I have no money. So, I mean, I'm looking at options. If I have to, I'll camp in a tent on a piece of property with my dogs. I'm not going to give up on these dogs. I'm just not," she said.
Cuthbert has 30 days to launch an appeal.