Yukon kennel owner says she euthanized 10 dogs to comply with court-ordered surrender

A Yukon kennel owner says a court order left her no choice but to euthanize 10 of her 50 dogs this week, but a lawyer says she waited until the last minute in order to paint the plaintiffs as bad guys.

Court ordered Shelley Cuthbert to surrender dogs she says are unadoptable due to behavioural issues

Shelley Cuthbert, seen here in 2016, runs a kennel near Tagish, Yukon. She says she has euthanized 10 out of her more than 50 dogs. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The Yukon kennel owner at the centre of a controversial court case says she has euthanized 10 of her dogs in order to comply with a court order.

Shelley Cuthbert of Tagish, Yukon, was ordered by a Yukon Supreme Court justice last fall to shut down her kennel because it was a disturbance to her neighbours. She must get rid of all but two of her more than 50 dogs.

Cuthbert had been ordered to surrender 10 dogs to the Yukon government's Animal Health Unit each month, starting Feb. 15 and continuing until May.

It was intended that staff would work with the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter and the Dawson City Humane Society to find new homes for the animals, but Cuthbert said many of her dogs had behavioural issues and would never be successfully adopted.

Shelley Cuthbert says many of her dogs wouldn't be adoptable because they have behavioural issues. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

She had been trying to apply for a variance of the order that would allow her to "relocate" the animals in temporary shelters or homes, rather than surrendering them entirely.

She is representing herself in court, and said she was not fully clear on the rules and timelines required to apply for a variance. She was given a two-week extension to file the proper paperwork.

Cuthbert said she hoped to be able to wait for the decision on the variance, but was instead "backed into a corner" and felt forced to comply with the order to surrender 10 dogs on Feb. 15.

"You have no idea what I'm going through right now," she said.

"This is not an easy process."

'Euthanized at home in my arms'

Cuthbert told CBC she called the Animal Health Unit on Thursday, and surrendered 10 dogs into their custody. She said some of the dogs in question had a history of biting and behavioural issues, and were "automatically a liability."

Others were between 12 and 14 years old, she said, and would be "next to impossible to adopt."

Cuthbert said she was upfront with the Animal Health Unit. She knew the dogs would be deemed unadoptable and would therefore be euthanized.

She asked for the procedure to be carried out by her own vet, and said the Animal Health Unit was supportive.

"The dogs were euthanized at home in my arms," said Cuthbert.

Health Unit says it doesn't force euthanizations

Graham Lang, the lawyer for Cuthbert's neighbours, said he doesn't fully understand her approach. He said if he were her, he would have just surrendered the dogs that had a chance of being rehomed.

"She waited until 11:59 p.m. on the day of an effective court order to take any action, and then chose to take the most drastic action she possibly could in order to try and paint the plaintiffs here as the bad guys," he said.

"That's not the case — they're just people who want to sleep."

Lang said he is still trying to confirm Cuthbert has complied with the order, and he may have to apply to the court for a new order to get access to that information.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case says Cuthbert waited until the last moment to take the most drastic action in an effort to paint his clients in a bad light. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The CBC asked the Animal Health Unit to confirm that 10 dogs from the Cuthbert property were euthanized because they were deemed unadoptable, but a spokesperson said the unit cannot comment on specific cases for reasons of confidentiality.

Dr. Mary Vanderkop, chief veterinary officer for the Yukon government, insisted the unit "does not force anyone to euthanize an animal."

"The owners sign over ownership at the time that we agree to take the dog, and at that point, we consider the information they provide to us in terms of making a determination of what will happen with that dog," she said.

"So certainly if someone identifies to us that the dog is a risk to public safety, that the dog has bitten other dogs, or has bitten people or threatened them, and is aggressive in a way that wouldn't be manageable, that dictates the course for that dog."

According to Vanderkop, "the vast majority of these situations are dogs that simply are more than people can handle."