British Columbia

Emma Paulsen gets sympathy from columnist after animal cruelty conviction

Dog-lovers are slamming The Now newspaper over a column expressing sympathy for the woman responsible for the deaths of six dogs, then trying to convince the owners the animals had been stolen.

Surrey newspaper's Adrian MacNair says sentence was too harsh and 'dogs are easily replaced'

A Surrey Now columnist got in hot water this week by writing that Emma Paulsen, who was found responsible for the deaths of six dogs, was treated too harshly. (CBC)

A column in a local B.C. newspaper expressing sympathy for Emma Paulsen, who was convicted of animal cruelty in the heatstroke deaths of six dogs, has drawn outrage from animal lovers and forced the paper's editor to apologize.

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in Surrey's The Now newspaper, staffer Adrian MacNair writes that he felt sympathy for Paulsen when he heard she had been sentenced to six months in jail, banned from owning an animal for 10 years and banned for life from caring for any animal in a paid capacity.

Paulsen lied to the owners of the dogs, saying they had been stolen, after she found the animals dead in her truck in May 2014.

The judge in the case said Paulsen's lying and lack of apology or apparent remorse was key to his decision, but MacNair has a different opinion.

'Dogs are easily replaced'

"I felt sympathy because Paulsen is going to lose her right to freedom over the death of six animals who, at the end of the day, are essentially inconsequential to this world," he wrote.

"Oh yes, I'm sure the dogs were important to the dog owners. That much is clear. But they're only dogs. And this is a woman's life we're talking about," he continues.

"Dogs are easily replaced. If you don't think that's true, head down to your local animal shelter. You can grab one for about $350."

MacNair wrote that he was not condoning Paulsen's actions, but is concerned she is being punished excessively for making "a mistake."

The Now posted the column on its Facebook page with a disclaimer that "the views do not reflect a consensus opinion among the staff here."

Commenters were quick to attack MacNair for his "disgusting" views, and the newspaper for giving him a platform, with many vowing to stop reading the paper altogether.

'Insensitive' column

One of the pet owners, Jennifer Myers — whose Boston terrier Buddy died just short of his second birthday — says she found the column "incredibly insensitive" and could barely finish it.

"Calling dogs inconsequential and that they don't matter or saying that cruelty was OK to animals … that was really the message that seemed to come through," she said. 

"I know all the families were trying to pick up the pieces and move forward in a sense, and try to remember the good times, not the bad, and unfortunately this brings up all the bad stuff again," she said, tearing up. 

On Thursday, following the outcry, the paper's editor, Beau Simpson, apologized.

"The column contained language and references to dogs that were insensitive and should not have been published," he wrote.

"While I support our columnists' right to hold – and publish – opinions that may be contrary to public opinion, as editor, I accept responsibility for allowing such viewpoints to be expressed in a callous, insensitive manner."

Along with the apology on its Facebook page, the paper also said it would be printing a "counter-column" by one of its dog-loving reporters.

When contacted by CBC News for comment, MacNair emailed to say he had been asked by his "superiors not to respond any further to this story."

He did post a comment on Twitter, criticizing the degree of anger being directed at him.

"Regardless of what people think about my opinions, it's actually not cool to ask for my murder, torture and confinement in prison," he wrote.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.