British Columbia·Video

Punky's execution stayed as owner takes run at the Supreme Court of Canada

The owner of a Vancouver dog stuck on doggy death row is taking a run at the Supreme Court of Canada to try to save the animal's life and set a precedent for other pets deemed dangerous.

'We are in a transformed legal environment where animals matter,' lawyer Victoria Shroff tells appeal court

Punky has been locked up for two years awaiting his fate. He was supposed to be destroyed Aug. 23, but the B.C. Court of Appeal has given him at least seven more days. His owner is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. (Susan Santics)

The owner of a Vancouver dog stuck on doggy death row is taking a run at the Supreme Court of Canada to try to save the animal's life and set a precedent for other pets deemed dangerous.

A B.C. Court of Appeal judge stayed Punky the Australian cattle dog's execution Friday, giving the owner's lawyer 30 days to prepare a leave to appeal application to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The four-year-old dog has been locked up for two years. Punky was deemed dangerous after biting a woman in an off-leash park in Vancouver in 2017. Since then, owner Susan Santics has waged a legal battle to save her pet.

Punky was scheduled for destruction Aug. 23, but that's now been put off for 30 days.

"Of course I was relieved. I was sitting in tears in the court," said Santics, after the judge initially gave the dog a seven-day grace period yesterday [Thursday]. Today [Friday], that was extended, after the judge considered the arguments to try to take the case even higher and ask the top court for the right to appeal earlier court rulings.

'Transformed legal environment'

Animal rights lawyer Victoria Shroff plans to use Punky's reprieve to prepare a formal leave to appeal application, which must be granted by the Supreme Court of Canada before it will hear the case.

Appeals to the SCC are not automatic. The court only agrees to hear cases involving significant legal issues of national importance.

Thursday, in the B.C. Court of Appeal, Shroff argued Punky's case is of national importance.

"We are in a transformed legal environment where animals matter," Shroff argued.

"Even if you think an animal is not a family member, before you take somebody's property away — especially sentient property — you better be 100 per cent sure that this animal has no prospects of rehabilitation," she said.

Punky is an Australian cattle dog that was deemed dangerous after biting a woman in an off -leash park in 2017. 0:05

Punky's saga

Earlier this summer, three justices of the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that Punky was dangerous, agreeing with earlier rulings at lower court levels and the City of Vancouver.

"Given Punky's past behaviour, temperament and lack of rehabilitation prospects ... the dog poses an unacceptable risk to the public and ought to be destroyed," Justice Patrice Abrioux wrote.

B.C.'s Court of Appeal has upheld a B.C. Supreme Court order to have Punky destroyed because he's considered a danger to the public. This photo shows Punky before he was locked up. (Susan Santics/Facebook)

Punky was scheduled for destruction Friday. But, with the potential for an 11th hour reprieve from the nation's highest court, a legal door has now opened.

Shroff says it's a long shot. The Supreme Court only approves a fraction of the leaves filed each year, but she says Punky's owner wanted to push forward.

The dog's owner and lawyer say they've received overwhelming support from people who have written offering to adopt the dog, help fund the case and even a push by one doctor to have Punky's plight heard at the United Nations.

"This case has garnered international attention," said Shroff. "People in Canada and the world really care about animals."

Susan Santics says she is devastated by the incarceration of her Australian cattle dog, Punky, and the prospect that he will be killed because he has been deemed dangerous. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)
Punky was seven weeks old when Susan Santics became his owner. She said she rescued him from mistreatment at a folk festival. (Susan Santics/Facebook)

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@CBC.ca @ybrend

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