British Columbia

'It was sad. Really sad': Punky the dog destroyed after years-long legal battle

Punky, a dog whose lengthy legal battle to escape death row went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, was euthanized at a Vancouver animal shelter on Thursday. 

Owner's fight to keep dangerous dog alive ended last week at Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada rejected Susan Santics' final bid to appeal Punky's case in January. This photo shows Punky before he was locked up. (Susan Santics/Facebook)

Punky, a dog whose lengthy legal battle to escape death row went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, was euthanized at a Vancouver animal shelter on Thursday. 

The Australian cattle dog was ordered destroyed two years ago after a judge deemed him dangerous. Punky has been in city custody every since biting a stranger at a park in 2017.

Punky had a history of aggressive behaviour and a "willingness to bite" that was noted by veterinarians and others who treated him as far back as 2016, according to court documents.

But Punky's owner, Susan Santics, describes Punky as "shy and reactive."

Santics tried every legal avenue to spare the dog's life. Those efforts were exhausted last week, when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a bid to hear an appeal of the case.

Santics went to the shelter Thursday morning in a last-ditch effort to save her dog, but Punky was destroyed sometime in the afternoon, Santics' lawyer Victoria Shroff said. 

"I realize they had a job to do. But it was sad. Really sad," she said. "Susan is very distraught.

"We asked about whether or not she could be there to give him a hug, give him some final treats and things like that and that was not possible."

Punky was ordered destroyed two years ago. (Susan Santics)

Next steps

Shroff said she will now be pursuing legal reform in animal law.

In the eyes of the law, pets are considered property. Shroff believes Punky's "unprecedented" case could be the catalyst for considering animals as sentient beings in law.

"Animals in this country deserve better and I think that there's a really good way where we can have a balancing of public safety with the regard for dog owners," she said.

"Even if we don't necessarily elevate the status of animals right away above property, at least we can think of them as sentient property. And we don't have to seek such measures as having them killed."

Susan Santics was devastated by the incarceration of her Australian cattle dog, Punky. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

Punky's legal saga:

  • Sept. 13, 2017: Punky seized by animal services staff after biting a person. 
  • June 29, 2018: Provincial court trial.
  • July 25, 2018: Punky found to be a dangerous dog and ordered destroyed. 
  • Dec. 5, 2018: Appeal heard before B.C. Supreme Court.
  • Jan. 10, 2019: Appeal to B.C. Supreme Court dismissed.
  • Feb. 8, 2019: Leave to appeal application heard by single judge of the B.C. Court of Appeal. 
  • Feb.14, 2019: Leave to appeal granted.
  • May 22, 2019: Appeal heard by three judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal. 
  • Aug. 9, 2019: Appeal dismissed by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
  • Jan.16, 2020: Application for leave to appeal dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Jan. 23, 2020: Punky is destroyed.
Punky was seven weeks old when Susan Santics became his owner. (Susan Santics/Facebook)

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