British Columbia

'He's still alive. There's got to be hope,' says lawyer after winning a few days reprieve for Punky

It's the end of the line for Punky, but the plight of the dog on death row is sparking outrage and a push to save him from strangers around the world.

‘I’m not giving up … this is very wrong,' says owner of doomed death-row dog deemed dangerous

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

Punky has five or maybe six days left — and then it's the end of the line for the dog ordered destroyed two years ago.

Animal right's lawyer Victoria Shroff is negotiating a short reprieve for the Australian cattle dog that's been on death row ever since he was deemed dangerous by a judge in 2018.

Shroff is hoping a swell of support through emails and phone calls from around the world helps convince authorities to let him live, but she admits Punky is out of legal tools.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a bid to hear an appeal of the dog's case.

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's owner, Susan Santics, was emotional after hearing the news Thursday but still plans to keep fighting for her dog's life.

"I'm not giving up on this, that's for sure. That's down. Sure. I'm not. I mean I'm going to be out there with pickets and this is very wrong. He was only two years old when they took him. It is so wrong," said Santics.

She was scheduled to visit Punky Friday at the City of Vancouver animal shelter where he's been in custody ever since he was seized from Santics in 2017 after he bit a stranger in a park.

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

Now that Shroff has exhausted all of the legal avenues to fight his execution, Santics said, she plans to beg.

'This is capital punishment'

Out of courtesy, the City of Vancouver's animal services department confirmed Punky will not be destroyed until next week. It's not clear if Punky has until Wednesday or Thursday.

By then, Shroff is expected to return from travels in India and the U.K. where she's been lecturing on animal law at various universities and law centres. In the meantime, Shroff says Punky's plight is garnering some international support.

"The first reaction that people have is horror. They are just aghast," said Shroff, explaining people's response upon hearing the dog will be destroyed. "I think what really shocks people is that this is capital punishment. It's for animals but it's capital punishment. 

Punky was seven weeks old when Susan Santics became his owner. (Susan Santics/Facebook)

Shroff said that she has also had people from Africa, India and the southern U.S. offer to adopt the doomed dog to live on a farm or at a sanctuary, where his "herding" instincts wouldn't be a problem.

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

But Santics describes Punky as "shy and reactive."

Shroff says there still might be an alternative to killing the dog that could be explored, if the Crown prosecutor is willing to consider the idea.

"While he's still alive, there's got to be some hope," she said.

Punky's legal saga:

  • September 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


Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

With files from Yvette Brend


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