New Brunswick

Man who left dog to starve to death released from custody during appeal

A New Brunswick man who left his dog to starve to death in a rented home he abandoned in the Woodstock area has been temporarily released from custody under conditions.

Kyle Springer's lawyer says one-year sentence for abandoning his dog in a locked home without food is too long

Kyle Springer, who was released Thursday, must keep the peace and be of good behaviour, remain in New Brunswick and return to court next Wednesday. (CBC)

A New Brunswick man who left his dog to starve to death in a rented home he abandoned in the Woodstock area has been temporarily released from custody under conditions.

Kyle Springer, 27, who was sentenced to one year in jail in April after previously pleading guilty to the criminal charge of cruelty to animals, was back in Woodstock's Court of Queen's Bench on Thursday to appeal his sentence.

Defence lawyer Peter Hyslop argued one year was too long for a first-time offence and went beyond established case law.

It was double the length of sentence recommended by the Crown.

Springer left his two-year-old shepherd mix named Diesel locked in the house when he moved out West in 2015. Two months later, the dog's emaciated body was discovered by the landlord who went to collect overdue rent.

Diesel's ribs were protruding and his eyes were sunken. His stomach was empty, with the exception of a couple of fragments of plastic, the courtroom heard.

The dog had torn open bags of sugar, pillows and garbage bags in search of food. Scratch marks covered the walls, and the floors were covered in urine and feces.

It was a case of neglect, not deliberate abuse, Hyslop argued Thursday. Springer "anticipated" someone would come along to rescue the dog, he said, acknowledging this was a mistake in his client's judgment.

Justice Richard Petrie remarked that the dog would have had a better chance of surviving if left outdoors.

During sentencing, provincial court Judge Julian Dickson had described the case as "troubling and disturbing."

Diesel faced "horrendous suffering," Dickson had said.

The death of Diesel, a two-year-old shepherd mix left to starve, prompted protests and a petition with more than 44,000 signatures calling for the maximum penalty for Kyle Springer. (Submitted by Advocates for Animals)

He called the Crown's recommended sentence of five or six months "grossly inadequate" for Springer, who was only arrested in 2018 when he returned to Carleton County for the holidays and police received an anonymous tip.

In addition to the jail term, Dickson sentenced Springer on April 18 to one year of supervised probation and banned him from owning or living with any animals for three years following his release.

But during Thursday's appeal hearing, it was discovered there may have been an error in law made prior to sentencing.

The court may not have established some conditions for accepting a guilty plea, including whether the accused understood the consequences of the plea. That might open the door for his sentence to be changed, the court heard.

Decision expected next week

The Crown and defence will argue the issue next Wednesday at 1 p.m., when Springer is scheduled to be back in court.

The judge expects to make a decision at that time.

In the interim, Springer has been released on conditions that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, remain in the province, notify officials of any change of address, not have control of any animals, and attend his court hearing.

Susan Henley, one of several members of the Fredericton-based animal advocacy group Mission Pawsible who attended the hearing, ​told reporters outside the courthouse she was so enraged by Springer's appeal, she was shaking.

"He's getting out, Diesel's dead," she said.

Susan Henley was one of several members of the Fredericton-based animal advocacy group Mission Pawsible who attended Springer's hearing Thursday. They're not happy about a potential change in sentence. (CBC)

Henley contends Springer's one-year sentence wasn't long enough and she doesn't want to see it reduced.

"Maybe he didn't hit [Diesel] over the head with a hammer … but [Diesel] suffered every day for God knows how long, until he died of starvation and if that is not killing and murdering an animal, I don't know what is," she said. "That's almost worse than being hit over the head, he tortured that dog."

If Springer's jail sentence is reduced, Henley argued his ban on owning animals should be increased to at least 10 years, if not for life.

"At what point is a lifetime ban given, like what do you have to do to an animal now to have a lifetime ban? What's worse than killing it?"

Cruelty to animals carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail and/or a fine of $10,000.

With files from Sarah Morin

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