New Brunswick

Owner faces jail time for abandoning dog to starve in locked home

A 27-year-old man was sent to jail to await sentencing for leaving his dog to starve to death in a rented home he abandoned in 2015.

Kyle Springer, 27, was taken into custody until sentencing scheduled for April 18

Kyle Springer, 27, faces jail time for abandoning his dog in a locked home without food for two months. The dog starved to death before being discovered. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

A 27-year-old man was sent to jail to await sentencing for leaving his dog to starve to death in a rented home he abandoned in 2015.

Kyle Springer was in Woodstock court Tuesday afternoon for sentencing on the criminal charge of cruelty to animals.

But after going over evidence, statements of fact and victim impact statements, Judge Julian Dickson said he needed more time to decide a sentence.

Springer is to be back in court April 18 at 1:30 p.m. for sentencing. 

He was taken into custody until that time to the loud applause of a packed courtroom.

Two-and-a-half hours before Springer was scheduled to appear, the sidewalk in front of the Carleton County Courthouse was packed with nearly 100 protesters, many with their dogs, demanding a stiff penalty.

Springer pleaded guilty Jan. 8 to leaving his dog, Diesel, to starve to death in a locked rental home in the Woodstock area over the course of two months.

Protesters brought along some of their four-legged companions to the Woodstock courthouse Tuesday and called for a stiff sentence for Springer. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

According to the statement of facts read in court, the two-year-old shepherd mix was found dead in the fetal position near a window in the house weeks after Springer had left.  

The dog had torn open everything in search of food and water, including bags of sugar, pillows and garbage bags. The home appeared covered with scratch marks and the living room, kitchen and bedroom floors were covered with the dog's urine and feces. 

'Emaciation and dehydration'

RCMP were called to the house after the landlord found the dog Jan. 15, 2015. In June of that year, an arrest warrant was issued for Springer, who had left for Western Canada.

A necropsy performed by provincial veterinarian Jim Goltz found only two bits of plastic in the dog's stomach. The animal lacked body fat, its eyes were sunken in, and its ribs protruded from its body.

Springer left his dog, Diesel, to starve to death in a locked rental home near Woodstock. (Submitted by Advocates for Animals)

The cause of death was "emaciation and dehydration," said Crown prosecutor Nathalie Lajoie, reading from Goltz's report.

According to western New Brunswick Crime Stoppers, Springer had moved to Alberta but was arrested after an anonymous tip when he returned for the 2018 holidays. 

Nearly 100 protesters gathered outside the Woodstock courthouse Tuesday during the sentencing hearing for Springer. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The statement of facts said Springer's physical description as well as the make and model of his vehicle were shared with RCMP. Later in the parking lot of a Foodland grocery store in Florenceville-Bristol, police approached Springer in the vehicle described to them.

When police asked if he was Kyle Springer, Springer said ,"No." He later admitted it was indeed his name when police requested he step out of the vehicle and placed him under arrest.

He was released on an undertaking and appeared in court on Jan. 8, when he pleaded guilty.

Sentence requests

The Crown argued Springer has obviously tried to avoid justice. Lajoie is requesting a jail sentence of five to six months,  along with a year of supervised probation and a 10-year ban from owning any animals. The request garnered gasps from the courtroom full of animal advocates.

Springer's lawyer, Peter Hyslop, argued for a lighter sentence of 90 days in jail, to be served intermittently. Hyslop argued this was Springer's first offence and his guilty plea should be considered a mitigating factor.

When Hyslop argued a stiff sentence could result in Springer losing his job with a fertilizer company and result in nobody in the area ever hiring him again, the judge was not having it.

"If he loses his job, there's not much chance he'll get another one in Carleton County in the foreseeable future," said Hyslop.

"And whose fault is that?" Dickson said.

Thirteen seconds of uninterrupted applause followed Dickson's response, and he demanded no further outbursts.

Animal advocate Susan Henley was pleased to see Springer remanded into custody until a sentence is delivered next Thursday. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

When asked if he had anything to say, Springer stood, wearing a plaid blue shirt and blue pants, and said: "I do feel bad for what happened to Diesel. That's all, sir."

Dickson then stated that he would need more time before handing down a sentence.

"I'm going to tell you right now an intermittent sentence is not in the cards," Dickson said. "It will not be an intermittent sentence and I will give you full reason on the 18th, and, Mr. Springer, I'm remanding you into custody until then."

Protesters react

Applause broke out again as Springer was handcuffed, but the outburst was quickly stopped by sheriffs.

On the courthouse steps afterward, protesters were pleased with the proceedings.

"I feel positive," said Susan Henley, an animal advocate who travelled from Fredericton.

"We always want more. You come into these things praying for the most but expecting your heart to break at the end. But I really feel more positive than I have in a lot of cases that we've followed and gone to."  

Fellow advocate Stephanie Thornton said, "Hearing the shackles at the end was awesome."