Dog's anxiety considered in first-of-its-kind N.S. animal cruelty case
Expert witness testified dog suffered psychologically as a result of being whipped with a leash by its owner
A 31-year-old Halifax man has been sentenced for animal cruelty after the SPCA showed his dog suffered "undue anxiety" after he whipped it repeatedly with a leash.
Adam DeCoste pleaded guilty last week to a charge under the Animal Protection Act.
The SPCA said this is the first conviction of its kind in the province.
"This particular case is unique because it's taken into account the suffering and anxiety that the animal endured during this incident," said Jo-Anne Landsburg, the chief provincial inspector with the Nova Scotia SPCA.
She said in Nova Scotia, there are lots of animal cruelty convictions where there is physical proof that an animal has been abused. A broken bone, a cut or even malnourishment can all show how an animal has been mistreated.
But in this case, there weren't any apparent injuries and it's difficult to prove an animal suffered anxiety or psychological harm.
"Fortunately, we were able to secure an expert witness from B.C. who was able to give scientific evidence, based on her expert knowledge, that this dog did suffer in this instance and would continue to suffer if the animal was left in the custody of the abuser," said Landsburg.
From watching security footage of DeCoste whipping the animal with a leash, the expert could tell that the dog, Sophie, suffered fear, anxiety and physical discomfort.
In the video, the dog cowers as DeCoste hits her, puts her tail between her legs, pins her ears back and tries to get away from him.
"These are some of the things a trained person would be able to look for and would show signs of the negative psychological states that the dog was experiencing during the abuse," said Landsburg.
Sophie was attacked by DeCoste back in October 2018.
He was walking the dog into an apartment building when he spilled a drink he was carrying. DeCoste then violently hauled on the dog's leash and began whipping her in the face with the leash handle.
The abuse was captured on a security camera, which was then passed along to the SPCA. The organization then charged DeCoste and seized Sophie.
DeCoste pleaded guilty to animal cruelty on Aug. 14, 2019, and is not allowed to own an animal for three years and has been fined $1,000.
Sophie has since been adopted by new owners through the SPCA.
"We're happy to say she is doing well and she is in a new loving home," said Landsburg.
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