Woman spends savings in lengthy N.S. battle to preserve life of impounded dog
Michael Tutton, THE CANADIAN PRESS
HALIFAX, N.S. - Francesca Rogier says she remains unbowed in her legal battle to preserve the life of a mixed-breed dog that faces euthanasia after it attacked other canines, despite exhausting $30,000 in savings on lawyers and putting her architecture career on hold.
The 50-year-old resident of Eastern Chezzetcook, a rural community on the outskirts of Halifax, won a reprieve for Brindi before a provincial court judge on Tuesday.
Representing herself, Rogier successfully argued for a delay while she arranges for an animal trainer to visit the pound and assess the dog's behaviour before Judge Alanna Murphy decides Brindi's fate.
"For a judge to decide whether a dog is too dangerous to live, they should be able to draw on expert opinion ... someone who is qualified to assess the behaviour of the dog," Rogier said outside court.
Rogier has been convicted of being the owner of a dog that was running at large, owning a dog that attacked another animal and failing to comply with a muzzle order.
Brindi has been impounded for almost two years after she rushed out of the yard and attacked a leashed dog strolling by Rogier's home in July 2008.
This came after a series of written warnings from the City of Halifax following other attacks by Brindi. One of the city's warnings required Brindi be muzzled.
Rogier admits she made "mistakes" but points out she has built a fence, set aside money to hire a trainer and committed to keeping Brindi muzzled. She says she'll pay any fines arising from the incidents.
"I believe those are reasonable alternatives that satisfy the public interest," she said.
She has set aside her plans to apply for landed immigrant status and to seek an architecture licence in Canada to save the dog. Her home renovations are on hold as she pays legal fees.
Rogier said she wants Brindi to be part of her home again.
"It's time and money, but you can't replace a dog. You can't replace a member of the family," Rogier said.
Vaughan Black, a professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, said the case is important because dog owners seldom actually contest the euthanasia of their dogs.
"My sense is there's not a lot of precedents on this simply because given the cost of this, and hiring lawyers, most people ... don't go to court the way Ms. Rogier is doing," he said.
On the other hand, Black - who studies animal law - said it's difficult for the city to give way if it considers an animal to be dangerous under its bylaws.
"There have been cases where cities haven't acted quickly enough and dogs have attacked people and the injured parties have claimed against the city," he said.
"Maybe the city's lawyers are saying, 'You have to pursue these cases vigorously."'
There are other recent cases of Canadians fighting to keep their dogs alive after an attack.
In Hampton, N.B., last month, a judge gave a dog a reprieve and ruled it be muzzled when it's outdoors despite a town order that the animal be euthanized for biting a woman last summer.
Rogier alluded to that case in court Tuesday, noting it shows that dogs can be returned to their owners - even in an instance of an attack on a human.
"I don't think it would be wise for this city to set a precedent to kill a dog for such minor offences," she said.
But a spokeswoman for the city said there are many past incidents when dogs have been put down after exhibiting aggressive behaviour with other dogs.
"It is certainly not unusual for the city to seize dogs that have been involved in an attack on another dog," Shaune MacKinlay said in an email.
She said from January 2007 to March 2010, 31 dogs were euthanized in the city.
"Of those, 13 dogs attacked other dogs, one dog attacked a dog and a person, 14 dogs attacked people," she said.
"In one case, two dogs running at large killed chickens and their owner surrendered them to be euthanized."
Brindi's case has been adjourned until April 16.