Punky, the dog who attacked woman at a Vancouver park, gets reprieve from death row

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      Punky gets to live another day.

      The owner of the Australian cattle dog has secured a new reprieve from death row for her beloved pet. Punky had been designated by provincial court as a dangerous dog and ordered destroyed after he attacked a woman at a Vancouver park in 2017.

      The B.C. Court of Appeal has granted Punky’s owner, Susan Leah Santics, permission to appeal the euthanization order.

      In oral reasons posted online Monday (February 25), Justice John Hunter said that it is “in the interests of justice that this Court provide guidance on the interpretation of the statutory provision that authorizes destruction of dangerous dogs”.

      “At a minimum, there must be a judicial determination that the dog meets the definition of dangerous dog as defined under the legislation,” the judge noted.

      According to judicial records, a woman identified as Ms. AP was sitting by the edge of a forested area at Locarno Park Extension when Punky, who was off-leash, charged and bit her. She suffered deep puncture wounds to her right leg and right hand, as well as other injuries.

      Upon application by the city’s animal-control officer, a provincial court judge determined that Punky was a dangerous dog and ordered the animal put down under Section 324.1 of the Vancouver Charter.

      Santics appealed the provincial judge’s decision. In reasons for judgment dated January 10, 2019, a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed Santics’s appeal and ordered a stay of Punky’s destruction order for 31 days to allow his owner an opportunity to make a further appeal.

      Santics does not question that Punky is a dangerous dog. Her principal question in the B.C. Court of Appeal case is whether or not that designation is enough to have a dog put down.

      “Is it sufficient that the court determine the dog is a dangerous dog to order that it be destroyed?” Hunter noted.

      According to the judge, this issue “leads to the question of onus of proof”.

      “Is there an onus on the animal rights officer to prove that the dog is so dangerous that destroying it is the only way of protecting the public?” the judge wrote. “Is there an onus on the owner of the dog to establish that there are steps that can be, or have been taken to protect the public without destroying the dog?

      “Or is the question of onus irrelevant,” the judge continued, “on the basis that the trial judge must simply assess the evidence presented and exercise a discretion implicit in s. 324.1 [of the Vancouver Charter], balancing protection of the public with the property rights of the owner and perhaps, the welfare of the animal?”

      Punky’s owner has until March 14 this year to file materials for the appeal.