(Photo courtesy of PAWR Animal Control / Jason Hamm)(Photo courtesy of PAWR Animal Control / Jason Hamm)

Chatham dog beater's fight to get pooches back fails

A Chatham man has lost his appeal to get his dogs back after they were taken away by Pet and Wildlife Rescue (PAWR) inspectors and Chatham-Kent police.

A PAWR Inspector removed four dogs and a puppy from a Chatham home at the end of May 2023 after discovering they were beaten for no reason.

The man appealed the dog's removal, but the Animal Care Review Board ruled the dogs should not be returned to the owner and dismissed his appeal, citing the dogs were in distress and their removal was necessary.

Board Vice-Chair Susan Clarke said the dogs, four female American Bulldog type dogs and one male American Bulldog type, were physically abused and subject to psychological hardship and the Inspector removed the dogs in accordance with the law.

"A veterinarian advised the Inspector in writing that alleviating the dogs’ distress necessitated their removal," Clarke said as part of her ruling.

The PAWR Inspector was tipped off by a neighbour who sent several videos of the dogs being beaten in the backyard.

The Inspector said the owner was striking a dog in almost every video, once in front of a young child, and was hitting a dog with his open hand, a closed fist, and on two occasions with a flashlight.

"On several occasions, he appeared to strike a dog numerous times, and on one occasion 13 times," the inspector said. "The behaviour of the dogs, including cowering low to the ground, and running from the Appellant, were indicative of fearful responses to him."

The Inspector testified the dog owner justified his treatment of the dogs as training.

The veterinarian reviewed the videos and said he could hear the blows on the videos and at least once, the dog was sitting still when it was struck; the dogs, often as a group, kept increasing their distance, which he noted indicates a reluctance to engage, fear, or previous negative experiences; the dogs went into a submissive posture after the blows (head down); and they appeared hyper-vigilant.

"The correction results in a negative outcome. In the dog’s mind, it is being punished for sitting still," said the veterinarian. "The Appellant struck a dog in view of the child. This could lead to 'redirected aggression' where a dog might bite a subordinate like a child. This was also concerning because the child might repeat the behaviour themselves."

The doctor testified that without treatment and therapy for the dogs, it is likely they would experience distress if returned to the owner, even if there is no further aggression from him.

Clarke said ultimately the dog owner did not prove to the Tribunal that the dog beatings had stopped and that he could provide an environment free from distress in order for the dogs to be returned to him.

"I did not find that the Appellant fully appreciated that his form of training, using physical force, created distress. While he indicated a willingness to explore other training methods and to have the dogs monitored, he did not give any indication that he had taken steps to do so," Clarke said.

The dog owner, who represented himself, raised several issues during cross-examination with regard to the Inspector’s testimony, saying the video clips were very short, did not provide the context of why he was hitting the dogs, and that the Inspector couldn’t evaluate the force used from a video.

He also questioned the quality and authenticity of the videos.

"They didn’t do a proper investigation and are trying to make it seem like I am a monster when I am not. So, I am ready to give you a full explanation and I don’t have to lie or twist anything. I have nothing to hide," the dog owner told the Tribunal.

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